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When we read reflective literature and memoirs, it is always interesting to see who is mentioned. Who was central, impactful and influential to the author? Often even more interesting, however, is who is not mentioned. To read a memoir and find out that the author leaves out his parents, spouse, or mentor always piques our curiosity.

Of course, the reflective literature on our minds is not a memoir, though we take the evening to be as if we were there. We focus, of course, on the Haggadah and someone very interesting was left out: Moshe Rabbenu. No doubt, he could have been mentioned many times over throughout the Maggid portion, whether focusing on our experience of slavery and oppression, the plagues, or our journey to Sinai. Where is Moshe and why was he left out?


Similarly, we may wonder: How can we honestly read the words I and not a malach, “I and not an agent,” took you out, says G-d. What happened to Moshe? Was he not the messenger of G-d? It is one thing to acknowledge that, in truth, G-d redeemed our people and Moshe was only His shliach, the agent of G-d. Yet, to erase Moshe entirely is inaccurate! How shall we explain to our children that they must always be truthful, that to quote a person honestly brings redemption (Megillah 14a), and yet also leave the central role of G-d’s messenger out of the Haggada and Exodus story on Pesach night?

Let us heighten and further strengthen this problem. Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik points out in a talk entitled Moses and the Redemption that the salvation of the Children of Israel takes place only because Moshe Rabbeinu volunteers for the job. When does G-d begin the redemption process? Only when Moshe notices his brethren suffering. Likewise, the Sages indicate, rather shockingly, that if Moshe had rejected the mission he was offered, the redemption would have been delayed until some other human redeemer was found. Likewise, Hashem later says to Moshe, “Bo el Paroh,” come to Pharaoh. This teaches, the Sages say, that G-d was telling Moshe to come along with Him to encounter Pharoah.

All of that is to say that, despite the fact that G-d could redeem the Children of Israel without a human agent, He chooses not to. He waits for us, waiting for us to step up, volunteer, and lead. Why this is so is a mystery beyond resolution now but that it is so remains a consistent fact of our story. G-d waits for an Avraham to make a covenant, sends a Moshe to redeem and teach the people of Israel, anoints a David to unify and lead, appoints a Shlomo to build the Temple, and so on. G-d wishes, for one reason or another, to be with us and work with us.

That being the case, it is altogether only more shocking and confusing that the role of G-d’s agent is left out of the Exodus story that we relive on Pesach. Hashem structures the world so that an agent is always needed and nearby. How can we give lie to this on any occasion, let alone on this central evening of Jewish education, commitment, and identity?

Yet, the answer appears as readily as the question. Indeed, G-d always requires an agent to act on His behalf, to speak and teach His words, to help and defend, and to build and to plant, or to uproot and destroy. And on the Seder night, it is we who play that role. At the Seder, it is we who play Moshe, taking G-d’s instructions, feeling the pain of our brethren in need, and educating the next generation. When we read of G-d’s words “Ani velo Malach,” these are words directed to us, explaining to us how the redemption process will work. G-d Himself will be with us in the dark of night, protecting us and punishing our enemies; we need only do as He instructs us, put forward as much of ourselves as we can. All power, Rabbi Soloveitchik reminds us, stems from G-d, Who redeems us. Yet, G-d waits for us to act the part of Moshe, to step up and volunteer to defend the Jewish people and educate our children and students.

All of this being the case, we have a job to do, one that fulfills a tall order. Moshe will not appear at the Seder. Instead, we will step into his shoes, representing G-d, working to be His agent in the story of redemption. This will be our role on the evening of the Seder. If we are successful, we will leave that great evening with a sense of mission and purpose. For, after all, in the time of the Exodus, G-d sought Moshe as an agent. Yet, now He seeks us.


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Yitzchak Sprung is the Rabbi of United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston (UOSH). Visit our facebook page or to learn about our amazing community. Find Rabbi Sprung’s podcast, the Parsha Pick-Me-Up, wherever podcasts are found.