אֲרַמִי אבֵֹד אָבִי, וַיֵרֶׁד מִצְרַיְמָה, וַיָגָר שָם בִמְתֵי מְעָט .
Arami oved avi va yored mitzrayma, vayagar sham bimtei me'at
My father was a wandering Aramean. He descended to Egypt and resided there in small numbers. There, he became a great nation, powerful and vast. The Egyptians persecuted us, and battered us, giving us severe labors. We cried out to God, who is god to our ancestors, and then God heard our voice. God saw our suffering, toil, and oppression. God took us out of Egypt with a strong hand and outstretched arm, with great demonstrations[ of God’s power] and wonderful signs. God brought us to this place, and gave us this Land, a Land of milk and honey.
The heart of the Passover Seder is the Maggid, meaning storytelling. Maggid tells the story of the Jewish people’s exodus from slavery in Egypt. We just said the words, “Arami oved avi.” This phrase is sometimes translated as “My father was a wandering Aramean” and other times as “An Aramean sought to destroy my father.” Somewhere between the two translations lies the essence of the Jewish experience: a rootless people who have fled persecution time and time again.
This has particular resonance today since "Aramea" is the area now known as Syria. Families are suffering, running, even getting into rubber rafts with their children to cross the Mediterranean—a show of precisely how desperate they are. And we are supposed to know exactly how they feel—because we have been there so many times. So what do we do—as a community, as a country, as fellow creatures of God?
As we recite the words ‘Arami oved avi,’ we acknowledge that we have stood in the shoes of the refugee. Today, as we celebrate our freedom, we commit ourselves to continuing to stand with contemporary refugees.
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