The four words of redemption

The use of different verbs to indicate the advent of the promised deliverance from Egyptian bondage indicates a process - and we are in the midst of it.

Rabbi Berel Wein, | updated: 07:26

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This week’s Torah reading contains the four famous words of redemption that signal the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt.  Much has been made over the centuries as to the meaning and implication of each of these four Hebrew verbs. The fact that there are four such words used in the narrative of redemption fits the pattern that we find in the Hagaddah of Pesach – four sons, four questions, four cups of wine.  

None of this is naturally random chance.  That is not the way of the Torah or of the tradition of Rabbinic commentary and understanding of the words of the Torah.  Since there are 70 facets to all Torah words and thoughts, the use of these four verbs contains different messages, all of them valid and important, that can be experienced and understood by different generations of the Jewish people.  

Every era has its own circumstances and its own necessities.  The eternity of Torah is that it is able to address each and every one of these differing times and circumstances in a meaningful fashion.  The Torah speaks to our generation in a way that could not necessarily have been so clearly understood by a past generation which experienced different circumstances than the ones that we face today. 

It is one of the extraordinary features of Torah study that it is applicable to so many different times and situations.  The Rabbis of the Talmud implied this in their statement that the words of Torah sometimes seem to be poor and without meaning in one place and time while they are rich and of enormous value in another.

The use of different verbs to indicate the advent of the promised deliverance from Egyptian bondage indicates a process of redemption – a series of events and understandings and the development of a relationship between the Jewish people and the God of Israel that will fulfill the promise of redemption made to Abraham.  

I have always felt in reviewing the events of the past century in Jewish life that we were in the midst of a process engineered by Heaven and accomplished by humans to restore us to our homeland and to our independence and greatness.  Anything that is a process takes time and very rarely has immediate general impact. People view events and circumstances as they occur, one by one, and with of the passage of time and constantly changing circumstances, rarely are able to discern the general process that is unfolding before their very eyes. 

This process of redemption outlined for us in this week’s Torah reading, a process which was not instantaneous in its result, but most gradual in its unfolding, is a harbinger of much of what is happening today in the Jewish world.  The Jewish State in the Land of Israel is flourishing against all odds and Torah and Jewish life are strengthened daily within its borders. Even though the Jewish situation in the diaspora is of a very mixed quality, the strength of Torah and its resilient quality is being proven once more in front of our gaze.  We are still in the middle of the process but I think there is little doubt regarding the actuality of the process itself.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Berel Wein





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