1. On the verse, “These are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt,” the Midrash comments that the names of the twelve tribes are mentioned in connection with the redemption of the Jewish people. This is seemingly difficult, for the verse mentions the descent into Egypt and similarly, the narrative which follows mentions the beginning of the Jews’ servitude, seemingly the direct opposite of the redemption.1

A second opinion in the Midrash states that the names of the twelve tribes are mentioned to emphasize that they descended into Egypt with the names Reuven, Shimon... and ascended after the redemption with these very same names. Thus the emphasis is on the merit of the Jewish people, that throughout the Egyptian exile, they did not change their names.

The implication of both of these passages is, however, that the purpose of the narrative is to emphasize that one must appreciate the descent into Egypt as a phase in the redemption of the Jewish people, and indeed as connected with their ultimate redemption.2 In that context, the obligation to recall — and relive — the exodus from Egypt every day serves as a catalyst to bring about the ultimate Redemption.

The relevance of this concept is reinforced by the following passage (from the conclusion of the first tractate of Berachos, quoted also in the Pesach Haggadah):

Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah said: I am like a person seventy years old and yet I did not merit (to understand the source for the obligation) to recall the exodus from Egypt at night until Ben Zoma explained: “It is written, ‘so that you recall the day you left Egypt all the days of your life.’ ‘The days of your life,’ this refers to the actual days. ‘All the days of your life,’ includes the nights as well.” Our Sages say: “ ’The days of your life,’ this refers to the present era. ‘All the days of your life,’ includes the Era of the Redemption.”

Rashi emphasizes that Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah was not in fact seventy years old at the time. When he was eighteen, the Sages removed Rabban Gamliel from the position of Nasi and appointed Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah in his place. That night his beard sprouted grew hairs so that he appeared to be seventy years old. On the following day, Ben Zoma gave the above explanation. From this narrative, it appears that these concepts, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah’s appointment to the position of Nasi and his becoming “like a person seventy years old” relate to the concept of recalling the exodus from Egypt every day.

To explain: The exodus from Egypt “is a great fundamental principle... of our Torah and faith” and it represents the opening of the potential for all redemption. At that time, the Jews became designated as G‑d’s “servants and not the servants of servants.” The freedom granted at that time, continues at all times.

In a spiritual sense, the exodus from Egypt represents the liberation of the G‑dly soul from the boundaries and limitations (meitzarim in Hebrew) of the body and the animal soul and in general, of the entire material environment in which we live. This grants the potential for them to become united with G‑d through the Torah and its mitzvos. Since these are fundamental concepts within the Torah and Yiddishkeit, we are obligated to recall the exodus every day.

In terms of our spiritual service, there are three different counterparts in regard to this obligation:

a) The obligation to recall the exodus during the day — i.e., each day of a person’s life, he must go beyond his boundaries and limitations as mentioned above.

b) The obligation to recall the exodus at night — i.e., to carry out this service during the night of exile.

c) The obligation to recall the exodus in the Era of the Redemption3 — although the Future Redemption will surpass the exodus from Egypt. It will be a redemption that will not be followed by exile, for “I will cause the spirit of impurity to pass away from the earth,” in contrast to the redemption from Egypt when the potential for evil remained in the world.4 Nevertheless, we will recall the exodus from Egypt even in that era.

To explain: The exodus from Egypt opened the potential for all future redemptions. Furthermore, had the Jewish people merited they would have proceeded directly from the exodus from Egypt to the Ultimate Redemption.5 Thus the two, the exodus from Egypt and the Ultimate Redemption are in essence a single entity. Indeed, in Chassidic thought, it is explained that the entire period of time from the exodus until the Future Redemption is described as “the days of your exodus from Egypt.” For the exodus will not be complete until the Ultimate Redemption is realized. Although many thousands of years have passed from the exodus, this is the result of external factors. Consequently, “all the days of your life” must be pointed to a single goal,” “to bring the Era of the Redemption.”6

Based on the above, we can understand why the exodus will be recalled in the Era of the Redemption. For as explained above, the exodus marked the beginning of the process which leads to the Ultimate Redemption. Also, the service associated with the exodus possesses an advantage, for it reflects the power of the Jewish people to serve G‑d even when the forces of evil continue to exist. Nevertheless, in the Era of the Redemption, the recollection of the exodus will be merely a secondary factor, because the Ultimate Redemption will be much fuller and more complete than the redemption from Egypt.

