Hello dear readers,
Pesach is a great holiday to spend with family, but it’s also super important to add other people to your seders too. Of course, it’s a good thing to invite friends, guests, visitors and people from the community, but it can be just as important to invite people in need. Indeed, at the start of the hagaddah there is an explicit invitation to all who are hungry to come and eat and participate in the seder. Although the explicit invitation is in Aramaic, so not entirely sure how useful that is for inviting in our community! Anyway, it’s important, so make sure to do that if you can! Whenever we’re at home for pesach, and not away on a kosher Passover vacation, we reach out to the shul to see if there are guests we can host, for at least one of our seders.
So, to this point I have talked about the real guests we can invite to our seder. But now I want to say a little something about the theoretical guest we invite to the seder (or, maybe I should say the guest that we always invite but who hasn’t shown up yet): Eliyahu HaNavi! Hey Eliyahu, if you’re reading this, just know that we’ve set a place (and a goblet) just for you!
Why is Eliyahu HaNavi part of the pesach seder? Well, there’s a couple of reasons that tie Eliyahu to the seder. First of all is the Fifth Cup of wine. There is an argument in the Talmud about whether we are supposed to have four or five cups on pesach. The argument was not resolved and it was decided that Eliyahu HaNavi will be the ultimate arbiter, so, for now, we drink four cups and put out (but don’t drink) a fifth cup. Similarly, there are four words of redemption: veHotzeiti, veHitzalti, veLakachti, veGaalti, but there is also a corresponding fifth term, veHeveit.
Another common thread is brit milah, circumcision. Pesach is the birth of the Jewish people as a whole, and it used to be that at our birthday party in temple times, the main birthday food (the korban pesach) could only be eaten by Jews who were circumcised. Similarly, at the contemporary brit milah, the baby is held in the chair of Eliyahu. So there’s another link between pesach and Eliyahu.
A final reason is that Eliyahu is associated with the final redemption. Pesach was our first redemption as a people, and every seder we open the door and hope to see Eliyahu bearing the news of the final redemption and of Mashiach.
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