Those of you who feel the way I do will immediately relate to this: I hate having to listen to pedantic women discuss their Pesach cleaning before Tu B’Shevat is even a blip on the horizon.
Believe me, it’s not because I’m the type who enjoys leaving everything to the last minute, it’s just that I fear too much of the blather will contaminate me as well with pre-Pesach hysteria.
That being the case, I was floored to find Rabbi Yishai Sacket, rav of the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem, already organizing Pesach preparations nearly two months ago. He was quick to assure me that any responsible hotel catering to a religious clientele must begin Pesach preparations months in advance.
“Come” he said, inviting me backstage to see what Pesach looks like behind the scenes. He quickly crossed the lobby, leaving me tripping over myself in an effort to keep up with him, and led me down a back staircase in a remote corner of the hotel complex.
I felt the drop in temperature as soon as we left the warmth of the lobby behind us. At the bottom of the stairs we faced a large, bolted, heavy metal door. Once that door was opened I was greeted by a whole different world – the world of Pesach.
Hugging myself in an effort to stay warm, I looked at, but didn’t dare touch, the hundreds of shelves tightly packed with plates, bowls, tea cups, glasses, wine goblets, chopping boards, cutlery, pots, kitchen equipment and appliances. You name it, it was there, highchairs and all, lined up, waiting, and ready to go.
“Welcome to our Pesach storeroom,” Rabbi Sacket announced triumphantly, throwing his hands into the air. And it certainly was an impressive sight. But I was cold, so – after making sure to double-lock the door – we left.
On the way back up the stairs I noticed the potted plants in the corners being tended to by gardeners. I began to realize just how much effort and thought goes into creating this perfect ambiance.
In fact, I couldn’t help but think of all the guests who come and go as they please while not for a minute giving any thought to the myriad of details that go into running an establishment like this. And that’s just on an ordinary weekday. Surely there is far more involved in creating the perfect Shabbos, and even more so Pesach, experience.
In that regard, my meeting with Rabbi Sacket proved to be a real eye opener. He gave me an inside view of some of the complications facing Shabbos observers in an increasingly complex technological world.
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“First,” he said, “when staying in a hotel, wherever possible ask to be placed on one of the lower floors. Nobody wants to be stuck on the thirty-fifth floor of a hotel that has only one or, worse still, no Shabbos elevator.
“That, however, is a relatively small issue facing today’s hotel-goers when you consider the large-scale usage of magnetic door cards instead of keys. Apart from the numerous halachic complications involved in the mere swiping of the card, in some hotels simply inserting the card in the card terminal or laying it in a specially designed base will activate the lights, heating, or air conditioners (depending on the season) inside the room.
“Likewise, many hotel rooms are fitted with motion detectors that serve the dual purpose of not only activating the appliances but also alerting workers of the room’s occupancy in case of an emergency.
“While theoretically it is possible to deactivate these detectors and sensors, not every hotel in Israel and certainly not those elsewhere are prepared to do so, even temporarily and even for a single room. So what do you do if the hotel will not give you an old-fashioned key to open your door and it will not deactivate the sensors? Simple: you stay in your room the entire Shabbos. Rest assured you won’t be the first to do so and most probably not the last. I too have done it.
“I have to mention that in some hotels you can’t even venture out onto the porch for fear that the air-conditioning inside the room will switch itself off. As for the bathroom, just opening the door may active the light and in some places, the toilet, air vent, and sink too.”