Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

On Hedonism

There are three types of people: those who go to Pesach hotels, those who don't, and those who don't but secretly wish they could and publicly attack those who do.  I am in the first category.  Rav Emanuel Feldman of Cross Currents is apparently in the third.
In his recent piece he sarcastically attacks the concept of Pesach hotels and portrays those of us who enjoy such programs as hedonists who are quite prepared to act in a gluttonous fashion as long as the hashgachah is reliable.  He even intimates that those who consider themselves 'Truly Frum" but attend these programs aren't really so different from the "Not So Frum" who are along for the ride.
Frankly, I have had it up to here with attacks on those of us who want to spend our hard-earned money on bringing the simcha back to simchas Yom Tov.  For some people, spending the holiday at home with family and friends is the only way they can envision a meaningful experience.  Fine, that works for them and kol hakavod.  But for others, spending the holiday away from home and being able to relax without worrying about all the preparations getting ready for Pesach entails is what brings satisfaction.
Perhaps for some people it's about the all-you-can-eat kiddush and diving into the trough at dinner.  For many of us, though, it's about taking those things we enjoy about Pesach without having to worry about the annoyances that come with it.  Imagine being able to sit through the Seder without having to worry about serving the food or cleearing the dishes.  Imagine spending erev Pesach learning the Hagadah instead of running around to ensure all the preparations are ready.  Imagine Chol HaMoed with activities for the adults and kids without having to worry that they'll wind up somewhere and accidentally be handed chometz because the people they're with don't know better.
Is it about the cost?  When it comes to the price of Pesach food, cleaning supplies and the help needed to get the house ready, along with the cost in hours needed to prepare the house (something no one ever seems to figure into the calculations) there isn't that much of a savings from staying at home.  And what's the price of the peace of mind knowing that in the weeks up to the holiday you are able to relax at night instead of worrying if your children once again hid Cheerios in the sofa cushions?
Further, the basic argument - that those who go to Pesach hotels are gluttons looking to maximize their gashmius while pretending it's about their ruchnios - is a red herring.  It is just as possible to be a glutton over Pesach in one's own home.  The only difference is that in the hotel they clear the dishes away when you're done.
A Pesach hotel experience is not for everyone.  And for some it can be a disgusting licence to stuff oneself like a pig.  But for many of us it's an annual vacation, a chance to enjoy the holiday with friends we only see at that time of year, a chance to get away and really enjoy the Yom Tov.
As a Rav I heard speak once said, the greatest threat to Judaism today isn't the Pesach hotel.  It's the people who think that the Pesach hotel is the greatest threat to Judaism today.

13 comments:

Shlomo1 said...

The phenomenum of spending so much money just to get away from your home to avoid Pesach preparations cleaning etc and the fact that you an entirely valid argument that it's probably worthwhile doing so seems to me to be an indictment of extreme our chumras have become especially those of Pesach.
Reading the Gemorrah appears to give an impression that they never did anything like what we do e.g. they were willing to bake Matzohs in a bread oven Kashered on erev Peasach etc

Garnel Ironheart said...

It's amazing how Pesach has changed since the times of Chazal. They had soft matzah! SOFT matzah! And we're told that if we don't use those blackened megacrackers Lubavitch provides we're not really fulfilling the mitzvah of matzah!

ahg said...

Well if you want to take it back a step further - Our ancestors were eating shwarma in a laffa with some some bitter garnish.

Take away the roasted lamb, burn the matza, use horseradish - that in the days before food processors was painful to grate, throw in some over-the-top bug checking for that romaine lettuce, and all you're left with is torturous preparation for an oppressive introduction to your meal. Of course it was less oppressive when everyone knew what an olive looked like.

SJ said...

http://thoughtsofasj.blogspot.com/2012/02/truth-about-keeping-kosher.html XD

Adam Zur said...

Chareidi pseudo Judaism is sounds like the famous definition of Puritanism by H.L. Mencken: that a Puritan is someone who is haunted by the fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time.

Bob Miller said...

