In order to fully appreciate the redemption, one must first
understand the purpose of our bondage in Egypt. The following
analogy can help illustrate why this is so. Someone attacks a
person and breaks his legs. The attacker then explains to him
that he is an orthopedic surgeon and he will set his legs and
heal him, and in six months he will be walking again as if
nothing happened. It is very obvious that the victim owes
this doctor no debt of gratitude for healing him, for he was
the cause of the ailment. Had he not broken the legs, the man
would not have needed to be healed.
Similarly we believe that nothing in this world happens by
coincidence but all is a result of G-d's Divine Providence.
If so, G-d is responsible for putting us into Egyptian
bondage as well as redeeming us from it. Why then do we owe
The answer is that the analogy does not reflect the true
nature of Divine Providence.
A more accurate analogy is as follows: Imagine a disease of
the leg that has the following pathology. It develops slowly
over ten years, and during this time it is almost
undetectable. Only an expert may notice the slight variation
in the gait of the patient. Exactly at the end of the 10-year
incubation period, the patient's bones disintegrate and he
falls, crippled, to the ground with no hope of being healed.
The only cure for this disease is to break the patient's legs
during the incubation period and reset them. When the bones
mend and grow back together they will be healthy, the disease
having been cured.
Now let us turn back to an orthopedic surgeon walking behind
a person who is unaware that he has this rare disease and
that it is incubating within his legs. The surgeon recognizes
by his gait that he has this disease and that there are only
five minutes left until the incubation period will culminate
and the person will be crippled for life. He then does the
only thing he can to save the patient: he takes an iron pole
and swiftly breaks his legs. Then he warns the person,
writhing in pain on the sidewalk, that he is in fact very
lucky for, had he not broken his legs, in five minutes he
would have been a cripple for life.
The orthopedic surgeon then sets his legs and in six months
the man is walking as if nothing ever happened. Now the
patient owes the surgeon a true debt of gratitude -- not only
for setting his legs and tending them back to health but even
for the breaking of his legs which was in fact an integral
component of the cure.
Similarly, since Hashem gave us free will, we can bring
spiritual sickness upon ourselves that necessitates spiritual
suffering and other drastic measures to enable a cure. This
suffering may even necessitate the demise of this person, but
it is necessary, to effect the cure to his neshomoh
for his everlasting well-being.
In this light, Rabbeinu Yonah Gerondi in his sefer Shaarei
Teshuvoh (Shaar 2, number 3) relates that when G-d
chastises a person with misfortunes and he responds to them
in a positive way and strengthens himself spiritually then,
when he is relieved of this misfortune, he should rejoice in
those misfortunes and thank Hashem for the benefit he accrued
from them. More so, one who really trusts G-d even during his
misfortune will have faith that the darkness will be the
cause of the light to follow, as the medrash (Tehillim
22) expounds the verse (Michah 7:8), "When I fell,
I will arise; when I sit in the darkness, G-d will be a Light
to me." If I didn't fall, I would not have been able to
stand; if I didn't sit in the darkness, it would not have
been light for me.
Sometimes one needs to fall in order to receive the incentive
to concentrate his efforts to stand up. Then, with the
renewed strength and commitment, he will be able to stand
more steadily and firmly than he did before he fell.
Sometimes one does not appreciate the light until he is
thrust into darkness and removed from it. Then he appreciates
the light in contrast to the darkness. Hence, misfortune can
both strengthen a person and make him appreciate what he took
for granted before his misfortune. In these ways and in
infinite unfathomable other spiritual ways, misfortune and
suffering serve as an atonement and positive force in one's
In this light, the Chidushei HaRim explains the two aspects
of thanksgiving of one miraculously delivered from
misfortune: hallel for the deliverance and hodo'oh,
literally an admission, that the misfortune itself was
necessary and beneficial in the total picture. Perhaps the
word nes, miracle, hints to this: nun is the
letter hinting to nefilloh, falling and the samech
means to be supported. Both the fall and the subsequent
miraculous support form one unit of Divine assistance.
