Like the Jews in Egypt, our son is enslaved.

He looks okay, for the most part. Luminous blue eyes with curtain-like lashes and sweet lips set against perfectly rounded cheeks. A charming build, a strong gait, sturdy three-year-old legs.

But he is not okay, and we, his parents, know and live with this every day. He is not okay, because he is enslaved. Like his ancestors, he is in a prison; his is a prison of the mind, perhaps the heart.

Mendel has autism. At three, his words come stilted and only one at a time, spoken with difficulty only when he really, truly wants something enough to say it. Sometimes, he stands at the periphery and, just for a moment, watches cousins or peers at play. He laughs to himself and seems to want to join, then darts off in the other direction because he can't. You can sometimes catch him eyeing his older sister, whose name he will not say, with something akin to interest. But she will take his hand and try to dance, and he will wrestle free and revert to a solitary puzzle.

At three, his words come stilted and only one at a time, spoken with difficultyBut like the Jews in Egypt, we pray for redemption. It is the light at the end of our darkness; the faint dream that pulls us together when we begin to fray. It is possible, and besides, we believe in miracles. The sea can split; our son can talk. His personal exile is deep and real, but there is, always, the possibility of freedom.

An image comes to my mind: Mendel, at two, with a bucket of wooden blocks. Listlessly, he piles them up until the tower falls. He is not perturbed when his sister knocks it over; there is no emotion as, silently, he begins to build again. An evaluator from the State visits and points this out. "He plays with them too often. He doesn't seem to care." I could not see it then, but I do now: Mendel is enslaved, locked in a routine of his own creation, but one that seems to matter little in any sort of real way. And I think of the Jews in Egypt, enslaved in a routine of worthless, meaningless labor, where the work of their hands would crumble, and the bitterness of their troubles made them hard so as not to even care or hear the call of redemption.

Pesach, the Hebrew word for Passover, I recall reading somewhere, can be read as two distinct Hebrew words: Peh (mouth) sach (speaks), intimating a redemption on some verbal level. And indeed, commentaries note a juxtaposition in the text chronicling the gradual descent into slavery. "And it came to pass in those many days, the king of Egypt died and the Children of Israel sighed from the bondage and they cried…" They cried then, say the commentators, in the aftermath of Pharaoh's death, in a period of national mourning, because to cry for their plight at any other time was forbidden by their captors, and so they disguised their pain as patriotism and called out to G‑d.

This was the beginning of their exile, an exile so deep it limited even the words they could say, and, as the generations wore on, entrenched until it had enslaved their very souls: the thoughts they could think; the things they could feel.

And I wonder: How to pull one out of such slavery? An entire people, generations of children lost to the memory of freedom—how to move them from suffocating silence to a proud nation, G‑d's chosen? I look at my son and wonder the same thing.

In Egypt, G‑d sent Moses. Moses, man of G‑d, who humbly bridged the gap between heaven and earth and whose personal struggles and journeys reflected the transformation of his people.

His personal exile is deep and real, but there is, always, the possibility of freedomMoses was a spiritual enigma: a man of Atzilut, says the Kabbalah, referring to the highest of four worlds of spiritual consciousness. Atzilut, from the word etzel, near, describes a world near to G‑d, and distant, in so many ways, from the day-to-day functioning most of us experience. For most of us, living in the world of action, Asiyah, life is a pretty simple eco-system of mind and matter. Our thoughts are grounded; they translate easily into the words and actions that fill our days. We observe the behaviors of our world and act according to its norms. Moses lived in Atzilut, in a world of the mind, nearer to G‑d than to the norms of human life. For this reason, Moses spoke with a stutter. Was he imperfect? Was he shy? On the contrary—his thoughts were of a higher dimension; his reality had little to do with life in this world. He was a man of G‑d speaking to mere men, and the line of communication across such distance inevitably blurs.

A video clip of the Rebbe, stored in my mind: An anguished man leans in to ask the Rebbe's blessing for his son, who is autistic. The Rebbe offers his blessing, and then adds, surely the fact that an autistic child is disconnected from other people shows that he has an even closer connection to G‑d, and spirituality. And I think about our son: he of the intense gaze, the joy he radiates on the holiday of Simchat Torah, the way he probes a Talmud book larger than him and dances to a soulful Chassidic melody. He is a lofty, beautiful soul but it is not enough for me. He is enslaved.

And so I follow the story of our collective redemption, as our ancestors, led by Moses, travel from darkness and boundaries and limitations to freedom. There's no instant cure for a slavery this deep; it's a process.

I think of the initial breakthrough, as the Jewish people left Egypt and crossed through a sea that miraculously, majestically, parted for them and revealed a dry path to go forward. That undersea world – always there but never seen or really understood – opened up in a stunning split of the water covering it, revealing incredible treasures and an entire world beneath the surface. And beyond a physical display, a spiritual revelation occurred then—the knowledge of a G‑dly life-force was so clear to see that even a simple maiden, says the Midrash, pointed at G‑d's presence on the banks of the Sea of Reeds and said, "This is my G‑d."

I can picture the point—it is an expression of that which is clear to the mind, and a still elusive pursuit for my son. He is slowly, painstakingly, learning to point naturally and purposefully, and I wait for the day that he will demonstrate clear understanding with the deliberate direction of a finger. In the trajectory of the redemption, it is the point that seems to pierce through the layers of bondage. We can see G‑dliness; it is so real, we can point to it.

But redemption is a process, I remind myself and require no further proof for this than the Jewish people, mere days after the dramatic events at sea, complaining to return to Egypt. They are still enslaved; their souls still gripped by a deep power. It's a one step forward, two-steps back proposition that is all too familiar.

We know all about the process. Day in, day out, our son sits in a little classroom at home while other children dance and paint in school. He is learning: to imitate, to repeat, to follow instructions and make neuro-connections that he will perhaps one day make on his own. Each step is carefully noted; what he learns, he must then work to maintain. It is hard, hard work but he is enslaved and we have no choice. We wait for his redemption. I clean the house for Passover, pull out the Haggadahs, vacuum the couch and dream of his redemption. He is here; he is hidden; he is stuck. We will work hard, but only you, G‑d, can pull him out.

In the trajectory of the redemption, it is the point that seems to pierce through the layers of bondageI imagine Jethro, venerable father-in-law of Moses, traveling to Sinai on hearing of the giving of the Torah, that grand climax of the exodus from Egypt. What exactly did he hear? asks the Midrash. The answer resonates with me and fills my heart with hope. He heard that Moses had been cured of his stutter, and being a man of deep understanding, Jethro understood this event for what it was: a connection, a link, created between an Atzilut consciousness and Asiyah living. Between the world of the mind and the world of action. A great spirituality finding expression in the functions of life every day. It was redemption, he understood, not just for Moses, but for the hidden spirituality of the Children of Israel, for the great G‑dly spirit that lay enslaved, trapped in an exile that did not allow it expression, nor allow it a voice.

And I think, finally, of the Seder, where we celebrate this redemption by speaking of our freedom, of the great and glorious process that wrought a nation of kings from an enslaved and broken people. Our son will be at the Seder, of course. Of the four sons, this year, he will be the one who knows not how to ask the questions. It is for him that the Haggadah says, "Aht ptach lo"—you shall open his mind and explain to him the depth of the exile from which we were redeemed. It was an exile where the soul and mind were enslaved and had no voice— an exile that needs no explanation for us. Our son lives in exile every day, and we watch, and work, and pray.

This year, we are enslaved. But next year, perhaps next year, we shall be free.