02. The Mitzva to Tell the Exodus Story on Pesaḥ Night

The Torah commands us to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt on the very night we left Egypt for freedom. Actually, we are commanded to remember the Exodus every day of the year, as it states: “So that you remember the day you left Egypt every day of your life” (Devarim 16:3). Ben Zoma infers from an apparent superfluity in this verse (“kol yemei” instead of “yemei”) that we must invoke the Exodus not only every day, but also even every night (Berakhot 12b). To fulfill the obligation to invoke the Exodus every day and night, we recite the third paragraph of Shema each morning and evening, as this paragraph states: “I am the Lord your God Who has taken you out of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord your God” (Bamidbar 15:41).

Yet there are several important differences between the daily mitzva and the mitzva on the Seder night. A) To fulfill the daily mitzva, it is sufficient to mention the Exodus, whereas the mitzva on Pesaḥ night is to narrate broadly the events of the Exodus from Egypt. B) The mitzva of the Seder night is to relate the story to the children. C) On the Seder night, the mitzva is to tell the story while the matza and maror are set out in front of us. D) On the Seder night, we tell the story by way of questions and answers. E) Women are exempt from the daily mitzva to commemorate the Exodus but are obligated to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt on the Seder night.[1]

The Exodus from Egypt is the basis of Jewish faith, for it was the first time that God’s providence was revealed in the world to an entire nation with great signs and wonders. With the Exodus, it became clear that God had chosen Israel to be His nation and to reveal His word in the world. For this reason, every Shabbat and Yom Tov commemorates the Exodus from Egypt, especially in prayers and kiddush. By virtue of the unique mitzva to tell the story of the Exodus in depth on the Seder night, our faith becomes more firmly established, and added meaning is given to all the brief remembrances of the Exodus throughout the year.


[1]. SA 472:14. The poskim disagree whether women are obligated in the mitzva of telling the story on a Torah level or a rabbinic level. Sefer Ha-ḥinukh §21 infers from the fact that women are obligated in matza and the Paschal offering on the Torah level that they are obligated by the Torah to tell the Exodus story, which was stated alongside the matza, maror, and Paschal offering. Other poskim maintain that since the mitzva of telling the story is a time-bound positive mitzva, women are exempt according to the Torah, but the Sages obligated them in the mitzvot of the Seder night, since women also experienced the miracles of the Exodus. This is the view implied by Tosafot on Pesaḥim 108b.

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