In every generation each person should see him/herself as if he/she personally was liberated from Egypt.

These words from the Passover Hagga dah — the book we use to tell the story of the Exodus at the Passover seder — came to mind a few days ago when I saw a large color photo on the front page of The New York Times of thousands of people demonstrating in Tahrir Square in Cairo. It is so striking that this year as Jews sit down to tell the story of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, thousands of people in the modern state of Egypt and many other Arab states are rising up to demand freedom.

The ancient story of our liberation from Egypt is related to their struggle, as our story is not a Jewish story, it is a universal story that speaks to the struggle for freedom everywhere and in every generation. This is what the Haggadah means when it says in each generation one should see oneself as if one was personally liberated from Egypt.

Passover is a holiday that embodies the balance in Judaism between the particular and the universal. The exodus of the Israelite slaves from Egypt gave birth to the Jewish people, and shaped the core vision of our people. The Torah warns us repeatedly: “You shall not oppress the stranger, for you know the heart of the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” As we passed through the Sea of Reeds, our birth canal, we were born as people dedicated to what some have called an “exodus morality.” Our God is the God of social transformation and liberation. “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, the house of bondage,” is the first and maybe the most important of the Ten Commandments. The Israelites were born as a particular people in the exodus, but the core teaching of our people is completely universal.

Passover is the most widely celebrated holiday among American Jews because it embodies what most Jews believe is the core of our people’s historical legacy and of Judaism.

Geographically Israelites fled from Pharaoh’s Egypt but in the tradition Egypt is not a geographic location, it is a metaphor for injustice and oppression that is sadly part of the human experience, historically and in the present.

In his book, Exodus and Revolution, Michael Walzer analyses the way the ancient story of the Israelites inspired other struggles for freedom. He ends with the following words:

“We still believe what the exodus first taught or what is has commonly been taken to teach . . . First, that wherever you live, it is probably Egypt; second, that there is a better place, a world more attractive, a promised land; and third, that “the way to the land is through the wilderness.” There is no way to get from here to there except by joining together and marching.

This spring people in Egypt and throughout the Arab world have joined together and are marching for justice and freedom. It is not at all clear whether they will be successful and there are indeed many uncertainties and dangers. But we, the descendants of those Israelite slaves, stand in solidarity with them and all who struggle for freedom. We must do all we can to support them, just as we must support all in our own country and around the world who are working for freedom, human dignity and justice.

For us, it is more than just our history, it is the very core of our religion, of what it means to be Jewish. We, along with all humanity, must be the voice, the arms and the legs of the God who demands justice and freedom for all.

That is the sacred obligation of Passover.

As we say at the beginning of our seder: This year we are slaves, Next year may all be free!

Rabbi Brian Walt lives West Tisbury and is rabbi emeritus of Congregation Mishkan Shalom in Philadelphia, Pa. Currently he serves as rabbi of Congregation Tikkun v’Or in Ithaca, N.Y.