A Passover Message from Head of School Dr. Jonathan Levy
At the Passover Seder we recite the phrase:
,בְּכָל־דּוֹר וָדוֹר חַיָּב אָדָם לִרְאוֹת אֶת־עַצְמוֹ כְּאִלּוּ הוּא יָצָא מִמִּצְרַיִם
In each and every generation, a person is obligated to see oneself as if he left Egypt.
The famous medieval philosopher Maimonides (12th C.) had a slightly different version in his Haggadah. In his version, instead of the words לִרְאוֹת אֶת־עַצְמו (to see oneself), he had להראות את עצמו (to make oneself appear). According to him, one has to physically act out the Exodus as if one actually took part in it. As a result of this slight variation, many have the beautiful custom of walking around the seder table or otherwise physically demonstrating their freedom.
In explaining the source for this statement, the Haggadah then quotes two Biblical sources.
וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר, בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה ה' לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרַיִם. לֹא אֶת־אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בִּלְבָד גָּאַל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, אֶלָּא אַף אוֹתָנוּ גָּאַל עִמָּהֶם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וְאוֹתָנוּ הוֹצִיא מִשָּׁם, לְמַעַן הָבִיא אוֹתָנוּ, לָתֶת לָנוּ אֶת־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשָׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֵינוּ
(Exodus 13:8); "And you shall explain to your son on that day: For the sake of this, did the Lord do [this] for me in my going out of Egypt." Not only our ancestors did the Holy One, blessed be He, redeem, but rather also us [together] with them did He redeem, as it is stated (Deuteronomy 6:23); "And He took us out from there, in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He swore unto our fathers."
Since it says that ‘we’ were redeemed, we each have the obligation to demonstrate our freedom, which we do in many ways. We drink wine or grape juice because, in ancient times, that's what free people did. We recline when we eat, because in Talmudic times, free people dined on couches. We say Hallel (the only time in the year we say it at night) as songs of freedom and gratitude. We thank God for bringing us into the Land of Israel, the land of our ancestors thousands of years ago, and our land now.
But perhaps most importantly, we teach our children our story and inculcate in them the tradition of celebrating Passover. As Rabbi Sacks wrote,“The message of Passover remains as powerful as ever. Freedom is won not on the battlefield but in the classroom and the home. Teach your children the history of freedom if you want them never to lose it.”
The successful partnership between a Jewish school, its families and its community instills a deep connection to our Jewish roots and secures our commitment to our future. The opportunity and privilege we share to teach our ideas, values, history, laws, religion and culture to our children is perhaps the most valuable freedom there is.
Wishing each of you a Chag Kasher V’sameach.