Think for a moment of an episode in your life that terrified you but from which you survived, overcame, emerged stronger. Do you revisit that moment in your mind? Has that moment become one of those iconic stories of your life that you tell to people who are beginning to get to know you?
In just a few short days, we will join Jews all over the world in re-enacting just such a moment in the life of our people. "Yitziyat mitzrayaim," the Exodus from Egypt, is such a powerful, iconic moment for us that our liturgy brings us back to that moment every single day in the morning recitation of "Shirat haYam," the Song at the Sea, sung by the Israelites at the far bank, the safe bank, of the Sea of Reeds. "Ozi v'zimrat yah," "My Strength is God to whom I sing."
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, a Masorti/Conservative rabbi in Great Britain, writes: All people seek the secret of their own continuity. This is the power of the seder night: it lights up the past as the full moon illumines the path in the forest. The light of where we come from shines into the uncertainty of who we are. For where we come from is always at the heart of who we are, and until we understand the greater journey of our family and people we cannot recognize the direction of our own life.
The Eternal Journey: Meditations on the Jewish Year
The first millennium rabbis who shaped our seder experience through their innovative Haggadah . . . which we read to this very day . . . understood very well the essential role of the Exodus story. They instruct us: "In every generation all of us are obligated to see ourselves as if we left Egypt." The seder night is meant to be more than a recounting of the story . . . it is meant to be a journey to freedom that we take together as a family, as friends, as a community and as a people every year.
It is the story of where we have been and where we are going.