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One more week to freedom! That’s right, Pesach is almost here; the holiday of our freedom from those wretched Egyptians. As is well known, the night of the Pesach seder is dedicated to the main mitzvah of the night, reliving the exodus from Egypt. All those cups of wine, the matzah and marror, telling over the story of the exodus, and the songs of praise are all to put us in the state of mind that we were slaves and are now FREE! Free to live a life of Torah and mitzvos, and fight against our evil inclination.

Usually when writing an essay or article, the topic sentence is meant to encompass the entire point and meaning of the paper. So it goes without saying that the opening to the haggadah on the night of the seder is a little bit perplexing. The haggadah opens up saying “this is the bread of oni (whatever that means! There are many different interpretations, so I’m leaving it in its raw form) that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt”. Now if I was writing the haggadah, I probably would have mentioned something about the exodus in the opening line, considering that it’s the reason for the entire seder night. So why in the world does the haggadah open up talking about the bread which our fathers ate in Egypt? Mention that somewhere later on! The focus should be about the Jewish people leaving Egypt. Maybe it should say “And this is the night that the Jewish people left Egypt”? That seems like a better fit! So what’s going on?

There’s a story with Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky zt”l that might answer this question. When Rav Yaakov was sick in the hospital, he shared a room with a gentile. Rav Yaakov and the man became friendly, and the man said he had a question for Rav Yaakov. He asked him why the Rav and he were different. Every day Rav Yaakov had many visitors (children, grandchildren, students, etc.), and they all gave him tremendous respect. The other man on the other hand had no visitors, and complained that his children had no respect for him and wanted to put him in a nursing home. They looked at their father like a burden rather than their father. So the man wanted to know what made them different. Rav Yaakov answered him that there’s a simple difference. He explained to the man the Jewish people live with the understanding that they reached the ultimate level of greatness by Mt. Sinai. All of the Jewish people’s aspirations are to one day make it back to the level that they were once on. However, sadly every generation gone is another generation farther from that amazing level of Mt. Sinai. So in turn, the later generations as a whole are on a lower level than the earlier ones. Rav Yaakov then said when his kids look at him, they see someone on a higher level than they are, closer to greatness. Therefore, they have tremendous respect for him. However said Rav Yaakov to the man, you believe that you come from monkeys. So every new generation is better than the older ones, considering they’re closer to monkeys. Therefore said Rav Yaakov, that this man’s children had no respect him.

The main point to understanding how to relive the exodus is the knowledge that the Jewish nation is not a nation of the future, but a nation of the past. The future of the Jewish people is reaching the levels of yesteryear by Mt. Sinai. We start the seder by saying this is matza that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. We focus on our fathers. Without understanding what went on in the past, we can’t connect to it. The goal of the night of the seder is to relive the exodus, by connecting with what once was. We must reach those unbelievable levels attained by the generation of the exodus. Only then can we truly be free, and attain the real mitzvah of the night of the seder.

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