Perhaps the entire message of the haggadah and our seder experience is told in one line, which is a quotation from Chapter 10 of Mishna Pesachim. After we point to the paschal shankbone, the matzah, and the marror, we offer these words: “In every generation a person is obligated to see oneself (‘lirot’) as if they, too, left Egypt.” This is the challenge of the seder, to place ourselves symbolically in the slavery of our ancestors and to experience true freedom, liberation, and redemption. It is hoped that we will be moved by the experience and that it will become a life-changing event. The text continues: “For it was not only our forefathers alone whom the Holy One, blessed be He, redeemed; He redeemed us too.”
Not all haggadot state this phrase in exactly the same manner. Though it is an actual quote from the Mishna, the haggadah of Maimonides changes one Hebrew letter that makes a great difference. He states: “In every generation a person is obligated to show oneself, to conduct oneself (“le-harot”) as if they, too, left Egypt.” What does this mean? What is the difference between the original text and Maimonides’ text? It is not enough, according to Maimonides, just to experience liberation; we must conduct ourselves as if we personally came out of Egypt. We should live our lives a little bit differently because of the Exodus from Egypt. This is the challenge of the Passover experience – to appreciate freedom and to live lives that exhibit that great privilege.
Immediately after Pesach we recall recent Jewish history as we commemorate Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom Ha’Atzmaut. As new commemorative days on the Jewish calendar these, too, require our attention. We should recognize what it entails to be the generation after the Shoah, as both Jews and human beings. We should be cognizant of living at a time of the rebirth of the State of Israel and the sacrifice that enabled the State to be established and to have it continue to function. At AZM we recognize these responsibilities to the past, present, and future of the Jewish people and, in particular, to our relationship to Zionism and the State of Israel, the rebirth of our people in its ancient homeland.
As we sit down at our Pesach seder, let us appreciate the freedom that is ours, let us acknowledge the ancient exodus of our people from Egypt as well as our recent Jewish history, and let us commit ourselves to working on behalf of our brothers and sisters in the State of Israel.
Rabbi Vernon Kurtz