Recreating the Past Every Year by Noam Fromowitz


Rambam in Hilchot Chametz UMatzah (7:1) states that there is a Mitzvah Deoraita to remember Yetziat Mitzrayim, as the Pasuk states, “Zachor Et Hayom Hazeh Asher Yatzatem MiMitzrayim,” “Remember this day in which you came out from Mitzrayim” (Shemot 13:3), which is similar to a Pasuk discussing Shabbat, which reads, “Zachor Et Yom HaShabbat,” “Remember the Shabbat day” (Shemot 20:8). There are several instances where the Torah commands us “Zachor,” “remember,” the most famous of which is in reference to Amalek. Why does Rambam equate these two cases of Yetziat Mitzrayim and Shabbat specifically? Furthermore, even if there is basis for the comparison, the two obligations are very different from each other. The obligation of Shabbat is simply to recite Kiddush over a cup of wine, while the obligation of Pesach is to delve into the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim, to involve our children in the process, and even to feel as though we are personally experiencing Yetziat Mitzrayim. How can Rambam possibly equate these two obligations?

Perhaps there is more validity to the comparison than meets the eye. The Zechirah of Shabbat focuses on remembering the creation of the world - the beginning of nature and mankind. The text of Kiddush itself centers on the creation of the world and Hashem's rest after He completed His work. In a similar spirit, the Zechirah of Yetziat Mitzrayim revolves around the fact that Yetziat Mitzrayim was the creation of the Am HaNivchar, Bnei Yisrael. Thus, both Zechirot are beginnings.

In spite of this understanding, however, the question of the discrepancies in the form of Zechirah becomes even stronger. It would make more sense for the Zechirah of Shabbat to be more dramatic and weighty. The creation of the entire world, which was a creation of ‘Yeish MeiAyin,’ ‘something from naught,’ seems to be far more significant than the establishment of a nation which was ‘Yeish MiYeish,’ only a change in the existing. Why is it that on Shabbat all we do is recite Kiddush over a cup of wine, while on Pesach we undergo an entire emotional experience and extend that experience to our families and everyone around us?

Perhaps this question stems from an improper perspective on these two events. The way to gauge the significance of an event is not by the level of miracles performed, for Hashem’s capabilities are so great that grand miracles simply do not indicate anything about the significance of an event. Rather, the significance of an event should be judged by the value and importance of that which resulted from it.

Rav Dessler in Michtav MiEliyahu quotes Maharal who states that the purpose of the creation of the world was for Hashem to have creations who would cleave to Him and experience revelation and closeness to Hashem. Thus, the inherent value of the creation of the world would be fairly minimal were it not for events such as Yetziat Mitzrayim and Matan Torah. Yetziat Mitzrayim was the creation of the nation set out to serve as an ‘Ohr LaGoyim,’ a light to the rest of the nations, to bring the goal of creation to fruition. The entire process of Yetziat Mitzrayim and Kabbalat HaTorah all come together to serve as the manifestation of Hashem in this world, both through the revelations in the events themselves, as well as the results of the events. Yetziat Mitzrayim gave the world Klal Yisrael, and Ma’amad Har Sinai gave the world the Torah, both of which bring the Shechinah into this world.

It is now clear why the Zechirah on Pesach is far more dramatic than that of Shabbat. The Zechirah on Pesach requires us to feel as though we ourselves left Mitzrayim, as Rambam states, since the purpose of Yetziat Mitzrayim stands true in every generation. In every generation Klal Yisrael must feel as though they themselves left Mitzrayim and remember their responsibility to be an Ohr LaGoyim. The period of Pesach and Shavuot should serve as a reminder of what happened then, and of our responsibility to recreate those events in our lives.

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