“The sense of family is an integral part of all Jewish holidays, but it is even stronger during the festival of Passover.
The central ceremony of Passover is the seder, which takes place in the home, not in the synagogue.
And the key element of the seder is in telling the story of our (physical and spiritual) enslavement, our (physical) liberation, and the attainment of our (spiritual) destiny at Mount Sinai – that is, the reaffirmation of our identity as the House of Israel.
This Wednesday night, Jewish families throughout the world will come together and read from the Haggadah, the text of the seder.
They will begin to tell the story by pointing to the matzah, the unleavened bread, and declaring:
‘This is the bread of affliction, which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt.
Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are needy come and celebrate Passover.’
As we look at the matzah and remember our history – when we were hungry and needy, yes, but also when we were all together – we realize that part of the family is missing.
There are empty chairs in the house, where a son or a daughter or a cousin ought to be.
We issue the invitation and we open the door, but some of them are so far away – from us and from Judaism – that they don’t hear our invitation or see the light from the open door.
If every Jew who cares about the members of the Jewish family will issue the invitation and open the door, many of these estranged Jews will hear or see, and drop in for a visit – if not to his own house, then to the house of a long-lost cousin.
Let us welcome them back.”
From a newspaper column by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz