At the beginning of the Torah portion of Va’eira, four expressions are used regarding the redemption of the Jews from Egypt:1 “I will release you... I will save you... I will liberate you... I will take you to Myself.” Our Sages note2 that the four cups of wine we drink during the Pesach Seder correspond to these four expressions.

The Alter Rebbe writes in his Shulchan Aruch3 that “the Sages established the four cups of wine in consonance with the four expressions: ‘I will release you... I will liberate you... I will take you... I will save you.’”

As can be readily observed, in quoting the relevant passages the Alter Rebbe changes their order. Why does the Alter Rebbe do so?

There are four general levels of repentance,4 as alluded to in the passage:5 “Turn away from evil, do good, seek peace, pursue it.”

The first level, that of “turning away from evil,” requires that an individual not transgress in either thought, speech or action. If he has transgressed, he is to regret his past misdeeds and uproot his evil desires. As his natural desire is to experience G‑dliness,a person does not want to abandon his unity with G‑d, desiring G‑d’s level of revelation to “fills all worlds.”

The second level of repentance, i.e., to “do good,” involves doing teshuvah for his shortcomings in the performance of mitzvos and good deeds. In order to draw down the level of holiness that is lacking due to a laxity in the performance of positive commands, one’s repentance must be of an extremely high order, so that one can unite with the level of G‑dliness that transcends and encompasses the world.

The third level, that of “seeking peace,” is an even loftier form of repentance, wherein an individual resolves to excel in Torah study, which “brings about peace both above and below.”6 This level of repentance enables the individual to reach out to G‑d Himself — far beyond the level of either immanent or transcendent G‑dliness.

This level of repentance, the level of Torah study, is itself composed of two levels — seeking peace and pursuing it — corresponding to the revealed and hidden7 levels of Torah.

The Seder’s four cups of wine also correspond to these four levels of repentance.8 Accordingly, the four expressions of redemption conform to these four levels.

Thus, “I will release you from the bondage [the spiritual impurity] of Egypt,” corresponds to the action of “turning away from evil.”

“I will save you — v’hitzalti” (related to the Hebrew word tzeil or “shadow”), refers to the encompassing level of G‑dliness that is drawn down through the performance of mitzvos.

“I will liberate you” corresponds to the level of Torah, for as our Sages state: “Only the person who studies Torah is truly free.”9 More specifically, this refers to the revealed portion of Torah, as understood from the simple reading of the text.

Finally, “I will take you unto Me as a nation” (true unity with G‑d) refers to the esoteric dimension of Torah, the highest level of repentance.

As these four degrees of repentance progress from the lowest to the highest, the Torah’s expressions with regard to the Exodus also move from the smallest to the greatest.

Now, there is a well-known debate about which is more important: Torah study or the performance of mitzvos. If study comes first, then “I will liberate you” and “I will take you” would come last in the order of progression from lowest to highest. But, if the performance of mitzvos is more important than study, “I will save you” should be mentioned last.

The reason for the difference in the order of expressions found in the Torah and in the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch is now clear: The order in the Torah (the Torah desiring to emphasize Torah study, as from its perspective, Torah study is primary) concludes with “I will take you,” underscoring the supremacy of Torah study.

The order in the Shulchan Aruch (which deals with laws of performance) concludes with “I will save you,” thereby emphasizing the primacy of performance.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XI, pp. 14-22.