At the beginning of the Torah portion of Vayeira , 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.’ ”

Why does the Alter Rebbe change the order?

There are four general levels of repentance,4 alluded to in the passage5 “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 thought, speech or action. If he has transgressed, he is to regret his past misdeeds and uproot his evil desires. For a person does not want to abandon his unity with G‑d, and desires G‑d’s imminent revelation.

The second level of repentance involves doing teshuvah for shortcomings in the performance of mitzvos and good deeds. In order to draw down the level of holiness that is lacking due to a lassitude in the performance of positive commands,one’s repentance must be of an extremely high order, so that one can unite with that level of G‑dliness which transcends 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 an individual to reach out to G‑d Himself — far beyond the level of either imminent or transcendent G‑dliness.

The highest level of repentance, the level of Torah, 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 positive performance is more important than study, “I will release you” should be mentioned last.

The reason for the difference in the order of expressions found in the Torah and in the Shulchan Aruch is now clear: The order in the Torah (the Torah desiring to emphasize Torah study) concludes with “I will take you,” emphasizing the primacy of Torah study. The order in the Shulchan Aruch (which deals with laws of performance) concludes with “I will save you,” emphasizing the primacy of performance.

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