Edited by Aryeh Werth
Is it proper to go on a Pesach program in a place
like Dubai in United Arab Emirates?
The implication of the question is that there might be some significant reason for some pause in spending Pesach in Dubai, either because it is an Arab country or because it is a luxury destination that is polar opposite to our forefathers’ experience at Yetzias Mitzrayim – their departure from Egypt, the topic of the Seder and the reason we celebrate Pesach this time of year.
Another implication is whether one should spend large sums on a trip, when for far less one could enjoy the Seder at home.
Regarding Dubai, since the Trump – Netanyahu peace breakthrough between Israel and the Arab states (the Abraham Accords), for those that can afford to do so, they are contributing to the peace via their personal economic stimulus.
As relates to the luxury destination as well as the cost, there is a famous Gemara (Jerusalem Talmud, end of Kiddushin) “A person, in the future, will be required to give an accounting [up high] for all that his eyes saw [and was permissible] and he did not eat [partake] thereof.”
Hashem gave us this world and everything that’s in it with the sole purpose that we enjoy. However, while we enjoy, we must give thanks to Hashem for his gracious and abundant munificence.
Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.
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First things first: Pesach was meant to be celebrated in the land of Israel. That is the Torah’s clear intention, and even if there is no formal mitzvah of aliyah l’regel today, nonetheless there is still a virtue in being in Israel and experiencing the fifth kos – that Hashem will bring us to the land He promised our forefathers.
If one is not celebrating in the land of Israel, there is certainly a value in celebrating Pesach at home. The transformation of the Jewish home from its normal state into its Pesach mode is truly magical. The impression made on children – of parents and grandparents, of cousins and extended family, of traditions unique to each family – is indelible. Even Bubby’s special Pesach dishes will be cherished forever, unlike those of some anonymous chef. And although it is understandable that some families feel compelled to go to a hotel because of the inability to accommodate large numbers of relatives in one house they should still be mindful that the advantage also has some disadvantages.
Once a decision has been made to observe Pesach outside the home it doesn’t really matter in what country it is being celebrated. I remember that before the first Pesach after Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt there were enterprising hoteliers who advertised about observing Pesach in Egypt, “back where it all began.” Thankfully it didn’t catch on.
Dubai is much friendlier and genuinely appreciates Jewish and Israeli visitors, which is a very heartwarming change in this part of the world. But to fly over Israel to celebrate Pesach elsewhere? There is something odd about that. At least stop in for a visit either before or after Pesach. Chag kasher v’sameach!
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is Israel Region Vice-President for the Coalition for Jewish Values and author of Repentance for Life now available from Kodesh Press.
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While I am not the biggest fan of Pesach programs in general, I do not see any significant difference between Pesach programs in Dubai and Pesach programs anywhere else, with two exceptions: First, I think that Israel has wonderful Pesach programs of its own and should therefore be given first consideration over any other destination. Second, I have a visceral sense that it would not be proper to spend Pesach in Egypt.
There are numerous factors that should go into the choice of a Pesach program that have little to do with location. The obvious ones pertain to whether the environment will be conducive to the experience of true simchas ha-chag. How is the davening? How are the shiurim? Will the conduct of other participants enhance or distract from a spiritually uplifting experience? (I am not worried about the gashmiyus.) If all that can be found in Dubai, then great!
The only concern particular to Dubai that I would raise is treatment of migrant workers. Migrant workers constitute the vast majority of the population and workforce in the Emirates, so it is likely that at these Pesach programs it is they who will be attending to the needs of participants. This, in itself, is not a problem, and it must be said that the Emirati government has taken action to combat the abuse of foreign laborers. Nevertheless, reports of inhumane treatment of foreign workers, including practices that have been labeled as slavery, continue. It is true that most of these workers came to the UAE of their own free will to escape poverty and hunger in their native land; this is exactly how the family of Israel came to Egypt.
If one chooses to spend Pesach in Dubai, perhaps it would be appropriate to research how these workers are treated by their employers. It would seem highly improper to enjoy Pesach at the expense of migrant workers pressed into service in a foreign country.
Rabbi Elli Fischer is a translator, writer, and historian. He edits Rav Eliezer Melamed’s Peninei Halakha in English, co-founded HaMapah, a project to quantify and map rabbinic literature, and is a founding editor of Lehrhaus. Follow him @adderabbi on Twitter or listen to his podcast, “Down the Rabbi Hole.”
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I’ve always believed that ideally, one’s Seder should be in one’s home. I have wonderful memories of my father ah leading the Seder in his home, or our own personal Seder with all our children in attendance. After all, what better place to create the reenactment and the transmission of the story of the Exodus from Egypt than one’s home in which both parents and hopefully grandparents can attend. Not only can the story of the exodus from Egypt be told but parents and grandparents in this environment can convey their own personal stories of the miracles in their own lives and share as well their own individual history, which in my mind is fundamental to speak about at one’s Seder. As well, in a hotel the children are not involved in the preparations for the Seder; preparing the maror and charoset or the zeroa. In my opinion, even a private Seder at any hotel won’t offer the children the full ruach of the Seder. The home and our children have always been the center and the focal point of one’s Seder even as it was at the first Seder in Egypt.
That being said, I don’t believe there is anything halachically wrong in having a Seder in a hotel in Dubai or for that matter in any kosher for Passover hotel.
Rabbi Mordechai Weiss lives in Efrat Israel and previously served as an elementary and high school principal in New Jersey and Connecticut. He was also the founder and rav of Young Israel of Margate, New Jersey. Email is email@example.com.