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Parasha Insights from Rabbi Mansour


Four Expressions, Four Stages of Transformation

As is commonly explained, the four cups of wine that we drink at the Seder correspond to the "Arba Leshonot Ge'ula," the "four expressions of redemption" that God declared when informing Benei Yisrael about their imminent release from Egypt (Shemot 6:6-7):

1) "Ve'hotzeiti Etchem Mi'tachat Sivlot Mitzrayim" – "I shall release you from under the sufferings of Egypt"

2) "Ve'hitzalti Etchem Mei'avodatam" – "I shall save from their labor"

3) "Ve'ga'alti Etchem" – "I shall redeem you"

4) "Ve'lakachti Etchem Li Le'am" – "I shall take you for Me as a nation"

At first glance, these four expressions seem redundant.  Why must God repeat four times His promise to free Benei Yisrael from slavery?  Furthermore, why do we commemorate these four declarations specifically by drinking cups of wine?

These four expressions refer to the four stages in which the Exodus unfolded.  After enduring a number of plagues, Pharaoh agreed to end the campaign of physical and psychological torture against Benei Yisrael.  They remained slaves, but they were no longer subject to the brutality with which the Egyptian taskmasters had treated them during the period of bondage.  Hence, God first promises to release Benei Yisrael "from under the sufferings of Egypt," from the unbearable torture they had endured.

At some point thereafter, Pharaoh agreed to free Benei Yisrael from slavery; they would no longer work as slaves, but they would nevertheless be treated as second-class citizens with limited rights and privileges.  It was to this second stage that God referred when He declared, "I shall save you from their labor," referring to the end of slave labor.  The third stage of Yetzi'at Mitzrayim was Benei Yisrael's attainment of freedom from Egypt, the exodus.  This is referred to in the third expression – "I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments."

Still, however, the process of the Exodus was incomplete.  For what purpose, after all, did God free Benei Yisrael from slavery and oppression?  What were they to do, and where were they to go?  Now that they left Egypt, was it just to remain in the wilderness?   The answer to this question is the fourth and final expression: "I shall take you for Me as a nation."  Benei Yisrael were freed from the service of Pharaoh in order to enter the service of the Almighty.  The process of redemption was thus complete only once God established a unique bond with Benei Yisrael and made them His special nation.  This is a reference to Matan Torah.

We commemorate these stages of transformation by drinking wine, a beverage that has the ability to change how a person conducts himself.  Just as a person under intoxication can act much differently than he does normally, so were Benei Yisrael fundamentally transformed over the course of this process of redemption.  From the lowest depths of torture and humiliation, they rose to not only the status of full-fledged Egyptian citizens, but, even greater, to the unique status of God's special nation.






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Sun, April 21 2019 16 Nisan 5779