“In Every Generation and Generation, A Person Must See Himself as If He Left Egypt”
This Torah lesson is dedicated to the speedy recovery of Adelle Chaya bat Adva. May G-d keep her and save her from every evil and danger.
It says that in every generation, a person must see himself as he, himself, left Egypt. The path from slavery to redemption is one that the Jewish people partake in in every generation–on a personal and national level. I’m a first generation immigrant to America–and Israel. My parents left the Soviet Union in ’89, when I was seven years old. I’m a testament to my people’s unbroken spirit and our unwavering desire to remain Jews no matter the cost.
When we left the USSR, I didn’t know I was Jewish. My father had been a refusnik for 10 years. He’d spent time studying Hebrew. We believed we were moving to Israel, so he wanted to get acquainted with the Holy Language, the tongue our forefathers used in their daily lives.
His teacher and mentor, Arye Volvovsky (ייבדה לחיים ארוקים) spent three years languishing in a Soviet jail cell because he had the audacity to spread the light of Judaism. Even in jail, he practiced Jewish law, and was even able to encourage his fellow cellmates, who were spending jail time for less noble reasons than him, to support the Zionist cause. They probably benefited from their time with Arye more than they would have being at homes with their families.
My great-grandparents were all haredi Jews. I’ve seen family pictures with my great great grandparents and their children. All wore the traditional Jewish garb of the times. I’m proud to come from a family with a rich history of Torah scholarship.
I’m also proud to say that I got my ברית מילא (circumcision) at my own request after we came to the US. I was eight years old. My ancestors all espoused a spirit of self-sacrifice. They went out of their way to fight the pro-Soviet Jewish police, and I felt I was following in their footsteps. It was nothing out-of-the-ordinary. Jews have been making bigger, most dangerous sacrifices for the past three and a half centuries.
I merited to leave Soviet Russia–the Egypt of our day. Both my father and I made a vow never to step foot on Russian soil. “Never again” in my family means never again to Communism. Never again to Jews being oppressed and denied the right to follow in our ancient way of life.
I was invited to the Pesach seder to R’ Ariel, the head Rabbi of Ramat Gan, a truly great man with so much knowledge and wisdom to give. Maybe I’ll tell my story. It’s the story of leaving Egypt.
“In every generation…” Strong words, but yet, in every generation, the ugly head of anti-Semitism rears itself again and again. The two concepts are interconnected. Seeing ourselves as if we were the ones to leave Egypt and fighting the powers of Jew hatred are the same thing. We need to remember and not to forget. Remember and internalize the fact that the Gentiles don’t want us here–not in Israel and not in the world (I like to stay away from generalizations, but even so…)
My family’s history and my own story are examples of the Jewish people’s unbreakable spirit, and our ability to see ourselves as if we left Egypt. We actually did. For others, it might be a little harder to imagine leaving slavery for freedom, but it actually happened to us.