Open Doors

January 30, 2020

By Rabbi Avram Mlotek for Tablet Magazine

His door was unlocked. Two weeks prior, a man took advantage of this basic act of radical kindness when Grafton Thomas burst through Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg’s home in Monsey, N.Y., slashing at people with an 18-inch machete, leaving one man in critical condition.

Some might see Rottenberg’s decision to keep his door open after that vicious assault as naïve or unsafe. Others might view it as an affirmation of the Mishnaic rabbinic dictum: “Let your home be open abundantly.”

Regardless, the rabbi was expecting guests. It was Saturday night and his Hasidim were to join him for a melaveh malkah—a religious feast held after the Sabbath’s departure as a farewell.

I showed up, not dressed in Hasidic garb—with a yarmulke, yes, but one that was knitted, not a fur hat.


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Photograph of a seder plate. The plate is resting on a white table cloth on a corner that has black, yellow, magenta and green "X" patterned stitch marks that may be made to look like abstracted flowers. The seder plate is white with pink vines making circular patterns and small purple circles which could be grapes clustered together in each circle except the middle one. The circle in the middle has styalistic block letters which say "פסח" with small circles joining the top and bottom half of each individual letter. On the outer rim of the seder plate are the Hebrew words for the order of the seder with a small dish sitting on the intersection of every two words. The text is in stylistic red block lettering with floral and leaf patterns between the words. On the bottom, closest to the viewer is a dish with a mass of dark red-purple liquidy bits, likely horseradish. On the left of the dish is the word "רחצה" and on the right it says "מרור". The dish to the bottom right has a clump of light brown apple chunks and crushed nuts with the word "עורך" to its right. On the top right is a dish with a roasted chicken wing, the word that would be to it's right (or under it) is not visible. At the top center are a few leaves of green (likely Romain) lettuce with the dish barley noticeable underneath, to the left of it the full word isn't visible on the last two letters "חץ". On the top left is a dish with an egg, it is white with brown splotches and a hair-width crack running through from the top right to the bottom left, words aren't visible. On the bottom left is a dish with 6 sticks of celery, no words are visible except the one to its right which is also the left of the horseradish.International Rabbinic Fellowship Shares Its Passover 5780 Guide