In this light, the medrash relates that Klal Yisroel
are compared to an olive. Olives do not give their best
oil unless they are crushed and beaten. So, too, Klal
Yisroel sometimes produce their best under the pressure
of calamity and misfortune.
Similarly, the Chofetz Chaim explains the gemora that
says that the verse (Eichoh 3:6), "Bemachashakim
hoshivani kemeisei olom," he thrust me into the darkness
as the dead, refers to Talmud Bavli, to mean that the
epic accomplishment of the Talmud resulted
specifically from the darkness of the exile. Chazal point out
that the eyes see specifically from their black part and not
from their white.
In light of the above, we can understand the gemora
about who authored Megillas Taanis (the list of
all the minor holidays that were enforced during the Second
Temple, commemorating miraculous redemption from physical and
spiritual misfortune) that it was Rabbi Chanina ben Guria and
his cohorts, who appreciated misfortune. It may seem that it
should have said that they appreciated the redemption, but as
we have explained, if one does not appreciate the positive
aspect of the misfortune itself as an integral part of the
redemption, then the redemption is as purposeless as is the
healing after the senseless breaking of someone's legs.
This is one of the reasons why the Haggodoh must
incorporate both the gnus, the shame, and the
shevach, the praise. It begins with our bondage in our
initial, spiritual degradation and culminates with the glory
of our physical redemption and our spiritual attainment of
becoming G-d's nation. They must be looked at together as one
unit and one entity and cannot be separated from each
Tracing the Bondage to Avrohom Ovinu
The gemora in Nedorim 32a relates three
opinions as to why our ancestors had to be subjected to
Egyptian bondage. All three opinions ascribe the cause to
Avrohom Ovinu. The first opinion puts the blame on the
following incident: When Avrohom Ovinu was informed that his
future descendants would inherit Eretz Yisroel, he questioned
Hashem: How can I know that I will inherit it?
The second opinion pinpoints the cause of our bondage as the
following incident. When Lot was taken captive by the
confederation of four kings, headed by Nimrod- Amrofel,
Avrohom Ovinu sinned by drafting the 318 members of his
household, who were learning Torah, to accompany him on his
campaign to liberate Lot.
The last opinion attributes the bondage to the following
action of Avrohom Ovinu. The king of Sdom met Avrohom Ovinu
upon his return from liberating Lot and all the other
captives from Sdom, and told him: "Give me the people and
keep the booty." Avrohom Ovinu replied that he would take
nothing from Melech Sdom, not even a thread or a shoelace,
and returned both the captives and the booty. Avrohom Ovinu
was blamed for not retaining the captives and attempting to
bring them under G-d's wing.
Two crucial questions must be answered to understand this
gemora properly. First, each of these incidents, when
analyzed in light of all the factors, were not in fact sins.
Avrohom Ovinu did not question Hashem out of disbelief but
rather inquired as to exactly which merit his descendants
would have in order to inherit Eretz Yisroel. To which Hashem
replied the merit of the sacrifices (see Rashi on these
The 318 Torah students were drafted for a total of six hours
which was both pikuach nefesh, saving Lot and his
family whose lives were in danger, and also a termination of
a chillul Hashem, a desecration of G-d's Name. When
Nimrod captured Lot, who looked exactly like Avrohom, he
gagged him, put him in a cage and displayed him as Avrohom
Ovinu. He claimed Avrohom Ovinu's G-d had proven powerless to
Finally, retaining the captives of Sdom in order to influence
them to embrace the belief in Hashem was fraught with danger
for all of Avrohom Ovinu's other students. Introducing these
Sodomites who were degenerate, immoral and antisocial -- in
short evil -- to a degree that they were eventually destined
to Divine annihilation, would have spiritually endangered his
entire household. Hence, he opted to return them and not to
take this risk.
