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Why do we go to such lengths to commemorate the exodus from Egypt (and that our ancestors were slaves, etc), an event in the distant past.

What is the significance of this event for us today?

  • It is extremely relevant because our history is not somthing in the past but somthing which is one step closer to the goal of mashiach,and olam habah it is a continuous chain – sam Mar 31 '15 at 18:06
  • @sam So it's just as relevant as April 28, 1147? – Double AA Apr 1 '15 at 20:21
  • Obviously throughout history there are main focal points but everyday leads to the greater idea – sam Apr 1 '15 at 21:10
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Ramban (13th century) famously writes in his commentary to Torah at the end of parshat Bo that through commemorating the miraculous events in Egypt we reaffirm the fundaments of God's knowledge of and involvement with the world.

יצוה אותנו שנעשה תמיד זכרון ואות לאשר ראו עינינו, ונעתיק הדבר אל בנינו, ובניהם לבניהם, ובניהם לדור אחרון. והחמיר מאד בענין... ושנזכיר זה בפינו בבקר ובערב, כמו שאמרו (ברכות כא א) אמת ויציב דאורייתא, ממה שכתוב (דברים טז ג) למען תזכור את יום צאתך מארץ מצרים כל ימי חייך, ושנעשה סכה בכל שנה. וכן כל כיוצא בהן מצות רבות זכר ליציאת מצרים. והכל להיות לנו בכל הדורות עדות במופתים שלא ישתכחו, ולא יהיה פתחון פה לכופר להכחיש אמונת האלהים. כי הקונה מזוזה בזוז אחד וקבעה בפתחו ונתכוון בענינה כבר הודה בחדוש העולם ובידיעת הבורא והשגחתו, וגם בנבואה, והאמין בכל פנות התורה, מלבד שהודה שחסד הבורא גדול מאד על עושי רצונו, שהוציאנו מאותו עבדות לחירות וכבוד גדול לזכות אבותיהם החפצים ביראת שמו

He commanded us to remember the Exodus which our eyes observed and to transmit the event to our descendents, and them to their descendents...To bear testament for us of the wonders so that they not be forgotten and there will be no room for a heretic to deny belief in God...For in [commemorating the Exodus] one implicitly acknowledges the creation of the world, Divine knowledge and involvement, and believes in the entire Torah. This is besides for appreciating the great kindness that the Creator did for us in removing us from that slavery to freedom. [Somewhat loose translation my own].

It is worth noting that R. Jacob Anatoli (13th century) in his Malmad Hatalmidim (parshat tzav) writes similarly that this serves to inculcate in us belief in God's involvement in the world, and his ability to perform miracles.

מפני שהיא שניה לה להעמיד האמונה בהיות השם משגיח בארץ ומשנה הטבע לעשות נפלאות

The secondary theme mentioned by Ramban of hakarat hatov is also relevant to us for as the haggada notes, had our ancestors not been redeemed we would still be slaves (see commentaries thereon for a variety of explanations of this.)

  • thanks but why should we care that our ancestors were slaves 3000 years ago – ray Mar 31 '15 at 5:51
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    @ray, that's exactly what you asked above. This answer seems a good one to that question. – msh210 Mar 31 '15 at 6:00
  • @ray not following. I am noting two reasons why "go to such lengths to commemorate the exodus from Egypt (and that our ancestors were slaves, etc), an event in the distant past." A) this inculcates the fundaments of jewish belief that are predicated on God's miraculous intervention. B) It is important to trigger feelings of hakarat hatov for our indirect salvation, through that of our ancestors. This wouls seem to answer why we " should we care that our ancestors were slaves 3000 years ago". Am I missing something? – mevaqesh Mar 31 '15 at 6:06
  • right but why should i feel hakaras hatov for something that happened to possible ancestors 3000 years ago. – ray Mar 31 '15 at 6:26
  • @ray: Well first of all, the first part about the fundaments of our belief seems clearly relevant, but the second part; hakaras hatov seems appropriate too given the quote from the hagada. One simple understanding if this line of th ehaggada is that of the Ritva (IIRC) that were it not for our anscestors' redemption, we would have assimilated, and intermarried to the point that there would lose our entire identity and cease to exist. As such, YOU in the 21st century only exist as a Jew becuase your anscestors were removed from that place of assimilation. If not for that, nadda, zilch, no Jews. – mevaqesh Mar 31 '15 at 6:38
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the Ba'al Ha'agada writes, chayav adam l'rois es atzmo, k'ilu hu yatza m'mitrayim. there is an obligation to view oneself as if he were leaving mitrayim. it isn't a commerotaion of the past, rather it is reliving the moment. rav yerucham levovitz in da'as torah parshat tzav explains that the ability of imagination and thought is in fact a tool to create, and he quotes a "meiri" (one of the rishonim) in his peirush on tehilim that "eidut hashem ne'emanah" refers to several mitzvos, pessahc being one of them, and asks how may one give testimony on something he hasn't seen, on isn't able to! rather he proves that it is something of today which we see, and by doing so it imbues us with faith in hashem, confidence in what He does for us etc.

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The Maharal says (Gevuras Hashem 61) that all Jews for all time were directly affected by being redeemed from Egypt, even though there are subsequent exiles, the exodus makes every person alive today inherently a free person, and any subsequent enslavement is only temporary and external.

So the events of the exodus have a direct continued effect on our lives today.

See also Tanya chapter 47.

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See YU's Empowered Learning by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

His message is that “destiny created history” and as the Ibn Ezra says to Exodus 13:8 “And thou shalt tell thy son in that day, saying: It is because of that which the L-rd did for me when I came forth out of Egypt. והַגּדָתּ לבְנָך בּיּוֹם ההוּא לאמר בֲּעבוּר זה עשָֹה ה' לי בֵּצאתי ממּצָרִים.”

We don't eat matzah because of this (i.e. just commemorating the Exodus). Rather because of the service [of G-d], which includes eating matzah and refraining from eating chametz — which are among the first commandments that G-d commanded us — G-d made great wonders to take us out of Egypt. He only took us out of Egypt to serve Him as it states “when you bring forth the people out of Egypt, you shall serve G-d upon this mountain,” and it states “Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your G-d.”

So the significance of this event for us today is that its purpose was that we should serve Him.

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