By S. Friedman, Matzav.com
There is seemingly nothing new about Pesach hotels. People have been going Pesach hotels for long time now. The innovations are in the exotic locales, culinary creativity, and having both star laden performances and high caliber talmidei chochomim. The objective is to stimulate all the senses and to placate all types of pleasures. The modern Pesach hotel experience is sure to last you a lifeti… I mean until next Pesach.
As I stated it’s nothing new, but what I think has slowly evolved is how the Pesach hotel industry has increasingly been catering to the Chareidi public. Think back 20 years ago; how many Pesach programs were there that had “chassidishe shechita, cholov yisroel, non-gebroktz, etc…”? People from more Heimishe and Yeshivishe backgrounds are now attending Pesach programs en masse. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but it is something that many people had sheltered themselves from (know anyone who still doesn’t even buy any manufactured products?) and as with so many other things, the doors have been blown wide open.
In the past, for many middle class people, the Pesach hotel was the big splurge for the year, in lieu of other types of vacations or fancy cars etc… It was also a time for family bonding that otherwise might not have occurred. Many professionals, such as doctors, did not have the luxury of being away from work for an extended period of time. Some families lived in modest homes that could not possibly comfortably accommodate the extended family joining for Yom Tov. Additionally, for many American families the mesorah of the complex laws and minhagim of Pesach were either lost or completely unknown. The Pesach hotel offered a venue to help the Yom Tov with all of its’ unique stringencies be celebrated with relative ease.
My brother in law conducted his own Pesach Seder a few years ago after previously going to a hotel for all the years he was married. He had a rude awakening. A very devout Ultra-Orthodox product of top Yeshivas was at a loss as to what to do. He eventually was able to gather the information concerning his father’s traditions, but he vowed not to take his family to a hotel again. He realized that his children had up until that point experienced a “Pesach Vacation,” and not a proper Yom Tov. Valuable traditions had fallen by the wayside.
For those that are not familiar with the Pesach hotel scene, let me explain why it presents a challenge. Firstly, if you don’t shell out extra money for a private room, then you conduct your Seder as part of a large dining room. Some places have a communal Seder, while others let you go at your own pace. Either way, there are waiters waiting to take your order; making for an uncomfortable situation where you try to avoid eye contact until you’re up to Shulchon Orech. Singing your own unique family niggunim can present a challenge in a big dining room. As does the kinderlach’s rendition of Ma Nishtana. The search for the afikomin usually deteriorates into a grab-fest around the table, or a simple gesture of locking it in your room. The davening may be nice and the speeches superb, but don’t we have our Rabbonim that we look to for hadracha on a weekly basis? Shouldn’t we hear from them during the Z’man Geulaseinu?
As someone who works in the healthcare field, I find the parallel from the Pesach hotel to the nursing home quite amusing. The days consist of going back to your rooms while you wait for the next meal; with some davening thrown into the mix as well. The food and festivities may be bar none, but the family and spiritual nuances that may vanish are perhaps too costly of a price to pay (in addition to the actual hotel fee!) in the long run.