Kollel Scholar and Director of Special Projects for the Greater Washington Community Kollel
The Mishna in Pesachim (116b) relates that in every generation a person is obligated to view himself as if he left Egypt, as it is stated, “And you should tell your son on that day, ‘Because of this, G-d did this to me when I left Egypt’” (13:8). The Mishna is apparently interpreting this verse to be speaking not only to the generation that left Egypt, but to every generation. If that is the case, how can one honestly say to his or her child that he or she left Egypt? It seems to be blatantly false! In fact, in the Pesach Haggada we take this even further when we say, “Not only did he redeem our fathers but he also redeemed us.” How can we make such a statement?
Rav Shimon Schwab explains that the statement “I left Egypt” is actually entirely true, and can be understood through the following metaphor. It is well known that the cells of the human body are constantly regenerating to the point that every seven to ten years the human body almost completely renews itself. Despite this, it is perfectly normal for a forty five year old to point to his arm and say, “I broke this arm when I was twelve years old.” In truth, it was a completely different arm that he broke, but because it continues to function as the arm of the same living body, it is viewed as the same arm.
The Jewish nation throughout the generations is also one being, unified by our mission to act as a moral compass for those around us and bring honor to G-d in this world. True, this body has replaced and regenerated itself over and over with the passing of one generation and the birth of the next, but ultimately it is the same nation and the same being that was redeemed from Egypt. It is vital for us to appreciate that we are all important components of this great body of a nation, a nation entrusted with a sacred mission. If we make ourselves a part of this greater being, then we can truthfully say, “He also redeemed us!”