Rabbi Dr. Meir Tamari
The geualah from Egypt is the fountain of all the redemptions, from the
four exiles- Bavel, Paras, Yavan and Edom- but also the redemption of the
Nefesh from all of the forces that prevent or disturb people from serving G-
d. Vehotzeiti is redemption from Bavel, which is the confusion between good
and evil;" There G-d bilbeil" ( Bereishit, 11). The Zohar tells us that
Nebuchadnezzar placed a golden cap on himself and recited the first two
Commandments. Vehitzalti, is the redemption from Paras, who were prepared
to kill and destroy. Vegealti is redemption from Yavan. Israel at that time
was living on its own land and required only redemption from the yoke of
Yavan. This is similar to the geulah of houses by the original owner from
the person who had acquired the property. Velakacti refers to Edom that is
the marah shechorah, despair, depression and without hope. The redemption
for this is the Torah and here we read," I will take you to Me as a nation
and you will be to Me as My People".
Because of the centrality of the Exile in Egypt and the redemption from
there, it is important to understand what the relationship is between that
exile and that country and why the exile had specifically to be there. The
brit bein habetarim does not specify the country of exile, only that it
would be for 400 hundred years and what its nature would be. Even if we
realize that it was the sale of Yosef that led to Israel's going down to
Egypt, this still does not explain why that country was the destined place
and what message there is in that choice.
"For the land to which you come it is not like the land of Egypt that you
left, where you would plant your seed and water it with your foot [ by
pumping the water from the canals of the Nile], from the rains of Heaven
shall you drink water (Devarim, 11:10-11).Eretz Yisrael lives from rain.
There, the whole human existence, the society that will grow there and the
development of the people depend on rainfall. Every form of communal and
national sin and evil is punished by drought, and obedience to G-d's word
is rewarded by plenty of rain in its season (Parshat Bechukotai, Parshat Ki
Tavo and the 2nd paragraph of Kriat Shema). In Egypt there is no rain. All
the wealth of the country, the welfare of its people and the power of its
kings, comes from the rising of the waters of the Nile. Where there is
rain, men lift up their eyes to Heaven and pray for rain. There is a link
between Mankind and G-d. All know that they depend on Him to provide and
behave accordingly. "The eyes of the Lord are on Eretz Yisrael from the
beginning of the year till the end". However, where there is no rain, but
only the rising of the waters of the Nile, people walk with their eyes on
the ground to seek their livelihood. Here there is no connection between
Mankind and G-d, nor one between Earth and Heaven. It was necessary for
Israel's exile to be in this country where there is no link between Heaven
and Earth, where Mankind is without a visible relationship with G-d.
This is like the way the Admor Menachem Mendel of Kotsk explained the
punishment given to the Snake, "From the dust of the Earth will be your
sustenance". It would seem that this is no punishment since dust is
plentiful and the wealth and the basis for life are assured. Yet G-d is
demonstrating that while He provides continuously for the whole of
Creation, the Snake's sustenance is given in one act; there will never be a
relationship between him and G-d.
Now we can understand why there had to be Ten Plagues; neither more nor
less. There were 10 generations between Adam and Noah and each generation
destroyed through its sins one tenth of the world created by Ten
Utterances. Then that world had to be destroyed by the Flood and a new one
replaced it. Ten Generations between Noah and Avraham. Now all the evil
that could destroy that world created with the Ten Utterances, was drawn
down to Egypt, which was the essence of all sin. It required the 10 plaques
to cleanse the world of the evil that was Egypt.
Then the world needed to be rebuilt. For each plague that came down on
Egypt, Israel received one Commandment at Sinai.
There is therefore a cycle of Ten. There are Ten Utterances that create the
World, there are Ten Generations that twice destroy that World, Ten Plagues
that come to punish that destruction and Ten Commandments that come to save
Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Meir Tamari and Torah.org.
Dr. Tamari is a renowned economist, Jewish scholar, and founder of the Center For Business Ethics (www.besr.org) in Jerusalem.