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Where's Moses?

Where's Moses?


The Haggadah—the text we read in the course of the Passover Seder—gives us a thorough description of the Egyptian slavery and Exodus.

One key subject, however, is missing from the narrative: Moses. In the Torah, it is Moses who is the emissary and actor in each of G‑d's miracles that lead to and through the Exodus. The figure of Moses looms large in the story of the Exodus.

In the Haggadah, however, barring one reference to Moses repeating something that happened, he appears not at all. Why? Are we not leaving out the most important individual in the whole Exodus?

The answer, I think, lies at the very end of the recital of magid, the long account that precedes the eating part of the Seder. We're usually quite hungry by the time we get to this part, which may be the reason why it's often overlooked...

We begin the final part of magid by saying, "...In every generation a person is obligated to see himself as having himself come out of Egyptian bondage." We need to understand that Passover is not about a redemption long ago, but about the fact that redemption is an ongoing endeavor.

Talking about Moses fixes the Exodus as a point in history. But Passover is not about what was—it's about what is, now. Every year, Passover gives us the power to escape personal bondages of habit and inclination. Every year, Passover teaches us that G‑d can help us redeem others from their prisons, both physical emotional and spiritual. And most of all, we believe that G‑d can and will redeem the world—with our participation—from darkness and conflict, and bring about a world where there is no want, conflict or ignorance.

Talking about Moses also fixes the Exodus as an accomplishment of an extraordinary individual. "Moses can accomplish such things," we're tempted to say, "not me. Who am I to aspire to change existence from patterns entrenched for millennia? I know my shortcomings and Moses' incomparable greatness."

Perhaps this is why the Haggadah doesn't talk about Moses. G‑d alone is the redeemer of the Jewish people and all of humanity. Moses was great because he committed himself, totally, to G‑d's agenda. If we, now, commit ourselves in our own totality, every one of us can be the conduit for G‑ds' transformation of existence from the bondage of all that is dark, changing our world into a realm of light.

Rabbi Shlomo Yaffe is a frequent contributor of articles and media to, is Dean of the Institute of American and Talmudic Law in New York, N.Y., and Rabbi of Congregation B'nai Torah in Springfield. Mass. Rabbi Yaffe has lectured and led seminars throughout North America, as well as in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Anonymous Boston April 27, 2017

wow this is a really deep topic but you explained it so well that even a 7th grader can understand it (you're a great teacher for all ages) Reply

Anonymous New York April 23, 2016

Wrong! You are wrong, Rabbi. Moses appears once in the Haggadah. Look it up! second paragraph after the 10 plagues. Reply

Mark Korn April 14, 2014

Moshe's redemption too. If you were the leader of the Jewish people and had just tethered the Egyptian god to your bedpost, slaughtered it and brushed its blood on your doorpost, what would you do next? It seems to me that a rally with the million(s) of your people in a central place with the Staff of G-d in your hand may be a more powerful statement. But, in fact, all the Jews were in their homes praying, including Moshe Rabaynu. We were in our homes praying to Hashem for redemption, the one and only redeemer. Moshe was in his home as one of us, praying for the final redemption. After all the Torah detests those who are ungrateful; why would the Haggadah omit Moshe if we owed our collective gratitude solely to Moshe. The mitzvah of living the redemption began at the actual redemption. Moshe was home fulfilling the Mitzvah himself. - from a drasha by R. Avrum Kowalsky. Chag Kasher v'samayach. Reply

Yisrael April 28, 2005

- If there is a Moses in each generation who is the Moses in this
- generation?

The Moses of the generation is the one who brings the awareness of G-d to the people. Who today? perhaps : )

- Is it soemthing that is pre-determined or can any person
- become "The Moses"?

I think there are people with great talents who rise to their inner abilities. Can anyone become Moses? I don't know if everyone wants to be a Moses.

For more on the concept check out Tanya Chapter 42:

Happy Passover Reply

Berel Levertov Santa Fe, NM April 21, 2005

Where's Moses in the TORAH? Rabbi Yaffe,

Besides not being found in the Haggadah, it's interesting to note that Moses is not found in the Torah in the actual Exodus itself. Of course he's mentioned before and after, but the Torah doesn't create an image of Moses "leading" the Jews out of Egypt.

Perhaps this is what's meant in the Haggadah when we say that G-d HIMSELF led the Jews, not through a messanger, an angel or Saraf... Reply

Roger April 21, 2005

Appreciate your article. It was empowering.
A question to Yisrael. If there is a Moses in each generation who is the Moses in this generation? Is it soemthing that is pre-determined or can any person become "The Moses"? Reply

Yisrael April 20, 2005

Where's Moses But, if indeed, it is about the inner-Moses (which is the reflection of the original Moses) it would seem appropriate to mention him, as he is the archetype for our personal Moses. Excluding him would seem to indicate that the inner Moses is also not a player at the seder.
No original Moses = no inner Moses, or, original Moses = inner Moses. Reply

Rabbi Shlomo Yaffe April 19, 2005

Response to Yisroel Indeed you are right, but nevertheless, this is the point: a) It is not the historical Moses but the manifestation in the here and now that is most important to us, and it is not the "Moses of the generation" who we rely on -it is ourselves -maybe inspired and led by him -but only we, ourselves, by our efforts, can liberate ourselves from our personal "Egypts" Reply

Yisrael April 17, 2005

Nice thought, but isn't there the Moses of each generation, and moreover, the Moses in each and every one of us? This spark empowers us with knowledge of G-d, and the ability to rise above our confinements.

Your thoughts...= Reply