In this shiur, HaRav Silbermann clarifies the
main objective of yetzias Mitzrayim. His
penetrating conclusion has important consequences for
fulfilling the mitzvoh of sippur yetzias
Mitzrayim at the seder. This shiur was
delivered two years ago, on erev Pesach 5760, and was
prepared from the notes of one of the listeners by A.
Chefetz. It is being presented here to mark HaRav
Silbermann's first yahrtzeit on 18 Adar.
Why Just Three Days?
A close examination of Moshe Rabbenu's conversations
with Pharaoh reveals something strange. In Shemos
5:3, Moshe Rabbenu tells Pharaoh, "We have been
called upon by the G-d of the Hebrews, please let us go
on a three day journey in the desert and we will
sacrifice to Hashem our G-d, lest He smite us
[i.e. you -- Rashi] with plague or with the
He also warned Pharaoh in Hashem's name, "So says
Hashem, My firstborn son Yisroel . . . if you refuse to
send them, I will kill your firstborn son" (4:23).
Moshe Rabbenu communicated to Pharaoh that he and his
nation were completely in HaKodosh Boruch Hu's
power and if he, Pharaoh, refused to listen to what
Hashem said, he would be punished with due severity.
But there is something astonishing about their
exchange. Pharaoh ruled over the world, as the
gemora tells us, and he had a staff of advisors
and wise men. He should have dismissed Moshe Rabbenu's
arguments with a simple response: "If Hashem has the
power that you claim, if He rules over everything and I
am enslaving His sons cruelly and unjustly, why are you
coming to me with such a modest request -- `let us go
on a three day journey' -- after which you'll return to
work. Can't Hashem manage more than that? Can't he have
you ask me to set you free entirely?" Pharaoh should
have pointed out that Moshe's claim to represent
Hashem, Who rules over everything in existence, was
inconsistent with his request for just a three-day
In fact, Moshe Rabbenu's request was akin to mockery of
his Divine King. Pharaoh should have showed him that
what he was saying was illogical. If a man owes his
friend a million dollars and is not prepared to repay,
and the lender threatens him, "If you don't pay me one
penny of the sum now, I'll kill you" -- that is absurd.
If he were to demand immediate payment of half or a
quarter of the total, the threat is understandable. But
there is no logic at all in a threat of such magnitude
when demanding a single penny.
When Pharaoh said, "I do not know Hashem" (5:2), he
used the verb "to know" in the sense that it is used in
the posuk, "and the holders of Torah have not
known Me," namely, their attitude to HaKodosh Boruch
Hu was incorrect. Pharaoh's declaration "I do not
know Hashem" was not a statement that meant, "I have
not heard of Him" or, "I lack information about Him."
It meant, "I am not prepared to acknowledge the concept
that Hashem is the Eternal, that He controls every
power, that He is the G-d of Yisroel and that you
[Moshe] are trying to compel me because of this. I,
Pharaoh, am the head of a cruel, earthly regime and the
G-d of truth, holiness, purity and justice will not
force my hand!"
Moshe Rabbenu's response to this was, "You are wrong.
HaKodosh Boruch Hu is the Eternal and He is G-d
of all gods!" But again, his modest request for a mere
three-day break seemed to disprove these claims. For
this reason alone Pharaoh should have said that he was
unwilling to speak to Moshe any more.
There is another matter that also requires explanation.
It seems obvious that Pharaoh knew that Moshe Rabbenu's
intention was to achieve permanent freedom for his
nation from the Egyptian slavery. Every Jew knew that
Hashem had sent Moshe to take them out of Egypt, as the
posuk tells us explicitly in perek 3:16,
"Go and gather the elders of Yisroel and say to them `
. . . and I will bring you up from the poverty of
Mitzrayim to the land of the Canaani . . .
'" Every Jewish child was aware of this and Pharaoh
surely knew it as well! As head of the power that ruled
over Bnei Yisroel absolutely, there can be no
doubt that he knew what was no secret to the Jews,
namely that HaKodosh Boruch Hu had made four
promises of redemption to Moshe and that this was the
The question is obvious. Throughout the duration of the
ten plagues, all discussion between Moshe and Pharaoh
regarding freedom for Bnei Yisroel revolved
around "a three-day journey to sacrifice to Hashem, G-d
of Yisroel." Yet everyone was aware of the truth:
HaKodosh Boruch Hu had promised to redeem Bnei
Yisroel permanently and to take them to Eretz
A Dual Purpose
The answers to these questions appear to lie along the
following lines. From the parshiyos we see that
there were two aims to yetzias Mitzrayim. The
first was to publicize Hashem's Name and His rule
throughout the world, and the second purpose was to
take Bnei Yisroel out of Mitzrayim forever.
