Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pesach 5632 Seventh Day of Pesach First Ma'amar

The children of Israel were miraculously saved from Egypt. Three days after leaving, God instructed us to return in order to goad Pharaoh into pursuit. We ended up trapped between the Egyptian army and the sea. God saved the nation once again through the miracle of the splitting of the sea. The question that jumps out at us when reviewing this is, what was the point of returning after the nation left Egypt? What was gained by this?

The Sfas Emes explains the difference between the salvation from Egypt and the salvation from the Egyptian army at the sea seven days later. He teaches that God saved us from Egypt initially in order to make good on His promise to our holy forefathers. We were not really ready to be saved and did not deserve to be saved at that time.

God, however, wanted us to deserve salvation because there is a fundamental difference between one who deserves what he receives and one who does not. Being saved and not deserving it does not make one free. Freedom must be earned. Otherwise, the slave remains a slave albeit without a master. In order to be truly free, we would need to earn our salvation.

We earned our salvation, Chazal teach us, by returning towards Egypt. This took an incredible amount of faith in God. It was because of this expression of faith that we ultimately deserved to be saved. This is why returned to a place called, “פִּי הַחִירֹת/the Mouth of Freedom”. It was at this time that our true freedom began.

God commanded us to return so that we could leave on our own merit. However, this really only begs the question. Why was the Exodus a two step process? Why redeem us with undeserved miracles first, then redeem us again because we earned it? Why not redeem us once on the basis of our own merits? According to the Sfas Emes, Shlomo HaMelech teaches us the answer to this question with the pasuk, מָשְׁכֵנִי אַחֲרֶיךָ נָּרוּצָה .../Draw me, then we will run after You …” Without the initial Godly revelation of the Exodus, we would not have been able to stand up to test of faith demanded of us by being required to return towards the Egyptian army. The miraculous Exodus taught us that God is with us. We used the miraculous Exodus from Egypt to strengthen our faith and trust in God. In the merit of our strong faith and trust in God, we were saved at the Red Sea.

This is why specifically at the splitting of the sea the Torah tells us, “וַיּוֹשַׁע ה' בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵל .../On that day God saved Israel …” when in fact, God saved us seven days earlier and it is our miraculous rescue from Egypt that we are required to remember each day rather than the rescue at the sea. Still, the Torah calls the rescue at the sea the “salvation” because we deserved it. Since we deserved it, it was a true salvation, one with a lasting effect.

Also, because we were being saved on our own merits, Chazal teach us that at the time of the splitting of the sea we were being judged whether to be saved or destroyed with the Egyptians.[1] We were not judged at the time of the Exodus because the Exodus, as we’ve stated was in the merit of God’s promise to our forefathers rather than our own merits.

The Sfas Emes is teaching us that God wants us to earn closeness to Him. In order to help us, He first gives us an undeserved experience of closeness to Him. If we take advantage of this experience by using it as a stepping stone to become even closer to God, we are rewarded with God’s reciprocation.

[1] Mechilta Beshalach 4

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