11 Jan 2024 Va’era 5784: Redemption From Egypt & Our Miraculous Survival
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Va’era, the long awaited redemption begins to unfold. After almost 210 years in Egypt, the Bnei Yisrael are about to go free. The first of the seven makkos are brought upon the Egyptians in this parsha, as Hashem begins to destroy the country that has enslaved His children for over one hundred years.
At the very beginning of the parsha, Hashem promises Moshe that He will redeem the nation through four different terms, or languages, or redemption. These are well known as the arbah lashonos geula, and corresponding to them, we drink four cups of wine at the Pesach Seder. Each lashon represents a different stage of the miraculous redemption. The fifth and final lashon of geula, term of redemption, corresponds to the Kol shel Eliyahu – the cup of Eliyahu, which will be drunk, in great joy and with much thanks, with the coming of Moshiach (Shemos 6:6-8).
לָכֵן אֱמֹר לִבְנֵי–יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲנִי ה, and therefore, so you (Moshe) shall say to the Children of Israel, I am Hashem:
וְהוֹצֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם מִתַּחַת סִבְלֹת מִצְרַיִם – And I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt. Notes Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch, “It does not say, ‘I will smash your burdens, so that you will rise by your own power.’ Rather, I will leave the burdens intact, but take you up and bring you out from beneath them. Thus, you will be completely passive at the redemption.
וְהִצַּלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם מֵעֲבֹדָתָם – and I will save you from their bondage. R’ Hirsch teaches, “הציל: to bring about the release of something that is being held unwillfully by someone as a tool or instrument. The Egyptians have put your necks into stocks from which you cannot get out. So be it, and so let it be known: I have the power to release you from burdens from which you cannot extricate yourselves by your own power. Egypt is holding you as chattel without a will of its own. I will strike Egypt upon its arm so that it will be forced to let you go.
וְגָאַלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם בִּזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה, וּבִשְׁפָטִים גְּדֹלִים – and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgements. Comments R’ Hirsch, “You do not have one kindred soul in Egypt who would feel personally hurt by abuses to which you are being subjected. Therefore I will stand up as your Kinsman. I am hurt, whenever one of My children is hurt. Through Me you will regain your rights and your independence. Whereas הציל denotes rescue from impending danger, גאל denotes redemption from a process of destruction that has already begun.
וְלָקַחְתִּי אֶתְכֶם לִי לְעָם, וְהָיִיתִי לָכֶם לֵאלֹקַים – and I will take you to Me as a nation, and I will be to you a G-d. Writes R’ Hirsch, “Once you are standing tall, when you will be free and aware of your human rights, I will take you to be My people. As soon as you are free, you will become My people! You will become My people, without a land, without territory of your own, solely through Me!
“לִי לְעָם. These two words are the first statement of Israel’s destiny. They express the quality that makes Judaism so unique. It is entirely inappropriate to refer to Judaism as ‘the Jewish religion’; it is thoughtless to define Judaism as a religion, to classify it with the other religions, and then to be amazed that this ‘religion’ includes so many elements that transcend the conventional bounds of ‘religion.’ לִי לְעָם: Israel is to be a people unto G-d…
“Only through their experience in the wilderness will they come to realize that Hashem did not just redeem them once from Egypt, but, rather, would always be their G-d; at present and at all times in the future He would protect them, so that they would not succumb under the ‘burdens of Egypt,’ and would lead them out from under such burdens.” (Commentary of RSRH to Shemos 6:6-8).
When we learn these four promises of redemption anew each year, and as we recline and drink the four cups of wine at the Pesach seder, we are not only recalling G-d’s promise to the Israelite slaves in Egypt. Rather, we are affirming our belief and conviction in the Divine promise – to each and every generation – to take us out, save us, redeem us, and take us to Him as a nation. And this eternal promise has ensured our everlasting survival throughout the millennia. In every epoch and in every place, הקב״ה מצילנו מידם – Hashem saves us from their hands.
Marveling on the miracle of the Jewish nation, Mark Twain famously wrote: ”If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one quarter of one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.
“His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine and abstruse learning are also very out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world in all ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself and be excused for it. The Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Persians rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greeks and Romans followed and made a vast noise, and they were gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, and have vanished.
“The Jew saw them all, survived them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert but aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jews; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?“ (September 1899)
May we merit to see the immediate fulfillment of the fifth lashon of geula, with simcha and shalom for all: and I will bring you to the Land… and I will give it to you as an eternal, everlasting and undisputed heritage, I am Hashem (6:8).
בברכת חודש טוב ושבת שלום,