More than any other Jewish holiday, Passover is about the passing on of tradition through generations. Sure, we want to pass down the traditions of all the holidays. Every parent want their child to light Chanukah candles, to wave the Lulav, and to sing Kol Nidre in shul.
But Passover is explicitly about the generational nature of family and faith. Twice in the Seder – the central Passover ritual – the haggadah tells us to consider something that is true B’chol Dor Va’Dor – in every generation. We read in the telling of the story that in each generation, we must “see ourselves” as if we, personally, were taken out of Egypt. Even though the exodus from Egypt is a singular historic event, we must envision it as a cyclical experience, happening over and over again.
This is a powerful symbolic reminder that every generation will see things differently. No one generation has a monopoly on the truth, or the best way to do things. And, of course, the world is ever changing. Times change, technology changes, social norms and conventions change. Tastes and cultures change. We are constantly moving, evolving, and it seems obvious to me that what was meaningful and certain for one generation will be questioned and possibly discarded by another.
Each generation must, nonetheless, develop a new and unique generational way to tell the story. We must develop new hagadot, new characters, new customs and traditions that allow us to “see ourselves.” And we must teach each generation to be creative and innovative, as those skills and commitments will be required in the future, for the coming generations to find their own unique voice as well.
We are also told in the haggadah, that in every generation enemies have risen to challenge the Jewish people. And indeed, many generations of Jews, our own included, have faced anti-semitism and other challenges, and even enemies who sought our destruction.
This is also a powerful symbolic reminder that even though we want to believe that we are nothing like our parents or grandparents, in some ways, every generation is the same. We may have different strengths, different challenges, and different language and customs, but underneath these changing trends, certain universal truths bind us together with all who have come before us, and all who will ever come in the future.
Each generation is a unique generation, adding its own chapter to the unfolding story. And every generation shares a bond with every other generation, telling and retelling the eternal story of Israel’s birth as a people by the redemptive, freedom giving hand of God.