Every year before Pessach, the same question comes up:
“Are Gentiles allowed to sit at a Jewish Pessach Seder table ?”
Reform Jews don’t seem to find anything wrong inviting non – Jews to their Seder table in order to celebrate the Exodus from Egypt. Orthodox Jews, however, rather feel uncomfortable having Gentiles sitting at their Seder. How come and what exactly seems to be so problematic about non – Jews at a Jewish Pessach Seder ?
First of all I have to say that I find it rather strange when church communities inviting their members to a “Christian Pessach Seder” where a Priest is trying to imitate a Rabbi or the person leading the Seder (it doesn’t have to be a Rabbi running the Seder but anyone Jewish). It feels quite inappropriate when I see non – Jews celebrating a Seder although Pessach is an entirely Jewish holiday. G – d gave the Torah to the Jews commanding them to keep Pessach. Gentiles, on the other hand, are not obligated to keep Pessach and are allowed to eat Chametz and do anything they want. What Gentiles should do is recognizing the existence of ONE G – d, as it says in the “Seven Noachide Laws”. Those Gentiles copying a Jewish Seder take over something they are not entitled to.
The Halacha says that a Jew may cook from an existing flame on a Jewish festival (not on Shabbat !!!). This Halacha is for Jews and not for non – Jews. The main reason why non – Jews should not go to a Jewish Pessach Seder is the danger that Jews may cook for him.
The AFIKOMAN, the broken Mazzah, which is being hidden at the Seder will be eaten later during the evening. During Temple times, all kinds of Jews came to the Temple in Jerusalem sacrificing their “Korban Pessach – a Pessach lamb” in order to eat it at the Seder. A biblical commandment (Exodus 12:43) says that Gentiles are not allowed to eat from the Korban Pessach.
Until the coming of Meshiach, we don’t have a Temple and are, therefore, not allowed to sacrifice any animals. On Pessach, the actual Korban Pessach (the lamb) is being replaced by the AFIKOMAN and non – Jews are not allowed to eat from it.
Furthermore, there are halachic restrictions regarding kosher wine bottles. Gentiles are not allowed to touch open wine bottles where the wine was not cooked. The Talmud (Tractate Avodah Zarah) tells us that, in ancient days, Gentiles used to worship idols with wine and this is one of the reasons why they are not allowed to touch an opened uncooked kosher wine bottle. In Israel, cooked wine always carries the label “Ya’in Mevushal – Cooked Wine”. Those bottles, even if open, a Gentile is allowed to touch. Halachically, they may be a Kashrut danger during the Seder when a Gentile is participating. He doesn’t know about cooked wine and may just touch anything around him. I myself have experienced ignorant Gentiles touching anything although they have been told otherwise before.
In the Talmud Tractate Pesachim 3b we are taught the following:
An Aramean came to Jerusalem in order to eat from the Korban Pessach. Once, before leaving for Jerusalem, he said to Rabbi Yehudah ben Bateirah: “It says that a stranger is not allowed to eat from the Pessach sacrifice; – and it also says that an uncircumcized man is also not allowed to eat from it. Why, then, do I eat the best pieces of the Korban Pessach ?
Rabbi Yehudah ben Bateirah said: “Do they give you the fat from the tail to eat ?” – “No, responded the Aramean.
Rabbi Yehudah ben Bateirah said to him: “When you go to Jerusalem, ask them to give you the fat from the tail to eat.”
And this is what happened; the Aramean demanded the fat of the tail. In Jerusalem, however, the Rabbis told him that the fat of the tail is being sacrificed on the Altar (Mizbeach) and, this way, only G – d gets this particular fat (see Leviticus 3:9). The Rabbis asked the Aramean who had told him that he should ask for the special fat of the tail. “Rabbi Yehudah ben Bateirah”, replied the Aramean. The Rabbis couldn’t believe their ears, asked further questions and found out that the Aramean wasn’t Jewish at all. The result was that the Aramean was executed. Afterwards, the Rabbis sent the following message to Rabbi Yehudah ben Bateirah: “Shalom, Rabbi Yehudah ben Bateirah – Although you live in Netzivin (Babylon), your word reaches until Jerusalem.”
This Gemara (rabbinic discussion) doesn’t want us to hate Gentiles or kill those eating from the Afikoman. The intention of this Gemara is to teach us how strict those laws should be kept and how relevant they are until today. As we know, the Torah is valid for ever and the Talmud teaches us that people should stick to their duties in this world and not take over what is not theirs. Example: When King david’s son Avshalom wanted to be King but G – d wanted Shlomo (Salomon). Avshalom started a whole rebellion and ran after something which wasn’t his: The crown. Korach rebelled against Moshe and was also aiming at something which wasn’t meant to be his.
The Pessach sacrifice is meant to be for Jews. The Exodus from Egypt and the entire Pessach Haggadah is a Jewish topic. Why then should any outsider interfere when he has nothing to do with it ? The same, by the way, with Yom Kippur being an entirely Jewish holiday.
Another question coming up is whether converts to Judaism are allowed to eat from the AFIKOMAN: In Orthodox circles, converts who are still studying at Orthodox conversion courses are being invited to the Pessach Seder. However, there are families who only invite converts after their actual conversion process. Eating from the AFIKOMAN is only allowed after the convert became halachically Jewish.