By Rabbi Mark Glickman
(AJNews) – Of the many Haggadot in my library, one of my favourites was created by the Israeli artist, David Moss. It is a magnificent treasure, replete with gold-leaf overlays, papercuts, moveable pages, drawings made up of microscopic Hebrew lettering and much more.
But my favourite page of all is the Haggadah’s rendering of “B’chol dor vador […]. In every generation, each person must see themselves as if they had made the exodus from Egypt.” The two-page spread is arranged like a checkerboard, with pictures of various Jews throughout Jewish history alternating with small oval mirrors. Looking at the page, therefore, you see an array of Jews from different times and places, each of whom is to see him or herself as having come out of Egypt, and at the same time, you see in mosaic the picture of another individual who is supposed to see him or herself the same way – you!
It’s a page with powerful lessons, and many of them are essential to the Passover Seder. For example, the Seder urges us to see ourselves. Its liturgy is far more than a recollection of history, it’s a present-day text, as well. For as we read of what happened to our ancestors, we remember that we, too, are unredeemed, and we, too, need to figure out how we’re going to put all that “enslaves” us behind so that we can get to the promised land. Doing so takes reflection; it demands introspection; it calls upon us to really take a good look at ourselves. Almost as if we were looking into a mirror.
Furthermore, the text calls upon us to do this reflection “b’chol dor vador, in every generation.” As we project ourselves into Jewish history this Pesach, we’ll be doing just what Jews have been doing for centuries. And, God willing, we’ll also be doing the same thing Jews will be doing many centuries from now. These old words – not to mention the values they embody and the truths they teach – connect us with our people over vast spans of time and space. Our grandparents read these words, and our great-grandparents, too. Uttering them is thus an act of eternity for us. And with our help, it will continue to be – in every generation.
Finally, it’s important to remember that the Haggadah doesn’t call us to remember that we were slaves in Egypt, nor does it ask us to remember wandering through the wilderness. Instead, it says that we should remember that we “went out” from Egypt. It asks us, in other words, to remember the transition, the transformation.
Even when things get really bad, in other words, and even when they seem hopeless, transformation is possible. In an era of ongoing illness, terrifying war, and growing polarization, the lesson is particularly timely.
When I look at the little mirrors on the page of my Moss Haggadah, I think about all these lessons – reflection, continuity, and transformation. And if I think about them hard enough, I’m sure they’ll be able to carry me through until next Pesach even as they help me live out the important lessons they teach.
Rabbi Mark Glickman is the spiritual leader at Temple B’nai Tikvah in Calgary.