- Jeremy Sofiev
Winning Public Speaking, Day 1
Passover is the only holiday in which we are told to tell a story. Why is telling this story
so important. Explain how the story of Pesach captures what it means to be a Jew. Give a personal story of your family seder experience and how the story says a lot about your family.
Every nation has an origin story, one that is highlighted by a specific event in their history that is remembered and repeated for generations. For the United States, that event is the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th 1776, for the French; the storming of the Bastille on July 14th 1789, and for the Jews, our exodus from Egypt where we were held as slaves for over 400 years. Our exit from bondage is the defining event in Jewish history. It is the thing that simultaneously keeps us confident as well as humble. Our confidence stems from our GD given strength over the Egyptians where we were triumphant over the worlds strongest and most powerful nation at the time, and at the same time keeps us humble by reminding us that if it were not for GD almighty we would still be held as slaves in a foreign land. This incredible story that is told every year is how we are able to keep our heads up, but our chins down.
The story of Pesach in my opinion, is a story of gratitude and appreciation. Throughout the entire story GD did above and beyond for his people and at every step of the way, the Jews were appreciative. The story of Pesach therefore, captures exactly what it means to be a Jew. The entire essence of Judaism is a sense of appreciation for the higher up. The Hebrew word for Jew - ‘Yehudi’, stems from the word ‘Todah’, the Hebrew word for thanks. Our whole identity is to be thankful for every miniscule thing that occurs in our lives, from waking up in the morning to being able to put your socks on…all the way up to miracles like giving birth. Every act and capability that is bestowed upon us comes from GD. During the Passover story GD overachieved and overachieved again. If he solely brought the 10 plagues against the Egyptians it would have been enough. If he solely split the sea it would have been enough ,and if he solely gave us the Torah it would have been enough, and so on. This is displayed in one of the songs that we sing at the Passover Seder; ‘Dayenu’, which is the direct translation to “it would have been enough”. In this sense, the telling of the Passover story captures EXACTLY what being Jewish is all about; appreciation, gratitude, and thankfulness.
Every year at my family’s Passover seder, it is our tradition for my grandfather to tell his story of immigrating to the United States from the Soviet Union. Not only is it a thrilling story, but it serves as a great parallel to our ancestors' exit from Egypt thousands of years ago.
Through hard work and sacrifice my grandfather had become a very wealthy man in Russia, however, back then, if one wanted to leave Soviet Russia, the communist government did not permit them to leave with any of their riches or belongings. Of course, my grandfather did not want to leave empty handed, so him and his family decided to hide their gold in the lining of their suitcases and get it through the border. They ended up being caught and imprisoned for 4 months. Just as the Jews were held against their will and were not allowed to practice their religion, my grandfather and his family were imprisoned and forced to be atheists. Through GD’s will and redemption however, my family were let go and allowed to immigrate to their ‘promised land’ of the United States just as the Jews were led into Eretz Yisrael. This story ties into the theme of appreciation by always reminding our family not to take the country we live in for granted, because in many places in the world, freedom is luxury, not necessity.