Let My People Go

Did you know that everything in your possession was intended for you from before the world was created? As G‑d created each specific object (or theAs G‑d created each object, He determined its owner properties from which these objects would be made), He determined its owner. Your couch, wallet, furniture and car, were designed by G‑d for you. He invested your personal spark of divinity in it so that you could redeem it, and in the process, you redeem yourself too.

G‑d asked Moses to instruct the Israelites to borrow gold, silver and clothing from their Egyptian neighbors before they left Egypt. The Talmud tells us that the people were appalled. Let’s just grab our belongings and go, they thought. Why waste time gathering gold? Who cares for possessions at a time like this?

Yet G‑d insisted that they do this, because He had promised Abraham that his children would leave Egypt with great treasure, and He didn’t want Abraham to hold it against Him.1 Of course, this only deflects the question to Abraham. Why would Abraham want his children to suffer in Egypt for even one moment longer than necessary? Why would this loving father place treasure above freedom at a critical time like this?

The mystics explained that the Israelites were afraid that if they remained in Egypt for just one moment longer they might not be redeemed. In Egypt, Jacob’s descendants had sunk to unprecedented spiritual lows. They were at the very brink. One more moment and they would have slipped into a spiritual pit from which there could be no extraction. This only exacerbates our question. Why would Abraham want his children to risk everything for monetary treasure?

Personal Spark

This is where we return to the personal spark. The mystics taught that when G‑d created the world He embedded sparks of divinity in it. When a Jew uses a physical object for holy purpose, the spark is released from captivity within that object, returning to its G‑dly source.

This process of gathering and refining Divine sparks trapped within creation is the purpose for which G‑d created the world, forming a place “distant” from Him. When the sparks are elevated and reunited with Him, we give Him immense pleasure—a pleasure that is perhaps comparable to the joy we feel when we are reunited with a dear friend whom we have not seen in decades.

The children of Israel had descended to Egypt for a mystical reason. Egypt had some of the most deeply embedded sparks in the world and releasing them would be difficult. The Jews spent more than two centuries there and risked their very spirituality to redeem those sparks. Before leaving, they endeavored to extract every last spark that was embedded there.

The items that the people carried with them are the very items in which these sparks were embedded. And, the mystics teach us, each individual walked out with the very item that he or she in particular was meant to redeem. You see, these sparks can’t be released by just any Jewish person that uses them for a mitzvah. These sparks are highly individualized and can be released from captivity only by the soul assigned to them.

Each Jewish soul descends to the world with pre-assigned sparks to redeem. And these sparks sit patiently awaiting this soul’s arrival from the beginning of time. When we purchase a cup, a dish, a car or a bar of soap, it was intended for us. We think we pick a random phone off the shelf, or that the company sent us a random pair of shoes that we bought online, but that is not the case. Each item that we own contains our personal sparks, just as the items the Jews carried out of Egypt contained theirs.

We can now understand why Abraham was concerned about the physical treasure that his children would haul out of Egypt. It wasn’t the monetary value he was concerned about; it was the sparks. If they left Egypt without these sparks, their entire suffering and spiritual gamble would have been for naught.

Purpose of Creation

Yet we are left wondering. If the people had remained in Egypt for just one more moment, they would have sunk into a spiritual abyss from which there could be no return. Was it worthwhile to risk that?

Redeeming a spark is not just for the sake of the spark, but for the sake of the soul. The soul descends from on high to spend seven or so decades on earth. While it is here, it plays with fire. Surrounded by pitfalls and temptations, any pure soul can succumb and be sullied. Is it worthwhile?

The answer is yes, because releasing these sparks fulfills the very purpose of the soul. Not just the purpose of its descent to the world, but the purpose of its creation. G‑d created the soul for one purpose: to redeem the personal sparks it would encounter in this life. He then created sparks that are perfectly suited to this soul. The soul suits the sparks, and the sparks suit the soul.

Can you imagine making this entire journey, but then failing to redeem our personal sparks? Not only would the journey be a waste, the soul’s entire existence could have been a waste. The soul has waited from the dawn of history to redeem these sparks, and when the opportunity finally presents itself, would the soul avoid its meeting with destiny? Of course, the soul would risk everything for the chance to fulfill its destiny. It was for this reason it was created.

A Heavy Load

This idea is reflected in an interesting contradiction. The Talmud posits that Israelites did not want to take along these possessions because it would increase their load, yet at the Red Sea we learn that they collected even more booty than they did in Egypt. If they were worried about the load, why did they add to it at the Red Sea?

The real reason the Israelites were concerned about moving quickly was that they were afraid the Egyptians would attack. But after the Egyptian army was drowned, there was no longer a need to move quickly, and so they did not mind weighing themselves down.2

The spiritual parallel here is fascinating. So long as Egypt was present and they could be lured into their sinful ways, the people of Israel were wary of remaining in Egypt for even one more moment. The load ofEgypt no longer posed a threat lifting the sparks filled them with dread of risking their souls. Yet, once they took these items and fulfilled the purpose of their souls, the spiritual gamble of association with Egypt was no longer a factor. They were so strong that Egypt no longer posed a threat. Thus the load was not too heavy.3

A Long Journey

You might wonder why some items come and go from your possession. The answer is that a single item can have multiple sparks. You need to own it for the time that it takes you to redeem your personal spark, but when you complete your task, G‑d arranges for the item’s transfer to the person responsible for redeeming the next spark in the item. Sometimes it comes to the next person directly and sometimes it travels a circuitous route, but one thing is certain. It always goes where it is meant to go.