Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gathering our Stories for Seder Night

The Hagaddah teaches that no matter how knowledgeable the person, “one who prolongs the telling of the story of the Exodus [on seder night], behold this is praiseworthy.”

Rav Zadok HaCohen of Lublin asks a question about this passage: how long can the telling go on? All we have are the passages themselves in the Torah and the midrash. Once we’ve recounted them, what else is there?

He answers that each one of us should innovate a new angle to the Exodus story. Without bringing our unique insights and praises into to the story, it remains incomplete.

It seems to me that can happen when, in the words of the Rambam, every person experiences him or herself as personally coming out of Egypt. This pertains not only to imagining and recreating the historical Exodus, but being deeply in contact with our own personal Egypt, the narrow places that constrict our lives and our consciousness, and the ideal vision of how we want to live our lives.

In this way the seder table becomes not a re-telling, but an actual experience of personal redemption. By sharing the places in our lives where we are stuck, along with all the kindness that Hashem bestows upon us, the seder night becomes alive with the spirit of redemption, and can propel us towards the ideal vision of who we want to become.

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