The Passover Haggadah, which we read at the Seder, tells us about the many miracles that were done on behalf of the Jewish nation during their exodus from Egypt. It tells us that Hashem is watching over our nation and protecting us in every generation. And it also says that we, in every generation, must regard ourselves as if we personally left Egypt, meaning that we personally experienced the series of open miracles that culminated in our liberation. We are not merely reading about wonders done on behalf of someone else, even our own family; we must regard ourselves as the beneficiaries of those miracles.

Imagine being treated as a lowly slave one day, and being liberated through Divine miracles the next. First of all, you would feel tremendous gratitude. Few of us feel worthy of open miracles being done for us, so we would naturally feel that this was “more than we deserved.” We would, as a consequence, feel thankful for that, and for all the blessings in our lives. And that is exactly how the Haggadah wants us to feel.

Such an experience also alters our self-image. Yes, few of us feel worthy of open miracles being done for us, but apparently G-d Himself has a different opinion! So we must be more special than we imagined.

And, finally, these events would establish our independence. Yes, people can rise over us, and try to enslave us. They can act cruelly towards us. But when a person lives with the idea that G-d took him out of Egypt and still watches over him, then his spirit is still free, he is not beaten down. We know that there were people who so internalized this idea that even the horrors of the Holocaust did not break their spirit. True, few of us may be such spiritual giants, but there is no question that we can gain tremendously from these positive messages.

There has been a disturbing trend of depression in America, a mental health crisis that was exacerbated by isolation during COVID, but not limited to it. People feel adrift, as if their efforts will be meaningless. Those of some ethnicities are told the American economy won’t let them get ahead, while others are told they are inherently privileged. Both are told that hard work, which is great for a person’s self-esteem, won’t matter anyways. And all the blessings we have in our lives today, such that the “common man” enjoys luxuries that kings of centuries past never experienced, are ignored. People don’t feel important, empowered, or blessed in their lives.

The Seder seems designed to send a very different message: your efforts matter, because you matter. You are blessed beyond what you thought you deserved, because G-d Himself thinks you’re worth it. Having been redeemed from captivity, you are free and independent to make the best of what G-d has granted you, and to make better choices out of gratitude to Him for all He has done. It is truly a time to count our blessings!

May we all come away from the Seder feeling empowered, inspired, and blessed.

A Happy and Kosher Passover,

Yaakov Menken

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