“In every generation a person must see themselves as if they came out of Egypt…Therefore we are obligated…”
This is the seder’s fulcrum, the turning point that leverages our collective memories of slavery and turns them into collective obligation. This is the moment when we return to Ha lachma anya and say:
Hashta avdei / Now, slaves;
Leshanah haba’a / Next year
b’nei chorin! / Free people!
“Seeing ourselves” — Who are you?
In a 2017 d’var Torah for T’ruah, Rabbi Katie Mizrahi of Or Shalom Jewish Community in San Francisco wrote: “The story of the Exodus is in us, and we are in that story. But where exactly? Every year the seder asks us to imagine our answers. Are you a midwife, commanded by an evil authority to commit an immoral act, finding a way to resist? Are you young Moses lashing out at injustice, going too far, knocking down a pawn without impacting structural evil? Are you the kind daughter of Pharaoh, drawing a miracle child out of the waters, using your privilege to protect the vulnerable? Are you standing on holy ground marveling at a burning bush, hearing a call to be more than you have been? Where are YOU in the story?”
We should be open to the likelihood that, in this world of globalized capitalism, in addition to these liberatory roles, we in North America are also on Team Pharaoh. We always play multiple roles simultaneously: oppressor, victim, enabler, freedom fighter, bystander, and more. When we come to own that responsibility, we can face the cognitive dissonance our multiple identities create; instead of going with the flow, we begin to direct our energies deliberately.
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