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The significance of the Exodus
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The Exodus clearly plays a central role in Judaism

 

The Torah mentions the exodus from Egypt again and again.  It is a mitzvah to recall the fact that G-d took our forefathers out of Egypt and freed us from bondage each day.  The Exodus clearly plays a central role in Judaism.

What makes the Exodus so important?

We attach significance to some materials, such as gold, silver, and jewels, because they are relatively rare, and hard to come by.  Not so, food, water, and air.  These are important because they are essential to life.  We can live to a ripe old age without gold, diamonds, sapphires and rubies, but not without food and water.  Unlike nourishment and the air we breathe, jewels and precious metals have no value in and of themselves, but only to the degree that man attaches importance to them.

In short, only those commodities which are essential to human existence, such as bread and water, are important on their own right.  How can we tell whether something falls into the first category or the second?

The acid test is what happens when something is available only at an astronomical price.  No one will give up half his assets in order to buy a bottle of wine, no matter how much he has a hankering for a good glass of burgundy right now.  But if a person has no food, and is asked to pay a highly exorbitant price for a sack of potatoes, he will do so, because it will be suicide not to do so.  Wine is not a life essential; food is.

We might be misled by the fact that the price of flour, sugar, rice, and oil is considerably less than that of gems and precious metals.  If man is so dependent on food, why is it cheaper than platinum or diamonds?

The answer is that the Creator knows exactly what man must have in order to stay alive, and He designed the world in such a way that we will be able to supply our basic needs relatively easily.  Food and water, which are essential, are far more abundant than gold; air, which we need in order to survive even a few minutes, is even more plentiful.

The rule is that abundance is an indication of how indispensable an item is for our survival.  There is more air than water, because we can survive a short while without drinking water, but only a minute or two, without air.

The same principle applies in the spiritual realm.  We find that the Exodus from Egypt is mentioned so many times in the Bible, in connection to so many commandments, because it is like air: essential for the very survival of the Jewish soul.  We are commanded to mention it twice a day when we recite the Shema.  In addition, many mitzvos are designated in the Bible as "a remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt."

The fact that the Bible refers to the Exodus so frequently is an indication of its fundamental importance, similar to the status of bread, water, and air.  The Jewish soul cannot survive without it.

Why should this be so?

It is our awareness of the Exodus which heightens our consciousness of the fact that it is G-d who controls our world and determines the fate of all His creatures.  Without His continually willing our universe to exist and function, it would not continue to exist for even one second.  Neither would we, His creatures, exist for even a split second if it were not His will that we should continue to breathe and function as usual.

The Exodus also serves to teach us about the historical mission of the Jewish People.  We were taken out of bondage to Pharaoh in order to serve the Creator. We stood at Mount Sinai in order to receive His Torah and to undertake our role as "a light to the nations" of the world.  Our fulfillment of G-d's commandments, because He took us out of Egypt, heightens our awareness of our unique role in the world.  It is because of the Exodus that we have been given the task of sanctifying G-d's Name among the nations thus bringing the world closer to the ultimate redemption.  Because this consciousness is so fundamental to Judaism, it is found again and again, just as we find water and air throughout most of the globe.

The commandment to constantly recall the Exodus is as essential to our souls as is the air we breathe to our bodies.  This is the reason that so many of the commandments are described in the Bible as "in commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt." 


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