Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher

Passover: No strangers at Sharon’s table

On today, the first day of Passover, Sharon Astyk writes about welcoming the stranger. Excerpt:

One of the central pieces of the Passover story, then, which is so important we tell it twice, on two separate nights, is this – you were a refugee, and you should know what it is like. And you must remember those who are still strangers, who are still seeking refuge. You must open your doors to them – for real. If we do not, we face the possibility of condemning a world of refugees to death.


The world was once much poorer than we are, and across the world, a surprisingly universal awareness of how important generosity and hospitality were emerged. We in America are richer than the kings of old in many ways, and instead of making us less fearful, more generous, our wealth has made us more afraid of scarcity. My faith, and every single other religion, culture and ethical system I’ve ever heard of, though, tells the story of the stranger in disguise. The stranger who appears in the form of someone desperately poor and in need, and who turns out to be a god, or an angel, a king or a hero in disguise. Those who turn the stranger away are punished. Those who welcome them in are rewarded.
In Judaism, it is Elijah who walks the world in the form of a stranger. And at this season of the year, at Pesach, just as the first new foods are coming, but before we are overwhelmed with plenty, we are to open our doors and call out that all who are hungry should come and eat. Because the stranger might be Elijah – because hospitality to the stranger is an obligation. Because we were strangers before in the Land of Egypt. At this point and this moment, we are obligated to share – before we know the final accounting of the harvest, before plenty is certain, we should still share – because the stranger may welcome us someday. Because we too may be the stranger.

Comments read comments(5)
post a comment
Your Name

posted March 30, 2010 at 7:51 pm

It’s Passover. Do you know where your children are?

report abuse


posted March 30, 2010 at 8:14 pm

…richer than the kings of old in many ways, and instead of making us less fearful, more generous, our wealth has made us more afraid of scarcity.
Maybe I’m just over-literal, but this strikes me as wholly unnecessary mystery-mongering. We now have pre-modern (or worse) levels of inequality: it’s not hard to guess why we’re afraid of the poor.

report abuse


posted March 30, 2010 at 9:46 pm

“This is much more risky than greeting the hungry with violence, or indifference. It is frightening. It is hard. What if the stranger who comes in to the door is angry, or smelly, or frightening? What if, despite our best rational precautions, harm is done?”
Sharon, you’ve convinced me that this is a bad idea.

report abuse

Your Name

posted March 31, 2010 at 12:50 pm

The future, with all its difficulties, means that none of us can be certain that we will remain priveleged and comfortable. You can prepare perfectly and still lose your home, you can do everything right and have bad things befall you. There are things we cannot control. So each of us must live in the world as though we will someday be the stranger who turns to another for a hand. And each of us must be willing to offer one, if we expect to receive it.
This is exactly it. There are a lot of people in our culture who simply don’t believe this. Part of it is the prosperity gospel. Part of it is our litigious society. Part of it is that they are so used to blaming the poor for being poor. Regardless of the causes, there is this overwhelming tendency to believe that if you follow all the rules, worship the right way, torture certain types of people, etc that bad things can be prevented. It just isn’t true. You can mitigate some risk, but the world is a random, dangerous place and bad things will still happen to good people, regardless of their level of caution. So while people should still be sensible, you can’t wall yourself off from others out of fear. You cannot be arrogant in the face of other people’s misfortune. It really could happen to you.

report abuse


posted March 31, 2010 at 6:39 pm

You remind us that it’s a good time to welcome the stranger, the ger or the giyoret to our synagogue’s community seder or even to our houses.
We must always be careful with ‘the others’, you and no one is saying otherwise.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

Another blog to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Rod Dreher. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here is another blog you may also enjoy: Most Recent Scientology Story on Beliefnet! Happy Reading!!! ...

posted 3:25:02pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Mommy explains her plastic surgery
In Dallas (naturally), a parenting magazine discusses how easy it is for mommies who don't like their post-child bodies to get surgery -- and to have it financed! -- to reverse the effects of time and childbirth. Don't like what nursing has done ...

posted 10:00:56pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

Why I became Orthodox
Wrapping up my four Beliefnet years, I was thinking about the posts that attracted the most attention and comment in that time. Without a doubt the most popular (in terms of attracting attention, not all of it admiring, to be sure) was the ...

posted 9:46:58pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

Modern Calvinists
Wow, they don't make Presbyterians like they used to! ...

posted 8:47:01pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

'Rape by deception'? Huh?
The BBC this morning reported on a bizarre case in Israel of an Arab man convicted of "rape by deception," because he'd led the Jewish woman with whom he'd had consensual sex to believe he was Jewish. Ha'aretz has the story here. Plainly it's a ...

posted 7:51:28pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.