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Rabbi Berel Wein

Someone remarked to me recently that he did not see or feel how anything new could be discussed at his Seder table – everything that could have been said and analyzed had been said and analyzed over all of the past decades of his commemorating Pesach. I told him that I thought he had too narrow and focused view concerning the commemoration of Pesach. The broad human and particularly Jewish issues of bondage, freedom, individual and national purpose and destiny, renew themselves in our lives on an almost daily basis. Our great young associate Rabbi, Itiel Goldvicht, had a discussion with me about the enslavement of the present younger generation to texting and to their smart phones. He pointed out to me that in spite of all bans, filters and other methods meant to free one’s self from the grip and thrall of these devices, their constant use has become almost impulsive and obsessive, certainly amongst the student generation here in Israel and I am certain that this is true regarding the student population in the rest of the current Western world as well. Slavery takes on different forms and disguises. There is a great difference between slavery and work. Slavery is a state of compulsion and obsession that stunts the creativity of the human mind and soul and leads to disenchantment, boredom and eventual physical, moral, physical and mental deterioration. One of the great attributes of the holiday of Pesach is that it allows us a new and fresh view of things. By cleaning out the chametz of our homes and souls we open ourselves up to new vistas and fresh challenges that can inspire us and deliver us to a higher level of purpose and accomplishment.

The Seder allows for a family discussion of issues, since the Haggadah itself raises almost all possible human issues – family, tradition, Torah, the land of Israel, the purpose of Jewish life and of an individual's existence, the recognition and understanding of evil and the ultimate human necessity for reliance on faith in the Creator. These issues are extremely relevant in today's world and I believe affect every family and home. For most of the year we have little time or inclination to dwell on these matters for the distractions and obligations of life are many and omnipresent. But on this night of the Seder there is time, mental capacity and psychological freedom to engage with these issues. My wife, of blessed memory, told me that when she was ten or eleven years old a great rabbi was a guest for the Pesach Seder at her home. The great rabbi talked to the the young girl, taught her melodies to sing, have her advice for life and instilled in her an appreciation for the depth and with of Jewish tradition. She often told me that that Seder experience influenced her greatly and was a defining moment in her life. She did not attend a Jewish school and was a lonely Orthodox, Sabbath observing child in the midst of a completely nonobservant Jewish group of friends and fellow public-school students. She told me that the Pesach Seder experience that year fortified her for the rest of her years in high school and college and gave her an enormous gift of self-confidence, self identity and Jewish pride. I think that that is exactly what the Pesach Seder should accomplish for all of us.

The rabbis of old enjoined us that the more we speak about the Exodus from Egypt, the more praiseworthy we become. This is in line with the further statement in the Haggadah that "in every generation one must be able to see one's own self as though one was present for and participated in the Exodus from Egypt itself." The Seder is meant to make the Exodus from Egypt relevant to everyone sitting at the Seder table, even today more than three thousand years later. It transports us back in time while in the very same rituals brings the past to bear upon our current situations and challenges. The Exodus from Egypt is an ongoing story and not merely a one time commemorating of a past event. That is the secret of the strength of the Seder experience and of its fresh new quality year in and year out. So therefore there is always something new to be said and expressed at the Seder table. And it is this constant renewal of ideas and traditions that gives Pesach its unique ability to represent true freedom and psychological, spiritual and mental liberty. Those ancient rituals provide us with the tools for dealing with the relevant and seemingly modern problems that face us. The Seder night should therefore be treasured, appreciated and loved.


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