Parashas Bo

This week’s parashah describes the Exodus from Egypt. The Torah stresses that the Jews left Egypt in haste. Hashem tells the Jews to eat the Korban Pesach in haste, as a sign of the haste with which they were leaving. The Torah relates that the Jews baked matzos when they left Egypt because they were unable to tarry in their departure. As a remembrance, we have a mitzvah once every year, on Pesach, to eat matzah and abstain from chametz. As the Torah states (Devarim 16:3): “You shall not eat leavened bread along with it [the Korban Pesach]; for seven days you shall eat matzos – poor bread – as an adjunct to it, for in haste you went out from the land of Egypt – so that you will remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt all the days of your life.”
Shortly after the Jews left, as we read in next week’s parashah, the Egyptians chased after them. The Midrash describes Hashem telling the Jews that they were being chased because they left Egypt in haste, like a thief in the night (Shemos Rabbah 19:6). The Maggid asks an obvious question: Why does Hashem blame the Jews for their haste, when He Himself mandated it? The Maggid then asks further: Why do we need to recall this haste every year, by eating matzah and abstaining from chametz on Pesach? What is the great significance of the few hours the Jews saved by hurrying out of Egypt, that created an imperative for them to eat the Korban Pesach in haste, and for us to commemorate their hurrying once every year for all time?
The Maggid answers that the haste with which the Jews moved as they left Egypt was a sign of a more fundamental haste – that, due to the dismal state to which the Jews in Egypt had sunken, Hashem was led to take them out early, before they had completed their designated term of exile. Hashem intended, as He told Avraham, that the Jews spend 400 years in exile, but the Jews did not hold up. They could not bear the affliction; they clamored to be freed. Moreover, they did not muster the strength to withstand the evil spiritual influences of Egyptian culture; they could not tarry – had they remained in Egypt any longer, they would have, as the Arizal teaches, entered the 50th gate of defilement, from which there is no return. Hashem was therefore led to take them out after only 210 years. In the statement that the Midrash reports, Hashem is saying that the Egyptian had license to chase after the Jews because they did not serve their full term. And He blames the Jews for the early departure, holding them responsible for not fortifying themselves enough to endure until the end.
Because we did not serve the full term of exile in Egypt, we must make up for the lost time by suffering further exile. As our Sages say (Berachos 64a): “One who pushes the time, the time pushes him.” To make the additional exile easier to endure, Hashem broke up it into segments – a series of exiles under four different kingdoms (cf. Yalkut Shimoni II:635, with a parable of a king casting a boulder at his son by first crushing it into pebbles). Hashem told Moshe that the Jews would suffer further exile; He directed him to present His name to the Jewish People as “I Shall Be As I Shall Be” (Shemos 3:14), a name indicating that just as He will be with the Jewish People in the Egyptian exile, He will be with them in future exiles (Shemos Rabbah 3:6).
It is to implant the above concepts in our minds that Hashem told the Jews in Egypt to eat the Korban Pesach in haste, and directed us to commemorate their hurried departure from Egypt through a special observance once a year. Hashem is not calling our attention to the few hours the Jews saved by hurrying out of Egypt, but rather to His having been led to terminate the Egyptian exile early, before the Jews had served the full term. We need to bear in mind the early termination of the Egyptian exile, so that we can grasp why we are suffering exile now, and do not seek an early release again. We can hasten the final redemption by purifying ourselves, but we should not expect Hashem to hasten it for us simply to grant us relief. As Yeshayah declares (verse 28:16): “Let the believer not expect it [the final redemption] soon.” In the same vein, Shlomo HaMelech writes (Shir HaShirim 2:7): “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, …, lest you arouse or stir the love before it wishes.” The Midrash on this verse interprets as a admonition from Hashem to Jewish People not to push for the final redemption to come before its proper time.
In the end of days, we will reach the close of our term; in Yeshayah’s words, our days of mourning will be completed (Yeshayah 60:20).  Of these days, Yeshayah states (verse 52:12): “For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not proceed in a flight.” When we left Egypt, we were chased by the Egyptians, on account of having left early. In the end of days, however, since we will be leaving at the proper time, we will not need to flee from pursuers as we proceed on our way.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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