Where Are You Heading?

Friday, 30 March, 2012 - 2:28 pm

Have you read the Haggadah recently? Why are we so obsessive about remembering the Exodus?

Here’s a fascinating little section of the Haggadah with profound lessons for us.

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azaryah said: "I am like a man of seventy years old, yet I did not succeed in proving that the (obligation of mentioning) exodus from Egypt must be mentioned at night, until Ben Zoma explained it...’all the days of your life’... ‘all’ indicates the inclusion of the nights.”

Superficially, this statement seems to refer to the Mitzvah of recounting the story of the Exodus on the seder night. But then why was he not successful in proving that the exodus be mentioned? Also, why does he say mentioned not recounted (as the verse instructs us (Exodus 13:8) “And you shall tell your son on that day”)?

Obviously this statement of Rabbi Eleazar ben Azaryah is not speaking about just the seder night. It is referring to any night. That’s why it says mention (rather than recount), because on a regular night it’s necessary to remember the Exodus from Egypt. The Torah tells us to remember the Exodus every day. Here Rabbi Eleazar ben Azaryah is telling us that this obligation extends to the nighttime too.

Nice commentary, right? But why is it necessary to constantly remember the Exodus from Egypt?

The actual Exodus from Egypt took place 3324 years ago, but the concept of leaving Egypt is an ongoing experience. The Hebrew name for Egypt is Mitzrayim, which translates as boundaries or limitations. Every time that we overcome a challenge in our life, it is our personal Exodus, our personal redemption. The obligation to remember the Exodus is to incorporate redemption in our lives; to overcome our challenges and personal limitations.

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azarya takes this even further - he says, this personal redemption mindset is not only relevant during times of personal growth (daytime) but also in times of personal stagnation. Even when we feel that we are against the wall, distant and removed - nighttime - in that time too, we have to remember the Exodus. The very fact that we yearn for better, we strive for change, that in itself is redemption - even before we successfully implement this change in our life!

It’s not where you are, it’s where you are going!

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