[The question arises:] How is it possible to reach this level of teshuvah?

[The question can be resolved based on] the verse:1Israel is a youth and I have loved him. From Egypt, I called to My son.” The implication is that [the verse describes two stages in our relationship with G‑d]. This can be illustrated with the analogy [of a relationship] with a young child: As long as he is close to his father and his father shows him affection and draws him near with special love and endearment, the son feels emboldened and consequently acts foolishly, because of his childishness.2 Even if these acts are against his father’s will and even if his father protests, he does not pay attention to him or heed his commands.3 It is only when his father rebukes him and pushes him away, telling [his child] that he is not his father and the like, that the son’s love for his father is aroused and revealed within his heart. He then calls out with an embittered spirit that he does not want to be separate from his father and certainly, that he does not want his father to renounce their relationship.

The love of the Jewish people for G‑d follows a similar pattern. There is love for G‑d hidden in the heart of every Jew. Nevertheless, [when one is in a childish state,] it does not blossom into revelation except through meditation on one’s distance from G‑d.

This is the implication of the verse: “Israel is a youth and I have loved him.” When [the Jews’ relationship with G‑d] is characterized by closeness (“I have loved him”), it is possible for Israel to act like a youth and display childish foolishness. It is, by contrast, specifically that “From Egypt, I called to My son,” [i.e., it is then that the Jews are aroused to love for G‑d]. Egypt (Mitzrayim), the boundaries and limitations4 [resulting from His distancing Himself from us because of our childish actions, and which causes] a diminutive [spiritual level] and the state of shame mentioned above, leads to “I called to My son,” an intensified revelation of love.

This motif explains the nature of the Egyptian exile. There is an Egypt in the realm of holiness and an Egypt in the realm of evil. The counterpart of Egypt5 in the realm of holiness is contenting oneself with the fulfillment of the minimum requirements of the Shulchan Aruch with regard to the study of the Torah. Similarly, the person is satisfied with the mechanical observance of the mitzvos, “as a commandment of men, learned by rote,”6 fulfilling his obligations according to his conception.

[Conduct reflecting the] Egypt of the realm of holiness can eventually lead to Egypt in the realm of evil, i.e., the person stumbles [spiritually] and blemishes the covenant.7 Sometimes, this occurs against his will; he is made impure because of a nocturnal occurrence. Concerning this can be applied the phrase:8 “…which Egypt compels them to perform.”

The exodus from Egypt is brought about by this very [descent], from the person’s realization that he is utterly distant from G‑d. This resembles a son whose father pushes him out and renounces their relationship. [The son] cannot bear this [and seeks to reestablish their bond].

This is the implication of the phrase: “From Egypt, I called to My son.” Feeling himself in dire straits and realizing his distance [from G‑d] arouses in a person the awareness that he is “My (i.e., G‑d’s) son.”

This is the advantage of teshuvah, that even a person who is not found worthy of having “perfect days,” i.e., his garments of Torah and mitzvos are lacking, has the possibility of bonding his soul to G‑d’s Essence and Being through teshuvah.

Moreover, there is an advantage to the bond established through teshuvah over the bond established through the garments of the Torah and its mitzvos. For the garments of the Torah and its mitzvos draw down only a limited [manifestation of Divine light], for [the manifestation of G‑dliness] the person draws down is commensurate with the nature of his Divine service in the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos, his [spiritual] garments. [And his Divine service, limited as it is, draws down] only the light that is memale kol almin (that “fills the worlds”).9

Teshuvah, which by contrast [is unlimited, and therefore] occurs “in one instant and in one moment,”10 draws down [a dimension of G‑dliness] that is unlimited. For the person is aware that any aspect [of Divine service] that is limited and defined is “dark in the presence of the [infinite] Cause of causes.” He therefore seeks to abandon these limitations. Accordingly, [the manifestation of G‑dliness] drawn down through teshuvah — “From Egypt, I called to My son” — is truly lofty; an unlimited level [of G‑dliness].


G‑d motivates the teshuvah of a person whose Divine service is lacking. When a son childishly rebels against his father, the father may motivate him to rectify his conduct by acting harshly toward him. In a similar way, G‑d distances a sinner, and that distance arouses the sinner’s love for G‑d.

This motif explains the Egyptian exile. Egypt is associated with boundaries and limitations. There is an Egypt in the realm of holiness — contentment with the fulfillment of the minimum requirements of Torah observance. And there is an Egypt in the realm of evil. When a person realizes that he is in “Egypt” and becomes conscious of his distance from G‑d, he is motivated to bond with G‑d through teshuvah. Not only does the bond established through teshuvah compensate for any deficiency in one’s observance, it reveals a higher dimension of G‑dliness.