...as a memorial to the crushing labor we endured ...

From Egypt ...

Maimonides defines "crushing labor" as "an endless and puposeless work." The Egyptians, whose aim in enslaving the Jewish people was to destroy their nationhood and break their spirit, refused to impart any schedule, logic, efficiency or utility to their work.

The Egyptian exile is the prototype for all exiles and the exodus from Egypt epitomizes all redemptions— beginning with the exile and redemption experience intrinsic to each individual’s life.

Man is in essence a spiritual being, so his very birth and enmeshment in a material body and life is an exile. "Egypt" insists that our involvement with the mortar and bricks of the material be "an endless and purposeless work." Work that spills out from its five-day, forty-hour framework to invade every moment and thought of the week.

But the physical self is finite and pragmatic; how, then, is it capable of "endless and purposeless work"? Ultimately, the capacity for such labor can have only one source: the "spark of G‑dliness" that is the essence of the human soul.

The soul of man is thus subjected to an exile within an exile: to be inserted into a physical self and world, and to suffer the usurpation of her quintessential powers to drive the physical self’s mundane labors. To see her capacity for infinite and objectiveless commitment to G‑d be distorted into an endless quest for material gain. (See "Rochtzoh" for remedy.)