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Turnabout

One of the most striking aspects of the exodus from Egypt was just how sudden a turnabout it was. For 210 years the Jews lived in Egypt, most of that time under horrific oppression. By the end of that period there were no Jews alive who had ever lived in freedom – the oldest to youngest had all been born into slavery. Their lot was one of suffering, poverty and humiliation.

Yet suddenly it was all transformed. Pharaoh’s regime collapsed, and the Jewish people left Egypt triumphantly, with great wealth. From a nation of slaves they became truly liberated.

This sharp transformation also expressed itself in the people’s spiritual situation. In Egypt they were sunk in the 49 gates of impurity, in the language of the Zohar. They even worshipped the idols of the Egyptians. Yet in one night, G-d appeared to them in all His glory and elevated them to the highest spiritual heights. In fact, within a short seven weeks they reached the pinnacle of holiness and experienced the greatest spiritual revelation of all time – the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

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This is the type of transformation that awaits us – the final generation of exile and the first of Redemption, in the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. It will be simultaneous physical and spiritual transformation. We have been in exile for more than 2000 years and know of no other reality. Our parents and grandparents as far back as anyone can remember have lived in exile – what audacity does our generation have to think that we are different, that in our generation the Redemption will finally come?

For this reason the Torah teaches us to “mention the day you left Egypt all the days of your lives.” We must remind ourselves again and again that something like this has already happened in our history. This will enable us to finally grasp that this drastic change can indeed happen again, in our generation. It can happen any moment, to be lifted above the chase for the latest gadget or an elusive “security,” out of the morass of materialism into a reality that is higher and truer.

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The Redemption can potentially come any day of year, which is why we mention it in our prayers every day. But our sages say that the month of Nissan is an especially fitting time for the Redemption. Out of the entire month, the most fitting time is the final day of Passover, which is why the Baal Shem Tov instituted the “Moshiach feast” to be eaten in the afternoon, during the final moments of Passover. During this time the experience of Redemption and freedom is at its height, and the anticipation is strong that Moshiach will appear at that moment. At that moment we feel a spirit of Redemption “pass over” us.

Yet even when the holiday ends and we pack away our Passover dishes for another year, the powerful yearning does not leave us. We carry it with us into the final days of Nissan, filled with determination to apply the inspiration of this month to an entire year, to do our part to bring the Redemption.
 

 


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