At this time of Passover, we recall in the Seder that "in every generation, we are commanded to view ourselves as if each one of us was personally brought forth out of Egypt." The purpose of such memory is to remind us of the feeling of being a slave. More important, this command, combined with the rejoinder to "remember the stranger, for we were strangers in the land of Egypt," is a call to action. It is a call for us to rise up against slavery and tyranny in our own time.
Most people don't know that slavery still exists. But it does. From Khartoum to Calcutta, from Brazil to Bangladesh, men, women, and children live and work as slaves or in slave-like conditions. In fact, today there are 27 million documented slaves. Indeed, there may be more slaves in the world than ever before.
I read an anthology (which I happened to pick up and read over Pesach because I happened to be borrowing the bedroom of one of the editors) by people who don't just talk about having been slaves as part of the seder, no, they talk about having been slaves because they were slaves. There are some exerpts here.
And I feel horrible that I've sat at two seders this year and tried to see myself as having come out of Egpyt, etc, as per established tradition, and really? Here I am in my comfortable middle-class American apartment, thinking about my personal Egypt like comfortable middle-class American Jews do, and really I have no business doing anything of the sort if I haven't tried my best to do what I can for other people. Admission time: I haven't tried my best. If I was a slave coming out of Egypt, I would be the kind of slave who pretended not to see that there were people who couldn't keep up. This is an uncomfortable thought.