This week’s Torah reading tells how Moses came to the Jewish people with the promise of redemption. At first, the people eagerly received Moses’ words; they believed his prophecy and prostrated themselves to G‑d in thankful appreciation.

But then something happened. Pharaoh did not listen to Moses and instead increased the Jewish people’s workload. And very speedily, their new found belief began to dissipate. They no longer had faith in Moses and instead came to him with complaints.

The Torah tells us why: “They did not believe Moses because of shortness of spirit and hard work.” It is not easy to believe in redemption when there is a whip at your back forcing you to perform hard labor. And at night, when the work is finally over, one may not have the energy to dream for anything more than a respite from making bricks. To be free - that is beyond one’s fantasies.

This is the problem with exile. It makes us nearsighted.

We see only what is immediately in front of us and lose sight of our true identity.

Every one of us possesses a soul which is “an actual part of G‑d.” And that part of G‑d cannot be contained in any exile. From the perspective of this G‑dly potential, it is exile - not redemption - that is incomprehensible.

And the Jews saw this borne out in actual fact. Pharaoh’s might crumbled before them in everlasting testimony of G‑d’s power on earth. Moments before they were slaves. But then miracle after miracle made them and the world conscious of G‑d’s presence, and ultimately, they marched out of Egypt proudly, carrying the spoil of the land with them.

This is not merely a story of ancient history. On the contrary, the most important element of the story of the Egyptian exile and exodus is its ongoing relevance. Mitzrayim, the Hebrew name for Egypt, relates to the Hebrew word meitzarim meaning “boundaries” or “limitations.” In a personal sense, Egypt refers those influences that confine us and prevent us realizing our real selves.

Many of us are “slaves in Egypt.” We are forced to work hours and days at tasks that dull - rather than enhance - our awareness of our inner spiritual nature.

There is more to our lives than the material reality that meets our eye. That’s what leaving Egypt is about. In each generation - and in a certain sense, on every day - we must experience an exodus from Egypt. We must step beyond these constricting influences and give expression to the fundamental spark of G‑d that every one of us possesses.