Maggid concludes with
בְּכָל־דּוֹר וָדוֹר חַיָּב אָדָם לִרְאוֹת אֶת־עַצְמוֹ, כְּאִלּוּ הוּא יָצָא מִמִּצְרָֽיִם,
“In every generation a person is obligated to see himself as if he went out of Egypt”
This is difficult to understand for several reasons. We didn’t go out ourselves, our forefathers did! To make believe that we did go out when we didn’t seems to run counter to our approach to life. We don’t live in the Magic Kingdom of make believe. Furthermore, why not just leave it that Hashem took out our fathers? Wouldn’t that be enough for us to express gratitude to Hashem on this occasion? Isn’t that exactly what we say on other occasion, “Who made miracles for our fathers in those days at this time.” We only mention our fathers, no mention of the miracles that happened to us. And finally, why the stress on “In every generation”? This is an expression which is found nowhere else. We don’t say “In every generation a person is obligated to make Kiddush on Shabbos” or when performing any other mitzvah for that matter!
The answer to all the above questions hinges on the correct understanding of what it means to belong to the Jewish People. We are all mortal. How can mortal man be one with G-d? How is it possible to have a real relationship with a G-d who is immortal? The Haggadah provides an answer.
The message that we give our children on Pesach night is that Hashem promised us, that no matter what happens, we will remain an eternal people. As long as we don’t reject the relationship, we are eternal, not only for three thousand years of the here and now, but even in Olam Haba, the true eternity, we are an am nitzchee. This is how we ultimately relate to Hashem, by being part of the Eternal Nation. On Pesach, not only did we become a nation, we became an eternal nation.
Now we can understand חַיָּב אָדָם לִרְאוֹת אֶת־עַצְמוֹ. A person is obligated to see himself to mean one is obligated to see himself as part of the eternal nation. If you are part of an eternal people then everything that happens to the nation, in the most real sense, happens to you. That is what Hashem wants us to realize. We came out Mitzrayim, not just our fathers, but we ourselves came out. It isn’t a matter of make believe. It is the reality of being part of an eternal nation. As each generation moves further form the historic Exodus it becomes the unique obligation for that generation to connect to the Eternal people. This is the most important message to teach our children, our guests, and ourselves at the Seder.
Rabbi Yosef Polstein, a native of Atlanta Georgia, attended Ner Israel Rabbinical College, where he receive his semicha at age 21 from Rabbi Ruderman. He then and headed West, pioneering Jewish education Northern California, where he and his wife Bracha founded Sacramento’s first Orthodox synagogue, Kenesset IsraelTorah Center. The Polsteins moved to Chicago to join the HTC family and has been marbitz Torah in Chicago for over three decades. Rabbi Polstein serves as rebbe in Fasman Yeshiva High School and as Director of Yeshivas Hakayitz Summer camp. Rabbi Polstein is a volunteer faculty member of NCSY’s Midwest Region and travels throughout the year speaking at conventions and reaching out to young Jewish men and women.