Re'eh: Two Stages of Redemption
The redemption from Egypt took place in two stages - the stage of inner freedom and the stage of bodily freedom...
by Rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook zatza"l
When Did the Exodus Occur?
When did the Jewish people leave Egypt? There appears to be a contradiction in the Torah's account of the time of the Exodus. In Deuteronomy 16:1 we read, "It was in the month of spring that the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt at night."
Clearly, the verse states that the Israelites departed in the night. However, the Torah previously stated that they left during the daytime: "On the day after the Passover sacrifice, the Israelites left triumphantly before the eyes of the Egyptians" (Num. 33:3).
So when did they leave — during the night, or in broad daylight, "before the eyes of the Egyptians"?
Two Stages of Redemption
The Talmud (Berachot 9a) resolves this apparent contradiction by explaining that both verses are correct. The redemption began at night, but it was only completed the following morning.
After the plague of the first-born at midnight, Pharaoh went to Moses, pleading that the Israelites should immediately leave Egypt. At that point, the Hebrew slaves were free to depart. Officially, their servitude ended during the night.
However, God did not want His people to sneak away 'like thieves in the night.' The Israelites were commanded to wait until daybreak, before proudly quitting their Egyptian slavery. Thus, the de facto redemption occurred during the day.
Night and Day
Rav Kook explained that there is an intrinsic correlation between these two time periods — night and day — and the two stages of redemption.
The redemption at night was an inner freedom. Egyptian slavery was officially over. However, this de jure freedom was not yet realized in practical terms. The joy of independence, while great, was an inner joy. Their delight was not visible to others, and thus corresponded to the hidden part of the day, namely, the night.
The second stage of redemption was their actual procession out of Egypt. This was a public event, before the eyes of the Egypt and the entire world. The completion of their freedom took place at daybreak, emphasizing the public nature of their liberation from Egyptian bondage.
(adapted from Ein Eyah vol. I, pp. 43-44)
Rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook zatza"l, the celebrated first Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel, (1865-1935) is recognized as being among the most important Jewish thinkers of all time. His writings reflect the mystic's search for underlying unity in all aspects of life and the world, and his unique personality similarly united a rare combination of talents and gifts.
Rav Kook was a prominent rabbinical authority and active public leader, but at the same time a deeply religious mystic. He was both Talmudic scholar and poet, original thinker and saintly tzaddik.
Rabbi Chanan Morrison of Mitzpeh Yericho runs http://ravkookTorah.org, a website dedicated to presenting the Torah commentary of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael, to the English-speaking community. He is also the author of Gold from the Land of Israel (Urim Publications, 2006).