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  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Seder Night

The Exodus - foundation of Judaism

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Rabbi David Samson

30 Nisan 5763
Question
What is the difference between the daily commandment to remember the Exodus from Egypt, and the commandment to tell one’s children about the Exodus on Pesach night?
Answer
Before we discuss the differences, it is important to understand why our Sages gave such an exalted place to the remembrance of the Exodus. As explained in the "Kuzari," the Exodus is the foundation of Judaism and the wellspring of our belief in G-d[1]. The actual historical experience of the Exodus, the revelation of G-d witnessed by millions of people, is embedded in the national Jewish psyche. This profound experience of G-d's special relationship with the Jewish People is what we are called upon to remember every day of our lives, and most especially on Pesach night. The commandment to remember the Exodus every day is derived from the Mishna in Berachot[2]. Ben Zoma teaches that it is a mitzvah to remember the Exodus both during the day and at night, as it says in the Torah verse: "That you will remember the day you left the land of Egypt all the days of your life[3]." The commandment concerning Pesach night stems from the Torah verse, "And you shall tell your son on that day saying, this is performed because of what Hashem did for me when I came out of Egypt[4]." The telling of the Exodus story of Pesach differs from the daily remembrance in several ways. First of all, it is a mitzvah from the Torah, and not an ordinance of the Rabbis[5]. Furthermore, unlike the daily mitzvah merely to mention or recall the Exodus, without any further elaboration, the precept on Pesach night involves transmitting, from one generation to the next, the significance and deeper meanings of the Exodus for the Jewish People[6]. Even if one were to eat alone on Pesach night, it is still a mitzvah to delve into the in-depth understanding of the Exodus[7]. Additionally, on Pesach night, an intellectual understanding is not enough - a person must emotionally feel the Exodus experience, as if he were actually departing from Egypt right then and there[8]. Rabbi Chaim of Brisk lists other basic differences. On the night of the Seder, the commandment to remember has to be performed in an engaging and educating question and answer format. Next, on the Seder night, it is not enough to mention the simple fact of the Exodus; rather one must delve into the entire historic process. Thirdly, the rational behind the commandments of the Seder night must be explained in their relation to the Exodus[9]. While remembering the Exodus is a pillar of our faith, we long for the day when the words of the prophet will be fulfilled: "Therefore, behold, days are coming, says the L-rd, when they shall no more say, as the L-rd lives who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, but as the L-rd lives, who brought up and who led the seed of the House of Israel out of the north country and from all countries into which I have driven them, and they shall dwell in their own Land[10]." 1. Kuzari, 1:13. 2. Mishna Berachot, 1:5. 3. Deuteronomy, 16:3. 4. Exodus, 13:8. 5. Minchat Hinuch, Precept 21. 6. Malbim, Artzot HaChaim, Section 1. 7. Hagadah. 8. Maharal, Gevurot Hashem, Chapter 62. 9. Shiurim L'Zecher Abba Mori. 10. Jeremiah, 23:7-8.
Rabbi David Samson is one of the leading English-speaking Torah scholars in the Religious-Zionist movement in Israel. He has co-authored four books on the writings of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kook and Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook. Rabbi Samson learned for twelve years under the tutelage of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook. He served as Rabbi of the Kehillat Dati Leumi Synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem, and teaches Jewish Studies at Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva Institutions.
Tzvi Fishman was a successful Hollywood screenwriter before making Aliyah to Israel in 1984. He has co-authored several Torah works with Rabbi David Samson and written several books on Jewish/Israel topics.
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