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Blessed Be God Who Brought Me Out of Egypt

In this week's parashah, Yitro, Ex. 18:10, after Moses tells the story of what God did to Pharaoh and Egypt, and all the troubles that occurred after the exodus, and how God saved them time and again, Jethro, Moses' father-in-law and Midianite priest offered a prayer, "Praised be God (Baruch Adonai ...) who saved you from the hand of Egypt and from the hand of Pharaoh, who saved the people from the hand of Egypt."

The mishnah extrapolates to the command to say a specific prayer when one passes a place where God performed a miracle for the entire people, like the crossing on the Jordan River by Jericho where the Israelites entered Israel from Moab. There we should say the blessing, "Blessed be God who performed miracles for our ancestors in this place."

In his Talmud commentary on this page, Menachem ben Solomon Meiri (13th century Catalan) says that all of the people should recite the blessing when they pass the place of a miracle for all of Israel, but that was not Jethro's situation. Jethro merely heard Moses' account of the miracles. Jethro neither experienced the miracles nor stood at the place, and yet he is the author of the prayer.

In the Haggadah, at the conclusion of the account of the Exodus, called the Magid section, after we have explained the symbols: the passover sacrifice, the matzah and the moror, and before we recite Psalms 113 and 114, we say, "In every generation each person is obligated to see himself as though s/he came out of Egypt." Indeed, we have just completed telling the story (the meaning of the word Haggadah: the Telling), in order to experience the Exodus. Ought we not, therefore, recite this blessing as though we had passed by the very place where the Exodus occurred? Are we not the same as Jethro at that point, having heard the recounting of the experience as though we had lived it ourselves?

I therefore propose that at our seders this year and every year we read after we recite the prayer, "In every generation ..." which concludes with the words, "... Not only our ancestors were redeemed by the Holy One, blessed be God, but we were also redeemed. As it is said, 'and us God free from there...'" these words:

"'Moses told the story to his father-in-law of all the Lord did to Pharaoh and Egypt for Israel, all of the struggle they endured along the way from which God saved them,' just as we have told the story here and now. The Torah explains, 'And Jethro rejoiced for the goodness which Adonai did for Israel, how God saved them from the hand of the Egyptians.' And so we, like Jethro and Moses, praise God, 'Praised be Adonai who saved you from the hand of Egypt and the hand of Pharaoh, who saved the people from Egyptian rule." Exodus 18: 8-10)

So may it be with us and our children, and so may we tell the story of our redemptions from generation to generation.

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