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Peninei Halakha > Prayer > 15 - Keriat Shema > 05 – The Significance of the Exodus

05 – The Significance of the Exodus

The Egyptian kingdom, which enslaved Israel, was essentially the kingdom of materialism. Historical research verifies this. Among all the ancient nations, no culture was more materialistic than the Egyptian culture. The Egyptians denied the existence of a soul and did not believe in the afterlife. Only the human body and material objects were of importance to them. They therefore invested enormous effort into mummifying their dead and preserving their bodies. Even the great pyramids are none other than tombs for their bodies. Their immoral culture worked in conjunction with their beliefs, the main purpose being to satisfy bodily urges. As Chazal tell us, no other country was more absorbed in lusts than Egypt (Torat Kohanim, Acharei Mot, chapter 9). The nation of Israel represents the exact opposite, its main objective being spiritual aspirations.

The materialistic Egyptian nation ruled over Am Yisrael and enslaved the Jewish people in excruciating physical labor. It seemed that the great spirit that began to appear with our forefathers would not rise again. The material had prevailed over the spiritual, until the King of Kings Himself appeared in His glory and freed us from Egypt.

By taking us out of Egypt, Hashem proved to the world, for the first time, the ultimate power of spirituality and moral values. The Exodus illustrates the victory of spirituality over materialism. As much as materialism tries to enslave spirituality, in the end, spirituality will free itself from its chains. Just like Israel left Egypt triumphantly and in great wealth, so will every battle between the spiritual and the material ultimately end victoriously for spirituality.

And just as the nation of Israel, who gave the world Torah and ethics, was freed from the material bondage of the Egyptian empire, so too, each individual of Israel must free himself from the chains of materialism in order to discover spirituality and to connect to the Master of the world by performing mitzvot. Therefore, we are commanded to remember the Exodus every day and every night. In doing so, we recall Israel’s great moral and spiritual calling, thereby freeing ourselves from the chains of materialism to embrace eternal Divine truths.

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman