At the core of our exile in Mitzrayim was a galus of daas. Not a dimming of our general comprehension or understanding, but of the daas necessary to truly serve Hashem.
True daas is the engine that drives yirah and ahavah. How could this not be so? When a person fully understands and internalizes that Hashem fills the universe with His Kavod – that there is nowhere and nothing devoid of His Being; that He is both the Source of all pleasure that can be conceived, and the One who sustains all things – so that if it could be conceived that He would withdraw from His Creation all things would disappear into a primordial chaos; that His withdrawal even from any of the spiritual worlds would preclude their existence – when a person grasps these things, he will not desire any other pleasure in the universe. He will understand that Hashem Himself is the essence of anything he would desire, and comes to desire only Him! He will not make the mistake of taking any pleasure dissociated from the Divine Influence that shines from within it. (Such dissociation is never neutral. It always divides between a person and his Creator.)
Ahavah is described by Chazal as pertaining to “each and every midah with which Hashem measures out to you.” This is a reflection of the reality that Hashem’s supernal light radiates from His infinitude. It seems incongruous with the limitations of this world. Indeed, it is. This existence cannot contain it. It therefore has to come to us through His different midos, which restrain and confine His light to forms that are manageable in this world. Each one contracts that light in a different way, and mediates it in a manner that is fit for the world that we know.
What determines which midos He uses? Largely, it is our daas. Depending on how much daas we have at a given time, He hides more or less of what He is, and conversely reveals more or less. At some times, it may be through the midah of rachamim; at other, it might be chesed. Or, it could be some other midah. These midos have enormous impact on practical aspects of our lives. One who loves Hashem will accept whatever midah Hashem shows him with joy, understanding that he is being shown exactly what is appropriate for him on his level. He will accept a display of din as an exercise of His mercy – thereby transforming it into the latter! Thus, Chazal tell us that tzadikim turn midas ha-din into rachamim.
Like Avraham Avinu, each of us have to be tested. We are made to submit to many nisyonos/challenges. The substance of each nisayon is removing the connection to Hashem that was enabled previously by a person’s daas. His daas then becomes restricted from what it was before. The nisayon is navigated successfully when a person can make the right choices based on the imprint his daas left upon him before it was diminished.
In Egypt, our daas was occluded. Just as a shell encases the edible portion, in the infancy of our peoplehood, our daas was encased by a kelipah. That kelipah was broken with the Exodus, which allowed daas to be activated. (Thin layers of kelipah remain, to be removed only in the days of Moshiach.) The process continues throughout time. Evildoers still find themselves within the kelipah, and have no true daas at all. They are still locked into the restraints/metzarim of Mitzrayim. The rest of us find relief each Pesach from what clouds our daas. Thus, the geulah continues. This is what the Haggadah means when it states that it was not just our ancestors whom Hashem redeemed from Egypt, but all of us.
- Berachos 54a ↑