Rabbi Yakov Haber
Rabbi Yakov Haber

Four Types of Redemption

I

Therefore say to the Children of Israel: "I am G-d ('Ani Hashem), and I shall take you out (v'hotzeisi) of the heavy burdens of Egypt; and I shall save you (v'hitzalti) from their enslaving you; and I shall redeem you (v'ga'alti) with an outstretched arm and great judgments. And I shall take you (v'lakachti) unto Me as a nation and I shall be for you [your] G-d, and you shall know that I am Hashem, your G-d, who takes you out of the heavy burdens of Egypt." (Va'Eira 6:6-7)

With these powerful words our parsha presents the famous four l'shonos hageula, the four expressions of redemption. Yerushalmi (Pesachim 10:1) refers to these four as "arba ge'ulos" implying that the four are not just four ways of expressing the same redemption, but four separate redemptions. The most popular reason given for the usage of four cups at the Seider is that they are parallel to these four expressions (ibid.). Why are there exactly four and what is the precise meaning of each of these four expressions?

Rabbeinu B'chaye in his commentary to these verses explains that "v'hotzeisi" refers to G-d's freeing us from the actual harsh labor while we were still technically slaves. This took place at the beginning of the makkos, when, according to Chazal's tradition (Rosh HaShana 11a), the Jews did not actively work for the Egyptians. The second stage of the redemption, "v'hitzalti", was when the Jews achieved total freedom from Egyptian slavery to exit "mitachas reshusam", from Egyptian dominion. It would seem that this took place after makkas bechoros even before the actual Exodus. Midrash Tehillim (113:2) writes that Pharaoh ran through the streets of Goshen after losing his first-born child, heir to the throne, screaming "You are free! You are now servants of G-d!"

But the redemption was not complete. Whereas Benei Yisrael had achieved freedom from slavery, there was a real danger, actualized at Yam Suf, that Pharaoh would attempt to reclaim the Jewish people as slaves to Egypt. "What have we done that we have sent away the Jewish people from serving us!" (Beshalach 14:5). Pharaoh's chase of the Jews ending in Hashem's utterly destroying his armies by drowning them in the Sea comprised the next step of ge'ula, that of "v'ga'alti", the stage after which the Jews would never return to Pharaoh's dominion.

The final step was that of "v'lakachti eschem li l'am"; this took place at Har Sinai, when Hashem gave us the Torah. As presented in the birchos haTorah, "asher bachar banu mikol ha'amim v'nossan lanu es Toraso - G-d has chosen us from all the other nations and given us His Torah"; it was the crucial moment of the giving of the Torah at Sinai that made the Jewish people into G-d's people, not just a nation of freed slaves. We recite in the Hallel, "halelu avdei Hashem"; on this Chazal comment "v'lo avdei Pharaoh!" (Midrash Tehillim 113:1). The slavery of Egypt ended; as a result, we became servants of the Source of the World thus achieving our whole purpose of creation - to elevate ourselves by serving Avinu Malkeinu (see Pirkei Avos 6:2).

Maharal(Gevuros Hashem 30) presents a somewhat different breakdown of the four ge'ulos. Hashem told Avraham Avinu at the bris bein habesarim, "Your children shall be strangers in a land not theirs, and they shall enslave them and afflict them four hundred years" (Lech Lecha 15:13). This prophecy included three components of the Egyptian exile: 1) the exile itself, Avraham's descendants would be strangers in a foreign land - "gairim"; 2) the slavery, the Jewish people would serve another nation; 3) the harsh affliction, the slavery would not be a benign one as Yosef's slavery to Potiphar had been or as Eliezer's to Avraham, but harsh back-breaking labor becoming even more difficult as the exile came close to ending. Hashem now told Moshe Rabbeinu that each of these three components of the exile would be removed in reverse order. First, the harshness of the slavery would be removed, "v'hotzeisi". Then, the slavery itself would terminate, "v'hitzalti". In these interpretations, the Maharal closely follows the approach of Rabbeinu B'chaye. Third, the Jewish people would exit the foreign land on the road to their eventual return to their own land, Eretz Kana'an to become Eretz Yisrael, "v'ga'alti". They were "birshus atzmam", no longer in a foreign land; they were in their own control, but they were not yet birshus Hashem. Finally, Hashem took them as His unique nation, "v'lakachti".

