Exodus from Egypt as a Paradigm For the Future Redemption

Written by Rabbi Immanuel Schochet Posted in Holidays

“They cried out because of their slavery, and their plea went up before G-d. G-d heard their groaning, and G-d remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” —Exodus 2:23-25

“. . . the cry of the children of Israel is come to Me. . . Now go, I am sending you unto Pharaoh, and bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” —Exodus 3:9-10

The Israelites were unable to endure the harsh galut of Egypt and cried out unto G-d to redeem them from it. Indeed, G-d heard their cry and sent Moses to save them. Likewise with our present galut:

When we cry out, “Take us out of the galut and bring about the redemption,” the Almighty will surely hear our cry and redeem us. Moreover, our mere being in a state of readiness to call upon G-d is already enough for Him to respond, as it is written, “Before they call, I shall answer, and while they yet speak I shall hear” (Isaiah 65:24).

“Moses returned to G-d and said: ‘Lord! Why have You mistreated this people. . . Since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name, he made things worse for this people, and You have not saved this people at all!’ ”—Exodus 5:22-23

Moses was a faithful shepherd. When he saw the suffering of Israel and the pain inflicted upon them by the galut, he ventured to cry out on their behalf with the daring argument, “Why have You mistreated this people.” Moses did not doubt the Divine justice and knew very well that one is not to question G-d’s ways. Nonetheless, he did not refrain from crying out and praying for an end to the harsh galut and an immediate redemption.

To be sure, G-d responded by saying: “Alas, for those who are gone and whose likes are no more to be found. I have good reason to lament the passing of the patriarchs.. who did not question My dealings with them, yet you say: ‘Why have you mistreated this people!’” Even so, G-d had this plaint of Moses recorded in the Torah. Everything in the Torah offers everlasting instruction to every Jew in all times. There is then a lesson for all of us to learn from this conduct of Moses, as follows:

When noting the persistence of the galut, we are not to resign ourselves to this situation. We are not to simply accept the galut by saying “thus is the will of G-d.” The harshness of the galut is indeed a sign that the redemption is near, yet it is still bitter and painful. Thus, even while reaffirming our absolute faith in the principle that “The ways of G-d are just,” we are also to express our anguish with the prayerful outcry “Ad Matay-How much longer?” and ask for the immediate coming of Moshiach.

“I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt, I shall rescue you from their service, I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments, and I shall take you to Myself for a people... And I shall bring you to the land...”—Va’eira 6:6-8

These verses cite five expressions of redemption. The first four relate to the Egyptian exile and the three exiles following thereafter, including the present one. The fifth-“I shall bring you...”-relates to an additional level of ascent that will follow the initial redemption by Moshiach.

The very fact that this fifth expression, too, is mentioned in context of the redemption from Egypt, indicates that all aspects of the Messianic redemption, including its highest stages, began already with the exodus from Egypt. Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, was wont to say of this that ever since the exodus from Egypt we are on our way to the Messianic redemption.

From the very moment that the Almighty promised “I shall bring you to the land...,” that promise came into effect. G-d, of course, is always in full control and “Who will say to Him ‘What do You do?’” (Job 9:12). It would seem that as long as the promise is not actualized in reality, one cannot say that it has been achieved. In truth, however, it is an established principle of the Torah that G-d revokes and nullifies only decrees about impending evil, but He never repents of good decrees: “Shall He say something and not do it, or speak and not fulfill it?” (Balak 23:19). The Divine promise of “I shall bring you...” is a favorable edict and, therefore, not subject to revocation.

To be sure, one cannot apply concepts like “compulsion” and “restriction” to G-d, and everything remains forever subject to His Will. Even so, by virtue of the fact that it is the Divine Will never to revoke or nullify something good, this becomes an inevitable principle. This principle applies to G-d only because He Himself wills it that way, thus it is altogether voluntary on His part. As far as the “good event” is concerned, however, it is inevitable because it is irrevocable.