Second, even if these incidents had been sins, why should the
descendants suffer for the sin of the father? Why wasn't
Avrohom punished directly rather then his children suffering
The Essence of Klal Yisroel
To answer these questions, we must first discuss the very
essence and basis of the Jewish nation. Klal Yisroel
are described as, Am zu yotsarti li tehillosi
yesapeiru, the nation that I fashioned from My Name, they
will recount My praises (Yeshayohu 43:21). We are a
nation whose entire existence represents G-d. All the
foundations of our nationhood involved G-d and we are
totally bonded to Hashem. We are deemed to be a Mamleches
Kohanim and Goy Kodosh, a nation of Priests,
servants and representatives of G-d to the world, as
manifested in the holy lifestyle we must live.
It is in this light that Hashem tells Avrohom Ovinu at the
very beginning of our road to nationhood: Leave your land,
your birthplace, your father's home, -- for the land that I
will show you (Bereishis 12:1).
Leave your land, since you identify with the land you now
occupy. Relinquish its identity and assume a new one, totally
dependent and bonded to Me in Eretz Yisroel.
In turn, G-d promises him, Ve'e'escho legoy godol, I
will give you the first component of nationhood, namely,
identity. I will make you into a great nation with its own
unique identity. The Torah later explains, in parshas
Voeschanon (Devorim 4:7), that our greatness as a nation
lies in the fact that we have an intimate relationship with
Hashem Who is near to heed our every entreaty to Him, and in
the fact that we have G-d's Torah containing righteous and
just laws that govern every aspect of our lives. This is our
Next, Avrohom Ovinu must abandon his birthplace. This
represents the potential resources that one acquires upon
birth. They are one's mazel, which is based on his
time and place of birth.
The second component of nationhood is to have the resources
to function as a nation. Accordingly, G-d assures Avrohom
Ovinu, Va'avorechecho, and I will bless you. I will
personally increase your material and physical resources so
that all you possess will be representative of Hashem.
Last, Avrohom Ovinu must renounce his beis ovicho, his
father's home, referring to the last component of nationhood,
the purpose and goal. The "Beis Abbo," the dynasty
with which a nation progresses into the future with
consistency, generation after generation, determines the form
of the long- range goals and purposes.
In return for his renouncement of past goals and purposes,
Hashem promises Avrohom Ovinu, Va'agadlo shemecho, I
will make your name great. I will aid you to fulfill goals
and give you purpose about which your fame and renown will
inspire the entire world.
Hence, the three components of nationhood -- unique identity,
resources and purpose -- have to be connected totally to
Hashem for us to be G-d's nation.
Hairline cracks were introduced into the very foundation of
these three components of divine nationhood by the three
incidents recorded above.
By even questioning the merit of the Jewish people to Eretz
Yisroel, Avrohom appeared to place the entire identity of the
Jewish people into doubt. Eretz Yisroel is the Holy Land,
which is bound to G-d's most intimate Divine Providence. It
is the only land where the Torah can be fully observed. It is
in fact the only location where the Torah was meant to be
observed in its perfect and ideal level. The Jewish people
have an indivisible, natural, inherent bond to this land. We
are also a holy nation, bonded directly to G-d's Divine
Providence with the Torah as our essence.
If the commonalty between the Jewish people and Eretz Yisroel
is questioned, then the identity of the Jewish people is open
to other interpretations chas vesholom. Hence, Avrohom
Ovinu's question, although not a sin of disbelief,
nevertheless was a slight blemish in the image of the Jewish
When Avrohom Ovinu took the Torah scholars of his household,
the most precious resources that he had, away from their
Torah study, albeit for pikuach nefesh and albeit to
rectify a chillul Hashem and albeit for six hours
alone, there was the tiniest break in the image of the total
subjugation of the Jewish national resources to Torah and
Torah study. It appeared, if only mistakenly, that Torah
study and Torah scholars may be utilized for other "more
Even though saving lives takes precedence over Torah study
and men must abrogate Torah study to save a life, still
Chazal tell us that this is not because saving lives is more
important. In fact Torah study is greater than saving lives,
for Torah study is the source of all life and it is the
source of continued existence of all the universe. In spite
of this, the Torah commands us that Torah study must be
stopped in order to save lives, for that is G-d's will. It is
similar to the fact that one must stop learning Torah to eat
matzoh at the Seder even though Torah learning is more
important than eating matzoh.
