I remember the Seder nights of my childhood. Trestle tables and fold-up chairs snaking their way around corners, matzah crumbs decorating the carpets, fantastic smells wafting their way out of the kitchen, and a crowd of us kids spilling grape juice in excitement at all that was happening around.

As the family grew, they changed the venue and menu, subgroups hived off to their in-laws on alternate nights, and every year there were always some cousins interstate or overseas. However, with all the changes, there was always one constant; at the head of the table, the focus of all our attention and resplendent in his long white kittel, sat my grandfather, “Zeida.”

In my mind I still hear his melodic voice chanting the tunes

Zeida used to lead the Seder every year, and all the family would sing along to the familiar tunes. He’d pause in the same places of the liturgy, and insert insightful commentary to the text, and repeat cherished sayings of his father. Even now, years after he passed away and after nearly 15 years of sitting at other Seders, in my mind I still hear his melodic voice chanting the tunes of my childhood.

There was one particular cadence that I always enjoyed for its soulfulness and simplicity of tune. The haggadah quotes a line from the Book of Exodus1 and expands upon it:

I will pass through the land of Egypt, and I will smite every firstborn, and upon all the gods of Egypt I will perform acts of judgment: I, G‑d.

The sages queried the frequency of G‑d referring to Himself with the personal pronoun, and explained that G‑d was promising to do it all Himself:

I’ll rescue them, and not send an angel. I, and not a seraph. I, and not a messenger. I’ll do it all Myself.

My Zeida would sing the refrain in his own inimitable way, emphasizing the point and counterpoint of the text. The whole family would join in the harmony, and that paragraph has always been one of my Seder highlights.

Just this week, I discovered an insight of the Rebbe on these words. The Rebbe wondered why G‑d was so insistent on doing everything Himself. Why not leave something for the angels to do? There is no shame in delegating, so why go to such pains to point out that G‑d acted alone?

In a comment that could well sum up my Zeida’s philosophy of life and describe his constant care and concern for others, the Rebbe explained that G‑d is teaching us how to respond to people in need.

Occasionally we meet people who need our help, and it is our responsibility to reach out to them in response. It might be uncomfortable or taxing, yet we must be ready to sacrifice personal comfort in our effort to save a fellow Jew. Going “down to Egypt,” descending from our position of comfort and ease into an ugly morass of pitfalls and personal danger—nothing is too great a sacrifice.

He did it all Himself, without waiting for angels or agents to play their part

It would be so easy to relax and leave the heavy lifting for others. Sure, I’d play my part, offer my effort to the joint task force; but surely saving the world should be a joint endeavor, and I am content with a bit part of the glory. No one would fault me if I waited for others to join in before I stepped forward.

But that’s not the lesson we learn from G‑d. He did it all Himself, without waiting for angels or agents to play their part. When you see someone waiting for salvation, don’t hang back as part of the crowd, but commit yourself totally to the relief efforts. People in trouble don’t have the time or luxury to wait while you quibble over the command structure; they’re waiting for you to rescue them from evil.

If we see a problem, it’s our job to fix it. If we are made aware of evil, we must go out to fight. Their cause is our cause; their needs are our responsibility. We dare not wait for others to shoulder the burden, but gracefully and gratefully accept our mission to save a world and build a future.