When I asked an elderly uncle which was his favorite Holiday, he answered without a beat, “Pesach.” Nostalgically, he explained, “Pesach brings back beautiful memories. I remember my family sitting around a long table on Seder night. I recall the comradeship between us. Above all, I savor again the delicious Pesach foods my mother, may she rest in peace, would serve. She spent days and nights in the kitchen. But she gave us memories that we hold on to and will never let go. To this day, I do things on Pesach because that is how it was done at home!”
That is it. In a nutshell, he captured the message of Pesach… Nostalgia, Remembering, Tradition. Pesach is full of it. Every family has its own customs. It is not a question of understanding or thinking logically or being reasonable. On Pesach, tradition-observant families are living Pesach as they saw it at home. Continuing the chain of tradition they received, they are passing this on to their children and future generations.
Jews are a nation of “rememberers”. On Shabbat, our prayers recall the Seven Days of Creation. On Shvuot, we re-live that pivotal moment at Mount Sinai. On Sukkot, we express gratitude for the cloud that protected us in the desert. On Purim we all remember the wicked Haman.
And so we come to Pesach, when it is a Divine commandment to remember our suffering in Egypt and the miraculous salvation when the “A-mighty took us out with a strong hand.” Indeed, the rituals of the Seder night, are all centered on remembering.
A key verse of the Seder night is, “ve’higadata le’vincha” – And you shall tell your son. There is a positive command for fathers to take on the leadership role, to speak to the children and tell them the story of the slavery and the redemption. Long before guided imagery became the in-thing, our Sages expressed it succinctly, “Each person is obliged to feel that he personally was saved from the slavery of Egypt!”
An event that happened more than three thousand years ago, is still part of the Jewish nation’s collective memory. On this night, we are enjoined to try to relive the experience. Feel it in your bones. Recall the harsh labor and savage cruelty of our oppressors. It is not just a story from the past. It happened to you, to me, to all of us.
As we express gratitude to G-d for His miraculous redemption, we re-connect with our past and our roots. Our faith is strengthened and we gain added insight into our identity and destiny.
In a world where tradition is despised – so many reject or deny their history. They insist on living for the moment, for the here and now. But, Judaism teaches that this is short-lived path. IF THERE IS NO PAST, THERE IS NO FUTURE. The survival of the Jewish nation proves it. When a Jews sees himself as a link in a nation that stretches all the way back to Mt. Sinai, he has a heritage to pass on to his children. Pesach connects the past and the future. Remembering our past builds foundations for a strong long-lasting future.
So I wish you all a rich and vibrant Pesach. May you enjoy an inspiring and joyous Chag, filled with memories that will sustain you and your offspring for years and generations to come.
Chag Samayach to you all.