Though Avrohom Ovinu did not sin in taking the Torah
scholars, a blemish was created in the image of all our
resources being subject to Torah. The fact that Avrohom Ovinu
had to take these Torah scholars also showed that perhaps his
level, had it been greater, would have not necessitated such
a negation of Torah, even for six hours.
Finally the goal and purpose of the Jewish nation is to be a
light unto the nations of the world. Although Avrohom Ovinu
did not sin by rejecting the Sodomites, however here too, a
hairline crack in the image of the goals and purposes of the
Jewish nation was produced. Again, had Avrohom Ovinu been on
a higher level without that hairline crack, perhaps he would
have been able to take the Sodomites home and not endanger
the people already in his household.
Patching the Cracks
In order to correct these cracks in the foundations of our
nationhood it was necessary to strip this area of the
nationhood totally and reconstruct it completely through
Divine causation. Therefore, Hakodosh Boruch Hu informed
Avrohom Ovinu that his descendants, as they would develop
into a nation, would have to be stripped of the three
components of nationhood. This was not as a punishment but
rather as a necessary rectification of the blemished
Hence, G-d foretold to Avrohom (Bereishis 15:13):
"Ger yihiyeh zar'acho be'eretz lo lohem, they will be
geirim, strangers, in a land that is not their own."
That experience will strip them of their basic identity, by
being nullified to a host nation. Va'avodum, and they
will enslave them -- their resources will be stripped from
them through slavery, for a slave owns nothing. Even his
physical being is owned by his master and all that he
acquires is his master's.
And finally, ve'inu osom, they will torment them. The
torment is described as avodas porech, which is
defined by Chazal as work with no purpose to it. This is the
kind of work one is prohibited to force a Jewish slave to
perform (see Vayikra 25:43 and codified by the Rambam
in Hilchos Avodim 11:6). The medrash relates
that they built the cities Pisom and Ramses, orei
miskenos, cities that were built on sand. They collapsed
into ruin upon completion, thereby robbing them of any
purpose, goal or achievement.
The commentaries relate that the word porech, in at-
bash (a form of gematria that transposes the
letters of the alef beis. Alef is switched with the
last letter taf. The second letter, beis, is
switched with the second-to-last letter, shin, and so
on) numerically equals 39, hinting to the 39 melochos
of Shabbos, the creative activities utilized in the
construction of the Mishkan. Thus, the opposite of
avodas porech, aimless, purposeless work, is
meleches haMishkan and melochos Shabbos,
purposeful work that leads to eternal results. Work can be
exhilarating, fulfilling and ennobling but only when it is
melochoh, purposeful work with a goal. Purposeless
work only breaks a person's spirit.
A prisoner in a Soviet labor camp was confined to a cell for
ten years and forced to turn a handle that protruded from his
cell wall. He was told that the handle turned a flour mill on
the other side. Upon being liberated he discovered that the
handle was connected to nothing. The realization that he had
labored in vain was more crushing than the ten years of
In this light, we can understand why, in order to keep Bnei
Yisroel occupied so that they would not have time to think
about Moshe's words heralding their freedom, Pharaoh decreed
that henceforth the Jewish slaves would have to collect their
own straw, while maintaining their previous quota of bricks.
Why did Pharaoh not just double their quota? In that way he
would have forced Bnei Yisroel to work harder and would have
also benefited from the double production.
