One of the central mitzvot of Seder night is to recount the story of the Exodus to our children, as the Torah commands: “And you shall tell your son on that day, saying, It is because of this which the L-rd did for me when I went out of Egypt” (Shemot, 13:8). To help us carry out the all-important mitzvah of passing on our heritage to our children, our Sages composed the Haggadah, which we joyously recite on Pesach night. We are commanded not only to relate to our children the wondrous events that G-d brought to pass in liberating us from bondage and making us His chosen Nation, but also to incorporate the lessons of the story into our lives.
What are the lessons of the story that we are to pass on to our children? Certainly, one of the messages is our faith in G-d. Another lesson is our role as His Chosen Nation, and our task to teach the world that He, and He alone, is the one G-d and King of the world. And we are also to teach our children that we can only carry out this Divine mission as a free People in Eretz Yisrael, as the Torah says: “And He brought us out from there that He might bring us in to give us the Land which He swore to our[SP1] [SP2] [SP3] forefathers” (Devarim, 6:23).
We are to teach our children that the purpose of the Exodus was to bring us into the Land of Israel, the only place in the world where we can be a free independent Nation, as it says at the very beginning of the Haggadah: “This year we are here (in the exile of Brooklyn, Toronto, and Paris) – next year in the Land of Israel. This year we are slaves (in Brooklyn, Toronto, and Paris) – next year free men (in Eretz Yisrael.)”
On Pesach night, we are to teach our children that our real place is in theLand ofIsrael, the place where G-d wants us to be, and that the goal of living inIsrael should be a pinnacle goal of our lives.
It is our duty as Jewish parents to make this clear to our children. Thus, it behooves the father of the family to explain:
“Children, because of the tragedy of the exile, I am here in Brooklyn, Toronto, Paris, Melbourne, or Mexico City. For 2000 years, the Jewish People longed to return to our Homeland, to the Landof Israel, but we lacked the means. Then, when G-d in His great kindness, established the State of Israel, and all Jews could finally return, my parents, your grandfather and grandmother, found it too difficult to pick up all of their belongings and immigrate to Israel, and they raised me as if I were an American, or Canadian, or Frenchmen, and that’s how I grew up. And that’s why, when I became of age, I believed that America or Canada or France was my home, and the thought of moving to Israel seemed so impractical, since I would have to learn Hebrew, and serve in the Israeli army, and start all over again in a new profession, and leave my parents behind, and now I’m stuck here in this gentile land, with a mortgage to pay, and your grandparents are getting older, so how can I leave them, and I am too old to find decent work in Israel so that I can afford send you kids to a top college and grad school. But I want you to know on this Seder night that the words and teachings of the Haggadah are true – America is not our real place. America is exile. G-d wants us to be in the Land of Israel. Only there can we be a free Nation. Only there can we truly be ourselves. Only there can we really keep the Torah. So you, my beloved children, while you are still young with all of your lives before you, before you become weighed down by commitments and obligations and bills to pay, I want you to know that your real place is in the Land of Israel. Your mother and I want to encourage you to build your lives there. We want to help you realize the dream of 2000 years, so that the hope of “Next year in Jerusalem” will become a reality. Don’t worry about us. We will be fine. We will come to visit, and maybe one day, we, too, will make aliyah. But know without any doubt or question that as Jews your future is in the Land of Israel, and not here in exile. With G-d’s goodness, the time has come when all Jews can return to our Homeland, and if, because of whatever circumstances and reasons, your mother and I haven’t been able to merit the supreme blessing of carrying out the teachings of Seder night, by leaving the gentile land that we’re in to start a new, true Jewish life in Israel, we want you to do it. This year, make “Next year inJerusalem” a reality. Go. Hop on a plane. There are excellent universities and grad schools inIsrael. There’s a solid economy. The Israelis excel in all professions and fields. And we will be proud to have our son enlist in the Israeli army. Go. That’s where you belong. Go toIsrael. Your grandfather and grandmother will be proud of you, along with your great grandparents and all the generations of our family who didn’t have the golden opportunity that is awaiting you. Build your lives in the Jewish Land and give your talents to the rebuilding of our Nation, as we have dreamed and prayed for 2000 years.”
This is what every parent should teach his children at the Seder. This is what every rabbi should teach his congregation. This is what every head of every Jewish organization should make as his number one priority, to let the Jews of America, and Canada, and France, all know that the time has come to abandon the exile, no matter how attractive it might seem, and go to the Land of Israel. And if the elders are too ensconced to make a new beginning, they must rise up and tell their children to go in their stead, to break free from the chains of exile and foreign lands to become builders of the Jewish Nation in Israel, just like G-d commanded the Jews of old, and just as our Sages teach us on Seder night by leaving us with the message they don’t want us to forget – “Next year in Jerusalem!”