Mordechai Silverstein

Every Day is Pesah

We have now reached the final day of Pesah. We have run through tons of matzah and have abstained from hametz already for a whole week. All for what? The Torah reading for today answers this question explicitly: “Keep the month of Aviv, and you shall make a Pesah (sacrifice) to the Lord your God, for in the month of Aviv the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt… You shall not eat leavened stuff with it. Seven days you shall eat matzah, bread of distress (poverty), for in haste you did go out of Egypt, so that you will remember the day of your going out from Egypt all the days of your life.” (Deuteronomy 16:1-3)

We celebrate the events of the redemption from Egypt not just to commemorate events from the distant past. They are intended to inform and infuse our daily lives and while the plain meaning of this verse clearly points to the celebration of Pesah itself as a reference point for accomplishing this, this passage has achieved acclaim in a midrash found both in the Mishnah and the Haggadah suggesting that the redemption from Egyptian bondage is intended to have a constant impact on Jewish life:

Said Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah: I was like a man of seventy years, yet I had never merited to understand why the going out from Egypt should be mentioned even at night-time, until Ben Zoma explained it, as it says: ‘so that you will remember the day of your going out from Egypt all the days of your life.’ ‘the days of your life’ – refers to the days; ‘all the days of your life’ – refers to the nights [as well].” (Mishnah Berachot 1:5)

This Mishnah is brought to justify the recitation of the third paragraph of the Shema even when saying the Shema at night. This debate arose since this paragraph teaches the commandment of tzitzit (ritual fringes), a mitzvah which is not obligatory at night. Ben Zoma’s teaching informs us that remembering the redemption from Egypt is a daily responsibility and since the paragraph in the Torah which speak of tzitzit also reminds us of the redemption from Egypt, it remained in the liturgy even at night.

This story resonates with Jews not only because it reminds us of the gratitude we owe to God for the “miracle” of redemption, both past and present, as a people and as individuals, but also because it is one of the key components of who we are as Jews and people and why we must work at perpetuating the identity founded in this event. Moreover, it reminds us of the pain and indignity of being a slave so that we should remember that it a God-given obligation to act with compassion towards others who are in need.

About the Author
Mordechai Silverstein is a teacher of Torah who has lived in Jerusalem for over 30 years. He specializes in helping people build personalized Torah study programs.
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