This is charged with practical implications:

The Messianic redemption, including its highest stage, is inherent already, even now-indeed, ever since the exodus-except that it still needs to become manifest in our physical reality. Consciousness and realization of this fact makes it so much easier to overcome all and any impediments and obstructions, in this world in general, in the era of the galut in particular, and especially so nowadays, at the very end of the galut, when we are on the threshold of the Messianic age and Moshiach is about to come.

“Vega’alti (I shall redeem) you. . .”—Va’eira 6:6

The basic and universal term for Israel’s redemption from the galut is ge’ulah.

A closer look at this word leads to a remarkable observation: the term ge’ulah has the same letters as golah (galut), with the addition of the letter aleph. Our sages teach us that the letter aleph alludes to “Alufo (the Master of) the Universe.”

The significance of this is as follows:

Our service of G-d in the galut is to insert (i.e., to manifest the inherent presence of) the Aleph (the “Master of the Universe”) in galut. This will then transform golah (galut) to ge’ulah (redemption)!

The fact that the term ge’ulah contains and retains the term golah teaches us the meaning of ge’ulah. The Messianic redemption does not imply a negation or annulment of the natural order, of the present reality of galut. On the contrary: ge’ulah means an elevation and sublimation of golah by redeeming all aspects of the galut and transforming it itself into ge’ulah.

When the inherent and pervasive presence of the Aleph (the “Master of the Universe”) is revealed and manifested, this will remove all the concealing obstacles of the galut which screen and cover its true reality and intent. There will be a revelation of Divinity within the world and in all mundane categories, to the point that “Everything that has been made will know that You have made it... and every besouled being will declare that G-d, the G-d of Israel, is King, and that His Kingship rules over all” (Liturgy of Rosh Hashanah). Golah is transformed into ge’ulah!

“On the tenth of the month, every man is to take a lamb... guard it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then slaughter it. . .”—Bo 12:3-6

This is the mitzvah of the Pesach-offering. The lamb was to be kept in the Jewish homes for several days to arouse the curiosity of the Egyptians who worshipped it as their idol. The Jews were to tell them explicitly and fearlessly, that they intended to slaughter the lamb on the fourteenth of Nissan. This, of course, put the courage and faith of the Jewish people to the test.

The redemption from Egypt happened by virtue of the Jewish people rising to the challenge with great fortitude and mesirat nefesh (readiness for self-sacrifice). Our sages thus relate that before that day the Jews had been devoid of mitzvot. They were, in fact, acculturated to the Egyptian lifestyle. G-d thus provided them with the mitzvah of the Pesach-offering. In the merit of this mitzvah, and the mesirat nefesh required for its fulfillment, they were redeemed from Egypt.

The prophet says, “As in the days of your going out of Egypt, I will show [the people] wondrous things” (Michah 7:15). This means that the exodus from Egypt is a paradigm for the future redemption by Moshiach.

When the Torah offers an example or a model, the analogy is precise, corresponding in all details. This applies in our case as well: the conditions of faith, fortitude and mesirat nefesh, which brought about the exodus from Egypt, will do the same for us and redeem us from our present galut.

Thus, just as the exodus from Egypt resulted from fortitude, inner strength, faith and mesirat nefesh, so, too, the Messianic redemption will come about by our acting with such vigor and mesirat nefesh.

* * *

Just as all other mitzvot, the mitzvah of ahavat Yisrael (love of Israel), too, must be fulfilled with determination and intent. After all, this mitzvah is the fundamental principle of the entire Torah. It is therefore incumbent upon us to draw our fellow Jews closer to Torah and the observance of mitzvot. One should do this persistently, and should not lose heart when the efforts do not appear to yield the desired effect. Do not be impressed by seemingly antagonistic reactions. The perceived antagonism actually proves that the person addressed is affected. Thus, continue with vigor and conviction until he becomes receptive.

To be sure, in order to be heard one must speak gently and with composure, but with vigor nonetheless. When not successful at first, the fault lies not in the other but within the speaker. For words that spring from the heart will surely penetrate the heart. The listener is a good person, but because your words did not “come from the heart,” that is why “they did not penetrate the heart.”

By approaching our task with vigor and mesirat nefesh, without being distracted and intimidated by the world around us, any opposition and hostility will dissipate, and thus one hastens the Messianic redemption.

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