It has become fashionable among many of us to poke fun at Pesach getaways. Of course, the outer space Seder is non-gebrokts; all the food is powder. The Disney Seder includes costumed actors depicting Mickey and Goofy. Snorkel in the coral reefs to find the afikoman. How does one hide the Pesach getaway from the scholarship committee?
Now let’s get serious. Among my friends who travel to warmer climates for Pesach, the impetus is not so much about avoiding housecleaning as it is about family. They do not do this every year. Often the Pesach getaway serves as a reunion with parents and grandparents contributing towards the vacation. The cost of an airplane ticket, hotel room, rental car, and sightseeing exceeds the frugality of cleaning one’s home without hired help and purchasing food at three different supermarkets. One has a sale on milk while another has deeply discounted meat, and vegetables are purchased at the grocery.
My family spent this year’s Pesach at the five-star destination that is Kew Gardens Hills. Shiurim with halachic insights were given by Sergey Kadinsky, as were the punch lines and translations of passages in the Haggadah. Catering was provided by Keren Kadinsky, a talented artist who decorated the table in a way that truly made it a mizbei’ach for the davening that preceded and followed the Shulchan Oreich. Our two children provided the entertainment with their memorable renditions of Mah Nishtanah, Dayeinu, and animal sounds for Chad Gadya. Unlike most of the advertised resorts, our meal was proudly gebrokts; we did not have to conform our tastes to someone else’s hashkafah. The cleaning crew consisted of, you guessed it: Sergey and Keren Kadinsky. A month and a half of preparation had its moments of stress, but the chag was refreshingly restful and quiet.
But if given the opportunity to spend the chag in a rented home in the mountains, it would be a good compromise compared to the time and cost of flying out of town. And it would be more scenic than a suburban hotel within commuting distance of work. We work hard and there are not so many days available to see the world, let alone another state, or upstate. We are a global nation, never too far from a Jewish community where we can share the Seder experience.
Wherever one conducts the Seder, when one studies the Haggadah, the halachos of Pesach, and prepares commentary, the evening is given special meaning in any location. Regardless of whether the Seder is in one’s dining room, grandparents’ home, Catskills, or Cancun, does one truly have the Exodus in mind? Are the children more focused on the chag than the costumed characters vying for their attention?
Then there are the personalities involved. We could do without the singers, political activists, and celebrity speakers. As for the renowned speakers, that can be arranged closer to home as a scholar-in-residence. How do they feel being away from home to spend Pesach? Probably the same as many of the guests, trying to have a break from the daily grind while seeking opportunities not only to inspire others but to also be inspired and recharge one’s spiritual batteries, as we enter the introspective weeks of S’firas HaOmer followed by the reliving of Matan Torah on Shavuos.
By Sergey Kadinsky