For the week ending 12 April 2014 / 12 Nisan 5774

The Pesach Relay Race

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
Become a Supporter Library Library

“In every generation a person is obligated to see himself as if he had come out of Egypt.” (Pesach Haggada)

The night of Pesach, one of the most festive and well known of the year, memorializes the birth of the Jewish Nation. We drink lots of wine as we tell over, in detail, the age-old story of the exodus from Egypt. Recalling the great miracles and events that were witnessed by over three million people, we are meant to connect with the story in a personal way. In fact, many consider this story as their own.

But can this story which happened so long ago really have anything to do with the Jews of today?

According to Kabbalah the Jewish People, although innumerable, are in truth all individual parts of one general soul. Just as a body, despite being made up of two hundred and forty eight limbs and three hundred and sixty five sinews, is one entity, so too the countless individual souls of Israel are in essence united as one. With this in mind we can gain a deeper understanding of how the story of Egypt affects us.

Let us consider a relay race. When each individual runner is running, he represents all of the runners. If he takes the leading position, all of the future runners share in that position. And if he falls back, they all fall back.

What the Jews accomplished through the harsh Egyptian exile is shared by all of the future generations as well. So although a Jew living today was not actually a slave in Egypt, by virtue of his connection to those that were, he benefits. And in turn, he must also allow those that were in Egypt to benefit from him as well.

How does he do that? When he continues to race forward towards the finish line, he does it for all of the past generations of Jews that lived before him, including those that actually left Egypt. While if he were to quit racing for whatever reason, then all of the generations of Jews that came before him would also be out of the race.

In light of the above we can gain new insight into one’s obligation to see himself as if he went out of Egypt. Since a person living today was obviously never in Egypt, this cannot be taken literally. However, in a deeper sense, if a Jew of today has a connection to the Jews that left Egypt, then, by virtue of that connection, it is as if he went out of Egypt too. As mentioned above, the implied message is that it is also as if I, through my actions, take the Jews that left Egypt with me, affecting them for good or bad depending on what I choose to do.

Now if there was a Pesach Seder in Heaven, so to speak, we could say that their Haggada would read, “We are obligated to see ourselves as if we are experiencing what our descendants are doing in the world today.”

We specifically focus on those who were redeemed from Egypt, because spiritually, if they never left Egypt the burden to escape from there would fall on us. However, through their suffering we were spared from the burden of the Egyptian slavery, and we are therefore indebted to them and must continue to work for their sake, as well as our own, for the future redemption. May it be speedily in our days.

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