“We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the L-rd, our G‑d, took us out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm. If the Holy One, blessed be He, had not taken our fathers out of Egypt, then we, our children and our children's children would have remained enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.”
It’s a famous question. If Hashem didn’t take us out of Egypt, would we REALLY be slaves to Pharaoh today? After all, Egypt, along with every other empire since, has been destroyed and, at most, remembered in the history books.
I saw an interesting way of answering this question from a sefer of Rav Pinto. What’s interesting is, it helps me understand why the following section was put in the Haggadah, and specifically right after the section mentioned above:
“Rabbi Eleazar ben Azaryah said: "I am like a man of seventy years old, yet I did not succeed in proving that the exodus from Egypt must be mentioned at night-until Ben Zoma explained it: "It is said, `That you may remember the day you left Egypt all the days of your life;' now `the days of your life' refers to the days, [and the additional word] `all' indicates the inclusion of the nights!"”
So…what’s the connection between the first and second quote?
The Gemara (Berachos 9a) writes, “Rebbe Abba says that everybody agrees that the Jewish nation was REDEEMED at night, as the pasuk says, ‘Hashem took you out of Egypt at night’ (Devarim 16:1), and that they LEFT during the day, as the pasuk says, ‘on the day following the Passover sacrifice, the children of Israel left triumphantly before the eyes of all the Egyptians’"(Bamidbar 33:3).
It was at night where Pharaoh "released" the Jewish people from slavery. Hence, our redemption was at night. However, it was during the day that we actually left. During that brief period, from the middle of the night to the day, we were spiritually free, yet we were still physically in Egypt.
Therefore, there were two "redemption," the spiritual and the physical. Many nations have rose, shone bright, and collapsed. No empire has lasted forever. However, the spiritual redemption does last forever, and so does spiritual deterioration (as we see with intermarriage). That is what the Hagaddah is speaking about. If we were not spiritually redeemed, we would still be spiritual slaves and lost forever.
Now, the Torah makes it a point that Hashem took us out Himself and not through a messenger or an angel. Yet, at the same time, one can easily argue that Moshe was His messenger.
With the answer above, we can apply the same thing. Hashem Himself took us spiritually out of Egypt, while Moshe, His messenger, took us out physically.
But, it gets even deeper. Anything that man does, on a physical level, does not last forever. However, anything that Hashem does, or man does spiritually, does last forever. That is why, time and time again, we have been exiled physically, yet time and time again, we have lasted spiritually. Our physical status, as a nation and as individuals, can change. But our spiritual situation is something that we ALWAYS have the ability to change. We have been and remain spiritually free! We can choose to put ourselves in a spiritual exile or we can choose to come closer to Hashem. While our physical status is always up in the air, our spiritual status is entirely up to us.
We are about to go into Shabbos HaGadol, the Shabbos before Pesach. It is on this day we commemorate how we designated a sheep, one of the Egyptian gods, to be used for our Korban Pesach. Shortly after this designation, Hashem destroyed everything left in Egypt, man or god. Everything they believed and trusted in, was completed destroyed.
We are currently watching a complete overturn of everything that WE believe in. Money, healthcare, science, entertainment, big-business, government…ourselves. Everything! When has the world seen such a thing on such a level? This is what causes governments and societies to collapse.
Let us be honest with ourselves. How much energy have we invested in these things in our lives? And I’m not talking about the times where we are using them properly (such as working for a living, or taking a simple vacation to unwind), I’m talking about our focus in lives. We’re all guilty of it. We have all put tons of time, money, and discussion investing in such important things such as politics, sports, news, investments, television, internet, etc., which are not worth much in the end.
We spent hundreds of years in Egypt and we were affected by it. We began to think like Egyptians and prioritize what was important like the Egyptians. And we’re no different. We’ve been living in America, England, Israel, etc., all in exile. It’s only natural that we too are affected by our surroundings, and to focus on what our host nations focus on. However, those surroundings are collapsing around us and on top of us.
The time we were given our freedom by Pharaoh and the time we physically left, was simply one night. One night of pure terror around Egypt. Every Jew was in his home with his family, hearing the screams around him. But, the Jew remained in his home, focused on Hashem and his eventual freedom.
This is all undoubtedly a wake-up message for us all. Perhaps we should use this auspicious time properly, from now, Shabbos HaGadol to at least the end of Pesach, to not only physically be in our homes (which we have no choice about) but to also be spiritually in our homes. Perhaps we need to follow the footsteps of our fathers shortly before their redemption, by focusing less on what’s going on in the outside world, less news, less blogs, less entertainment, etc., and adding on a bit more spirituality to our lives, in some way, each on their own level, and hopefully, we too will be given our own Pesach with the coming of Moshiach.
Have a wonderful Shabbos!