The Freedom to Open The Door at the Seder


Rabbi Aryeh Levin (1885–1969) was called the Holy Man of Jerusalem. He was dubbed the "Father of Prisoners" for his visits to members of the Jewish underground imprisoned in the Central Prison of Jerusalem during the British Mandate. He spent his adult life in Israel, where he visited prisoners, bringing them comfort, food and spiritual sustenance.

Once after Passover some of the Jewish prisoners told Rabbi Aryeh that although the Seder had been good, something important was missing.  Because they were in prison, they could not perform the traditional rite of opening the door for Elijah; an act that invites redemption, for Elijah is the herald of the Moshiach. Surely there was no enslavement more absolute than the inability to coax forth redemption.

Rabbi Aryeh replied, "Every man is in a prison of his own self. He cannot leave by going out of the house but only by passing through the door of the heart. And to make an opening for himself in his own heart—that anyone can do, even a prisoner behind bars. And then he will be in true spiritual freedom."

We are about to open the outer door for Elijah, let us also pause to recognize where we are still enslaved and open that inner door to our heart. That door is the portal of the neshomo filled with holiness, goodness, kindness, compassion and faith.

Open the Door But Keep Moving

The difference between a slave and a free man is that the slave can never live life according to his or her true nature and essence. He or she is defined by another person dictating his or her behavior and life style. A free person, on the other hand, has the liberty to live true to himself, to express his truest and deepest self.

In Torah, a Hebrew servant goes free after six years of servitude. If however he desires to remain in servitude, he must have his ear pierced with an awl against the door.

Instead of walking through the door to freedom and reliance on G—d, he chooses to rely on the sustenance of his mortal master.

The Open & Shut Door 

Doors are serious business to the professionals in the industry. Doors are at the center of relationships with architects, contractors, owners and suppliers.

We the layman certainly must not take doors for granted.  Their openings and closings are important lessons in life.

In the course of prayer throughout the year and High Holiday services, doors play an important role. At various intervals, the doors of the Holy Ark are opened and shut. We plead, “Our Father, our King, open wide the doors of Heaven to receive our prayers.”

With the setting of the sun on Yom Kippur we plead, “Open to us a gate at the time when a gate is closed.” Abraham our forefather, had doors on all sides of his dwelling. Wayfarers were thus able to gain entrance easily.

The Inner Battle of Doors  

All of us are constantly involves in two battles-the battle on the outside and the battle on the inside, waged in the human heart behind closed doors.

Victory on the outside is usually determined by the victory on the inside.

 Throughout life, we constantly open and close doors.  The first step, the first word, the first day at school, signal the closing of doors. The bar/bat mitzvah celebrant, the bride and groom under the wedding canopy, the first day at the office-all are different forms of closing doors.

Even as one is shut, another can be opened. Man must never relinquish hope.  We always express our confidence that before the Almighty closes one door, He opens another.

Why Open the Door For Elijah

Elijah the prophet visits us in two instances. He comes to the Passover Seder and he comes to every bris ceremony. On both occasions, we prepare special items in his honor. At the bris, we honor him with a special reserved seat and on Passover, we honor him with pouring him a special glass of wine known as the Cup of Elijah.

At the Seder, we do more; we also open the door for him. Why the extra step? At the bris, we know that Elijah will attend. It’s unnecessary to open the door, because we know he will come and perform his task, regardless.

At the Seder, however, the Cup of Elijah is reflecting the Cup of Redemption. We know that the redemption cannot take place without tremendous effort on our part. 

This is why we open the door. We are displaying our faith that this time, with all of our efforts and faith, Elijah will herald Moshiach’s arrival. 

Presented by Rabbi Anchelle Perl email:[email protected]