Clint Eastwood's empty chair at RNC creates buzz at LI Chabad Synagogue

This Shabbos Rabbi Perl to Address Why the Rebbe Was against Speaking to Empty Chairs!images.jpg

Don't Talk to Empty Chairs! says the Lubavitcher Rebbe

For many years following the holocaust, there was a custom in many Jewish homes, to leave an empty chair at the Seder table.

The reason for this custom was to remember our brothers and sisters who perished in the holocaust, as well as to identify with the Jews of the (former) Soviet Union, who were unable to celebrate the Seder and to experience Pessach the real way.

In the early seventies, the Jewish Federation of North America decided to go out with a campaign to the entire Jewish world and establish this custom in every Jewish home. Every family should realize the importance of the idea and add an empty chair to their Seder table. This way it will increase awareness that if not for the holocaust, where we lost 6 million Jews, there would have been another Jew sitting there.

Recognizing the power of the Chabad movement worldwide, the leaders of the federation came to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Brooklyn with a request. They asked him to please have the Chabad representatives around the world spread the idea of the empty chair, so that this custom will really be established the world over.

The Rebbe’s answer stunned the leaders of the federation. The Rebbe answered the following: “Your idea of adding a chair is very important, and I’m ready to join the call, but, there is one condition…The extra chair should not be empty, but filled.

Hence, the goal of the Nazis was that less and less Jews should celebrate their Jewishness…To turn this over, you should tell Jewish people today to add a chair to their table and to fill it with a Jew, who if not for this invitation, would not have celebrated the Seder night”.

Says the Rebbe: “This is the real answer to the holocaust.”

If Empty Chairs Could Speak!

There is a poignant Biblical story in the Book of Samuel.  Saul, King of Judah, invites the young David to a banquet in celebration of the New Moon.  David is cautious, for he fears that Saul means to set a trap for him.  David decides not to attend.  Jonathan, Saul's son, the beloved friend of David, conspires with David to protect him.  In doing so, Jonathan knows that they may never see each other again. Jonathan says:  “Your chair will be empty.  You will be missed.”

The Empty Chair is a metaphor for loss, a symbol of grief. The holidays are often a time to realize that there is a place at the family table that is empty.  Sitting in a sanctuary on Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur we might well recall parents, grandparents, children, teachers, family members who are no longer alive, yet their presence is felt.  It is as if there were an empty chair or place next to us where they should be.   There is some consolation and comfort to be found in the awareness that we continue to feel ithe presence of those who have influenced and touched our lives.

Rabbi to Invite Clint Eastwood Bris to Address Elijah's Chair

ToThe empty chair is a recurring image in Jewish thought. We all know about the cup of Elijah on Passover. Elijah has a special role.  He is the one who will announce the messianic era of peace and well being, an end to exile and mourning.  He enters our homes and drinks from the cup of Elijah.

But Elijah also has a chair.  It is the Kiseh Elijahu, the Chair of Elijah, this is the chair that a newborn child is placed in before a bris. The empty chair is filled with the young child. A poignant reminder of hope and holiness.


At our Shul in Mineola NY we are all looking forward to High Holidays with no empty seats! May we all be blessed to be inscribed and sealed for a happy and healthy sweet New Year, both physically and spiritually!