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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Philosophy: The 4 Languages of Redemption

In order to gain insight into the 4 languages of redemption, we look at their source in the Torah and the Ramban on this source. The verses are in Shmos 6:6-8:
 ו לָכֵן אֱמֹר לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲנִי יְהוָה, וְהוֹצֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם מִתַּחַת סִבְלֹת מִצְרַיִם, וְהִצַּלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם מֵעֲבֹדָתָם; וְגָאַלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם בִּזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה, וּבִשְׁפָטִים גְּדֹלִים.  ז וְלָקַחְתִּי אֶתְכֶם לִי לְעָם, וְהָיִיתִי לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים; וִידַעְתֶּם, כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, הַמּוֹצִיא אֶתְכֶם, מִתַּחַת סִבְלוֹת מִצְרָיִם.  ח וְהֵבֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם, אֶל הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר נָשָׂאתִי אֶת יָדִי, לָתֵת אֹתָהּ לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב; וְנָתַתִּי אֹתָהּ לָכֶם מוֹרָשָׁה, אֲנִי יְהוָה 
The Ramban 6:6 explains the meaning of these different languages of redemption. We offer the following interpretation of the Ramban. The 4 languages elucidate 4 distinct components of the redemption and of the freedom that Hashem provided us: physical freedom, economic freedom, psychological freedom, and philosophical freedom.


1. Physical freedom: The סִבְלֹת מִצְרַיִם refer to the physical burden that we bore as slaves in Egypt. The removal of this was the first and most basic aspect of our redemption and is referenced by וְהוֹצֵאתִי . 


2. Economic freedom: Once the physical freedom was granted, our actions were no longer controlled by the Egyptians. However, they could have still retained us as a subservient tributary, as "slaves" economically (as Yosef rendered all Egyptians as "slaves" to Pharoh). When Hashem redeemed us, he prevented this as well and thereby gave us a full economic freedom. This aspect of freedom is referenced by וְהִצַּלְתִּי.


3. Psychological Freedom: The Ramban explains that וְגָאַלְתִּי means that Hashem pressured the Egyptians through the plagues to the point where they were scared for their lives and "bought" their own lives in exchange for the Jews' freedom. What is the significance of this? We can explain that if Hashem had just done 1 and 2, the Jews would have been practically free (both physically and economically), but would've still been slaves technically and legally. Who cares? It effects a person psychologically to know that he is a slave, and it effects how other people relate to him. In order to break the slave mentality and slave identity of the Jewish nation and to prepare them to become the nation of Hashem, He insured that the Jews were technically freed. This aspect of redemption is referenced by וְגָאַלְתִּי.


4. Philosophical Freedom: The Ramban explains that the 4th language of redemption,וְלָקַחְתִּי, is a reference to giving us the Torah at Har Sinai. What does this have to do with our redemption and why does it qualify as the final language of redemption? 


Chazal say (Avos 6:2) that there is no truly free person but one who is involved in the Torah. Why is this? Ostensibly, the Torah restricts a person's freedom through rules and regulations. One may legitimately view the Torah as a servitude to Hashem and can view the redemption from Egypt as merely changing masters from Pharoh to Hashem. In fact, the pasuk (vayikra 25:42) says כִּי עֲבָדַי הֵם, אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִי אֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.  Why then is the Torah Jew the only truly free person?

If we only had the first 3 stages of redemption, we would've been totally free from external masters controlling our actions. However, we would then have become slaves to our internal desires which can compel us to do things which are truly harmful to ourselves and prevent us from doing that which are truly good for ourselves. The final stage of our redemption was the giving of the Torah. The Torah directs us towards a life in which we are truly free from the compulsive dimension of our instinctual desires and thereby free to pursue the good life. The various mitzvos of the Torah were carefully designed by Hashem to teach man how to live a life of knowledge and a life of dominion over his passions. This is the only truly free life, a life which is free from both external and internal masters. This final dimension of freedom is referenced by וְלָקַחְתִּי.

In summation, the four cups of wine were set up to reference the 4 languages of redemption and to provide us insight into a deeper idea of the redemption and freedom which we celebrate on the seder night. (See the first comment for a discussion of a possible 5th cup.)

3 comments:

  1. A careful look at the verses above suggests a further question. Verse 8 seems to have a 5th language of redemption, וְהֵבֵאתִי, which refers to Hashem bringing us into Eretz Yisroel. Why are there only 4 cups and not 5? In truth, the Rambam and Rif (among others) had an optional 5th cup upon which you say Hallel Ha'Gadol. Many claim that this 5th cup is in fact based upon וְהֵבֵאתִי (Orchos Chayim (http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14070&st=&pgnum=159 , siman 13) says that Raavad had this in his girsa of the Yerushalmi). But why is it an optional addition as opposed to a mandatory 5th cup? What is the sense altogether of a separate, optional 5th cup?

    Perhaps the idea is as follows. The redemption is complete at Har Sinai. Once we have the Torah, we are truly free. Going into Eretz Yisrael is great and is the ultimate goal of the nation, but it does not effect our freedom. Therefore, we only have 4 cups of redemption, not 5. However, the redemption is a part of a larger plan of Hashem's providence to klal yisroel. This plan culminates in וְהֵבֵאתִי, bringing the Jews into their own land, as promised to the Avos. Thus, since we are giving praise to Hashem on the 4 stages of redemption, it is appropriate to consider the larger picture and include a 5th cup to give praise on וְהֵבֵאתִי as well. A support for this interpretation is that the text that you say on this cup, Hallel Ha'gadol, refers to various aspects of Hashem's providence, including among other things redemption from Egypt and bringing us into Eretz Yisroel.

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  2. Thanks for writing this up! By the way, here's that Abarbanel (Abravanel?) I told you about on Avos 6:2

    ההכנעה אל הדת אינה שעבוד אבל הוא חירות לפי שהדת והנהגתה מביאים האדם אל השלימות המדותיי ולהיות שכלו בן חורין ולא עבד תאוותיו.

    Essentially the same as the explanation you gave, but it's always nice to have one of the מפרשים at hand when additional rhetorical purposes.

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  3. thanks for the source...

    we could have also quoted plato's 'republic'. the idea is true for mankind, not just jews.

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