In Every Generation...The Power of Responsibility

By Rabbi Jonny Ross


If we were to write a CV of our job on Pesach night, it would be summed up in the verse Exodus 13:8 “And you shall tell your children on this day saying, it is because of this God did for me when I went out of Egypt”. 

The Haggadah says that ‘in every generation each person is obligated to see themselves as if they came out of Egypt’. It’s source? This verse. Everything in this verse here is speaking about each one of us. Not everyone collectively, but each person specifically. “You shall tell your children.. God did this for me when I went out of Egypt”. 

Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe (1914-2005) points out that the same happens with the ten commandments. Although many of the commandments are in the plural, the ten that God gave at Sinai are all in the singular. The intention is for each one of us to feel that the responsibility lies with us as an individual. It is me the person, not ‘us’ the collective. 

The Torah states explicitly that certain plagues distinguished Israelites and Egyptians. The Midrash states that during the plague of darkness, a Jew and an Egyptian might be standing next to each other, in the exact same location yet one experiences darkness and the other enjoys light.

It is easy to miss the point of the message. In each case it is the same. It is to tell us, in the words of the Talmud that each person is obligated to say, ‘the world was created for me!’ It is my responsibility. 

It is easy to debate what laws a society should have. But it is more difficult to be the person who obeys those rules if everyone else is not. That is why the ten commandments are given in the singular. Each person must feel it as their own responsibility no matter what else anyone else is or is not doing. 

It is easy to learn the Exodus story as a story about a whole group of people. Easy to learn it about our ancestors. With the experience of slavery comes a responsibility: to stand against oppression everywhere. With witnessing the intervention of God comes the responsibility to live lives God would be proud of. 

The Haggadah wants the messages of Seder night to be personal.


- April 6th 2017

More in this series

Korech - The Taste of Harmony

Shulchan Orech - When Eating Becomes a Song of Praise

Hallel - The Song and the Echocardiogram

Locked in the Prison of Freedom

"And It Happened At Midnight" Opening Our Eyes

Karpas - From Exile to Redemption

Ha Lachma Anya - The Bread of Affliction

Ma Nishtana - The Four Questions

Skeletons in the Closet

Vehi She'amda - The Promise

Three Crucial Lessons

Dayeinu - Spreading the Love

In Every Generation...The Power of Responsibility

Matzah - The Mystery of the Matzah

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