Why Do So Many Jews Do Pesach?

In a Pew Study done five years ago it was reported that a less observant Jew was 22 percent more likely to attend a Passover Seder then fast on Yom Kippur. It is reported that 97% of Israelis attend a Passover Seder. Why is that?

Sure, for those looking for a good time, celebrating at a festive meal with family and friends beats fasting and sitting in synagogue all day hands down. However, there are a myriad of Jewish holidays, customs and rituals; why does Pesach rate so high? There is a sizable number of Jews that do not observe Kosher Laws all year round, but on Passover they are meticulous about Kashruth. Why?

I’d like to advance two possible answers to this compelling question:

1. Everyone likes to hear a good story. We all have a favorite aunt, uncle, cousin or friend that we just can’t wait to be around because they have such interesting stories to share. On Pesach we retell our story, the greatest story that has ever happened in the history of the world. If Jewish Law did not command us to do so, we might not make time to for it; but now that it’s a Mitzvah, it’s already printed on our calendars whether we like it or not. And we like it.

2. Everyone wants to matter and achieve meaning in their lives. From little children who long to be chosen for the central parts of the school play, to kvelling grandparents who look forward all week to the Good Shabbos calls from their grandchildren and everyone in between; we all want to matter and be a part of something meaningful and bigger than ourselves. Passover allows us a portal to enter and rediscover the grandeur of our family and national history and encourages us to latch onto our unfolding destiny. Next Year in Jerusalem!

Some of the most meaningful Seders are those where older members of the family share the stories of their youth. They tell of the Seders they attended in Europe before the war, or in America before the renaissance of Jewish life that has taken place in front of our eyes throughout the 21st century. In those days and in ours-We are a Miracle.

A highlight of any Seder is the stealing of the Afikomen. Since when do we train our children to steal? All year long we promote honesty and integrity, and on the Seder night we steal? Why?

The answer is that on this night which is different than all other nights we teach, share and demonstrate that what is truly important in life is too often hidden away and not easy to find. The Afikomen message is to always search and identify what’s truly important in life, and make sure to engage with and embrace it whenever you can — even if you need to steal time to do so. Otherwise it remains hidden away forever. That’s the Afikomen Message; at all costs aim to uncover the hidden glory that surrounds us and is too often overlooked.

Here’s wishing you and yours a sweet, happy and memorable Pesach and may we meet Next Year in Jerusalem.

About the Author
Ephraim Epstein is the senior rabbi at Congregation Sons of Israel in Cherry Hill New Jersey. Although he keeps busy with all his communal responsibilities including being a Police Chaplain, sitting on the regional Human Relations Council, NJ Holocaust Education Committee as well as maintaining community Kashruth, Eruv,Mikvah and Chevrah Kadisha- truth is his heart and soul is always directed towards Jerusalem.
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