Saturday 11th April 2020 17th Nissan 5780
Pesach/Passover by Alan Gilman
You shall tell your son on that day: It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt. (Shemot/Exodus 13:8)
Pesach begins this year the evening of Wednesday, April 8. One of the reasons for this annual commemoration of Israel's freedom from slavery in Egypt is to retain connection from generation to generation, "l'dor vador" as it is said in Hebrew. The ritual aspects of the retelling of the exodus were designed by God to not only remind subsequent generations of this wonderful, foundational story from our history, but to intimately bind our descendants to the original event to the extent that they see themselves as actually there when it happened. Every year when celebrating Pesach, we are to say to our children: "It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt."
But isn't this statement for the originals only? Would it not be more correct for the children of the released Hebrew slaves to say, "It is because of what the Lord did for my parents when they came out of Egypt"? Certainly, understanding oneself as connected to a historical event through one's ancestors isn't identical to being there. That's technically correct, but technicalities of this sort obscure the depth of meaning found in the intense identification the statement demands.
Even technically, we are far more connected to our history than we normally think. However, genetics actually work, the experiences of the past indelibly stamp themselves on our psyches. To some extent, we carry the past with us and pass it on to our children whether we or they are conscious of it. For subsequent generations to benefit from the events of the past, be they good or bad, it's better to be not only conscious of those events but consciously understand them properly.