For the last month, we have been reading the parshiyos of the story of yetzias Mitzrayim, and hopefully absorbing its lessons, and even more hopefully saving them somewhere in our hearts, minds, and souls, to last us until Pesach.
Meanwhile, though, there is a mitzvah to at least mention yetzias Mitzrayim every day: twice a day, morning and night; this is in contrast to the once-a-year mitzvah on the seder night, which is to elaborate and tell the full story, makos, melodrama, theatrics, tension and all.
The conceptual difference between the two seems to be as follows: On Pesach night, we are thanking Hashem, praising Hashem, expressing our hakaras hatov to Hashem, talking about the nissim and wonders which took place. This is once a year. The everyday mentioning of yetzias Mitzrayim is of a completely different nature — it is just a mention, it takes place within the mitzvah of Krias Shema — that is, every time we say Krias Shema, we say the last possuk in the third parsha as our fulfillment of this mitzvah of mentioning yetzias Mitzrayim. And I would therefore suggest that the placement is much more than coincidental; our acknowledgement of Hashem’s taking us out of Mitzrayim is an acknowledgement of our kabbalas ol malchus Shamayim, acceptance of the yoke of the Kingship of Hashem. Thus, it belongs perfectly in Krias Shema, the home page of kabbalas ol malchus Shamayim. Indeed, the first of the Ten Commandments, which talks about our basic faith and emunah, talks about Hashem as He Who took us out of Mitzrayim.
But this raises the very question: Why and in what way is Hashem’s taking us out of Mitzrayim connected to our accepting His Kingship? Why indeed do we mention yetzias Mitzrayim specifically within the context of Krias Shema?
In Parshas Mishpatim, we have the laws of a Jewish slave. One of these laws involves the case where the slave expresses a desire to remain a slave past the six-year term that the Torah stated should be the length of his service. Whereupon the Torah states, “Take him to the Judges, who will bring him to the door or doorpost, bore through his ear with an awl, and he shall remain a slave forever (until yovel).” Rashi explains, citing a Gemara in Kiddushin, that the reason we perform this ceremony by the door or doorpost is because Hashem is essentially saying, “The door and doorpost, who were witnesses in Mitzrayim when I skipped over the lintel and doorposts that the Jews daubed with the blood of the korban Pesach, when I said, ‘For Bnei Yisroel are My slaves whom I took out of Mitzrayim,’ implying that they are MY slaves, and not slaves to slaves (other people), and despite this, this person wants to extend his servitude to a human master, it is thus fitting that his ear be bored before them.”
And the question now must be asked: This cited possuk, for Bnei Yisroel are My slaves, is a possuk in Vayikra (25:55). How did the door or doorpost hear this stated on the night of the daubing of the blood of the korban Pesach, the night of the Exodus?
Let us imagine you have finally completed a years-long, decades-long, jail sentence, and you emerge into the daylight, free, but pretty ignorant about all things Jewish. Those who worked tirelessly for your freedom are Jewish Orthodox organizations, who are interested in turning you into a nice, frum, religious Jew. Okay, how should they go about it? I daresay that the kiruv organizations, most adept at this sort of thing, would immediately advise them to not say a word about religiosity just yet, no frumkeit, no rules, no laws, no saying what you can and cannot eat, no on-Shabbos-you-can’t-turn-on-lights-or-carry-outside, no you-must-do-this-before-you-eat, you-must-do-that-before-you-sleep, no teaching what to spend money on and what you can’t, where you can go and where you cannot — NOT A WORD! No, no, don’t be foolish, you’ll lose him, he’ll bolt, you’ll never see him again. Go slow, take him to a five-star hotel, with a spa and full-size golf and tennis courts, entertainment, gourmet meals, around-the-clock tea-room (with an awful lot more than tea there!). Let the fellow stay there a few weeks; once in a while you’ll mention that he’s Jewish and that that means something. S-l-o-w-l-y, easy does it, first a few bein adam lachaveiros, let him see we are not cannibals or monsters. After a few months, introduce him to a bearded fellow… you get the idea.
Well, what did Moshe Rabbeinu do? “You’re leaving Mitzrayim, you’re free! Free at last, thank Hashem Alm-ghty, free at last! First things first, I want you to buy a lamb, and tie it to your bedpost, yes, yes, I know the Egyptians worship sheep, that’s the point, don’t you get it, for four days I want you to check it for blemishes, I want you to slaughter it on the fourteenth. Of course, to do a proper job, and to form the requisite chaburahs (groups) in which to eat it, you will have to learn through (the equivalent of) Massechess Psachim, perakim five, six, seven, eight, and maybe nine. With Tosafos, rishonim, and the shvera Rambams. There are many, many rules, you know, not easy to do this properly.
“Now, when you sit down to eat it, you can’t stick your head out the window nor walk outside for a stroll. That is the nature of your freedom banquet, I’m afraid… Oh, and you have to be all dressed and bundled and ready to leave at a moment’s notice (ever try to enjoy a meal when the taxi’s coming any minute and will be honking?!), and you cannot invite that friend, he wasn’t circumcised, and this person didn’t pre-register so he can’t eat… “
So you’re now undoubtedly asking yourself — is this the way to induce Bnei Yisroel to accept avodas Hashem? “In seven weeks, people, I’m giving you a list of rules THIS long, governing every facet of your life. Now, aren’t you glad to be leaving Mitzrayim?”
To be continued