..you shall say, “It is the passover sacrifice of YHVH, because He passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but saved our houses. The people then bowed low in homage.”
- Ex. 12:27
This is the first of the four places in the Torah in which the Israelites are told by Moses to tell their children about the Passover experience, but there is a jarring difference between this passage and the one that is the most familiar to us. (Ex. 13:8: “It is because of what YHVH did for me when I went free from Egypt.”) Why the difference?
It is on the basis of the second verse that Jews of today are told that we should feel that we, too, were slaves in Egypt, but the words of the verse in our aliyah make it sound as if the whole thing happened to someone else, not even the ones who are to tell of it from firsthand experience. To be sure, there is the word “our” in “our houses,” but it sounds very generic and feeble compared to the power of the later statement.
An obvious difference is that, as of 8:21, the Israelites, including Moses, have not yet experienced the Passover event; it is not real even to them. How, then, can we make it real to ourselves? One simple yet powerful way is to use our own imaginations. Another, which takes more direct action, is to learn about contemporary situations which are similar and, for those people who still struggle under oppression, work to bring them the liberation that we experienced so long ago. Find firsthand accounts of the ending of American slavery or the Freedom Marches; think of what you were doing when you heard of the fall of the Soviet Union; work for those in Darfur, Tibet or any of a dozen other places who are still waiting for the angel to pass over their houses, and you may feel the beat of his wings.