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   by Jacob Solomon

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(G-d told Moses) 'Tell the Israelites… I shall take you for me as a people and I shall be as a G-d to you, and you shall know that I am G-d Who brings you out from the burdens of Egypt' (6:6-7).

Following R. Zeev Zechariah Breuer's analysis, the opening texts of the Parasha relate that the Israelite Redemption from Egypt will take place in four stages:

(a) Physical redemption - 'I will bring you out from the burdens of Egypt' (6:6)
(b) Social redemption - 'I will rescue you from their service' (6:6)
(c) National redemption - 'I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments' (6:6)
(d) Spiritual redemption - 'I shall take you for me as a people, and I shall be a G-d to you' (6:7)

Only after the spiritual redemption, the text tells us, 'you shall know that I am G-d Who brings you out of the burdens of Egypt'.

The obvious question is - the Exodus is one thing, and becoming G-d's people is quite another. By the time they are physically, socially, and nationally redeemed - with all the accompanying miracles, they should know full well that 'G-d brought them out of Egypt'. Yet the text indicates that they will only know that when G-d 'shall take you for me as a people'. Why are the first three stages not enough to convey that message?

The answer may lie in considering the meaning of G-d 'shall take you for me as a people'. That took place much later on - on the Israelites' arrival at Mount Sinai. The text relates the terms:

And now, if you will obey My Voice and observe My Covenant, you shall be to Me the most beloved treasure of all people (19:5).

Which Rashi (ad loc) implies is no small matter:

'And now'… all beginnings are difficult!

The people unanimously accepted the terms for G-d to take them 'as a people':

'We will do all that G-d says' (19:8).

Thus the Israelites were relatively passive in the physical, social, and national stages of redemption. It was done for them - unconditionally. They were not involved. But they could not go through the fourth stage without proactive involvement - relating to, and actively serving G-d Who redeemed them, by keeping His Commandments.

The 'children of Israel' may indeed be compared to children in general. A child receives, and, without guidance, tends to take things for granted. If he is sick, his mother looks after him. If he sees something in a shop that takes his fancy, he asks his father to pay for it. He may say thank you, but rather automatically.

However, a parent might use a more character-building tactic. Say the child wants a computer of his own that costs $800. He will be told that he has to earn the money himself. If he gets up in time and attends Schacharit, it's $2. If he completes his homework before going on to any other activity: $3 a time. If he gets though three days without hurting with his little sister, then another $3. And if, after davening on Shabbat, he can greet people in shul with the right words, looking at them in the eye, and a smile - well, that's another dollar a time. And so on.

By the time he has earned his $800, and become the proud owner of a state-of-the-art computer, he has been deeply involved in it. He has improved his relationship with G-d. He has improved his relationships with his family, and with the people around him. And he has also a good relationship with his computer. He will take care of it. It is not something that just fell into his hands. He worked for it. He made sacrifices for it. And it is now part of him.

Similarly, the Israelites had to make a radical change to their lifestyles in order to become G-d's people. And the more they put into it, the closer they came to G-d. The more 'G-d belonged to them' as it were. And when G-d 'is theirs', can they truly appreciate and treasure that it is G-d who took them out of Egypt…

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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