We begin the redemption story of the Seder by talking about the Matza as the bread of affliction that our ancestors before us ate, and we invite whoever is hungry to join us; concluding that while we may be in exile now, next year we will be free.
If you think about it for just a moment, it’s a strange invitation.
It is one thing to invite someone to a steak dinner; what sort of invitation is it to share in my bread of affliction?
R’ Jonathan Sacks teaches that what transforms the bread of affliction into the bread of freedom is the willingness to share with others.
The Maharal notes that the reason the Exodus is so fundamental is that it associates Judaism with an essential quality of intrinsic freedom to act as we choose with no external coercive influence.
Freedom is oxygen for the soul, and mental freedom cannot be taken away.
Rav Kook explains that the difference between a slave and a free man is not solely defined by socio-economic standing. There can be an enlightened slave whose spirit is free and a free man with the mentality of a slave, whose whole life is lived on other people’s terms.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that Elazar ben Azariah discovered Ben Zoma’s teaching to recall the Exodus at nights on the day he came to power; because it is a leader’s duty to be a beacon of hope during times of darkness and difficulty.
The Jews of that time were physically freed from slavery, but mentally, they never left. They stood at the Red Sea and Sinai, yet spent 40 lost years pining to go back “home” to Egypt.
God can save you from Egypt, but not even God can save you from yourself.
At any moment, just by sharing with others, we can become partners in redemption.