Why was God in a hurry at the time of the Exodus?
“This is how you must eat [the Passover offering]: with your waist belted, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you must eat it in chipazon – in haste.” (Ex. 12:11)
The word chipazon is an unusual word; in the entire Bible it appears only three times. Twice it is used to describe the haste of the Israelites when leaving Egypt. Why did they need to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice?
According to the Midrash, there were in fact three parties who were in haste. The Egyptians, who were afraid that they would all die from the plagues, wanted the Israelite slaves to leave as quickly as possible. The Israelites were in a hurry, lest Pharaoh change his mind once again and refuse to let them leave.
But there was a third party in a rush. The Midrash also speaks of the chipazon of the Shechinah. Why was God in a hurry?
A Hasty Redemption
The redemption from Egypt needed to be fast, like the swift release of an arrow. Here was a group of slaves who had almost completely forgotten the greatness of their inner soul, a treasured gift from their forefathers, holy princes in the land. With a sudden push of God’s hand, a great people full of courage and nobility of spirit, unlike any nation the world had ever seen, was born. This was the dramatic birth “of a nation from the midst of another nation” on the stage of human history.
The meteoric exodus from Egypt with wonders and miracles was critical, to protect this new nation from the dark confusion of world-wide paganism. The Jewish people needed to be decisively extracted from the idolatrous Egyptian milieu in which they had lived for centuries, so that they would be free to raise the banner of pure faith and enlightenment.
The Future Redemption
The word chipazon appears a third time in the Bible – in Isaiah’s beautiful description of the future redemption. Unlike the Exodus from Egypt,
“You will not leave with haste – chipazon – or go in flight; for the Eternal will go before you, and your rear guard will be the God of Israel.” (52:12)
Unlike the miraculous upheaval that brought about the sudden birth of the Jewish people, the future redemption is a gradual process, advancing with slow, progressive steps.
Why will the future redemption be so different from the redemption from Egypt?
In Egypt, the Hebrew slaves were little different from their idolatrous neighbors. Their redemption required a supernatural intervention, a Divine rescue from above. But the future redemption will take place within the laws of nature. It emanates from the stirring of the human heart, itre’uta de-letata – an awakening from below. The Jewish people rises from its exilic slumber, returns to its homeland, regains its independence, rebuilds its forests and cities, defends itself from enemies who would destroy it, recreates its centers of Torah, and so on. Step by step, without overriding the laws of nature, so that even the ba’al ha-ness, the beneficiary of the miracle, is unaware of the miracle.
Unlike the dramatic exodus from Egypt, the future redemption is not an escape from the world and its influences. Over the centuries, we have succeeded in illuminating many aspects that were full of darkness. Our influence has refined the world on many levels. The impact of our Torah and lifestyle, which we guarded with dedication and self-sacrifice throughout the generations, have served as bright stars of enlightenment for many nations.
The goals of the future redemption are twofold. First – to complete the enterprise of spreading our light throughout the world. This light needs to be projected in its pure, pristine form, cleansed from the dregs that have accumulated from centuries of negative influences. The second goal is to purify ourselves from those foreign tendencies that we have absorbed through our contact with the nations during our lengthy exile.
When we will stand once again, strong and independent on the majestic heights of our land, ready to reach our spiritual potential – only then will the nations be able to see our light.
But we must draw upon the heritage of our redemption from Egypt and miraculous birth as the people of Israel. Then our future redemption that will be not in haste, but will grow steadily, kim’a kim’a, like the ever-spreading light of the morning sun.
(Adapted from Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah vol. I. p. 164. Sent to Arutz Sheva by Rabbi Chanan Morrison of Mitzpeh Yericho, author of “Gold From the Land of Israel”. His website, ravkooktorah.org, is dedicated to presenting the Torah commentary of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook)