The Passover Seder is one of the most observed rituals of Judaism, although not everyone’s Seder follows the prescribed pattern found in the traditional Haggada.The Seder’s origin is to be found in the Torah’s command, “V’higadeta, And you shall explain to your child on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I went free out of Egypt’” (Exodus 13:8). When eating matza during the seven days of Passover, we are expected to explain what we do by relating it to the events of the Exodus.Whereas at first every parent simply told the Exodus story in whatever way he or she could, eventually, rather than leave this to the individual, the Sages gave instructions as to how this is to be done.They determined, for example, that however you tell the story, you must always “begin with disgrace and finish with praise” (Pesahim 10:4).That explains why while there are two different prefaces to the story in the Haggada, both begin with describing the terrible conditions of the Israelites, and both use a version of the Hebrew word for slavery, avdut.The first discusses physical slavery – “Avadim hayinu” (We were slaves). The second discusses spiritual or religious slavery – “Ovdei avoda zara hayu avoteinu” (Our ancestors were idol worshipers).The Sages also created an entire elaborate script, choosing certain symbolic foods, biblical verses that recount the story, rabbinic interpretations and various other tales. The Hallel, too, was incorporated. Much of this was influenced by meals combined with discussions that were held at that period by Greeks and Romans. Over time other things, such as songs, were added and this became the Haggada (the Telling).The essential part was and still is to teach the next generation that we were enslaved in Egypt and achieved our freedom because of what the Lord did for us. That is the central message of the Seder – bondage and salvation. It is as simple as that – or as elaborate as we want to make it.PASSOVER IS not the only time when we are to recall the events that took place in Egypt. Praise of God for our freedom is not the only action that the Torah mandates as a result of remembering those events.The Torah contains another crucial message connected to the story, one that emphasizes not so much the freedom and salvation as the time of bondage and enslavement.Although that message is not found explicitly in the Haggada, perhaps it should be present at our Sedarim, especially at this time.The message is: It is not enough to simply praise God for our freedom. Rather, our suffering in Egypt must be used to sensitize us to the suffering of others and to influence how we treat the strangers in our midst at all times. Since we were mistreated in Egypt while we were strangers there, we should never mistreat the strangers who live with us. Never do to others what the Egyptians did to us.This idea is repeated over and over in the Torah: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:20). “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt” (ibid. 23:9). “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the Lord am your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34). “You, too, must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19). The Torah enjoins us to judge strangers fairly (Deut. 1:16, 24:17) and to share our bounty with them (ibid. 26:1-11).It is a remarkable teaching, and it cannot be accidental that it is emphasized so often. This concern for the stranger is unique to ancient Israelite law. Because of what we suffered in Egypt, we learned to be more sensitive to the needs of the stranger and to treat them justly and lovingly.THE TERM for stranger – ger – in the Torah referred to non-Israelites who came to live in the Land of Israel. Do we not have people who fit that category in our midst today? What about the minorities in Israel, be they Beduin, Druse, Muslims or Christians? Should we not be doing more to ensure that they receive equal treatment rather than proposing laws that lower their status in this country? Should we not denounce those in the rabbinate who decree that Arabs are not to be given full rights? What about migrants who came here seeking asylum? Should we be deporting them against their will to places where they are not welcome or are imprisoned? Should we deny them the right to work here? Should we not be willing to grant asylum to those who need it? What about those who came here as children and have even served in the IDF? There was a time when Israel prided itself on its treatment of non-Jews. The Declaration of Independence states very clearly, “The State of Israel... will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” Prime minister Menachem Begin made it a point to take in refugees from Vietnam. Yet there seems to be little desire in our government to even consider the possibility that some of the migrants deserve the status of refugees and should have the right to live here.I suggest that we should read those verses about the stranger at our Seder tonight and ponder what they mean today. They were not written only for ancient times but for all time. The experience of suffering as strangers in Egypt has something to teach us today.As a matter of fact, we have suffered as strangers not only in Egypt but in so many other places, and not only thousands of years ago but within the last century as well. We of all people should be sensitive to the needs of others. In the words of the Torah, “...you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the Lord am your God.” The writer is a former president of the International Rabbinical Assembly and a member of its Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. He is a two-time winner of the Jewish Book Award, whose latest book, Akiva: Life, Legend, Legacy (JPS) has recently been published in Hebrew by Yediot Press and the Schechter Institute.