At a recent family gathering, my younger brother said he had led the Seder during Passover this year. He explained that he'd been present the last several years, but this was his first time leading. (I think it was also at his home.)

My understanding (from reading here and elsewhere) is that he would need to have converted to Judaism before he could do that. But he (and his wife) also talked about a trip they're taking to Israel this summer, and specifically said they were doing it as non-Jews.

Please help me understand where I might be wrong, where my assumptions lie, and/or what I'm missing.

Edited to answer questions from the comments:

Are we Jewish? No. We grew up attending a Presbyterian church, and as far as I know, he still attends.

What did he mean by "leading"? He was somewhat vague about what "leading" meant; he said something like, "It's really a whole ceremony. There are things you say and talk about, then you share that type of food, and then there are other things you say and talk about."

Edited again to add:

Thank you for the kind responses so far. I suppose my real question is whether he has become so devoted to the idea of Israel that he's discarded any respect for the Law.

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    What does it mean to lead the Passover seder? Disregarding questions about whether a non-Jew may even be present at a seder, the answer to this question could depend very much on what your younger brother did. If he was just the person coming up with discussion topics for the table that's one thing. If he was doing things to help others fulfill their obligations for the seder (e.g. making kiddush for everybody), that's a different thing. – Daniel Jul 13 '17 at 20:15
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    There would be a problem if by "leading" this included his being the only one saying Kiddush or making the blessing on the matzah with no Jews saying the blessing. He is not obligated in any of the mitzvoth, and, thus, cannot fulfill a Jew's obligation by their listening to him. – DanF Jul 13 '17 at 20:16
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    TheFontSnob, welcome to Mi Yodeya. Could you please edit in a description of what you (or, I suppose, he) meant by "lead"? What things at the seder did he do, and did he do any of them exclusively? I don't think halacha (Jewish law) talks about leading the seder as a whole, but it will have things to say about some of the elements. Any detail you can supply will help us answer your question. Thanks. – Monica Cellio Jul 13 '17 at 21:11
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    There are reasons NonJews should not be invited to a sedder at all. judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/27094/… – user6591 Jul 13 '17 at 21:35

There are several problems with a non-Jew attending the Seder at all. First of all, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 512 forbids cooking for the non-Jew on any Yom Tov. Thus, unless the cooking was done for all the Jews together, and no additional food was added for the non-Jew, it was forbidden.

I must reiterate that this does not separate Pesach from the other holidays and as long as the halachos of cooking are adhered to it is allowable to have a nonJew as a guest.

Jewish law does not forbid hosting non-Jews for a Passover seder.

“There’s no such law,” says Benny Lau, the rabbi of the Ramban congregation in Jerusalem, adding, “My father was for years an Israeli diplomat and we always had non-Jewish guests on seder night. My uncle, the former Chief Rabbi Israel Lau, always hosted Muslim and Christian clerics.”

However, attending is different from leading.

Chabad.org points out

One may not invite a non-Jew to a Yom Tov meal unless Shabbat coincides with that Yom Tov. The reason for this is that one may inadvertently cook for the non-Jew on Yom Tov, which is forbidden. On Shabbat when one may not cook in any case, it is permitted to invite a non-Jew.11 If the non-Jew comes without being invited, one may feed him on a regular Yom Tov as well but may not cook or heat up food for him. There is no distinction between the Pesach Seder and other Yom Tov days in this regard.

Consider that unless the non-Jew is there as part of studying for conversion, the wording of the hagada is inappropriate for the non-Jew. As an example, the "Avodim Hayinu" refers to our ancestors who were redeemed from Egypt. A convert is considered to be Jewish in all respects (like Rabbi Akivah who was descended from a convert), but a non-Jew who is not converting is not part of this.

A non-Jew may not say a blessing for a Jew as he is not commanded in the mitzvos and may not say the blessings. Even a Jew who is not commanded in a particular mitzvah, may not say the blessing for a Jew who is commanded in that mitzvah.

Of course, once the temple has been rebuilt and the Paschal sacrifice re-instituted (במהרה בימינו) then it would be forbidden for the nonJew to take part. Exodus 12:43.

  • "Even a Jew who is not commanded in a particular mitzvah, may not say the blessing for a Jew who is commanded in that mitzvah." Source? – mevaqesh Jul 14 '17 at 13:31
  • "then it would be forbidden for the nonJew to take part" You seem to have just made this up. All that shows is that they can't eat the Pesah; not that they can't take part, to use your (perhaps deliberately) vague term. – mevaqesh Jul 14 '17 at 13:32
  • "Many people feel that it is inappropriate for a non-Jew to take part in the seder as it is in memory of eating the Paschal sacrifice." Who are these people? Are they Jewish people? Rabbinic authorities? Why should anyone care about them? – mevaqesh Jul 14 '17 at 13:33
  • @mevaqesh I have seen a reference to Talmud YerushalmiMegila 1:11, 72B Which discusses Antoninus asking Rebbe why he could not partake of the Korbon Pesach while he would be able to eat from Livyasan with the tzadikim in the World to Come. Since this was after the Churban, it seems to mean the Afikomen (specifically) and possibly the zecher lekorban in the seder. I will add this to the post. I do not have a Yerushalmi here to give the full citation. – sabbahillel Jul 14 '17 at 15:52
  • @mevaqesh I see that I was not clear enough that this is a feeling on the part of various people and it does not really belong in the answer. I will remove the inappropriate part from the post. I added the quote from Rabbi Lau. I see that I do not heve the link to it so I will try to find it again. – sabbahillel Jul 14 '17 at 19:46

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