Friday, April 22, 2011

For (door) openers (or which came first . . . ) . . .

My husband's been doing a lot of reading about Pesach (Passover), both on general principles and because, as "acting rabbi," he's been giving "sermons" on the topic. He tells me that, originally, the door was opened toward the beginning of the seder. This would make sense, as the text of the Haggadah specifies that the hungry are invited to come and eat.

Then, enemies of the Jewish People made it dangerous for us to open the door at that logical point in the seder service, less we be harassed at best or slaughtered at worst.

Stubborn souls that we were, we moved the opening of the door to a later point in the seder, after the meal, rather than dropping that practice. But that move made the original reason for opening the door completely invalid. So which came first, "Shfoch hamatcha," Pour out Your wrath," or the tradition that we open the door to admit Eliyahu HaNavi, Elijah the Prophet? "Shfoch hamatcha" makes sense as a protest against our enemies, but makes no sense whatsover as part of the seder text. The idea of Eliyah HaNavi being invited to every seder doesn't make much sense either. Any takers?


Anonymous Woodrow/Conservadox said...

For an eye-glazing amount of detail on this topic go to
My People's Passover Haggadah,Volume 2, (edited by Lawrence A. Hoffman et al) at 140-51. Brief summary- all this stuff medieval, not quite sure which came first.

Sun Apr 24, 12:11:00 AM 2011  
Anonymous TOTJ Steve said...

My theory -- the "send the kids to open the door for Elijahu" got the kids away from the table while reading what could easily be considered a disturbing passage.

Before I took on leading my family's seders, we used the later editions (not the current edition) of the Maxwell House Hagaddah. If memory serves me correctly, the english translation of the passage is watered down considerably. No non-jew would be offended reading it at the seder. But as I developed my meager hebrew skills, I realized that translation was not consistent with the hebrew. Now, we use the ArtScroll (but as my wife and kids are now very bored with it, its time to change) which translates the passage more accurately.

Sun Apr 24, 01:08:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

For a different perspective on halachma anya see Lamrot Hakol.

I'd advise against exploring the rest of the site much, Lisa's opinions are strong and diametrically opposed to yours in many cases.

Sun Apr 24, 10:21:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Woodrow, thanks, but eye-glazing reading and I are generally incompatible. :)

TOTJ Steve, best theory I've heard. Thanks!

Larry, I've got what I think is a more logical theory than the one held by Lisa--I think that the statement "All who are hungry, come and eat" was probably written *after* the destruction of the Second Temple/Bayit Sheini. Otherwise, it wouldn't make much sense. Since, in Temple times, people were required by halachah (Jewish religious law) to join in groups *in advance* for the purpose of eating from the Pesach/Pascal sacrifice, why on earth would one invite someone *on the night of Pesach*? What purpose would have been served, since one needed to make "advance reservations," literally, to partake of the Pascal lamb/Passover sacrifice. Lisa's logic is far too convoluted for my taste.

Sun Apr 24, 04:02:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't remember the source, but part of the idea of Eliyahu HaNavi going to every seder is the same idea as him going to every brit milah. There is part of the Tanach in which Eliyahu tells God that he is the only one left that believes in Him or follows the commandments. God tells him that this is not true. He is forced to go attend every bris and seder as a punishment for having giving up on Klal Yisrael/judged them too harshly.

Wed Apr 27, 10:05:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Ah, I hadn't heard that one. Thanks.

Wed Apr 27, 10:55:00 AM 2011  

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