Pharaoh understood that nothing so discourages and totally
destroys the spirit of a person as seeing no purpose to his
activity, no result in which he can take pride. Doubling the
Israelites work load without doubling production fit
perfectly into Pharaoh's plan.
To strip the developing nation of the final component of
nationhood -- purpose and goals -- the aspect of inuy,
avodas porech was decreed upon them by G- d. After 210
years, the process was complete and the foundation of
blemished nationhood was abrogated totally.
The Ten Plagues
Then G-d miraculously intervened, taking us out of Egypt to
be transformed into a nation, worthy and capable of receiving
the Torah and being G-d's representatives in the world.
Prior to this reconstruction, G-d tore down Egyptian
nationhood through the Ten Plagues. Part of the purpose of
the Ten Plagues, in addition to other purposes, was to
demonstrate and instruct the Jewish people as to the total
worthlessness of a nation devoid of G-dliness and firmly
rooted in its own self- worship, as Pharaoh declared,
"Ye'or li ve'ani osisi, mine is the Nile for I have
made it (Yechezkel 29:9)."
The Ten Plagues were split into three groups of three-three-
four: the first -- detzach, blood, frogs and vermin --
attacked the very land of Egypt, and the Nile, with which the
Egyptians identified. Hence their identity was assaulted.
The next three -- adash, wild animals, cattle disease
and boils -- attacked their own property and bodies, their
The final four -- be'achav, hail, locusts, darkness,
and smiting of the first-born -- deprived them of purpose by
removing their future, by taking away their food supply,
short and long range -- hail and locusts; their ability to
function -- darkness; and their future generations -- smiting
of the first-born. Hence the three components of nationhood,
identity, resources, purpose and goals -- of the Egyptians
were totally destroyed, in order to show us the bankruptcy of
negative nationhood, any nationhood not based on G-d
Building Up the Jews
It was at this point that G-d began to rebuild the Jewish
people, on the foundation of its newly acquired nationhood.
The four expressions of redemption reflect this
According to the Vilna Gaon, there are in reality three
expressions -- vehotseisi, vehitzalti, vego'alti --
for redemption culminates with vego'alti, I will
redeem. All phases after that are post-redemption and hence
the velokachti and veheiveisi are not counted.
But vego'alti has two aspects: bizro'a netuyoh,
with an outstretched arm, uvishefotim gedolim, and
with great judgments.
G-d returns our identity by taking us out from amongst the
host nation and by letting us stand alone, with our own
unique identity. He hears our prayers and begins to give us
mitzvas with which to distinguish our identity as G-d's
nation. This is vehotzeisi, I will take you out from
amid the Egyptians.
He also returns our resources by delivering us from slavery,
so that our resources, including our bodies, material
possessions and even time, are once again our own.
Vehitzalti eschem mei'avodosom, I will save you from
their work. Thereby He grants us resources, totally
ascribable to His benevolence.
Finally He redeems us, vego'alti eschem, so that we
can fulfill our purpose and goal of representing Him by doing
His will in the world. This redemption is both by great
judgments, to impel us to conquer our yetzer hora
which impedes us from within from fulfilling our purpose,
and also an outstretched arm to protect us from outside
obstacles and opposition to the fulfillment of our goals.
Four Cups of Wine
The four cups of wine we drink at the Seder correspond to
these four expressions which are the components of our
The first cup is the cup of Kiddush, corresponding to
our identity, which is the motif of Kiddush. It talks
of how G-d has chosen us and separated us from the nations of
the world. The second cup, drunk at the end of Maggid,
right before the meal while the matzoh and morror
are before us and the table is set, represents our resources,
ready to be utilized for G- d's service.