From the pesukim it appears that the first aim --
to make Hashem's Name known in the world -- was the
main one. This is apparent from the beginning of
parshas Vo'eiro, where Hashem tells Moshe Rabbenu
that hitherto, His Name of Havaya had not been revealed
to the world, and that an important change was about to
take place with the revelation to the world of this
When warning Pharaoh about the plague of hail, Moshe
Rabbenu said (9:15-16), "For just now, I could have
sent out My hand [against you] and smitten you and all
your people and you would have disappeared from the
land. However, because of this I kept you alive: in
order to show you My power and so that you should speak
about My Name everywhere in the land." This then, was
the reason for the plagues.
Similarly, at the beginning of parshas Bo, after
seven plagues HaKodosh Boruch Hu told Moshe
Rabbenu not to lose heart but to go to Pharaoh and
continue bringing the plagues. Hashem wanted Pharaoh's
heart to be hardened, "so that I can place these signs
of Mine in his midst." The ten plagues were part of a
specific process. (The Arizal writes that the ten
plagues were intended to strike at the ten
sefiros of the powers of uncleanliness.) Their
purpose was to annul the forces of impurity and to
raise aloft the banner of holiness in the world.
More was afoot than simply taking Bnei Yisroel
out of bondage, as the posuk continues, " . . .
and so that you should tell your son and grandson how I
amused Myself with Egypt" -- with the ten plagues -- "
. . . and you shall know that I am Hashem" (the G-d of
truth, who upholds the covenant and the kindness and
who can be trusted to fulfill His promise to the
fathers, as Rashi writes at the beginning of parshas
Attaining the Prime Objective
From all this it appears that Pharaoh in fact knew that
Moshe Rabbenu's intention was to take Bnei
Yisroel out of Egypt, but their discussions did not
revolve around this point at all. Moshe Rabbenu, as
Hashem's emissary to Pharaoh, asked just one thing of
him: that he send Bnei Yisroel to the desert for
three days to offer sacrifices and to serve Hashem
their G-d. This was all that was asked; nothing was
said about setting them free.
Through agreeing to Moshe's request, the enormity of
Hashem's rule would have been revealed to the world and
would have become common knowledge. Pharaoh, who
declared [his independence of any Heavenly assistance
by saying], "My river is mine and I made myself"
(Yechezkel 29:3), was the foremost representative
of the sitro acharo (literally "the other side")
in this world, as we find in the writings of the Arizal
and in the holy Zohar. Egypt was the nakedness of
the land, the place of the greatest evil and impurity
in the world, all of which, as the country's leader,
By consenting to Bnei Yisroel's [albeit
temporary] departure for the sole purpose of escaping
his authority in order to offer sacrifices and to serve
Hashem Elokei Yisroel, the G-d of justice, truth,
holiness and purity, Pharaoh would have been giving his
full approval to the idea that Hashem created the world
and chose Bnei Yisroel to be His servants and to
publicize His Name, in which capacity they are the
ultimate purpose of the creation.
This was what Moshe Rabbenu wanted from Pharaoh. The
submission of the forces of evil that such an agreement
would have represented would have been the ultimate and
the most powerful revelation, throughout the whole
world, of Hashem's Name of Havaya.
And this was what Pharaoh would not agree to, under any
circumstances. He withheld his consent right to the
bitter end and was unwilling to concede that all he
stood for was falsehood, that the sitro acharo
and all the evil was illusory, and that "Hashem
Elokei Yisroel is King and His rule extends to
Had Moshe Rabbenu originally asked Pharaoh to agree to
release Bnei Yisroel permanently [i.e. without
the conclusive proof of their spiritual mission as
Hashem's servants that the three day service
represented], no publicizing of Hashem's Name to the
world would have resulted at all. The nations would
have said that the Hebrews simply possessed their own
"local" deity [which rendered them assistance], in the
same way that the Moabite nation had a deity named
Kemosh and the Amonnites had one named
Milchom. This was what the ancient peoples
believed. The prime objective -- "so that you should
speak about My Name throughout the land" -- would have
been missing, since the demand would have been
interpreted as a material, not a spiritual, one.
