Rav Kook Torah

Bo/Passover: Because of This


After commanding us to commemorate the date we left Egypt, the Torah also instructs us to transmit these memories to the next generation.

“On that day you shall tell your child, ‘It is because of this that God acted for me when I left Egypt.'” (Exodus 13:8)

The wording, however, is unclear. “Because of this” — what does the word 'this' refer to? What is the reason that, for its sake, God performed the signs and miracles in Egypt?

Memories for All Generations

One might think that the sole function of the ten plagues was to rescue the Israelites from persecution and slavery. In fact, the true goal of the miracles in Egypt goes far beyond the needs of that generation. Those historic events were meant to create an eternal inheritance for all generations. Their purpose is achieved as each generation preserves these national memories and transmits them to the next generation.

This is how the verse should be understood. The word 'this' refers back to the beginning of the verse. “It is because of this” — so that “you will tell your child” — “that God acted for me when I left Egypt.” The ultimate purpose of the signs and wonders in Egypt is fulfilled as each generation absorbs the elevated impressions of those miracles, drawing from them their great light and holiness.

According to the Haggadah’s exegesis, “because of this” refers to the special foods that we eat to recall the Exodus:

“The Passover Seder may not be conducted until the time when matzah and bitter herbs are set before you.”

This does not contradict the explanation presented above; it simply adds an additional nuance. We commemorate the Exodus and recount its story to the next generation when we can physically point to the matzah and bitter herbs on Passover night. According to this explanation, the purpose of the Exodus is accomplished when we experientially transmit to our children the smells, tastes, and memories of that historic event.

(Silver from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. I, p. 39)

Illustration image: Passover Seder at immigrant camp (Pikiwiki Israel, 1940s)