"In every generation, man shall feel like he is redeemed from Egypt."
This is a quotation from our Passover Haggadah that we recited last night. What is the idea behind this concept? Why should we continually strive to feel this redemption? Ensuring our freedom for the duration is the main goal of the United States Constitution, the sustaining of liberty is a central goal of the American psyche.
For people who are born here and live here for many generations—the freedom and privileges of this nation don’t have much significance. Others who recently arrived in this nation to seek freedom and escape oppression, and are only the second or third generation to experience the freedom this nation offers has a much deeper appreciation for this gift.
When G-d liberated the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, it was not just a liberation, but it was the fulfillment of a real freedom coupled with responsibility. This was a special, unique opportunity that G-d gave the Jews. It started in that time, when he made a way for escape out of Egypt. Then the Jews had to establish themselves in the desert and build up towards the Promised Land, the inheritance from the Lord.
Freedom is a gift much taken for granted. With freedom from tyranny and abusive leaders, comes responsibility; we have to take care of our own needs and must follow G-d’s instructions. In the Haggadah, we read Laban’s story, the one who abused Jacob so badly with hard labor, and again with his two daughters. Then, we have the account of Joseph and the abusive brothers. When G-d liberated the Hebrews from Egypt he provided a special opportunity to be released from the harsh rule of Pharaoh,--an evil man. This was all to pave the way for the nation of Israel to have true freedom and individual responsibility for our lives.
Once this freedom was granted to the Hebrews, we see the cycle begin. Through the Bible, the story is repeated time and time again. When Israel followed the way of G-d there was peace and provision, but when Israel disobeyed and went to worship idols, G-d there were dire consequences. Throughout Jewish history, we have a myriad of examples of those who tried to subjugate us and abuse us. And then, there is the endless faithfulness of G-d as He provides liberation and the opportunity for Israel to survive and thrive, time after time.
The Sultan of Turkey, in the beginning of 1500, said, "The Sephardic Jewish communities that fled from Spain are strong. It is well known that Spain went downhill after Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand expelled the Jews,"
Every generation reaches the same point, that of persecution and abuse, then G-d provides freedom. And here we are today, in the United States of America, and we are reciting the Passover Haggadah, and every generation should feel this redemption from Egypt, figuratively speaking. The notion of that is, that here in the United States we owe so much gratitude to G-d, we have freedom, we are very happy and blessed in many areas. In the last century, after a terrible Holocaust, G-d gave the Jewish people the land of Israel. But with this gift, the question is what are we going to do with this freedom, this responsibility for the future?
In every generation, each man should feel that he is redeemed from Egypt. And with this realization should come the resolve to do something with this freedom. Each individual should ask him or herself, what responsibility will I fulfill this time? Will I follow G-d’s way and be a better person and help others? This test in Jewish history that the Haggadah describes happens all the time. Jews are abused, G-d helps them, they are good, they rebel against G-d’s laws, problems arise, G-d chastises them, they repent, there are good years …the cycle repeats itself.
We have to learn the lessons from our history. When we have the gift of freedom we must be responsible to keep good relationships with G-d and with our fellow men.