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Passover – Living The Story

Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz

Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz

- By Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz

“Why is this night different than all other nights?”

This well known phrase is the opening of the “Four Questions”, recited by children at the traditional Passover meal known as the Seder. When the shopping, cooking, and preparing for the Passover holiday is finally completed, Jewish families around the world, follow a carefully scripted text, the Haggadah, to do exactly the same thing that our ancestors have done for thousands of years before us. We eat the marror – the bitter herbs that remind us of the slavery our forefathers experienced in ancient Egypt. We drink four cups of wine and eat specially made Matzah, to celebrate the freedom that came to our beleaguered people. We recall the story in all of its details, just as our grandparents and their grandparents did before them.

As we sit at the Passover meal, with family and friends around us, one of the central passages of the Haggadah that we read, states; “In every generation, we are required to view ourselves as having personally left Egypt.” The Passover experience is not just retelling that ancient story it is reliving it.

I am reminded of the story of the elderly professor who passed away and arrived at the gates of heaven reserved for academics in the World to Come. There the professor saw two signs over the entrance to paradise. One sign read: “This is the gate to paradise.” Over the second entrance there was a sign that read: “This is the gate to the symposium about Paradise.”

Symposiums and lectures are nice, and of course studying about Jewish history and traditions is always a good thing. But to be vibrant, Judaism needs more. It needs action. It is only as we reenact the Exodus from Egypt, when we eat the matzah and marror on the Seder night and explore each detail of the story that we can truly feel its impact and meaning.

Without the tangible performance of the fifteen steps of the Passover Seder, the event of the Exodus would have disappeared from Jewish memory long ago. The genius of the obligation to physically perform these steps is that only in that way are we able to translate abstract ideas, lofty goals and memories into tangible, meaningful human behavior.

This night is different from all other nights, because on this night we let ourselves go, we liberate our souls, we leave behind the facade of the daily grind. We span the generations as we connect to the miracles of life in the very same way our forefathers did before us.

So in fact, the Seder is not just about repeating a story or serving as a memorial to events of distant times; it is a dynamic process of reliving the past so that we can find meaning in the present. Each step of the Seder gives us the tools to build upon three thousand years of collective experience. It enables each of us to stand firmly on the foundations of our ancestors heroism as they battled the Pharaoh’s of their times. It allows us to dream of new horizons as we navigate the challenges of our own times. It teaches us; that for the sake of our future our past must be clearly present.

Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz is the regional director of Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois and can be reached at . More Passover information available at

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