From the pesukim as well, it is clear that Moshe
Rabbenu only asked that Bnei Yisroel be allowed
to serve Hashem, not that they be entirely released
from bondage. This was ultimately achieved when, after
all the firstborns had died, Pharaoh said to Moshe
(12:31), "Arise and depart from among my people, both
you and Bnei Yisroel and go serve Hashem as you
said. Take your flocks and your cattle too, as you
said, and go, and bless me as well." Pharaoh gave his
full consent to Bnei Yisroel's going to serve
Hashem. The sitro acharo submitted fully and
agreed that Hashem Elokei Yisroel is King and
that He rules everywhere.
Pharaoh also freed Bnei Yisroel completely, for
he also knew that this was the ultimate objective,
despite the fact that his dialogue with Moshe had not
revolved around this point.
An additional, immense benefit to Bnei Yisroel
that resulted from this arrangement of events was the
miracle of Krias Yam Suf. Had the discussion
centered upon a complete release for Bnei Yisroel
from slavery with Pharaoh ultimately giving his royal
consent to what had been asked of him, he would not
have been able to pursue Bnei Yisroel, an entire
nation numbering millions.
As an important world ruler, Pharaoh would not have
retracted his consent to their release, thereby
exposing himself to the ridicule of the nations.
Neither would his advisors have said (14:5), "What is
this we have done, that we dismissed Yisroel from
Their sole pretext for giving chase to Bnei
Yisroel after three days was that the latter had
only requested a three-day absence. Despite the fact
that the Egyptians knew that complete freedom was
Bnei Yisroel's ultimate goal, it was the explicit
mention of only three days that enabled them to pursue
This casts everything in a very clear light. The
request for only a three-day leave of absence resulted,
first of all, in the submission of all evil and
impurity in the world, the publicizing of Hashem's Name
and the revelation of holiness throughout the world,
second in Bnei Yisroel's complete freedom from
bondage and third in the miracle of the splitting of
the Yam Suf.
So That the World Should Know
A further point to consider is the posuk's
statement, "I have kept you alive for this, so that you
should speak about My Name throughout the land." This
was the only reason that Pharaoh and his nation were
kept alive: so that the "debate" between Pharaoh and
HaKodosh Boruch Hu could become known to the
Here, Moshe informed Pharaoh that HaKodosh Boruch
Hu wished the subject of their "debate" to be
discussed throughout the world.
The purpose of this discussion needs to be explained.
It cannot have been so that everyone would realize that
Hashem is all-powerful, or that He created the world,
because all the nations were already aware of this.
Aristotle also knew it, yet the mere knowledge did not
bind him in any way.
In fact, Pharaoh's "argument" with Hashem over
releasing Bnei Yisroel for three days, which
turned upon Pharaoh's acknowledging Hashem as Ruler of
the world and all evil as false, went on for an entire
year. All the nations knew about it and wondered why
HaKodosh Boruch Hu was dealing such terrible
blows to Egypt, which they had thought was the power
that ruled the world.
The answer which they discovered was that Pharaoh
refused to concede that the rule of Hashem Elokei
Yisroel extends throughout the world. For a whole
year, the entire world watched with bated breath to see
which side would be victorious: the side of Holiness or
the sitro acharo, chas vesholom.
In the end, they all saw the defeat of the sitro
acharo and the affirmation of the rule of Holiness,
especially with the splitting of the Yam Suf when
Bnei Yisroel became truly free, which was the
climax of the whole tremendous revelation.
Thus we find in Yehoshua (2:10), "For we heard
that Hashem dried up the water of the Yam Suf for you
when you came out of Egypt . . . " and in the
shiroh itself (15:14-15), "Nations heard and
trembled; the inhabitants of Philistia were gripped by
fear. Then the princes of Edom were dismayed; the
nobles of Mo'ov were gripped by shaking; all the
inhabitants of Canaan melted." All the worlds'
inhabitants were gripped by fear because of this great
revelation and the final, utter submission of the
sitro acharo, resulting in the very greatest
revelation of G-dliness and holiness.
