This Building Block is so important, a short summary to this point is necessary.

We have learned about Hashgochah Protis, that the world is Divinely controlled in all areas except for moral decisions where human beings have been delegated free choice Jews in relation to 613 matters and non-Jews in relation to 7 matters. We have learned that Jews are functionally different from non-Jews in that they have a neshomah, a part of G‑d Himself; the neshomah undergoes a descent into the body for the purpose of an ascent higher than the level it was before its descent. We learned that this can be generalized to the world that every descent is for a purpose of an ascent; consequentially, in daily physical life, there are no descents without there being a corresponding, potential ascent.

We also learned that the task of each neshomah in every generation is to achieve that ascent by overcoming certain tests which are set against a background of difficulty. By overcoming these tests while being tossed around by those difficulties, the neshomah achieves its ascent to Paradise.

We also learned that every neshomah is in every body particularly and in a specific environment generally which is perfect for its job. If the mission were different, the environment would be different. If its tests are of wealth, the environment will be opulent, if of poverty, the environment will be meager.

Finally, know as daas that every environment is structured by G‑d’s kindness because it provides each neshomah the best chance for its success.

We then need one more notion to understand this vital Building Block. Torah is Eternal. What does that mean?

Torah is the wisdom of Hashem and, being so, it is unchangeable and eternal.

At a simple level, laws are immutable.1 But this is only the tip of the iceberg of its meaning. Much more deeply, Torah is eternal in that it applies to every Jew in every generation, in every year, in every week, in every day, in every moment, precisely and constantly.

If there is a story in Torah, that story is equally a series of ever deeper levels. Firstly, there is the historical fact of it having happened. Avraham actually took his son and bound him thinking he was to be sacrificed. At the next level, the test of Avraham is a test that a Jew faces, on one way or another, in every generation. The details of the whole story are plumblines of every Jew’s test of self-sacrifice in every generation.

Although it is so that the most prominent revelation of this will occur in the week the Torah portion applies,2 it will also be relevant to every Jew every day. Revealed or concealed, Avraham’s test will be pertinent daily.

One of the most important tides which ebb and flow in Torah for Jews in general, and for every Jew in particular, is the concept of Mitzrayim (bondage) and geulah (redemption). This concept is so important that we mention it in davening (prayer) every day. “Mitzrayim ”, although translated in English as “Egypt”, in Hebrew connotes bondage, enclosure, crushed by rigid boundaries.3 “Redemption” is described as our exodus from there.

Apart from being the name of a place, “Mitzrayim ” refers to a state of a Jew. Chassidus teaches a Jew to tune into what is happening to himself on a daily basis; one of the things that are happening is the process of exile and redemption.

Exile and redemption connote this: there is a time in Jewish life where a Jew finds himself boxed in, trapped. There is then a process by which a Jew can escape that bondage an exodus from a state of spiritual, mental and physical servitude. The “exodus”, as it is called, is a process which goes on every day. The process is reflected in Torah in a series of events. Those events, although they actually happened in history, keep happening until the final redemption which will be the final entry into the land of Israel.4

At a deeper level, the process of exile into and redemption from Mitzrayim (Egypt) into the desert was repeated as exile into and redemption from the desert into Israel; exile from and redemption back to Israel at the time of the second Temple; the present exile and soon the final redemption.5 This has been our pattern and, within that pattern, are a series of smaller sequences. The more particular smaller patterns belong to every Jew every day of his life.

The vision of Torah as being applicable daily and understanding the pattern of exile and redemption in particular lights up the darkness of daily confusion through these glasses. Looking with the spectacles of Chassidus allows a man to be able to understand the various periods of exile and redemption in his own life.

What does exile mean? The Rebbe gives the example of one who is sick. Cure requires two stages:6 First is to recognize the sickness. Then only is diagnosis and cure possible. Without a person being conscious of his sickness, there can be no cure.

The sickness example, as it pertains to exile, illustrates the period in time and/or place where the revelation of G‑dliness is not apparent.7 In Mitzrayim (Egypt) there was no revelation of G‑dliness.

When Israel left for the desert, they were accompanied by the Clouds of Glory, the Pillar of Fire and the Manna all demonstrable evidence of revealed G‑dliness.

