Experience and memory are two important components in the life of a nation. While remembrance of times and events past establish the historical foundations of a country or faith, the ability to experience that which occurred so long ago makes more of an indelible impression on the individual and the community. Historical plays and dramatic representations of important events in the life of that community over the course of years enable a new generation to connect with its heritage and past.
The Haggadah on Pesach indicates that we simply do not recount what happened to the Hebrew slaves in Egypt so many thousands of years ago. We are told to consider ourselves as if we personally had left Egypt, even though we live so many centuries later. In some Sephardic homes, the Exodus is reenacted for good reason at the Seder table. Memory is enhanced by experience.
During the course of the year, we remind ourselves about the Exodus through our daily and holiday prayers and Kiddush. But we are not commanded to relate the story of the Exodus, except at the Seder table. The mitzvah of Zechirat Yetziat Mitzrayim, the remembrance of the Exodus, in the words of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik , is designed to make us aware of our responsibility to accept the yoke of the kingdom of G-d. In other words, our daily recitation of the Exodus account is directed to the need for one to develop and cultivate his or her fear of G-d. On reciting these daily words, one is supposed to be in awe of the power of G-d as manifested in Egypt and the Red Sea.
However, on Pesach night, we are to not only remember; we are told to recount the story of the Exodus as a personal, earthshaking experience. The text of the Haggadah provides the reference points of that experience as we examine the texts in the book of Shemot and other places that tell the story of what happened over three thousand years ago in Egypt.
On Passover night, we have to use our power of imagination to see ourselves, and not just our ancestors, as having left Egypt. The best storyteller is one who lives the experience. We become those raconteurs, and we teach our children to not only remember the Exodus, but to live it as well.
Rivka, Judith, Tani and I wish you and your families a Chag Kasher Vesameach.