The Vilna Gaon writes (in his commentary to Safro
Detzni'uso at the beginning of perek 2, the
paragraph beginning ve'inyon hakovod ) that its
main purpose was that which is mentioned in the
continuation of the shiroh, "Bring them and plant
them upon the mountain of Your inheritance, the
dwelling place which You have made, Hashem, the
mikdosh Hashem, that Your Hands have established.
Hashem will rule forever more."
A New Dimension
The fearsome revelation that resulted from the whole
process of yetzias Mitzrayim of Hashem's Name of
Havaya, certainly bound the nations as well. It
did not simply reveal to them the fact that He is all
powerful. It represented a fundamental upheaval in
their knowledge hitherto. This was a demonstration that
not only had HaKodosh Boruch Hu created the
world, but He continually oversees it; that He has a
purpose in mind for the world and that Yisroel is His
nation and His particular portion.
Being chosen by Hashem as the standard-bearers of the
world's ultimate purpose, the Jewish nation is thus the
principle focus of the entire Creation, "a kingdom of
priests and a holy nation" (19:6). All the nations have
to submit to this idea. Their entire connection to
anything G-dly is only through Yisroel, whose task it
is to rectify all the nations. (This is the
significance of the seventy cows that are offered
during Succos, as the Ramchal explains in Derech
Hashem.) If the nations wish to endure, they must
become [in a spiritual sense] appendages of Yisroel and
submit themselves to the latter's authority in the
The posuk (Zecharioh 14:17) says, "And it will be
that those of the families of the earth who do not
ascend to Yerushalayim to bow to the King Hashem . . .
and the rain will not fall on them." This is how it
will be in the future, as the posuk (Michah 4:1)
says, "And the house of Hashem will be established at
the top of the mountains and will be elevated over the
hills and all the nations will flow towards it." All
this happened, or was to have happened at the time of
yetzias Mitzrayim. If not for the sin of the
eigel, Bnei Yisroel would have attained their
ultimate purpose then.
This was what was meant by, "so that you should speak
about My Name throughout the land." This was the
purpose of this powerful revelation of Hashem's Name of
Havaya to all the nations. They saw holiness
ascendent, proceeding towards the world's ultimate
purpose. They saw that none could hinder it, that no
other power could exist in the face of this revelation.
All this resulted from HaKodosh Boruch Hu's
sending Moshe to ask Pharaoh, "Please let us go for
three days' journey in the desert and sacrifice to
Hashem our G-d," rather than having him ask for a
complete release from slavery, which would not have
resulted in the same wondrous Divine revelation.
It was in reference to this that Hashem said " . . .
for this I kept you alive . . . so that you should
speak about My Name throughout the world." This was
really addressed to all the nations. Concerning Yisroel
however, the posuk says (at the beginning of
parshas Bo), "so that you should tell your son
and your grandson how I played with Mitzrayim and My
signs which I placed among them and you should know
that I am Hashem."
In other words, there were two separate purposes in the
revelation of the Name of Havaya to the whole
world. One was for Yisroel, as the commentators explain
at the beginning of parshas Vo'eiro, and a second
one, "so that you should speak about My Name throughout
the land," for the nations.
A Practical Application
All the above has practical consequences with regard to
fulfilling the mitzvoh of sippur yetzias
Mitzrayim. Since the main objective of yetzias
Mitzrayim was the revelation of the Name of
Havaya, as a result of which Bnei Yisroel
attained their freedom, the accent of the story should
be upon this aspect; simply recounting how the slavery
ended is insufficient.
The Rambam (in Hilchos Chometz Umatzoh 7:2)
writes, "It is a mitzvoh to tell one's children about
this . . . according to the son's understanding, his
father teaches him. How? If the son is young or foolish
he says, `My son, we were all slaves and we went out to
freedom,' and if the son is mature and wise, he tells
him about what happened to us in Mitzrayim and about
the miracles that were done for us by Moshe Rabbenu,
all according to his understanding." As we have
explained, the main aspect of the story is the
revelation of the Name of Havaya, not just the
end of the bondage [and this should therefore be
conveyed to each child, according to their