"When it comes to the price of Pesach food, cleaning supplies and the help needed to get the house ready, along with the cost in hours needed to prepare the house (something no one ever seems to figure into the calculations) there isn't that much of a savings from staying at home"

Depends on whose home!!! Believe it or not, some Jewish homes, such as ours, are small, and no outside cleaning help is used. Since every family has its own calculations, no blanket approval or disapproval of Pesach in a hotel is appropriate.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Bob, if memory serves you live in Israel. Things are quite different there when it comes to sizes of homes and costs of things for Pesach. My statements would be more relevant to the golus experience.

Bob Miller said...

I live in Indianapolis, home of this year's Super Bowl. This is definitely chutz la'aretz.

Jews here have a wide range of home sizes, as I imagine is true in other cities.

Pragmatician said...

Couldn't agree more, for small families , spending yom yov at a hotel does not always mean a lot more spent on the chag (as you have outlined, they are plenty of expenditures when staying home).

And boy, is it fun not to go for a walk after the seder instaed of clearing dirty dishes.

jrs said...

Overall, some good points--Pesach in a Hotel, like everything else, is "ethically" a matter of individual choice, and there will always be people in either mode who elevate Pesach or just who fress & sleep.
But you're oversimplifying a bit.

<<< Imagine Chol HaMoed with activities for the adults and kids without having to worry that they'll wind up somewhere and accidentally be handed chometz because the people they're with don't know better.
>>>

That sounds a little odd; typically, why would kids be going with people who'd ignorantly hand them chometz? Pesach trips, at least with younger kids, are or should be a family affair--that too is part of the peripheral experience that makes yom-tov special. And if they're at the stage of going [somewhere reasonable] with friends, they ought to be old enough to not accidentally eat chometz. (Having said that, Chol Hamoed oughtn't be confused with Frum Spring Break---teen overnight trips to Florida with friends is probably a safe indication of losing our way about the meaning of Pesach… but there’ve always been, and will always be, fools with no sense of proportion or restraint for themselves or their kids.)

jrs said...

<<< When it comes to the price of Pesach food, cleaning supplies and the help needed to get the house ready, along with the cost in hours needed to prepare the house (something no one ever seems to figure into the calculations) there isn't that much of a savings from staying at home. >>>

Not really. It's at best something to factor in to the overall justification for a hotel---but Pesach-in-a-hotel for a family of 4 or more runs, conservatively, in the several-thousands-$---far more expensive than a perfectly nice, food-abundant, Pesach at home (even if one is gullible enough to buy a lot of those awful, commercial Pesach cakes).

<<< As a Rav I heard speak once said, the greatest threat to Judaism today isn't the Pesach hotel.  It's the people who think that the Pesach hotel is the greatest threat to Judaism today.>>>

great line.

Y. Ben-David said...

I am going to give my take on the Pesach experience....I believe that the process we go through in preparing for Pesach and the seder itself is supposed to be, for us, a RE-ENACTMENT OF THE YETZIAT MITZRAIM. The preparations and rituals are designed to make us feel as our ancestors, who went through the experience did. IT WAS NOT A FUN EXPERIENCE FOR THEM. They left Egypt "b'hipazon"....in a hurry. They had to bring their belongings with them, they took the matzah dough with them, on their backs. The rush we have in cleaning and preparing is parallel to the rush they went through. Although they did have a nice family meal where they ate the korban pesach, wearing their fancy clothes, gathered in family units, there was a great deal of nervousness and uncertainty about the future, while at the same time, the 10th plague was striking their Egyptian neighbors just outside (see Rav Menachem Liebtag's description of this at his www.tanach.org site. Once they left Egypt, they could only eat what they had with them. Thus, they did not have gourmet meals during the week after they left.
I have come to the conclusion that many of the humrot regarding Pesach, particularly things like the Ashkenazi prohibition on kitniyot are at least indirectly designed to force us to keep our meals modest and simple during the week of the holiday. This is keeping in spirit with what the Benei Israel went through at the time.

Expatriate Owl said...

I will not go to any Pesach hotel that does NOT serve gebrokts!