A present-day analogy to this state of mind is the mentality of a person who is locked into an abusive relationship. As we noted above, psychologists tell us that those who are victims of an abusive relationship often become so battered and scarred that they cannot leave the relationship. They may conceptually know it is bad for them, but they are so broken and shattered that they remain completely subjugated to the abuser. They can’t leave. Even when they do leave or are otherwise released from that relationship they still cannot free themselves from the “abused” mindset.
Similarly, the enslavement in Mitzrayim was the classical abusive relationship. Bnei Yisrael had been so broken that even when the servitude ended the scars of the enslavement still remained and they couldn’t see themselves as free people; they couldn’t leave. Even if they left in a physical sense, they would still remain emotionally subjugated to their Egyptian masters; they might have left Mitzrayim but Mitzrayim would never have left them.
Perhaps this is the meaning of the Haggadah’s definitive statement that had Hashem not taken us out of Egypt we would still be “enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt” even now. Even if Pharaoh’s rule had eventually ended and we would have been physically liberated from servitude, our inner essence would have remained subjugated to the wickedness of the Egyptians.
We had become so corrupted by the spiritual and emotional servitude the Egyptians forced on our ancestors that we would have been akin to a victim of an abusive relationship who remains a psychological prisoner to the abuser, even long after the abuser is removed from the scene.
Recognizing the Duality
We can now understand the apparent redundancy in the Haggadah we pointed to at the beginning of this essay. When Hashem liberated us from Egypt we actually experienced two distinct redemptions – a redemption of the body and a redemption of the soul. We had been enslaved to the Egyptians in both a physical and a spiritual sense, and Hashem liberated us from both forms of servitude. We therefore give thanks to Hashem for having brought us from “slavery” of the body to “freedom,” as well as from “servitude” of the soul to “redemption.”
We can identify the same duality in the conclusion of this passage of thanksgiving. The berachah at the end of the Maggid section of the Haggadah states, “And we will thank You with a new song for our redemption [geulaseinu] and for the deliverance of our souls [pedus nafsheinu].” Here too, we can explain that the Haggadah is referring to two distinct redemptions and that the term “our redemption” denotes physical liberation while the term “the deliverance of our souls” refers to freedom from spiritual enslavement.
With this idea that the exodus from Egypt was not merely a physical liberation but a liberation of the Jewish spirit from the clutches of the vice-grip of the Egyptian mindset, we can also resolve the difficulty we raised regarding the phrase “from servitude to redemption.”
The term “redemption” seems to imply that Hashem brought us into some sort of ongoing process of release from servitude, and in light of our explanation of this phrase as a reference to our spiritual redemption, this was indeed the case. While we were freed from physical slavery the instant we left Egypt, our liberation from the spiritual control of the Egyptians – from the ravages of more than 200 years of the worst possible abuse – took place over the course of time.
After the Jewish people left Egypt, they spent a period of forty-nine days emerging from the forty-nine “gates” of impurity and concurrently entering the forty-nine “gates” of holiness, until they were ready to receive the Torah on Har Sinai at the conclusion of this process. Thus, it is accurate to say we were taken out of the spiritual enslavement of Egypt into a process of geulah, which began with the moment of Yetzias Mitzrayim but was fully completed only seven weeks later, with the Revelation at Sinai.
May we speedily merit the ultimate redemption when both our body and soul will be freed from the shackles of this long galus, with the building of the Beis HaMikdash and the arrival of Mashiach when we will once again merit partaking of the Korban Pesach and serving Hashem as truly free men.
About the Author: Rav Dovid Hofstedter is the author of the Dorash Dovid sefarim on the Torah and Moadim and the founder and nasi of Dirshu, a worldwide Torah movement whose raison d’être is accountability in Torah learning among all segments of Klal Yisrael, impacting more than 100,000 participants since its inception 18 years ago.
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