What is Our Obligation?

It is a basic dictum of the Passover Seder: “In every generation, man is obligated to see himself as if he were going out of Egypt.”

Naturally we cannot literally see ourselves as having been part of a generation that experienced something so oppressive as being enslaved in Egypt, nor so liberating as having exited the land in the manner in which it was done.  Our obligation therefore, each year, has traditionally has been an act of visualization.

But this year is clearly different.  This year “מה נשתנה” is more of a rhetorical question because we are invisibly enslaved.  There will be no communal gatherings, and the seder is limited to the immediate family by this imminent crisis.  Everything feels different.  In fact the question might be turned on its head: “Could our departed ones have visualized what we are going through now?”

Look at the wording of the obligation again:  “… to see oneself as if …”  It is an act of solitude.  Each individual is to visualize oneself as being enslaved and ultimately  liberated.

This year, everything has been different.  The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has been the great equalizer.  ?מה נשתנה.  It’s clearly not just the way we lean or what we eat.  Suddenly there is no “us” versus “them”.  Now the fight is less between people of differing theologies than it is between marauding microbes and immunology.  We are all enslaved, the world over, and praying for deliverance.



Each year, when we sing “Dayenu” at the Seder table, we thank G-d for redemption by proclaiming levels of gratitude.  It would have been enough if only …  But this year, surrounded by the latest news of death and dying, “Dayenu” feels more like a proclamation of “Enough Already!”  Enough Zoom and gloom.  Hopefully next year’s “Dayenu” adds the stanza: “Had you redeemed us from the grip of COVID-19, it would have been enough …



About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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