Pictures of hostages
Pictures of hostagesMiriam Alster/FLASH90

In advance of Passover with Israel at war and 133 hostages still in captivity in Gaza, the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization is urging families to take special measures during the Passover Seder to reflect upon the challenges of this year. Tzohar Chair Rabbi David Stav said, “There is no way we can celebrate this holiday without calling out to the Heavens that the captives should be taken out from the darkness in which they are being held and into the light of freedom.”

Tzohar is specifically urging families to leave a space empty at the Seder table and place a picture of one of the captives on that chair. The organization says that the ethos of the holiday is teaching our children and the Seder needs to be used as an opportunity to convey the current plight of our people to the next generation.

“Our responsibility is to feel the pain of fellow Jews who are living through one of the darkest periods of modern Jewish history and that even while we are commemorating and celebrating our national freedom, we need to recognize the immense challenges and tragedies that continue in these days,” Tzohar said. “That empty chair should be used as a teaching moment for our children to ask an additional ‘fifth question’ so that they can understand what makes this year different and what they might be able to do to help bring the hostages home.”

Tzohar also recommended dedicating the fifth cup of wine at Seder, traditionally known as Elijah’s Cup, to the hostages and saying a “Yehi Ratzion” prayer (Hebrew and English text appears below), reflecting the hope and prayer for communal redemption and freedom:

יהי רצון שיתקיימו בכל חטופה ובכל חטוף כל לשונות הגאולה "והוצאתי-והצלתי-וגאלתי-ולקחתי-והבאתי" ויזכו כולם לשוב לחיק משפחותיהם בריאים ושלמים ונזכה לקבל את פניהם בשמחה שאין למעלה ממנה, במהרה בימינו, אמן

May it be G-d's will that All statements of redemption, namely "I will free you, deliver you from bondage, redeem you with an outstretched arm, take you to be My people, and bring you to the land of Israel" be fulfilled in each and every captive of the Jewish people, and each one will be privileged to return to their families healthy and well. May we all be privileged to greet them in utmost happiness speedily in our time, Amen

Attention should also be paid to the pain and bereavement being experienced by many families around Israel who lost loved ones in battle and during the events of October 7th.

Rabbi Stav added, “Pesach is a time of national freedom but we know that this year so many of our fellow Jews are living in physical bondage. Our responsibility is to ensure that we use this moment at the Seder to ensure their pain is not forgotten and to make practical and meaningful signs that remind us and our children that we are living through tragic times.”