Remembering the Exodus is one of the Commandments mentioned in this week’s Parsha. We are obligated to remember the Exodus every day and every night. Many of the rituals of Judaism — from the Passover Seder to the laws against usury and false weights and measures are associated with the Exodus, in one form or another. So important was the Exodus that the Ten Commandments begins with G-d “introducing” Himself as the One who took the Jewish People out of the land of Egypt.
Granted that freedom from slavery is a major part of our history. Without freedom there would not be a Jewish nation. But, why the obsession with the Exodus? To remember the Exodus one night a year would make sense, but why are we obligated to remember the Exodus each and every day and night?
Our Sages were anticipating this question when they stated that “In each and every generation one must view oneself as if he just left Egypt.” The Exodus is not an event of the past , but an ongoing process. As was explained in many of these weekly Fax of Life messages, the word Mitzraim, Hebrew for Egypt actually connotes a state of confinement, physical or spiritual. No matter how much we might have progressed, there is still something that confines, inhibits or limits us. Going out of Mitzraim then is the process of removing all the impediments to our spiritual progress. As such, our remembrance of the Exodus is not simply remembering an event of the past, but it is an ongoing process.
When we realize that the Exodus is a current and continuing event, it makes the remembrance of it far more meaningful and alive. This analysis, however, can also raise a rather troubling question, which, if not answered can lead to a sense of frustration and even depression.:
The question is, do we ever realize our goal of true and complete freedom? Do we have to anticipate forever dedicating our lives to fighting the obstacles? Isn’t it depressing to be in a constant struggle to be free? Would anyone be happy to fight an incessant war against those who would want to deny our freedom? To preserve our sanity, don’t we have to finally be free, once and for all, so we can focus on the positive areas of growth and not be fixated on defense?
This question is actually what our prayers for the Final Redemption and the coming of the Moshiach are all about. Why do we ask for the Messianic Age? One good reason is that it will finally allow our quest for true freedom to be fulfilled. At that juncture we will be able to focus our attention on the purely positive elements of life that are the source of true joy and satisfaction.
And while we certainly have developed the ability to grow by virtue of the adversity and threats to freedom that we had to overcome, the ultimate Redemption is one that will show us how we can grow without adversity.
With this introduction we can understand the dispute between two sages in the Mishnah as to whether we will continue to mention the Exodus from Egypt in the future Messianic Era. According to one authority, we will always have to express our gratitude to
G-d for the Exodus from Egypt, because without freedom we can never attain anything and if not for the original experience of the Exodus that continued for thousands of years, we could never reach the Messianic Age..
Other Sages, however, disagree and maintain that in the future we will no longer have to think about the past experiences of freedom because , we will have entered into a totally new dimension of existence, one in which positive energy does not have to be generated from the challenge of coping with adversity.