And You Shall Know

According to chazal, the four cups of wine that we drink during the seder symbolize the four expressions of redemption as stated in the Torah: “I shall take you out …, I shall rescue you …, I shall redeem you …, I shall take you to Me …” (Sefer Shemot, Chapter 6, Verses 6-7). Although much has been written throughout the ages on the meaning of these terms, I think there is arguably a more important lesson to be found by analyzing the surrounding verses.

Briefly summarizing the verses leading up to the four expressions of redemption, Hashem tells Moshe how he appeared to the avot (Avraham, Yitachak, Yaakov) and established a covenant with them to give them (and their offspring) the land of Canaan. In addition, despite their present unbearable situation of enslavement at the hands of the Egyptians, Hashem has not forgotten His promise.

At this point in the narrative, the word lachen (‘therefore’) appears and the literal translation is “Therefore, say to the children of Israel: I am Hashem and I shall take you out …, I shall rescue you …, etc, etc” (the four expressions of redemption). However, since the word ‘therefore’ always connects to what was previously said, it seems quite clear that the meaning here is “Therefore (in order to fulfill my previously mentioned promise of giving you the land), say to the Children of Israel: I am Hashem and I shall take you out …, I shall rescue you …, etc, etc”. In other words, the whole purpose of the four expressions of redemption is to fulfill the promise regarding the land.

Still further, after stating the four expressions of redemption the Torah continues and says

“…and you shall know that I am Hashem your G-d, Who takes you out from under the burdens of Egypt. I shall bring you to the land about which I raised My hand to give it to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov; and I shall give it to you as a heritage – I am Hashem.”

The key word here for further understanding is ‘and you shall know’ (ve-yadatem). After four acts by G-d where the Jewish people were totally passive, they are now required to be active and ‘to know’. What must they know? Simply stated, the Jew needs to know that it is Hashem who is guiding history. Just like a Jew must know that Hashem crushed the Egyptians and saved the Jews, a Jew needs to constantly view history through the lens of this ‘knowing’ and be fully aware that it is Hashem who is guiding history for the ultimate good of the Jewish people, a good which starts with the promise of the land. Moreover, since the original promise to the avot also stated that the nations would be blessed through the Jewish people, it follows that Hashem’s guiding of history to bring the Jews back to the holy land is ultimately for the good of all of humanity.

Finally, perhaps this explains why “I shall bring you to the land …” (which follows ‘and you shall know’) was not added as a fifth expression of redemption. As stated above, the Jew is totally passive during the four expressions of redemption and it is only afterwards that he must be active in ‘knowing’. Hashem redeems us, both as individuals and as a nation, by guiding events in our individual lives and in the larger world around us, but leaves it to us to ‘know’ this. The choice is ours. If we choose to know this, Hashem will help us to quickly return to Him and to His land. However, if we choose to be blind and ignore the obvious, we’re not guaranteed that He is going to help us. Once again, the choice is ours.

The massive events that have transpired during the last 100 years and which have resulted in the Jewish nation being reborn in its homeland are truly incredible. It’s time to open our eyes and to know the obvious! Hashem is waiting to bring us home.

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