Redemption Is Not Easy
Salvation and redemption do not come easily. In this week’s parsha the
cost of Israel’s redemption is graphically detailed in the Torah. Though
the major cost and punishment is meted out to the Egyptian Pharaoh and his
nation, the oppressors and enslavers of the Jewish people, Midrash teaches
us that the Jews also suffered great loss in this process of redemption
and of gaining their freedom.
According to certain midrashic opinion most of the Jews never were able to
leave Egypt at all. Only a minority successfully followed Moshe out of the
house of slavery. And ironically, even most of those who did leave Egypt
would eventually be unable to live to see the promised land of Israel.
Why must the process of redemption and independence be such a long and
painful one? After all, the Lord could certainly have made it much easier
on all concerned. The obvious lesson is that freedom and redemption, both
physical and spiritual, has little value if it is not hard won.
That is the symbol of the blood on the doorposts that signaled the
immediate moment of redemption. “And I [the Lord] said unto you: With your
blood [and sacrifice] shall you live!” The rabbis interpreted the
repetition of this phrase twice as referring to the paschal sacrifice and
the blood of circumcision.
Redemption is apparently meant to be hard won. It is not a gift that
entails no cost. Becoming a Jew entails blood at the beginning of life.
Becoming the truly free Jew that the Torah commands us to become entails
lifelong sacrifice and the blood that this entails.
Our generation is also involved and absorbed in a struggle for redemption
and salvation, both personal and national. This struggle has taken a great
toll on our enemies, but in a psychological and spiritual measure, perhaps
even a greater toll upon us. Much blood has been spilled in this struggle
and, truth be said, no imminent success is yet visible to us.
A great portion of world Jewry in the twentieth century did not survive to
see the beginnings of our redemption and restoration to sovereignty in our
ancient homeland. Many others have now faltered in their resolution to see
it through until reaching the Promised Land. Whereas the Jews leaving
Egypt had dominant figures such as Moshe and Aharon to lead and inspire
them our times and situation lack such towering personalities.
But that may be precisely what the rabbis meant when they stated; “We have
no one that we can truly rely upon except for our Father in Heaven.” Every
generation experiences crises of faith and belief. Our generation which is
witness to the death of all of the false ideals that permeated Jewish
society over the past two centuries is truly left with no one to rely
upon “except for our Father in Heaven.”
But the prophet has assured us that “as the time when you left Egypt, so
too now will you witness wonders and greatness.” The bitter and costly
process of redemption is upon us. May we be privileged to see its
successful completion with great speed and minimum pain.
Rabbi Berel Wein