The third cup is the cup of bentching. Once we have
eaten and been sated, we are prone to forget our purpose and
goals. Hence the obligation to bentch and reiterate
the purpose of the Jewish people. Torah, Eretz Yisroel,
bris, the Davidic dynasty and the Beis Hamikdosh
must all be mentioned so that we can put our physical
existence, promoted and extended by our eating, into the
perspective of goal and purpose.
The final cup, the one over which the Hallel is
recited, corresponds to our triumph over the oppression and
the designs of the nations of the world who seek to thwart us
in the fulfillment of our goals and Divine purpose.
Every year at the Seder, we individually and collectively
reconstruct the basis of our nationhood and firmly establish
it on the bedrock of subjugation to Hashem Yisborach
in all its components: identity, resources and purpose.
We do all of this so that we can merit the rechush godol,
the ability to once again receive and confirm our
acceptance of the Torah.
In this vein, the Telzer Rosh Hayeshiva HaRav Elya Meir Bloch
zt"l explains that Yosef told his brothers that the
true redeemer from Egypt would come and report, Pokod
pokadeti eschem, a double language of remembrance. The
true redeemer would have to realize and convey that it was
not only at the redemption that G-d remembered us but
throughout our bondage. He remembered us all along and
permitted the Egyptians to bring their evil plot to fruition
and enslave us, for what was ultimately our benefit.
No Complaints Against Avrohom Ovinu
In light of the above, we can understand the following
Chazal: G-d bid Moshe to entreat the Jewish people to take
gold and silver from the Egyptians, prior to their departing
from Egypt, so that the tzaddik Avrohom Ovinu would
not complain that G-d fulfilled His decree that Bnei Yisroel
would be enslaved and persecuted but did not fulfill His
promise that they would leave Egypt with great riches.
Two questions can be asked on this Chazal: 1] Is then the
only reason G-d would have to fulfill His promise because of
a fear of a complaint of Avrohom Ovinu? 2] Could not G-d
fulfill His promise by showering them with riches directly,
rather then depending on their going to request riches from
The medrash relates that Hakodosh Boruch Hu told
Avrohom Ovinu that the Jewish people had an inherent weakness
-- as explained above -- that would either have to be
corrected with bondage or in the future world, through
Gehennom. Avrohom Ovinu chose bondage.
So that his descendants should not question how their
forefather chose to have bondage decreed upon them, G-d
wanted them to realize upon their exodus that they gained
something from being in Mitzrayim that they would not have
gained had they not been there. In that way they would
understand that ultimately the bondage was for their
If there was no concern about saving Avrohom Ovinu from
criticism, G-d could have enriched them directly. But such
riches could have been acquired that way even though they had
not been in Mitzrayim.
To enhance this idea further, the Dubno Maggid gives another
dimension to this Chazal, with the following parable: A five-
year-old violin prodigy was hired by an orchestra. At the end
of the month, he was given a fine check for his work, upon
which he went home crying to his father that all he received
for his hard work was a piece of paper. The father approached
the orchestra leader and requested that at the end of each
month, he deposit his son's check in an account in his name
but that he also give the child a bag of candy as his
payment, for that is all the child could relate to until he
would mature and appreciate the real payment of money.
Similarly, when Hashem promised we would leave Egypt with
great riches, He was referring to the great ability to
receive the Torah which was effected by the process of
bondage and redemption, as we have explained above. But the
Jewish people were not yet spiritually mature enough to
appreciate the value of Torah as their reward. Hence, to
placate their father Avrohom Ovinu, G-d gave them material
riches of gold and silver to enable them to understand that
in fact the benefits from the bondage accrued to them. Later,
they would understand that the real benefit was their ability
to be G-d's nation and to receive His Torah.
We ask Hakodosh Boruch Hu to swiftly redeem us once again, so
that we can finally consummate our role as G-d's nation, to
identify with Him totally, to utilize and elevate the
resources of the entire creation in His service and thereby
fulfill our purpose and goal in existence as G-d's servants
and representatives to the world at large.
HaRav Leff writes a regular column in Yated