Parshat Shemot

Shemot 2:11

Some time after that, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his kinfolk and witnessed their labors [alternate trans: he saw into their suffering].


AND HE SAW THEIR BURDENS: He set his eyes and mind to share in their distress.

Shemot 2:23-25

A long time after that, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites were groaning under the bondage and cried out; and their cry for help from the bondage rose up to God. God heard the moaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.


AND GOD KNEW: He directed His heart to them and did not hide His eyes from them.

Shemot 3:2

An angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire out of a bush.

Shemot Rabbah

The Holy One, Blessed be He said to Mosses, You do not sense that I too dwell in sorrow, just as Israel dwells in sorrow. But you should know: from the place I speak to you from within the thorn-bush, [that is a sign] as it were that I too am a partner in their sorrow.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

The Egyptian exile and the Exodus are … basic elements within our being …

The processes of exile and redemption exist [beyond the Jewish people] … all humanity does so as well …. these are basic stages in the life process of everyone …

The cycle of exile and redemption forms the basis of our lives, and in this respect the story of the Exodus exists on a different plane from the other stories in the Torah; it is the central story of existence. … Our world is built on the reality of exile, a complex existence with problems and difficulties. In the midst of exile, we must endeavor to ultimately attain redemption.

The essential point of exile is that something is not where it should be, in its appropriate place.

Awareness of exile begins the moment there is a sense, which sometimes comes from within and sometimes comes from without, that the problem is not just a personal problem but an overall problem of disharmony. When there is an awareness of exile, the problem is no longer how to make small adjustments within the reality but how to get out of this place entirely.

Awareness of exile is the awareness of the need for a revolution – that is, for a fundamental change in the order of the existing reality.

Emergence from exile requires an essential change, because the whole essence of redemption is revolution, an essential change in the world order.

So long as one accepts as a given the framework of the existing reality, he will never be able to recognize the possibility of redemption. So long as one sees the problems as a handful of disagreeable details within a reality in which he basically feels at home, he has no reason to take action to change reality. … The moment one comes to the awareness that his reality is not as it should be and that it must be changed on an essential level is the very moment when he can begin the process of redemption.

Rabbi Yehudah Leib, Alter of Ger

My grandfather and teacher commented that until the king died they were so deeply sunk in exile that they did not even feel it. But now the process of redemption began, and they became aware of their exile and started to sign.

Surely there are several rungs in each exile.

The middle rung [comprises] those who are prisoners in exile; they are unable to broaden out that point of divine life that is within them.

[the highest rung are]… the righteous; they themselves are not really in exile

[the lowest rung are those ] who do not yet even feel their exile, they are in the need of the greatest salvation.

Something like this is true for every exile. But more than just that, all these rungs seem to exist in every person as well. Every Jew has some inner place in which he is a free person.

one comes to see the community’s consolation right there in the midst of its suffering. Exile is only a hiding. If you can manage to remove that hiding from yourself by making your heart pure and clear, you will be able to see “the community’s consolation.” … This is what happened with Moses. Because “he saw into their suffering”, the blessed Holy One showed him the redemption and the giving of Torah …

“In a flame of fire from the midst of the bush”. The Midrash says that this show [that] “there is no place devoid of the divine presence–not even a thornbush.” This is the purpose of exile: that Israel make visible His kingdom, which is indeed everywhere. The true meaning of the word galut [exile] is hitgalut [revelation], that the glory of God’s kingdom be revealed in every place.