Photo Credit: Courtesy GG

“Every generation should see themselves as coming out of Egypt”

We all know the text. In fact, we know it so well we could probably recite it in our sleep or even backwards. We also know the script – we know when to wash without a blessing and with a blessing, what to have in mind when we eat the Maror, when to lean and when not to lead. We’ve probably already figured out every spot that has been used over the years for hiding the Afikomen.


Yet, despite all of this, each year without fail we get fired up and excited about Seder (or Seders) night(s) beyond just getting smashed on 4 (or 8) cups of wine even if you are under the legal drinking age! We know in our minds, hearts and even our Spidey-senses that something special is going on and we are a part of it no matter if it’s the youngest kid saying the 4 questions or the oldest grandpa or great grandpa snoring at the table. It’s family and it is our family, it’s a national experience and it is our nation. The Seder is immersive and we are a part of it.

However, no matter how great it has been it can be better each year. What we can do to bring the entire event to a whole new level without changing a timeless tradition is to learn more and understand deeper what is going on behind the scenes. What was the schematic that the Sages used to hardwire this “happening” together? They even tell it to our faces “Go out and learn”, which means they have planted the hidden wisdom in the text and we need to find it.

Let’s take a deep-dive into two such examples and see how they tie together.

We say “Blood, Fire and ‘Timrat Ashan’” while dipping our finger into the wine and spilling it to the side of our cups. The last two words are usually translated as Timrat (plural) for Date palm trees and Ashan as smoke. This text comes from the Prophet Joel, found in the Book of Prophets. He had a vision of a future world disaster in which he referred to seeing blood and fire. But he also saw something for which, in his day, there was no term or word so he had to give us a visual for his message to be understood through the generations.

Let’s think about this visual. A Date palm tree goes up like a long tall pillar with no branches and then, at the very top, all the branches expand in every direction. The visual, however, is not of a tree but rather of smoke rising in this manner. Perhaps what we would call today an atom bomb explosion, or, in Joel’s case not ‘one’ but ‘many’.

However, this is not our point. The Vilna Gaon asks what the heck a text from book of Joel is doing in the Passover story. Joel didn’t write anything about the Coming out of Egypt, he ONLY wrote about the End of Days. To this the Gaon answers that, actually, the Seder itself is NOT just about Coming out of Egypt but about a story that began long before that event and continues way into the End of Days like we can see from the song ‘Dayaneu’ and its reference to the Jerusalem Temple.

The Vilna Gaon says that the Haggadah is a handbook for the entire path of history the Jews will travel from Avraham to Messiah and therefore a quote from Joel is as appropriate as a quote about the splitting of the Reed Sea.

Example number two deals with the title of this piece: “Every generation should see itself as if they came out of Egypt.” This does NOT mean that we should walk around the Passover table like Egyptian hieroglyphics!

NOR does it mean we should all go outside and build pyramids!

But what it does mean, using the Gaon’s earlier explanation, is that we really need to put our thinking hats on and understand what is special, unique and different about OUR generation. Where does our generation fit into the unfolding scheme of the “Coming out of Egypt” and the heading to the “End of Days” scenario?

Who is the Pharaoh of our generation?

Who are the leaders that do not remember Joseph? Meaning, who have chosen to forget all of the good that we Jews have brought to the world, to help build and bring prosperity to the civilization of others and now they turn their backs on us.

Who are those that want to throw our babies into the river or even into the ovens? Cause us pain and suffering?

How many times in history have we seen the very ‘device’ to destroy the Jews destroying the enemies of the Jews? Haman built a gallows to hang Mordechai and was himself hung there instead.

In our generation we hear the genocidal chant “From the river to the sea” but those chanting forget that the river is the Nile which turned into blood, cutting off the Egyptians’ food supply and beginning the downfall of their economy, and the downfall ended with the sea, which in this case was the Reed Sea where their greatest soldiers and leaders drowned.

Equally important is who will be our leaders, our generation’s Moshe and Aaron, who will take us out of this situation, and, perhaps, most importantly, what role will each of us play in making this this happen?

This is what our Sages wanted us to do. This is what they had in mind when they said “In every generation” – as no two generations are alike in the face of our enemy and yet each generation faces the same story over and over again, as it says: “In each generation they come to destroy us but God saves us from their hands”. No generation is exempt from this experience and now it is our generation’s turn to step up to the plate, to pick up the gauntlet. Each generation can make the right choice to do the right thing. And maybe our generation’s choice just might tip the scale for good and bring the final redemption.

Hag Somayach!


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Gedaliah Gurfein, Rabbi, writer, and innovator is the creator of the website The People’s Talmud ( This free-access site is dedicated to sharing Talmudic wisdom. A Jewish educator for more than 40 years, he has also worked in Israel's high tech sector and with film media. [email protected]