- The Ramban explains at the beginning of the Book of Exodus, Shemos, that Shemos is about the first exile of the Jewish people. It starts with when the exile of Egypt first started and ends when that exile finished.
- The Ramban points out that if the Book of Shemos is supposed to tell us about the beginning of the exile of Egypt and end when that exile ended, it should have finished off with the Exodus from Egypt and perhaps the splitting of the sea. Why does the Book of Exodus continue through the Jewish people receiving the Torah and not end until after the Jewish people built the Mishkan, the Jewish Temple, in the desert?
- The Ramban explains that starting from when the Jewish nation went down to Egypt they 'descended' from the lofty spiritual level and closeness to Hashem that the forefathers of our nation had achieved. Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov had attained a tremendous closeness to Hashem and Hashem had rested his presence, the Shechina, with them. It was not until the Jewish people received the Torah and built the Mishkan did they reattain that status that their forefathers had reached.
How could it be considered that the Jewish nation was 'exiled' and then 'redeemed' from this 'exile'? The only ones who had experienced that special closeness to Hashem were the first generation of people that went down to Egypt and they were long passed on!
The ones who experienced the redemption had never experienced what they were 'exiled' from and the ones who were exiled never experienced redemption!
To say that the Jewish people were freed from slavery- that makes sense. However, in what way can the Jewish nation be considered to have been in exile from their closeness to Hashem and then to have been redeemed and 'reattained' their previous closeness to Hashem?
Parents and children, Grandparents and their grandchildren, ancestors and their descendants are not separate unique entities. Our ancestors decisions have profoundly influenced our lives. Their good decisions, bad decisions and many of their actions have shaped our lives in very significant ways. Conversely, our decisions and actions will profoundly affect our descendants.
'Big' decisions like my grandfather's decision to leave home and learn in Yeshiva has completely changed the lives of me and my cousins. More personal decisions as well, such as a person's determination to perfect his character in a certain area- will have a tremendous impact on his descendants.
We are in fact so intertwined and considered so much to be one unit with our ancestors that Hashem considers the high level of closeness to Him to be our birthright. As the children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov- we, by right, should have an incredible closeness to Hashem. For us to not have this is considered us being exiled from our proper state. For us to regain that closeness is us merely being reinstated to the position and status that we SHOULD have.
On Pesach we are supposed to see ourselves as if we personally came out of Mitzrayim. In order for us to begin to feel this we need to look at the immediate impact to our lives that our ancestors have had.
When we focus on how 'my grandfather's decision 75 years ago made it that I am alive today', makes it become more alive how connected we are to our ancestors.
The more connected we are to our ancestors and this amazing Jewish nation from which we come, the more we appreciate our greatness and how dear to Hashem we are. The more, also, that we can be appreciative of the kindnesses that Hashem has done with US!
Hashem didn't merely take out our ancestors from Egypt, Hashem- in a very real and direct way- took US out of Mitzrayim to be reunited with Hashem in the close relationship that we need to reattain. L'shana haba b'Yerushalayim!
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos!
Rabbi Eli Meir Kramer