The title of the column is actually based on a Ramban at the end of Parshas Bo. This Ramban is so critically important, nay, vital, to our entire belief system, that it deserves to be read much, much more than anything I would write. And so we will learn the Ramban together, and then I will make some observations, including what this column was supposed to be about before it morphed into the one you are presently reading.
Now I will tell you a general principle regarding the explanation of many mitzvos: From the time idolatry came into the world, views regarding faith began to be corrupted by people. Some of them deny the fundamental belief in a Creator of the world, and say that the world is ancient and always existed; they deny Hashem and say He does not exist. Some agree to Hashem’s existence, but deny Hashem’s knowledge of particulars of events. Some concede Hashem’s existence and His knowledge of goings-on, but deny His supervision of them, claiming that Hashem is too kadosh and sublime to get involved, so to speak, in the affairs of mankind, and also claiming therefore that there is no reward or punishment for people’s deeds…
Ramban continues and explains the purpose of the miracles performed in Egypt at the time of Yetzias Mitzrayim.
When Hashem favors a group or individual and performs a miracle for them involving a violation of the laws of nature and the world’s usual course, the negation of these heretical views is made clear to all; for the supernatural wonder indicates that the world has a G-d who originated it yesh me’ayin (ex nihilo), knows all, supervises all, oversees all that occurs within the world, is all-powerful, and is involved in the affairs of the world.
And when that wonder is publicly declared beforehand through a prophet, the truth of the principle of prophecy is made clear as well.
The Ramban goes on to show how the “ten plagues” visited upon the Egyptians exposed the falsity of all of the abovementioned heretical views:
The pesukim therefore state regarding the wonders in Egypt, “So that you will know that I am Hashem in the midst of the land (Shemos 8:18).” This indicates the idea of Divine Providence, that Hashem does not abandon the world to random occurrences, as was the heretics’ view.
Rather, Hashem is in the midst of the land — interested and involved in all events and human endeavors.
And the posuk states further, “So that you will know that the Earth is Hashem’s” (9:29), indicating the origination of the world by a Creator.
For the world is His by virtue of the fact that He created it from nothing.
And it also says, “So that you shall know that there is none like Me in all the world” (9:14), indicating the idea of the omnipotence of Hashem; that He rules over all, and nothing can deter Him. These declarations and the miraculous plagues which accompanied them were needed because the Egyptians [whose culture prevailed in the world at the time] had denied or doubted all these beliefs. Accordingly, the great wonders and signs in Egypt are trustworthy witnesses with regard to belief in the Creator, and the entire Torah” [as these are the fundamental principles upon which rest the entire Torah].
The Ramban continues, explaining why so many mitzvos are reminiscent of Yetzias Mitzrayim.
Now, because Hashem does not perform a miracle or wonder in every generation in order to “prove” anything to every evil person and non-believer.
This is because the way in which He actually wanted the world to function, its natural order, is His “preferred” way (see Ramban to Devarim, 18:9); and because the world, i.e., that generation, has to be worthy and deserving of miracles; or because constant miracles would virtually eliminate free will.
He commanded us that we should constantly have a reminder and a sign for what our eyes saw in Mitzrayim, and transmit the matter to our children and our children to their children, and their children in turn to their children, until the last generation. And Hashem was exceedingly stringent in this matter of making reminders of Yetzias Mitzrayim, as we see by the fact that He imposed the severe penalty of kareis for eating chometz on Pesach and for neglecting the Pesach offering, both of which commemorate Yetzias Mitzrayim, and He required further that we write down and attach it to our arms and upon our heads between our eyes everything that was witnessed by us through the signs and wonders in Mitzrayim, and that we write it [the fundamentals of our faith] in a mezuzah and place one at the entrances of our houses on the doorposts, and that we recite it orally and declare it every morning and evening.
The daily saying of the bracha “Emes Veyatziv” is required by Biblical law, which is derived from the posuk (Devarim 16:3) “So that you will remember the days of your departure from Miztrayim all the days of your life,” and that we make a sukkah every year and dwell in it for the festival of Sukkos. In addition, there are so many other mitzvos similar to these which serve as constant reminders of Yetzias Mitzrayim (i.e. Shabbos [see Devarim 5:11]; the Yomim Tovim; pidyon haben; and more).
And all these mitzvos serve to be a testimony for us through all generations regarding the miracles performed in Mitzrayim that they not be forgotten. Consequently there will be no plausible argument for the non-believer to deny the fundamental principles of faith in Hashem, since, as explained, these principles can be directly deduced from the miracles in Mitzrayim. Imagine! Someone who purchases a mezuzah for a mere zuz [a small amount of money] and attaches it to his doorpost and contemplates its meaning [the fundamentals of faith] is actually acknowledging Hashem’s existence, His origination of the world, His knowledge of world affairs [and private activities!] and His supervision of such and also the truth of prophecy. All of this, besides acknowledging Hashem’s kindliness towards those who perform His will, for He took us out of Mitzrayim to freedom with great honor [possibly also reminding us of Matan Torah] in the merit of our forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, who desired only to always be aware of Him, and in awe of His name…
To be continued…
Rav Malinowitz is the Rav of Beis Tefillah Yonah Avraham, located in Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph, at the corner of Nachal Refaim and Nachal Luz. Many of Rav Malinowitz’s shiurim can be heard at www.btya.org. Send your questions to RCZMChadash@gmail.com.