The Story of the Jewish people leaving Egypt is not only the bedrock of Jewish faith but a story of inspiration– about God revealing himself to the Jewish People and to Egypt through the Ten Plagues. It is the most mentioned event in Jewish Prayer and is the word Mizraim (Egypt) is mentioned 50 times in the Torah. Our liberation from Egypt is the unifying theme of the Torah. We are commanded to remember the Exodus at all times in order to echo it in our daily lives.
It is a miraculous story with the 10 plagues, a whole people leaving slavery, crossing of the Dead Sea, the giving of the 10 commandments and the 40 years of wandering in the desert with challenges, sins and mistakes and eventually coming into Eretz Yisrael.
So, how do relate to this?
- the level of a young Child
- Blind Faith
- Amazing story but how could it really happen?
- Faith-based on oral tradition and the Torah
I am going to suggest a few different approaches:
The Issue of Free will comes up in the debate about God hardening the heart of Pharaoh and denying him free will. Judaism and any religion is faith-based. We have to have faith. Does more knowledge, archaeological evidence increase our faith or decrease it. Is it a good thing? How do we know there is God? What if we absolute proof that God exists. This would imply we do not need faith or much less faith.
Where is the location of the Exodus Story? What would our reaction be if there is enough evidence to prove that the Exodus story really took place? Would this increase or lessen our Faith?
I invite you at your own risk to look at this video which gives compelling information about the Exodus story.
To suggest an answer, even if we prove that God exists, does this mean that everything is ‘perfect’ in the world and lives. Man, and we all have our struggles. Everybody has their Pecklach – their troubles. so what is the answer?
We each have so many questions. What is our story as Am Yisrael? What’s going on in the world today? What makes me part of the Jewish people? And most of all, why am I still in exile? I will this leave these questions for another time
Another approach – Based Reb Shlomo Brodt z”L Book: EXODUS: The Model for Personal Liberation is:
The Exodus story is both our national and personal story. The Torah commands us not only to remember that God took us out Egypt, but we must see ourselves as having freshly liberated today. We must experience every moment of our lives as free individuals. The following excerpt from Reb Sholom book highlights this, in looking at The Four Words (and Stages) Of Redemption and Going Toward the Fifth, Ultimate Stage.
Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu to go to Mitzrayim and tell the Children of Israel about their forthcoming redemption with a specific message. The message begins, “Therefore say to the children of Israel, I Am Hashem.” First and foremost, we must always keep in mind that we have a G-d who is loving and caring for us!
To know this means to be constantly conscious of Hashem’s presence and to actively bond with Him. Only with such consciousness can we move on to the four key stages of redemption, which are the next part of Hashem’s message. For our purposes, the following verses are broken down by the keywords (stages) of redemption:
“v’hotzayti…” and I will take you out from the sufferings of Mitzrayim
“v’hitzalti…” and I will save you from their work
“v’ga-alti…” and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments
“v’lokachti…” and I will take you unto Me to [be my] nation, and I will be unto you G-d, and you will know that it is I Hashem your G-d who is taking you out from under the sufferings of Mitzrayim.
And #5! “v’hayvayti…” I will bring you to the land, concerning [which] I raised my hand, to give her to Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov, I will give her unto you as an inheritance; I Am Hashem. (Shemot 6: 6-8)
During the Pesach Seder, the four cups of wine we drink correspond to these four words/stages of redemption. We need to understand why Hashem sent Moshe with a message embedded with these keywordsrather than a more straightforward message of redemption. Careful analysis of these four key words, will teach us how to apply Hashem’s process of redemption to our personal lives, our personal MiTZRa-yIM/Meitzarim (narrows), and that of our loved ones.
Allow me to present a parable to accompany the interpretation of the text. A person comes to the doctor with a very infected and swollen thumb, chas v’shalom. He is in such excruciating and unbearable pain that he can barely function.
The first thing that the healer must do is to eliminate the pain. Hence, the first step of redemption: “v’hotzayti — I will take you out (from the ‘sufferings’ of Mitzrayim).” However, this is just the beginning of the healing, for only the symptoms have been taken care of, thus far.
The second thing the doctor must do is to determine the cause of the pain and treat it appropriately. He must clean up and get rid of the infection. Hence, the second phase of redemption: “v’hitzalti — I will save you (from their work and enslavement).” Not only will you no longer suffer from unbearably hard labor, but you will also be saved from having to take any commands from the oppressive slave masters. The ones who caused your suffering will no longer be able to force their will upon you.
The third thing that the healer must do is to discover why the patient became ill in the first place. What made him susceptible? What decisions must be made? What are the changes that must be implemented so that there should not be a reoccurrence of the problem? And so, we have the third phase of redemption: “v’ga-alti — I will redeem you.” This stage requires a lot of strength! Making great life changes and breaking old patterns requires a lot of willpower!
At this stage, we actually left our MiTZRa-yIM/Meitzarim (narrows). At this point, the patient leaves the environment in which he became ill. Now we can say that the patient is no longer sick, but we can’t say she’s “healthy” yet.
Being healthy is more than avoiding sickness, just like living in peace is more than not being at war. At this point, there is still the danger that the patient may return to her old ways. Clearly, her constitution must have been weak and susceptible to sickness, to begin with. How must this person be strengthened?
And so we come to the vital fourth phase: “v’lokachti — and I will take you unto Me to [be My] nation, and I will be unto you, G-d. And you will know that it is I, Hashem, your G-d, who is taking you out from under the sufferings of Mitzrayim.”
Here, we enter into a new, eternal relationship with Hashem. Our old lifestyle, which led to our sickness/enslavement, has significantly shifted. We are no longer slaves to Pharaoh; we are now the free and willing servants of G-d. Hashem gives us His living Torah so we can learn, practice mitzvot and live a fully meaningful life. We are no longer enslaved to our personal Pharaoh who attempts to block us in the narrows. We are free to live healthy lives, both in body and soul, and be the greatest people that we are meant to be. By connecting to Hashem, we bond with the only truly free being in the universe. As paradoxical as this may seem, it is only when we are servants to Hashem that we can be completely free to actualize our potential.
The Sfas Emes says that if being a slave/servant to a person interferes with your ability to be an exclusive servant of Hashem, then all the more so, being a servant of Hashem does not allow you to be a servant to anything mundane – being Hashem’s servant liberates you from all other forms of bondage.
Once the fourth stage is achieved, evil is overcome. It no longer has the power to hold us back from living lovingly, joyfully and meaningfully with Hashem, each other and ourselves. The narrows between mind and heart are expanded; mind and heart work together and we are fully present in all we do and believe.