“Therefore we are obligated to give thanks…to the One Who performed all these miracles for our forefathers and for us. He took us out from slavery to freedom…and from servitude to redemption.” – Haggadah shel Pesach
What is the meaning of the Haggadah’s apparent repetition in the phrases “from slavery to freedom” and “from servitude to redemption”?
In what way is geulah, “redemption,” different from cheirus, “freedom”?
How were we in danger of being enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt for all generations, despite the fact that his rule eventually ended?
One of the saddest and most tragic things to witness is the terrible long-term impact that being or having been in an abusive relationship has on a person. Even after the relationship has been severed and the abuse has ended, the scars remain. There are countless stories of individuals who sustain the most horrible forms of abuse for years and decades – and when good people step in and try to extricate them from that abuse, they can’t leave. Even when a victim somehow does manage to extricate him- or herself from the abusive relationship, he or she often will enter another abusive relationship.
This is one of the most heartbreaking aspects of abuse – when the psyches of victims become so scarred from repeated abuse that not only do they not run away from it, they actually return to it.
There is an apparent redundancy that begs explanation in the above-cited passage from the Haggadah. The two phrases we have quoted, “from slavery to freedom” and “from servitude to redemption” appear to have the same meaning; both seem to be referring to the fact that Hashem freed us from slavery to the Egyptians and granted us eternal freedom. Why does the Haggadah use two phrases that mean the same thing?
(It should be noted that the Vilna Gaon states in his commentary on the Haggadah that the term “servitude” in the second phrase refers to the era of the Shoftim [i.e., after the time of Moshe Rabbeinu, before there were kings in Israel], when the Jewish people were repeatedly subjugated by other nations in their own Land, and the “redemption” is a reference to the era of the rule of Dovid and Shlomo, when the Jews dwelled securely in Eretz Yisrael and were not under the sovereignty of any foreign nations.)
Further, the Haggadah’s very statement that Hashem “took us out…from servitude to redemption” seems to be incongruously worded. We can understand what the Haggadah means when it says Hashem took us out “from slavery to freedom,” as the word “freedom” denotes the state of a person who is free. The word “redemption,” however, does not refer to a state but rather to an event; the moment of liberation can be called “redemption,” but the state in which a person exists after he is freed cannot be termed “redemption.” How, then, are we to understand the meaning of this phrase?
We Would Have Been Enslaved…Forever
Let us turn our attention to another puzzling statement the Haggadah makes, this one in the very beginning of the Maggid section: “Had the Holy One, Blessed is He, not taken our forefathers out of Egypt, then we, our sons and our sons’ sons would have been enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.”
What is the reasoning behind this statement? Does the Haggadah mean to suggest that the Egyptian monarchy would have remained in power throughout world history? Many empires have risen and fallen over the course of generations, including that of Pharaoh in Egypt. Isn’t it reasonable to assume that Pharaoh’s dynasty would have fallen out of power at some point, even if the Jews had not been redeemed?
In fact, Abudraham (Seder Hahaggadah Upeirushah) quotes Machzor Vitri, which asserts that the text of the Haggadah should actually read, “Then we, our sons and our sons’ sons would have been enslaved in Egypt,” omitting the words “to Pharaoh.” Abudraham agrees with this position and explains that Pharaoh had already died by the time the Haggadah was written, and even though the word “Pharaoh” was once used as the general term for every king of Egypt, by the time the Haggadah was written it was no longer in use.