Therefore, the Sages add to Ben Zoma’s statements by saying that the exodus from Egypt will be relevant to the spiritual service of the Jews, not only in the time of exile, but even in the ultimate perfection of the Era of the Redemption.

The expression lehavi yemos haMashiach, translated as “to include the Era of the Redemption,” literally means “to bring the Era of the Redemption.” This implies that the Sages were not merely making a statement that will be relevant in the Era of the Redemption, but rather stated a concept relevant to the Jews at all times: A Jew must realize that “all the days of his” must be dedicated to a single goal, “to bring the Era of the Redemption.”

This implies two points: Firstly, one must anticipate the Redemption and experience a foretaste of it in his contemporary experience, i.e., bring the Era of the Redemption into “all the days of his life.” Secondly, that doing so will act as a catalyst and hasten the actual coming of the Redemption.

Based on the above, we can explain the connection between the above concept and Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah and his appointment to the position of Nasi. The goal of a Nasi is to establish a connection between the entire Jewish people and the Ultimate Redemption, to give the Jews a foretaste of Redemption while they are in exile. Therefore, on the day Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah was appointed Nasi, he dedicated himself to studying the concept of redemption.

On the basis of the above, we can also understand the miraculous phenomenon that occurred in regard to Rabbi Elazar’s physical person, that in one night, he grew a grey beard resembling that of a seventy year old sage. Seventy is the normal span of a person’s life as it is written, “The days of our lives are seventy years.” For seventy is associated with the refinement of our entire emotional make-up (our seven emotional characteristics as they include all ten powers of the soul).7 All of these qualities should be permeated by the ayin (the numerical equivalent of seventy, which also means “eye”) of holiness, i.e., that it will be possible to see G‑dliness. (This represents a foreglimpse of the Era of the Redemption, for it is in that era that we will merit the fulfillment of the prophecy, “All flesh will see that it is the mouth of G‑d that has spoken.”)

Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah accomplished this service in his youth. At the age of eighteen, he had already refined his emotional characteristics and his involvement with the world at large. He had experienced the exodus from Egypt at night, i.e., even before the Redemption, he had internalized its service. As such, he was prepared to serve as the Nasi.8

The unique nature of Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah’s contribution can be appreciated by the continuation of the narrative of the events which transpired on the day on which he was appointed Nasi. The Talmud relates that previously Rabban Gamliel had enforced restrictions on the students entering the House of Study. “Any student whose inner being was not equivalent to his external mode of conduct was prevented from entering.” When Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah was appointed Nasi, the watchman at the entrance to the House of Study was removed and many more students entered.

To explain this narrative: Rabban Gamliel reflected a mode of conduct appropriate to the Era of the Redemption,9 the age when “I will cause the spirit of impurity to pass away from this world.” Therefore, he placed restrictions on the students who could enter the House of Study, allowing only those who could reflect that level to enter.

In contrast, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah was associated with the potential to “recall the exodus from Egypt at night,” to allow the Jews in the night of exile to experience redemption. Therefore, he allowed many more students to enter the House of Study. Although their immediate level of refinement was not comparable to that of the Era of the Redemption, he was confident that ultimately this experience would allow these students to rise to this level.

(The success of his approach is reflected in the fact that, as the narrative continues, for the entire period that Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah served as Nasi, Rabban Gamliel attended the House of Study. This indicates that Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah’s approach gained the support and assistance of Rabban Gamliel.)