Then, having left the desert for Israel, we were crowned with the Temple in which there was a heightened level of revelation. Ten miracles occurred daily for all to marvel and experience.8 Exile into Babylonia brought again the lack of revelation of G‑dliness. The return to Israel and the Second Temple re-established an obvious presence of G‑dliness. Now this exile, the longest historically, is also the darkest. This darkness is a process which increases until the dawn of Moshiach. Everything physical, as we have said, is a parable of that which is spiritual. The account of the creation of the world begins with evening, then morning, one day. Dark precedes light.9 Night gives way to day in the physical because dark gives way to light in the spiritual.

It is astonishing and difficult to assimilate as daas that the production of that light is the charge of neshomos in every generation. The process of producing the light to eradicate the final darkness has taken two thousand years. We know from the Rebbe that the work is complete.10

We are here, moments before the final redemption, and in these last moments the darkness is most intense. Children set tramps alight in parks while they sleep, youths are beating their elders to death, streets are awash with blood let by muggers and rapists. With all modern technology we have achieved, people bar up their homes like jails, living in quiet stress from fear of their neighbors.

In physicality, darkness is deepest immediately before dawn; this is dictated by what happens spiritually. Jews have the capacity to end this darkness and bring light to their and everyone’s lives.

As we have learned, Torah is immutable. A dazzling example of this is shown by the Rebbe11 from the Torah sentence12 describing the desert: “In the great and awesome desert with snakes, fiery serpents and scorpions, and thirst, where there was lack of water.” The description is the physical manifestation of the spiritual state of desert.

Taking the quote word-by-word, it illustrates a Jew’s personal journey into exile. First, what is a great desert? When a Jew faces his non-Jewish surroundings and sees them as great compared to his private environment, he takes the first step into exile. Here is the first step into the desert. When a Jew decides that he is numerically inferior (true) and therefore his power to influence for the good is inferior (not true) and that the significance of his task is being minimized, he confirms that first step. The belief that the surroundings are so great that they rule over Israel is mental exile.

The next adjective describing “desert” is “awesome”. This is the trembling Jew taking his second step into exile. Regarding the desert as great, a Jew becomes ashamed and afraid of his own position. There are of course various levels of shame. There are Jews whose shame makes them want to melt with their host cultures. There are Jews who present themselves to the outside world as non-Jewish as possible but who wish to maintain some kind of historical continuity. Then there are those prepared to be observant in their own home when the door is closed; they will come home and put on a yarmulke, have their children say a berochah or two, even go to shul but always in cringing shame of the non-Jewish environment. The next level reluctantly follows the pattern that has been laid out for them, wearing a yarmulke and tzitzis under sufferance and discomfort whenever in a public place. In exile, all these levels of shame are possible. In Israel, no Jew cares. When a Jew does not care, he is in spiritual Israel, redeemed.

“Snakes” is the next word of the verse. Snake bite is accompanied by fierce body heat. This is the level of enthusiasm of a neshomah which is misdirected. The enthusiasm is sapped making money, accumulating pleasures or toys, creating power and all the other compulsive pursuits with which we are all familiar. The poor neshomah, instead of teaching the Nefesh HaBahamis how to fly, is made to grovel by it in the gutter of physical distractions.

The next step into exile is very deep indeed. The venom of the scorpion is cold. Cold is a plane lower than heat. At least enthusiasm can be rechannelled for good. Indifference however is next to death.

The final desperate level is thirst without water. Water, in the Holy Writings, is an analogy for Torah. So when, for instance, Yosef was thrown into the pit, it is described as being filled with scorpions, then there is the incredible account of there being no water in the pit. When a Jew has no water (Torah), he is thirsty. This is a terrible state for a Jewish neshomah. A neshomah thirsts naturally for Torah. Denied it, a Jew will seek all kinds of other liquid to quench his thirst; for a Jew, such other liquids cannot succeed. There is an extraordinarily high frequency of Jews in cults only because their neshomos have been denied the elixir of their life which is Torah.

So how then do Jews escape exile? How can they burst through the boundaries of Mitzrayim and fill their lungs and hearts with the pure fresh air of freedom?

We will learn the answer together as we journey but meanwhile the important preparation is to see the ebb and flow of daily difficulty as a barometer of the service of one’s neshomah. Feel that all boundaries are from outside; all can be smashed like toothpicks from the inside. As we learn together, the how will become evident