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Parashat Bo

A Mighty Hand and an Outstretched Arm

God's taking the Jewish people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm made it clear that they had been chosen as the God's nation. When Israel suffers, God's name is desecrated. This fact guarantees the eternal existence of Israel.
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"We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and God our Lord took us out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm." We read these words from the Haggadah each year on Seder Night.

The question is: Why do we make special note of the fact that the Almighty took us out with a "mighty hand"? Is God's taking us out of Egypt with a mighty hand it so important? It would seem that the most important thing is the fact that the He took us out of slavery to freedom. Even had God taken us out of Egypt peacefully without striking the Egyptians, we would have to thank Him. Perhaps it would have even been better had He taken us out in a peaceful manner, placing in Pharaoh's heart the desire for peace and goodwill so that he let us go of his own desire. Would this not have been better than to take us out by force, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, making the Egyptians hate us?
The answer to this question is this: It is precisely due to God's taking us out with a "mighty hand" that we must thank Him. God did us a favor, for, by arranging things such, He made it known to the entire world that the Creator of the universe had chosen us to be his people.

All understood the mighty and miraculous plagues to be the work of the hand of God, as it is written, "And the Magicians said, 'This is the finger of God, and the hand of God." Indeed, only the Almighty Creator of the Universe could perform such signs and wonders, and He did this in order to take the People of Israel out of Egypt. This act caused people to conclude that the Jewish people had been chosen as the nation of God. From this point onward, the Jews would forever be seen as the chosen nation of the Almighty, and being God's chosen people serves to guarantee the eternal existence of the Nation of Israel.

When, for example, the Children of Israel sinned with the Golden Calf, and God wanted to destroy them, Moses stood up and prayed to God, telling him that it was unthinkable to eradicate the Jewish people. This would be a desecration of God's name, for when they were redeemed from Egypt it became known to the entire world that the People of Israel are God's people, and if the Almighty were to destroy them, the nations would say that because God was unable to bring them into the Land of Israel, he destroyed them in the wilderness. "Why should the Egyptians be able to say that You took them out with evil intentions..."

We may thus conclude that the plagues which God brought upon Egypt served to publicize the bond between God and the People of Israel, and this fact is what saves the People of Israel from all tribulation throughout the generations. Even if, Heaven forbid, Israel should happen to sin and thus make themselves unworthy of salvation, God, for the sake of His great name which is attached to Israel, comes to their aid, saving them from all distress.

So, God performed a great act of kindness by taking us out of Egypt from slavery to freedom, and, perhaps principally, by striking the Egyptians with great and Divine plagues. In this manner, the name of God became attached to the People of Israel. The honor of Israel is the honor of God. And when Israel suffers (Heaven forbid!), God's name is desecrated. We can therefore rest assured that the Jewish people will persevere forever and be saved from all affliction, even if we are not truly worthy of such.

Therefore, we thank the Almighty for each and every plague which he brought upon the Egyptians. This is what we say in the thanksgiving Hallel prayer on the Passover Night: "To Him who struck the Egyptians through their firstborn - His kindness endures forever! With a mighty hand and an outstretched arm - His kindness endures forever!" These plagues are an act of everlasting Heavenly kindness. Because of them, God protects us.
It is possible to find this concept expressed in Rabbi Yaakov MiLita's commentary to the Passover Haggadah, entitled "Maaseh Nisim."


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh Yeshiva of the Bet El Yeshiva, was the head of the Yesha rabbis board and rabbi of Bet-El, founder and head of Arutz 7.
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