The Sefer Yetzirah emphasizes that “the beginning is rooted in the end, and the end in the beginning.” Thus there is a connection between the obligation to recall the exodus from Egypt at night (and in the Era of the Redemption) and the beginning of the tractate of Berachos, “From which time10 should the Shema be recited?” For the recitation of the Shema and the acceptance of the yoke of Heaven associated with it is analogous with the exodus from Egypt. And both of these services can — and must — be carried out “at night,” in the darkness of exile.

Similarly, there is a connection between these concepts and the conclusion of the entire Talmud:

Whoever studies Torah laws every day is assured of life in the World to Come as it is written, “Halichos (the ways of) the world are his.” Do not read halichos, but halachos (Torah laws).

For the latter teaching indicates how through Torah study, one can anticipate the level of the World to Come at present.

Similarly, the above concepts relate to the conclusion of the entire Mishnah: “The Holy One, blessed be He, did not find a vessel capable of holding blessing for the Jewish people except peace as it is written, ‘G‑d endowed His people with strength; G‑d will bless His people with peace.’ ” For the ultimate conception of peace will be in the Era of the Redemption. Then we will merit the manifestation in a full sense of the verse, “G‑d will redeem my soul in peace.”

The above ideas relate to the concepts explained at the outset, that the descent to Egypt was intended to lead to the exodus. For the ultimate purpose of the exile in Egypt, and indeed the purpose of “all the days of one’s life,” is to “bring the Era of the Redemption.”11

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2. There is a connection between the above concepts and the Rambam’s yahrzeit, the 20th of Teves, which fell on the previous Friday this year. (Thus it has an open connection to the spiritual service of the present day. Our Sages taught, “Whoever prepares on Friday, will eat on Shabbos.” This includes not only the preparation of physical food, but also for the spiritual service, for the Shabbos day.)

The name Rambam is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning, “I will multiply My wonders in the land of Egypt,” an allusion to the wonders associated with redemption. Similarly, the Rambam’s spiritual service involved giving Jews, in Egypt, in the night of exile, a foretaste of the Redemption.

Firstly, he lived in the land of Egypt and it was there that he composed his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah. As he explained in the Introduction to that work, the Mishneh Torah was composed because of the difficulties of exile, because the Jews were unable to derive halachic rulings from the Talmud and needed an auxiliary source. Nevertheless, the text that the Rambam composed gave the Jews a foretaste of the Era of the Redemption. This is reflected in the fact that it includes laws which will only be relevant in the Era of the Redemption when the Beis HaMikdash will be rebuilt and in the conclusion of the text which focuses directly on the Era of the Redemption.12

Thus since on the yahrzeit of a tzaddik, “the totality of his deeds, teaching, and service is revealed and... ‘brings about salvation in the depths of the earth,’ ” it follows that the Rambam’s yahrzeit, grants us further potential to anticipate the Redemption.

The above is particularly relevant in the present age when, to borrow an expression from the Previous Rebbe, the Jewish people have completed the service required of them and have even “polished the buttons.” Everything is ready for the Redemption and all that is lacking is that G‑d open the eyes of the Jews and allow them to realize that they are sitting at the feast of the Redemption.

There is no need for an further delay and without any interruption, we will soon proceed from the present era to the Era of the Redemption. The very next moment can be the last moment of the exile and the first moment of the Redemption. As a catalyst for this, we must reflect an attitude of Redemption in our lives, showing how within the exile, we can experience Redemption.

This should include a reinforcement of our study of the Rambam’s works according to the three pronged plan of study: Three chapters or one chapter a day in the Mishnah Torah, or the parallel portions of Sefer HaMitzvos. Not only should one study these works himself, he should also influence others to do so. (Similarly, an emphasis should be placed on the study of the final chapters of the Mishneh Torah which deal with the Era of the Redemption.)

May these efforts lead to the era when — as the Rambam states in the conclusion of that text — “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the ocean bed.”