The annual discussion of whether or not it is proper to go to a hotel for Pesach has once again reared its head -- this time in the YWN coffeeroom.
Personally, I don't see what the big deal is. Eeees and I don't go away and, truthfully, cannot picture it. For us, Pesach has always meant staying at home (or with friends or family). Even if we had the money to go away we probably wouldn't.
But that's just us. For others, going away for Pesach is "their thing," and I just don't see anything wrong with it. Every year I hear all sorts of arguments against the practice, but I have yet to find one that makes any sense. Two years ago, Dayan Shalom Friedman suggested that it's wrong to go away because you won't clean your house. I posted about that at the time and showed how that argument was totally without merit.
Another popular argument that arises is that the money could be better put to use in charity. As one commentator in the thread suggested:
With so many people out of work, and people needing to take from Tomche Shabbos to put food on the table, wouldn't it be tremendous if every person took the thousands of dollars they spend on a hotel and gave it to tzedakos that need it desperately?
Perhaps, perhaps not. However, there are two problems with this suggestion:
1. I think it's a bit galling to tell people what to do with their money. The commentator has no idea how much tzedaka the people who go to hotels give. Perhaps they've already met their obligations regarding tzedaka? Who is he to tell them that they have no right to spend some money on self-enjoyment?
2. The commentator is worried about people out of work, but he doesn't seem to realize that by closing down the Pesach hotel industry, a lot of people will be thrown out of work. I'm fairly certain that this provides a nice chunk of the annual salary for a number of people.
3. Why stop at Pesach hotels? Why not tell people to buy the cheapest esrog they can find for Succos and put the rest towards Tomche Shabbos? Does he take his kids on a trip on Chol HaMoed? Perhaps he should cancel the trip and explain to his kids that others need the money more. Does he buy flowers for his wife on Shabbos? Perhaps he can do with a single stem (or none at all) and give the rest to tzedaka? Who *really* needs music and flowers by a wedding? A wedding can be perfectly, 100% kosher according to all opinions without them. Perhaps that should be given to tzedaka too? And on and on it goes. In other words, if you're going to tell people they can't spend money on X because it can be put to better use in charity, then why not carry it to its logical conclusion and simply say that everyone must turn over every discretionary penny they have. Of course that's not what the commentator meant, but why not apply his principle there as well?
Of course, the more I think about it, the more I come to realize that perhaps going away to a hotel for Pesach *is* the authentic Jewish thing to do. After all, in the times of the Beis Mikdash, you went away for Pesach *every* year (unless you lived in Yerushalayim).