Egypt, Egypt, and More Egypt
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
We are commanded to remember the Exodus from Egypt every morning and every evening. On Passover, we recall the Exodus from Egypt for an entire week. Our tefillin, mezuzot, and many other mitzvot are reminders of the Exodus from Egypt. We mention the Exodus from Egypt in grace after meals, in Kiddush on Shabbat, in the Ten Commandments, and throughout our prayer services. The first four Torah portions of the Book of Exodus deal almost entirely with the Hebrews’ experiences in and exodus from Egypt. Why does the Torah find it so important to etch the memory of the Exodus into our minds and hearts?
At the end of Parshat Bo, Nachmanides (Ramban) addresses this question. He says that the miraculous nature of the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt proved three fundamental principles: 1) Human affairs are not arbitrary or random (there is Divine intervention in human matters on both an individual and national level), 2) There is a creator of the world that created the world ex nihilo (out of nothing), and 3) God is omnipotent (almighty). In summary, the miracles performed during the Exodus from Egypt showed God to be involved in human affairs, the creator of the universe, and omnipotent.
The dilemma of modern man is that we live in a world that, very often, feels arbitrary, random, and unjust. For many reasons, the Divine wisdom has decided that we not be privy to open and revealed miraculous events, the likes of which our forefathers experienced in Egypt. How, then, are we to connect to the above principles? We do so by studying, understanding, and constantly remembering the details of the Exodus from Egypt that have been transmitted from generation to generation.
Nachmanides states: “From the grand public miracles, a person recognizes the hidden miracles which are the foundation of the entire Torah. Indeed, a person has no portion in the Torah of Moses, our teacher, unless that person believes that all our affairs are miraculous.” The Ba’al Shem Tov would explain that the difference between a miracle and a natural occurrence lies only in the frequency of the occurrence. The sun rising and setting each day is no less miraculous (directed by God) than the splitting of the Red Sea or the plagues in Egypt. Our focus on the Exodus from Egypt does not propel us back to the past, rather, it teaches us to fulfill our purpose of recognizing that, although hidden from plain sight, God is omnipresent (present everywhere), omnipotent (almighty), and involved in every aspect of our daily existence.