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YomTov, vol. XIII, # 1

The Exit Strategy

By Rabbi Yehudah Prero

This YomTov is dedicated to the memory of Asher ben Aharon Yosef Prero by the Prero, Klein, Cohen, Spero and Kliger families. May his memory be a blessing.

Immediately after the four famous questions themed on how the Seder night differs from all other nights, known as the “Mah Nishtana”, are posed, we find the answer – Avadim HaYinu,” “we were slaves in Egypt.” In that answer, we read that had G-d not taken our forefathers out Egypt, our children, our great grandchildren and we would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt. Furthermore, even if we were all sages, wise, elders, learned in the entire Torah, there is still a positive commandment upon us to discuss the departure from Egypt – and those who increase their telling over of this momentous event are praiseworthy.

The Hagada follows up this answer with a story. Five great sages were sitting together in the city of B’nai Brak, and they were telling about the departure from Egypt the entire night. They did so until their students came to them and told them that the time had come to recite the morning “S’hma” prayer.

Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook notes that the focus of the dictate to discuss set forth in Avadim HaYinu, and the topic of conversation of the 5 great sages, was the “departure” from Egypt. It is not the “redemption” from Egypt, or the “birth of our nation,” nor the “liberation from bondage” that we are to discuss, and discus at length: it is the departure.

G-d could very well have left the nation of Israel in Egypt. The nation of Israel, perhaps through political machinations, perhaps through other turns of event, could have risen to prominence, ending their servitude and domination by the Egyptians. If that had happened, those who witnessed the hand of G-d, whether through plagues or any other manifestation that would have been evident, would have been able to overcome the impurity of Egypt. The negative influence of the Egyptians on the people could be negated by the positive spiritual experiences to which they were subject and witness. However, come the next generation, problems would emerge. People who had not witnessed the hand of G-d, people who had only heard stories about such events, would make up the population. These people would not be armed with the spiritual ammunition needed to combat the sinful, negative and immoral influence of the Egyptian populace. No matter how wise, how knowledgeable, how intellectually astute this generation would be, they still would have their spiritual essences overcome by Egyptian culture.

The aspect of the exodus experience that we are told to discuss on the Seder night is not the miraculous nature of the exodus. It is not the redemption or ensuing freedom that we are told to discuss in length. It is the “departure,” the physical exiting of the populace of the nation of Israel from the spiritual dungeon of Egypt that must be the subject of our conversation the Seder night. And lest the wise and knowledgeable individuals think that they would not have met the fate of their brethren had they stayed in the land of Egypt, the Hagada states in no uncertain terms that _everyone_ has to discuss the departure. Everyone would have suffered spiritual decimation. Everyone would have been affected. Therefore, everyone has to discuss, in an amount that indicates true appreciation, the departure from Egypt, “Yetzias Mitzrayim.” The five sages in B’nai Brak knew this. It is from their actions that we are to learn. It is their actions that set the template for our own conduct at the Seder. It is their actions that provide us with a lesson about what we must appreciate daily when we recall the exodus.

Text Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Yehudah Prero and

The author has Rabbinic ordination from Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem, NY.



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