From Generation to Generation

Clip Text #3 – “Generation by Generation”

Source: The Steinsaltz Haggada (Hebrew-English), with expanded commentary and notes by Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz. 2016, Koren Publishers Jerusalem. Pages 134-137.

The Declarations of Praise: Generation by generation, each person must see himself as if he himself had come out of Egypt, and this was not merely an episode that occurred many long years ago, but an event that transpires anew each Passover, in the life of both the individual and the nation. As it is said: “You shall tell your child on that day, ‘Because of this the lord acted for me when I came out of Egypt’” ( Exodus 13:8). The intention here is that each person should relate to the Exodus as if he had experienced it personally, because after all, it was not only our ancestors whom the Holy One redeemed; He redeemed us too along with them, as it was then that we became a distinct and independent nation. As it is said: “He took us out of there, to bring us to the land He promised our ancestors and to give it to us” ( Deuteronomy 6:23). The redemption from Egypt and the entrance into and settlement of the land are one continuous process.

Since it is customary to raise the cup of wine at this point, we first cover the matzot and recite: Therefore, in light of all these praiseworthy, benevolent acts that we have enumerated here, it is our duty to thank, praise, laud, glorify, exalt, honor, bless, raise high and acclaim the One who has performed all these miracles for our ancestors and for us. We now enumerate the different aspects of the miracles that occurred at the Exodus, corresponding to the various types of praise listed here. Who has brought us out from slavery to freedom, from sorrow to joy, from the grief of hard labor to the celebration of redemption, from the darkness of slaves who dwell in dungeons to great light, and from enslavement to redemption; and so we shall sing a new song before Him to mark this joy and goodness, i.e., the song of Hallel – Halleluya!

Discussion Notes

Generation by Generation: Even though Israel may be in the midst of another difficult exile, nevertheless, when God freed us from Egypt, He liberated something inside of us, so that on the spiritual level we will never again be subservient to the Pharaohs of every era and their cronies. Thus, not only did God free our ancestors in this redemption. But we, too, experience a spiritual redemption today as a result of the Exodus. It is our obligation to give thanks for this (See Zevah Pesah ).

Each Person Must See Himself: Some have written that each and every year, the same sort of Supernal Light that was revealed when Israel left Egypt is revealed again on the seder night. One who merits experiencing this illumination can truly “see himself” return and experience the process of redemption, with the aid of this celestial lights. ( Haflaah )

To Thank, Praise...and Acclaim: There are many different variations of this prayer. Some versions list seven distinct expressions of praise; others list eight. In accordance with the most prevalent custom, nine declarations of praise are listed here, and a tenth (for the sake of reaching a total of ten, considered a complete number) with the concluding words “And so we shall sing a new song before Him. Halleluya!”

“Lekalles”: To Acclaim: The root of the word lekalles, in the sense of glory and praise, is not native to the Hebrew language (indeed, the original Hebrew root has opposite connotations). It is borrowed from the Greek ( kalos, meaning “beautiful”) and was utilized to form a new Hebrew root, whose implied meaning is to ascribe beauty to something – to extol and praise.

From Slavery to Freedom: Here, too, the Haggada lists five separate word pairs – ten expressions in all – corresponding to the ten declarations praise listed above. Some explain that each of these expressions conveys a separate idea: From the Egyptian slavery to freedom; from the enslavement in Babylon to redemption; from the sorrow of Persia to joy; from the grief of Greece to celebration; and from the darkness of the Roman exile – the last exile – to the great light of the final redemption ( Zevah Pesah ).

Discussion Questions for Text #3

  1. Which of those experiences of leaving Egypt described in the Haggada – “...from sorrow to joy, from grief to celebration; from darkness to great light,” etc… – have you had in your life? How might these personal experiences help you appreciate and commemorate the Exodus?
  2. What are some of the obligations listed in this text? How are they described? How do you connect the obligation to experience leaving Egypt personally with the duty to express gratitude?
  3. What does “from Generation to Generation” mean to you? How might a journey through time, rather than across distance, be part of the Exodus itself? What steps might you take to continue that journey?

haggadah Section: -- Cup #2 & Dayenu
Source: The Exodus: An Extraordinary passage