In the beginning of this week’s parsha God commands Moshe Rabbeinu to tell the nation, “אֲנִי ה' וְהוֹצֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם מִתַּחַת סִבְלֹת מִצְרַיִם ... וְגָאַלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם /… I am God and I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt … and I will redeem you …” (Shmos 6:6) Why does the Torah need to tell us the sequence of events leading to the redemption? Obviously, when we are redeemed we are no longer subject to the burdens of Egypt. The Chiddushei HaRim explains that although the plain meaning of the pasuk refers to physical servitude, the deeper meaning refers to bearing the burden of the impurity, the evil and the decadence of Egypt. The Torah is not simply listing the sequence of events leading up to the redemption. The Torah is teaching us that the first event is a prerequisite for the next. When can the redemption begin? Only after decadence of Egypt becomes a burden to us – and we can not bear it any longer.
This also explains the deeper meaning of Moshe Rabbeinu’s response to God’s command to speak to Pharaoh. Moshe Rabbeinu said, “... הֵן בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא-שָׁמְעוּ אֵלַי וְאֵיךְ יִשְׁמָעֵנִי פַרְעֹה .../… Here, the children of Israel did not listen to me so how will Pharaoh listen to me? …” (Shmos 6:12) What is the logic here? The Torah states that the children of Israel did not listen to Moshe because of their anguished spirit and hard labor. This certainly did not apply to Pharaoh. What is the meaning of Moshe Rabbeinu’s response, then?
The Sfas Emes explains that Moshe Rabbeinu understood that before redemption the nation would need to become fed up with the decadence of Egypt. Since they did not listen to him, this obviously had not happened. They had not as yet fulfilled the first prerequisite of the redemption. Since they were not yet ready for redemption, Pharaoh certainly would not listen.
In truth, though, the decadence of Egypt had become unbearable for the nation and we were ready for redemption. Moshe Rabbeinu, however, was on a higher level than the nation. He was more removed from the impurity of Egypt than we were. For this reason Moshe Rabbeinu says clearly, “The children of Israel did not listen to me …” The emphasis here is on the word, “me.” Since they had not reached his level of disgust with Egypt, Moshe thought that we were not yet ready for redemption.
After enumerating the sequence of events leading to the ultimate redemption God tells Moshe Rabbeinu, “... וִידַעְתֶּם כִּי אֲנִי ה' אֱ-לֹהֵיכֶם הַמּוֹצִיא אֶתְכֶם מִתַּחַת סִבְלוֹת מִצְרָיִם/… You will know that I am God your Lord who is bringing you out from under the burdens of Egypt.” (Shmos 6:7) Why does God mention specifically the first prerequisite of redemption? Why does He not say, “I am God … who has redeemed you from Egypt.”? The Sfas Emes explains that after the redemption is completed it is imperative for us to acknowledge that were it not for God’s help we would not have been able to fulfill even the first prerequisite of redemption. God told Moshe that He took us out from under the burdens of Egypt. Clearly, without God’s help we would still be under those burdens; we would still not be disgusted by the impurity of Egypt.
The Sfas Emes advises us, therefore, that in order to reach a personal redemption we need to work on ourselves to truly hate evil. Chazal1, in fact, teach us, “A person should always rile up his good inclination against his evil inclination.” This, the Sfas Emes teaches, is the beginning of redemption. May we merit it!