On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’—Exodus 13:8
A note to our readers: Beginning at sunset April 22, 2016, the Jewish celebration of Passover will take place for the next eight days through April 30. Since some of the days during the Passover celebration are non-working days, the devotions were prepared for you in advance.
The focal point of Passover is the seder, a ceremonial meal held the first night of the holiday, when we tell the Exodus story by reading texts and performing various rituals. The seder is based on a book called the haggadah, which literally means “the telling.” The haggadah contains all the text, verses, prayers, customs, and rituals that bring the Exodus story to life. However, for all the richness of the haggadah, there is one glaring omission. There is not one mention of Moses in the entire text.
Moses is at the center of the Exodus story – how could it be that he isn’t even mentioned in this sacred text?
The Jewish sages explain that the omission of Moses is quite intentional. In the text of the haggadah, we learn that every year on Passover each participant has an obligation to see himself or herself as having personally left Egypt. We are to feel as though we were enslaved and God freed us, just as He did the Israelites thousands of years ago.
The verse commands us: “On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’” If Moses were at the center of the Exodus story, we might relegate the story to a different time and place – far removed from our own lives. But God wants the story to be universal and eternal. It’s not about Moses — it’s about you and me and every person who has a personal relationship with God.
The Hebrew word for Egypt is Mitzrayim, which literally means “narrow place” or “place of restriction.” The Hebrew word for Pharaoh, Paroah, can be rearranged to spell po ra, which means “here is evil.” Challenges to our spirituality and morality are universal and eternal themes that present themselves in the lives of every human being.
We all go through difficult times — times of pressure, oppression, and evil. And we all experience our own personal redemption from God. The story of Passover is the story of us all, and every year we are to commemorate the events that occurred not only thousands of years ago, but that continue to play out in our own lives today.
This year, find your own Passover story. Make it personal and meaningful in a new way. Where have you experienced your own Egypt? What narrow straits has God saved you from?
God has come through for us in the past and He will do so again in the future. Just as God heard the prayers of Israel, He hears our prayers. Just as God intervened on behalf of Israel in Moses’ time, He does so in our lives as well.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President