Elsewhere (Netzach Yisrael 1), Maharal states that the three components of exile: being strangers, servitude and harsh labor would be characteristics of future exiles as well. There Maharal combines servitude and harsh labor into one aspect and adds a third component, scattering across the world. This was a new component of future exiles; in Egypt all the Jews were together.[1] In the future redemption, G-d would reverse all of these dimensions as He did in Egypt, but on an even grander scale. Maharal elaborates that the exile is unnatural. The Jewish people, by their very nature, belonged in their land, not a foreign one, were destined to be under their own control, not in the control of any other nation, and were designed to be unified, not scattered. The very existence of the unnatural state of exile thus necessitates the redemption. Maharal (ibid. 24) explains that the need for G-d to impose three oaths assuring the continuation of the exile until the time for Redemption comes is because exile is unnatural. This unnatural state must be "forced" by G-d to exist. This same analysis can be applied to the Egyptian exile; the unnatural state which this exile artificially maintained was guaranteed to be reversed on all of its levels.[2]

II

Rav Shalom Noach Berzovsky zt"l, the last Slonimer Rebbe, in his Nesivos Shalom, presents another level of meaning of the four leshonos hage'ula. The Egyptian exile comprised not only physical slavery but spiritual servitude as well. Famously, the Ari z"l teaches that the Jewish people sunk into the deepest depth of impurity; if not for G-d's kindness, we would never be able to get out of it. This spiritual impurity of the exile was of different levels: the most intense was so all encompassing that we were trapped in it as an embryo is enclosed in its mother's womb unable to "escape" on its own. Based on this, the redemption from Egypt is compared to the birth of a fetus exiting its mother's womb (Midrash Tehillim 107:4).Another kind was our connection to foreign values, a foreign lifestyle - a slavery of sorts to an impure lifestyle; we obeyed the call of evil. The last kind was that we were "meshubad" to the Egyptian culture such that we were not free to think properly on our own. In the language of Pharaoh (famously applied by Mesillas Yesharim), "let the labor be harder, and let them not talk of matters of falsehood!" (Shemos 5:9). On a spiritual level this can mean, "Let the pre-occupation with foreign values be so all-encompassing, that the Jews will not be free to think of lofty, exalted matters!"

Just as this spiritual servitude existed in Egypt on a national level, so too an individual can have three types of connections to sin in his own "galus Mitzrayim". (Mitzryaim is etymologically related to meitzarim, being in a constricted, confining unnatural state.) Sometimes the person is just "meshubad", is connected to and feels he is not independent from a certain drive. At other times, such as with addiction, the sinner is so mired in the behavior that there does not seem to be a way out. But "Vayeianchu Benei Yisarel min ha'avoda... vata'al shav'asam lifnei HaElokim - the Children of Israel moaned from the service... and their cries came before G­-d" (Shemos 2:23). As long as there is a G-d above, an ultimate Redeemer, no exile - personal or communal - is so deep as to be unredeemable. The Slonimer Rebbe writes that the four leshonos hageulah are introduced by the phrase "lachein emor liBenei Yisrael Ani Hashem! - tell the Jewish people: 'I am Hashem!'" Hashem represents middas harachamim. Tell them that even though they are mired in the idolatrous ways of Egypt, I will have mercy on them! So too, however distant we are from Hashem, chas v'shalom, our Father in Heaven mercifully awaits our return and stands ready to redeem us.

R. Nechemia says: "The voice of my beloved", this is Moshe. The [Jewish people] said, "Our master Moshe, how can we be redeemed when the Land of Egypt is sullied with the filth of our idolatry!" Moshe responded, "Since G-d wishes to redeem you, He will not look at your idolatry; rather he will "leap over the mountains", over your idolatrous ways. (Shir HaShirim Rabba 2:2)

May the uplifting message of the fourfold redemption described in our parsha serve as a source of inspiration and hope to long for redemption in our own individual lives by returning fully to Divine service with Hashem's merciful assistance, and in our national lives though the final redemption. May it be soon!


[1] It would be informative to explore this difference more fully.

[2] Once an experiment was performed which attempted to prove the theory of evolution. A fruit fly was irradiated causing its descendants' eyes to be suppressed. Several generations of eyeless flies emerged. Elated at the apparent proof that mutations can indeed last, the experimenters were disappointed when, mysteriously, the genes repaired themselves and the eyes "popped back" out in a later generation. If one were to chop up several sea sponges into many pieces, they recombine into their original organisms! G-d always provides natural parallels to fundamental, cosmic historical trends. Exile and disunity, however long they last, must reverse to the original natural states of redemption and unity.

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