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Saturday, 23 August 2014

Go to a Passover resort and never clean again!

Daf Yomi Moed Katan 12

One of the greatest blessings of our generation is the advent of Passover hotels.  When I ask my colleagues how they feel about Pesach resorts, however, I get mixed responses.  On the one hand, those who get speaking gigs for Pesach seem to love them!   On the other hand, other rabbis talk about them quite disapprovingly.  ‘Pesach should be spent at home!’ ‘Nobody’s cleaning for Pesach anymore.’  ‘Pesach is about family.’

Are Pesach hotels good for Judaism?

The Rabbis taught in a Beraisa: One may not enter animals into a field in order to fertilize it on Shabbos, Yom Tov or Chol Hamoed (the intermediate days of the festival).   If the animals came or if non-Jews brought their animals into the field of their own accord, we allow them to fertilize.   But we may not assist them in the task.

How should they be remunerated?  Rebbe (Rabbi Judah the Prince) teaches: On Shabbos, with good (i.e. we can repay the favour).  On Yom Tov, with sustenance (i.e. we can compensate them with food).  On Chol Hamoed, with reward (i.e. real payment). 

When you first start keeping Shabbos, it’s not easy.  It’s a whole lifestyle change.  No more TV, no more internet, no more cellphone.  For the first little while, you still feel like your phone is buzzing in your pocket – that’s how attached you are!

And then you begin to appreciate the beauty of Shabbos.  You start enjoying the tranquility of no TV, no internet and no cellphone.  It’s the one night a week that all the family is gathered around the table with no interruptions and you realized ‘what a blessing!’  In the words of Rabbi Judah, on Shabbos, you are remunerated with “good.”  Shabbos isn’t just some vague ‘World to Come’ reward – it’s here and now!   Anyone who has kept Shabbos for a period of time will tell you how good it is in this world!

Yom Tov, however, is a little more challenging. Most people only get a couple of weeks of holidays a year.  How do you fit thirteen days of Yom Tov into ten days?  And so you tell your boss you’ll do overtime.  You’ll work Sundays.  And after all you’ve used up all your holiday time on Yom Tov, there’s no time to go away on vacation!   And so Rabbi Judah teaches us that the Almighty will recompense your efforts with increased “sustenance” if you keep Yom Tov.  The reward for your efforts in arranging your work schedule around Yom Tov is that you will receive even greater parnassah (livelihood)!

But the greatest challenge of all is Chol Hamoed.  You’re allowed to drive, you’re allowed to use the telephone.   So it can’t be that terrible if you go to work, right?  Well, if it’s work that would save you from significant financial loss, it’s permitted.  Losing your job would certainly fit the bill!  And so most people go to work on Chol Hamoed.   Says Rabbi Judah: If you would make the sacrifice and figure out how to avoid working on Chol Hamoed, that’s when you would receive the ultimate “reward.”  Taking off work for Chol Hamoed is one of the greatest challenges of Judaism.   More challenging than Shabbos.  More challenging than kosher.

Now, imagine you could plan your family vacation around Yom Tov and Chol Hamoed so that you would get away and at the same time be able to practice the festival in the most ideal way?  That’s the awesomeness of the Pesach resort experience.  Once you’re away, you’re away and there’s no temptation to go to work.  We have people in our community who struggle with staying home from work on 2nd day Yom Tov – it totally brightens up my day when I hear they’re going away for Pesach!

Now, it goes without saying that the average family probably can’t afford to go away for Pesach and I’m not saying that this is the new normal.  Certainly people need to prioritize and make sure they are paying school tuition fees and synagogue membership before they start paying for luxuries like Pesach hotels.  But for those who can afford it, it’s a blessing indeed.  And before you knock the Passover resort, ask yourself if you are desisting from work on Chol Hamoed.  Because your friends who went away are not working on Chol Hamoed and that’s the way it’s supposed to be!

Ultimately, you need to make sure that you’re not judging anyone else for the decisions they’ve made in their lives.  You don’t know how vital it is for your neighbour to work during Chol Hamoed – that’s between him and G-d.  You don’t know what sacrifices your friend has made throughout the year – such as not eating out at restaurants – in order to afford to be away for Pesach and avoid the temptation of working on Chol Hamoed.  You need to figure out what works for your family and may the Almighty bless us all with “good,” “sustenance,” and “reward!”

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