To Remember and to be Saved
How do you connect to the exodus …what is so important about remembering it … and how does it all connect to what’s happening to us today?
Jewish history is paved with earth-shaking events. Wars and exiles are entwined with miracles and deliverances. It will be impossible to count the trials and tribulations that have gone over the eternal nation – but above all the experiences, one event stands out. It is an episode that we, and the rest of our forefathers’ offspring, are commanded to speak of until the end of time. We are told to remember it, speak of it, and embellish on its every detail. In fact, we’re even commanded to relive it as if we were actually there.
“In every generation one must see himself as if he, himself, went out of Egypt”. The Egyptian exodus was a decisive event in the history of mankind. During the seminal exodus nature itself was bent, twisted, and just down-right ignored as Hashem smashed the gargantuan walls of the kingdom of defilement. The exodus of slaves who were transformed into the chosen nation – that is the event every Jew must relive every single day. And it must be a living, pulsating memory, complete with eating Matzos and Maror, the acquisition of the first born son and other mitzvos.
The mitzvah through which a Jew becomes connected to the exodus on a daily basis is, of course, Teffilin. The Teffilin scrolls carry the eternal commandment to never forget, and forever actively remind ourselves of, the revelations of Hashem’s total mastery over the mighty nature of this world. We are to connect our hearts to this remembrance when we put the Teffilin on. Yet still, it is incredibly difficult for our stony hearts to return to that event in the distant past and relive the experience of salvation anew.
What is especially difficult to understand is what difference that would make in our lives today. The world seems too different for that exodus to matter while we’re practically drowning in our own current troubles.
There are historians and archeologists who pour over books and evidence, gathering shreds of facts and legend alike. They can pinpoint important dates with accuracy and seem to be more familiar with the roads of Pharonic Egypt than the welfare of their own families. Still, they do not visit the past to relive the miraculous redemption.
Once – and forever
Yetziat Mitzraim is forever happening, simmering and bubbling in the very present. The miracles that took place then have never been equaled. It was the only time when creation as a whole stood astonished and shocked as it faced a total meltdown of all its preconceived ideas and perception of reality.
For a moment in time all nature’s laws were put on hold or categorically canceled. The boundaries on substance were proven immaterial. It is the moment when it became imprinted on the collective memory of mankind that a divine force, G-dly and boundless, oversees every detail in existence and the natural laws apply only – and only as long as He wishes it so.
This was the only time Hashem revealed Himself in such a manner. And it is to this stunning determining event, that He commanded us to return every single day, in memory and deed. The mitzvos He gave us as a “Remembrance of the Exodus”, combined with the directive to “See oneself as if he himself came out of Egypt,” brings us back to the time and place where Hashem planted the ability for the spirit to throw off the yokes of matter.
Ancient Egypt still exerts control over the souls of Israel – and has been doing so throughout the ages. “All the exiles,” says the Medrash, “Are named after Mitzraim (straits) for they all squeeze (metzerim – מצרים) Israel”. The exodus from Egypt is the lifesaver for the current exile as well. Understand that miracles aren’t fairytales. They are a revelation that exposes the inner truth that exists at all times, seen or not. “As it was during the days you came out of Egypt, I shall show you miracles” – that is the promise that we, the decedents of the Israelites who came out Egypt, hold in our hearts as we travel through the generations. The remembrance infuses us with life and hope.
Remembrance is connection. By remembering the exodus at all times, the soul can connect to the innate ability to exit slavery into freedom in whatever it may be that enslaves us today. This daily remembrance is the duty of every Jew. It is said, “In every generation every person must see himself as if he, himself came out of Egypt” and Rebbe Nosson explains:
“It isn’t for nothing that Hashem has bestowed such an amazing kindness on us with such astounding miracles, taking us out of Egypt, giving us the Torah and drawing us close to the true Tzaddikim in every generation. This is a kindness that shall exist for ever because the deeds of Hashem are eternal per definition. So, too, he does with us momentous miracles by the very fact alone that we can snap up a few mitzvos every day such as Tzitzis, Teffilin and Krias Shma, and prayer.”
Tefillin – the resurrection of remembrance
The main remembrance of the exodus from Mitzraim is, of course, during Passover. These seven holy days, the Seder, the Matzos, and the rest of the holiday’s mitzvos administer a life-giving elixir to our tired souls. These remedies are awakened and “re-potentiated”, as it were, every day when we put on the Teffilin. The eternal faith of “remember the day you came out of Egypt” is branded with fire on the sacred scrolls of the Tefillin. By simply putting on the phylacteries we draw onto ourselves the holiness of the epic exit from Egypt. It is that holiness of the ancient redemption that contains all the future redemptions in it.
When we talk of coming out of Egypt and “seeing oneself as if he himself came out of Egypt”, the modern mind tends to become entangled in needless inner debates as to how it should be done. There is no need for that at all. The secret of the connection is in simple remembrance. One must simply remember the redemption and connect his mind to the miraculous deliverance and the fact that this freedom exists forever. Miracles … revelation of heavenly love … transportation on the heavenly wings of eagles … the abolition of nature … and the revelation of providential reality that smashes the boulders of material and terror – they all exist today as well. When we live the exit from Mitzraim, the material yokes fall off and the shackles of doubt melt. It is a renewal that inserts us into a world that is complete and total freedom.
We’ve had enough exile and enslavement. We are spent and exhausted from chasing our daily bread and the confusions of our tormenting lusts. Whoever redeemed us from Egypt has promised to deliver us again. He revealed to us that whenever we get back there – just by using our memory – we will exist within the miraculous moment of redemption. We can awaken the miracles with our Teffilin. All we need to do is renew the meaning and the memory and attach them to that miraculous time to be connected to the emunah that will make us free forever.