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The significance of the Exodus
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Why repeat the same Haggadah each year?


Each year, on the night of the Passover Seder, Jews the world over gather to recite the Haggadah.  The central theme of the evening is the miracles G-d performed for the Jewish people before, during, and after the Exodus from Egypt.  The birth of the Nation of Israel on Pesach was accompanied by a plethora of supernatural wonders. On this night, we recall these miracles and thank G-d for many things: our release from bondage, for our departure from Egypt, for the homeland He gave us, the Holy Land, and much more.

We might ask why it is that our Sages mandated the recitation of the Haggadah again and again, each year.  Wouldn't it be enough to read it through one time thoroughly, say a hearty "thank-you", and consider that we have fulfilled our obligation to express our gratitude?

What do we gain by retelling the events of the Exodus once again each year?

Another question we might well ask: Why did G-d bring so many calamities upon Egypt?  If His goal was to coerce Pharaoh into releasing the Jews, one crushing blow, such as the death of the first-born males, would have been enough.  G-d is omniscient; He surely knew that Pharaoh would not give in to Moses' request until the final, tenth plague.  In fact, He clearly warned Moses and Aharon that Pharaoh would not accede to their demands for freedom.  Why, then, did He nonetheless devote nine months (one plague a month) to bringing a variety of unnatural disasters on the Egyptian nation before delivering the final, decisive blow that effected the release of His people?

The answer to these questions lies in understanding the purpose of the Ten Plagues.  As with everything that G-d does, there were multiple goals to be attained simultaneously.  One goal was, indeed, the release of the Jewish People.  So long as the plagues affected only Pharaoh's subjects, he refused to surrender his control over the nation who had been his slaves.  It was only when he himself felt threatened (since he, too, was a firstborn), that he finally acquiesced to Moses' demand for freedom.  It was only the tenth plague, not the nine which preceded it, that served to obtain our release from Egypt.

Obviously, the first nine plagues served a different purpose.  Above and beyond liberating His nation, G-d sought to educate them, and, obviously, the gentiles among who they lived.  The Ten Plagues clearly demonstrated, beyond any shadow of a doubt, just Who controls the universe.  It proved unequivocally that there is a Supreme Being who is above the dictates of "Nature" and its laws.  It is He who created Nature and established its laws, who determined that the sun will always rise in the East and set in the West; that for every force, there is an equal and opposite counterforce, and that every physical body exerts a gravitational pull on every other physical body.  He established these laws, and He can abrogate them at will.  He can breathe life into His creatures, and at His will, He can remove the breath of life from them, just as He did during the plague of the first-born.

He imbued water with the power to quench fires, and when He so wished, He set aside this "natural law" and rained down upon the Egyptians a unique form of hail that combined fire with ice.  He created water as a liquid which is drawn by gravity to the lowest level available to it, and He abrogated this "natural" property of water when He wished to provide safe passage for His people through the waters of the Red Sea.

For the Jewish people who left Egypt, and for the gentiles who were witness to the Ten Plagues, all these wonders were an object lesson in faith in the omnipotence of G-d. They left no room for doubt that it is He who controls every aspect of the creation.  The Scriptures clearly tell us that the Jewish People were imbued with unshakable faith in G-d's sovereignty and might after they witnessed the defeat of Pharaoh's forces at the Red Sea.

However, a one-time lesson, no matter how profound, is sooner or later forgotten by the heart.  New experiences overwrite previous ones.  It is essential to relive the events of the Exodus again and again in order to renew the deep faith that was engraved upon the nation's heart thousands of years ago.

Only if we constantly reconstruct these events will we be able to maintain our awareness of G-d's all-powerful providence and intervention in human affairs.  Only by reviewing the details of the Ten Plagues and the Exodus can we hope to renew our awareness of G-d as the Master of the Universe.

This is one of the goals of the Seder night.  It serves as a spiritual booster shot which re-enforces our awareness of G-d as the master of our fate on both a national and personal level.

The Haggadah states that "Whoever tells about it (the Exodus) at greater length, is worthy of praise."   The more we describe the miracles of the Exodus, the more we picture them as actually happening to us and our children, and internalize the experiences as though we ourselves are living the events that took place, the more we achieve the purpose of the Seder night.  This is not a family get-together, a sort of party where we eat matzah and bitter herbs as a prelude to a hearty banquet.  It is intended to serve as a spiritual experience, a source of inspiration which will consolidate the faith in our hearts so profoundly that it will remain cemented there for the entire year to come.

The Haggadah tells us: "In every generation, one is obliged to regard himself as though he himself went out of Egypt, as the Torah says, 'You shall tell your son that day, saying, "For the sake of this, G-d acted for me when I went out from Egypt.'"

Not only our forefathers were rescued from bondage there in Egypt; we, too, were spared the fate of eternal servitude.  It is therefore incumbent upon us to express our gratitude to G-d for the miracle of our liberation, and to direct our lives in keeping with the dictates of the faith which derives from the miracles He showered upon us "in those times, at this season."

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