Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Bo
To dedicate this lesson

Why in haste?


Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon

Since our Parsha recounts the story of the Exodus from Egypt, we will devote our attention to the process of the Exodus and its connection to Pesach. As we know, the Hebrew meaning of "Pesach" is to "pass over", as written (Ex. ch. 12, 27): "…for He passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt". Indeed, haste, "passing over", is characteristic of the deliverance from Egypt: "And thus shall you eat it: with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, your staff in your hand, and you shall eat it in haste, it is the Lord's Passover" (Ex. ch. 12, 11).

The Mechilta (Halachic Midrash) on Bo[1] says that the great haste in the Exodus encompassed all the factors involved – the Egyptians who rushed to expel the Jews, the Children of Israel who hastened to leave, and Hashem who hastened to deliver them: "Rabbi Yehoshua says: '…you shall eat it in haste' – this is the Israelites' haste…Or perhaps this verse refers to the haste of the Egyptians? The words '…for they were driven out of Egypt' refer to the Egyptians' haste! Abba Chanan, in the name of Rabbi Elazar, says: 'It is the haste of the Divine Presence! Although there is no absolute proof of this, we can find an allusion to it: 'The sound of my beloved! Behold he cometh, leaping over the mountains, skipping over the hills!' (Song of Songs, ch.2, 8)."

What is the significance of this haste? Why is it emphasized as a main feature of the Exodus from Egypt? Interestingly, we encounter this emphasis once again in a pasuk in D'varim (ch. 16, 3) – "…for seven days you shall eat with it matzot, the bread of affliction, for in haste you came forth out of the land of Egypt, so that you shall remember the day you came forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life." The Torah here chooses to focus on haste, in particular, as characterizing Passover and as a reason for the commandment to eat matza. The Maharal[2], and subsequently Rav Kook[3], wrote that the haste reveals a basic principle intrinsic to the salvation of Am Yisrael."'For seven days you shall eat with it matzot…for in haste you came forth out of the land of Egypt', for their departure in haste, in no time at all, demonstrates the elevated spiritual quality of the deliverance from Egypt. Natural events are subject to time, but Israel's redemption was above and beyond nature, and thus – was swift and outside the dimension of time."

Haste therefore expresses something that does not take place by means of a dilatory, gradual process which is typical of nature. Haste symbolizes the metaphysical. The Exodus from Egypt was a divine, supernatural process. That is the reason for Hashem's "leaping", passing over the houses of the Israelites, and the matzot being baked in haste. The Rambam (Maimonides)[4] explains that the laws of Korban Pesach – roasting the meat, the prohibition of breaking a bone – are meant to ensure haste. This haste teaches us that the Exodus is far too sublime to adhere to the laws of nature. It must be achieved by super-natural means.

The events of Exodus from Egypt and the parting of the Sea had a profound effect not only on Egypt, but on the whole world. The plagues affected all the forces of nature, and began the process of their perfection. The parting of the sea was a climactic divine revelation in nature, stemming from Hashem's intervention on behalf of His nation. There is a broader, universal significance to these events – beyond the particular salvation of Israel. These events signify the beginning of the restoration of the world to its ideal state ("Tikun Olam"). The Exodus was the "inauguration" of the war against the powers of evil in the world. The sublime level revealed in the haste of the Exodus was a momentous innovation of universal significance.

This explains why - immediately after the parting of the Sea – Amalek came to fight Israel. The great message of our Exodus to freedom, the call for morality, justice and striving for perfection and awareness of divine presence – alarmed the nations. Amalek reacted by attempting to fight and revolt against this call.

We have seen that Am Yisrael's redemption does not proceed according to the laws of nature; it is supernatural. We should remember this during difficult periods in the course of our redemption. Let us continue to believe in the Divine Providence surrounding us, and hope to see Hashem's speed in bringing about our complete salvation.
[1] Chapter 7, 44.
[2] In his preface to "Ohr Chadash", and in his commentary on the Haggada, p. נ"ג "For their departure in haste…"
[3] Ma'amrei Re'iyah p. 165, Olat Re'iyah part 2 p. רפ"ז.
[4] Guide for the Perplexed, part 3, ch. 46.
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