Visualizing the Exodus Experience
Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16 )
And you shall tell your son on that day, saying, “It is because of this that God acted on my behalf when I left Egypt” (13:8)
The Haggadah says that the mitzvah of narrating the story of the Exodus is on the night of the fifteenth day of Nissan, when the matzah and maror (bitter herbs) are before our eyes on the Seder table. This is derived from the above verse. The phrase, “It is because of this” indicates that one is referring to some object, i.e., the matzah and maror.
The Alter (Elder) of Kelm says that the patriarchs had an intellectual knowledge of God, which was sufficient for them. However, for the average person, an intellectual knowledge is inadequate to bind him to the will of God. Our conviction of the reality of something we see with our own eyes is greater than something whose reality is known to us only because we can reason its existence. God, therefore, showed the Israelites the awesome miracles of the Exodus, to impress upon them a firm conviction of His sovereignty over the world.
As the generations became more distant from the Exodus, the sense impression of the miracles faded, and we are now left with only an intellectual knowledge of the Exodus. To reinforce our conviction of the events of the Exodus, we use tangible objects, such as matzah and maror, to stimulate a sense impression.
Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, says that we must use the powers of our imagination to strengthen our convictions. The Torah says, “Beware for yourself, lest you forget the things that your eyes have beheld and lest you remove them from your heart all the days of your life… the day that you stood before God at Horeb . . . You stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain was burning with fire up to the heart of heaven…God spoke to you from the midst of the fire” (Deuteronomy 4:9-12). This was said to the people who personally witnessed the revelation at Sinai, but it applies to us as well. With our imagination we must see ourselves as our ancestors were at Sinai, seeing the mountain aflame, hearing the thunder, witnessing the lightning and hearing the sound of the shofar.
The Haggadah says that in every generation, a person is obligated to see himself as though he was personally delivered from Egypt. We must visualize in our minds the plagues inflicted upon Pharaoh, the scene of three million people leaving Egypt and the dividing of the Reed Sea.
The accoutrements of the Seder are indeed helpful, but we should use the powers of our imagination to experience the Exodus.