Question: Is it better to stay home for the Pesach Seder or to be hosted by one’s parents or in-laws?
Answer: Many people commonly contend with the above dilemma, so let us discuss this issue.
Hagaon Harav Betzalel Stern zt”l writes (in his Responsa Be’Tzel Ha’Cochma Volume 6, Chapter 67) that the custom that many have to spend the Seder night with their parents is a fulfilment of the Mitzvah to rejoice on the holiday, for sharing each other’s company makes the holiday more enjoyable. Several great Rishonim, including the Shibolei Ha’Leket (Chapter 218), write that many people customarily spend Yom Tov with their families and this increases one’s joy. We have already mentioned such an idea based on Rashi in Megillat Esther regarding the Purim feast. This is certainly true regarding Pesach when there was a special Mitzvah to join a group to eat the Pesach offering as opposed to just eating alone.
This was indeed the custom of Maran zt”l who would invite his sons and daughters along with their children to his home where they would all conduct the Seder together. The entire family rejoiced in the presence of Maran zt”l and he and the Rabbanit would be filled with satisfaction to see their children and grandchildren following in the path of the Torah. At the conclusion of the Seder, the Rabbanit would sing “Chad Gadya” according to the tradition of her birthplace (Aleppo, Syria) in Arabic. Maran zt”l would then gather all his grandchildren and sit them down in a half-circle and he would the proceed to recount the story of the Exodus and the splitting of the Red Sea in a manner especially appropriate for children until approximately midnight at which point everyone would go to sleep (so that they would be able to wake up early to pray Shacharit). Maran zt”l, however, remained awake all night long and studied Torah.
It seems then that it is always optimal to host or be hosted for the Pesach Seder. Nevertheless, the primary Mitzvah of the Seder night is that of recounting the story of the Exodus from Egypt to one’s children. One is therefore obligated to prepare accordingly, as we have discussed on several occasions. Thus, if one knows that by spending the Seder with one’s parents, one will not be able to recount the story to one’s children properly, one must weigh one’s options carefully since sometimes, if one’s parents will not take offense, it may be preferable for one to stay home for the Seder so that one will be able to focus on transmitting our timeless belief in Hashem to one’s children along with praising Hashem for all the great miracles He performs for us every day. However, if this will hurt one’s parents’ feelings, one should find another solution to the above issue. One should try to strike the correct balance between spending the Seder with one’s parents and recounting the story of the Exodus to one’s children as much as possible.
Indeed, when Maran zt”l’s children were young, he preferred to spend the Seder at home. Although his mother, Gorgia, would implore him to spend the Seder night in her house, Maran zt”l discussed with her how important it was to him to conduct the Seder at home so that he could impart the story of the Exodus to his children in the most beneficial manner. Although he graciously offered to host his parents or other family members who wanted to spend the Seder with him, he nevertheless did not want to go elsewhere for the Seder. Since Maran zt”l’s mother was a truly regal and understanding woman, she was not offended whatsoever and agreed for Maran zt”l to stay home and she invited her other children to be with her for the Seder.
May Hashem guide us in the proper path before Him, Amen.