That which stood for our ancestors applies to us as well
For it was not only one person who rose up against us to destroy us,
But rather in every generation there are those who rise up against us to destroy us.
But the blessed Holy One redeems us from their hands.
From the Passover Haggadah
וְהִיא שֶׁעָמְדָה לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ וְלָנוּ
שֶׁלֹּא אֶחָד בִּלְבָד עָמַד עָלֵינוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנוּ
אֶלָּא שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר עוֹמְדִים עָלֵינוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנוּ
וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַצִּילֵנוּ מִיָּדָם.
Foundations for Planning
- What can we learn from different generations?
- How does the idea that Jews everywhere celebrate the same holidays and pray the same prayers connect me to the Jewish community?
- Why is it important to remember past difficulties? What disadvantages can come from focusing on the past?
- What things helped the Jewish people in different periods?
- In what ways has freedom been an important issue for my community over recent decades?
- To what extent to we experience anti-Semitism today?
The passage Vehi She’amda appears in the Haggadah after the passage beginning “Blessed be the One who keeps Their promise to Israel.” The word “that” והיא at the beginning of this passage refers to the promise mentioned in the previous section – God’s promise...
The passage Vehi She’amda appears in the Haggadah after the passage beginning “Blessed be the One who keeps Their promise to Israel.” The word “that” והיא at the beginning of this passage refers to the promise mentioned in the previous section – God’s promise to Abraham at the “Covenant between the Parts” ברית בין הבתרים, when God explained that Abraham’s descendants would be strangers and slaves in a foreign land. At the same time, God promised to redeem the Children of Israel: “But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions” (Genesis 15:14). According to this passage, this promise was not only realized in the case of the Children of Israel in Egypt, but in every generation throughout Jewish history, when Jews have faced an enemy or the threat of annihilation. This passage embodies both danger and redemption – twin themes that run through the history of the Jews through the generations. The passage is often associated with traumatic episodes in Jewish history, such as pogroms, exile, and the Holocaust. From a broad perspective, we can see that the promise continues to apply – the Jewish people has survived and flourished despite all it has been through. We can also learn from this about the personal challenges we face, and about the important role faith and hope play in overcoming such difficulties.
- Watch the video of Vehi She’amda, accompanied by scenes from the movie The Prince of Egypt (singer: Ilana Adini, melody: Yonatan Razal). What is the connection between the song and the pictures? (For example, you could ask each student to write one word on the board that connects to what they saw in the video).
- Sometimes parents, teachers or others around us promise that everything will be okay, we will be successful, and some problem will be resolved. How do such promises affect the way we cope with challenges? (For example, you could ask each student to write a short promise to a friend for the coming day or week).
Click here to view our consolidated list of suggested interactive pedagogies for classroom discussion.
- “That which stood for our ancestors” – the thing that stood or remained firm is God’s promise in the Torah: “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions’” (Genesis 15:13-14). Explain the connection between this promise and the story in the Haggadah.
- Give some examples of situations throughout Jewish history when the Jews have faced a danger or a hostile nation that has caused them harm. Do you think this danger still exists today? Explain.
- What do you think helped the Jews throughout history to cope with such situations? Do you think the promise referred to in the Haggadah can influence the way Jews respond? Explain your opinion.
- For older students: This passage teaches us that the exodus from Egypt wasn’t just a single episode in history, but something that continues to echo throughout history, like a traumatic experience in an individual’s life. What advantages and disadvantages can result from returning to this event and preserving it in our memory?
- Even today, we sometimes see evidence of anti-Semitism in the media or in our own lives. How do these incidents make us feel? Suggest some ideas for how we can cope with such incidents, both as individuals and as a community.
- “That which stood for our ancestors applies to us as well” – the promise in the history of my family and community: Make a family album including pictures from your family or community history. Include historical information and family stories that describe the way people coped with hardship, anti-Semitism, etc. You can interview relatives or acquaintances who can enrich your knowledge on the subject.
- Rabbi David Hartman wrote: “Exodus is vital because it allows us to hope. Cosmic order is not immutable. Tomorrow does not have to be like today” (Rabbi David Hartman, Passover Haggadah). Discuss: what point of view is Hartman opposing here? Why do people tend to think that way?
- Study the passage In Every Generation from the Haggadah, which obliges us to see ourselves as if we had personally come out of Egypt. What are the similarities and differences between this passage and Vehi She’amda?