Sparing a Thought on Passover for the Refugees in Israel

For many of us, fleeing persecution and trekking across a hot desert, seem light years away. We enjoy the great food, intellectual discussions and lively singing, of the Seder, but sitting comfortably, surrounded by our friends and family, it is hard to imagine that we have just escaped slavery.

According to Jewish tradition, each of us should place ourselves in the sandals of our ancestors, feeling what it’s like to be a refugee who has just left Egypt (Mishna Pesachim 10: 5), though the Rambam lightens this load by telling us that we have only to act as if we had made the journey, rather than feel as if we ourselves participated.

When one Talmudic sage wanted to deepen his understanding of freedom, he asked his servant Daru, “What would it feel like to go from impoverished slavery to freedom and prosperity?” When the slave explained how wonderful it would be, the rabbi informed his guests that they could now skip reading some of the haggadah. By listening to a gentile slave’s testimony, they had fulfilled some of their seder night obligations (Pesachim 116 a).


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