עֲבָדִים הָיִינוּ לְפַרְעֹה בְּמִצְריִם. וַיּוֹצִיאֵנוּ יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מִשָּׁם, בְּיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה, וְאִלּוּ לֹא הוֹצִיא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת־אֲבוֹתֵינוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם, הֲרֵי אָנוּ וּבָנֵינוּ וּבְנֵי בָנֵינוּ, מְשֻׁעְבָּדִים הָיִינוּ לְפַרְעֹה בְּמִצְרָיִם. וַאֲפִילוּ כֻּלָּנוּ חֲכָמִים, כֻּלָּנוּ נְבוֹנִים, כֻּלָּנוּ זְקֵנִים, כֻּלָּנוּ יוֹדְעִים אֶת־הַתּוֹרָה, מִצְוָה עָלֵינוּ לְסַפֵּר בִּיצִיאַת מִצְרָיִם. וְכָל הַמַּרְבֶּה לְסַפֵּר בִּיצִיאַת מִצְרַיִם, הֲרֵי זֶה מְשֻׁבָּח:
We were slaves to a Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Eternal led us out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Had not the Holy Blessed One led our ancestors out of Egypt, we and our children and our children’s children would still be enslaved. Therefore, even if all of us were wise, all-discerning, scholars, sages and learned in Torah, it would still be our duty to tell the story of the Exodus.
(--from the traditional haggadah)
Even if all of us were wise, all-discerning, scholars, sages, and learned in Torah...
That's always been one of my favorite lines of the haggadah. Even if all of us were all of those things -- if gathered around the table were wholly enlightened beings, with immeasurable depth and breadth of knowledge; if we were scholars and sages, rabbis and mystics, versed in Torah and commentary from throughout the ages -- it would still be incumbent on us to tell the story of the Exodus. Telling that story would still be our sacred duty.
From this I discern that what matters is the telling. Not just our intellectual knowledge of the story, but the act of retelling the story each year: that's what constitutes us as a people. We are the people who every year pause to remember and re-enact the story of the Exodus. We tell ourselves into the story. We assert that the Holy Blessed One lifted us -- not (just) our ancestors, but us -- out of slavery with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.
Every year we tell the same story, sing the same songs, read the same prayers. (Okay: some of us are more prone to change-ups and innovations than others. For some of us, the haggadah may shift and grow and change each year. But the central story is always the same.) And every year is different, because we are different. We bring ourselves to the table: our lives, our stories, our emotions, our experiences. This year's seder won't be exactly like the last.
The seder is a teaching tool, and each of us is a learner. No matter how wise we are, how discerning. No matter whether we are preschool children, or scholars with decades of Torah study under our belts. We come to the seder willing and ready to learn. Are there details of the story we hadn't noticed before? New interpretations we hadn't seen? Emotional resonances we hadn't considered? There is always something to be learned.
This post is part of #blogExodus. Follow other posts on the path to Pesach via the #blogExodus and #Exodusgram hashtags!