The Haggadah is the story of the Jewish people’s birth and liberation from Egypt and slavery.
But the elephant in the room needs addressing, without which the entire Seder is irreparably compromised with no contemporary relevance at all.
But that begs the question, what’s the point of talking about redemption that happened long ago when we’re not yet redeemed today?
R’ Jonathan Sacks notes that Jews have celebrated this throughout the highs and lows of our history, in ghettos and concentration camps, under conditions similar or worse than Egypt.
The Exodus was imperfect – it did not lead to a full and final utopian life in Israel. The freed slaves fought God and Moshe for the rest of their lives, yearning to go back to Egypt.
Remarkably, the Torah and Haggadah openly embrace the notion of an imperfect and partial redemption; both subvert our expectation of a happy ending resulting in the Jewish people living happily ever after in peace and prosperity in Israel, which suggests that the premise of the question is false.
However flawed that generation’s ability to embrace a new path might have been, they planted the seeds of redemption in the blueprint of our DNA. Humans are not robots, and we are all perfectly imperfect in our own way.
We don’t have a Seder to mark the anniversary of an ancient generation’s ages past liberation; we have a Seder to celebrate what germinates from the seed planted by the Exodus – the innate ability to redeem ourselves.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the Seder’s goal is not just to remember that an Exodus happened once; but that an Exodus could happen at all.
R’ Shai Held notes that the Haggadah seems to powerfully suggest that the journey is more important than the destination. The Gemara warns against believing someone who says they have searched for answers but found nothing. As R’ Menachem Mendel of Kotzk put it, the search for Torah is itself Torah, and in that search, we have already found.
Every generation must feel as though they personally experienced the great departure from Egypt to remind ourselves that whatever troubles we face, the tools of redemption are already there, and salvation could be just a day away.