There and Here


The wicked son says: “What is this work for you?” For you, [he says,] not for himself, excluding himself from the community… So tell him, “This is because of what G-d did for me when I left Egypt.” For me, not for him–had he been there, he would not have been redeemed.

The Passover Haggadah

“Freedom?” mocks the “wicked son” at the Passover seder “You call this freedom? To me it looks like work. All you’ve done is exchange the service of Pharaoh for the service of G-d. Frankly, Pharaoh was the less demanding master…”

Had he been there, he would not have been redeemed, we inform him. Indeed, our sages tell us that only twenty percent of the Jewish people departed Egypt for Sinai on the first Passover.[1] The other 80% refused to leave, preferring the freedom from responsibility of the slave to the freedom to transcend one’s finite self of the committed Jew. In Egypt, G-d accepted every Jew as he was, despite his moral and spiritual station; there was, however, one condition: one had to desire freedom in order to deserve it.

Had he been there, he would not have been redeemed, we also inform him. The exodus from Egypt was before the revelation at Sinai, before G-d chose each and every Jew as His own. There, redemption was a matter of individual choice. Had he been there, he would still be there. But he was not there—he is here.

“Here” is after Sinai. “Here,” free is what we are, not something that we elect or decline to be. “On that day,” prophesies Isaiah, “you will be gathered up one by one, O Children of Israel.”[2] In the future redemption of Moshiach, “not a single one will be forsaken.”[3]

Based on an address by the Rebbe, Passover 5728 (1968)


[1] “The children of Israel left Egypt chamushim,” says the Torah (Exodus 13:18). The word chamushim, as Rashi points out in his commentary on the verse, has a dual meaning; it means “armed” as well as “a fifth part.”

[2] Isaiah 27:12.

[3] Samuel II 14:14.


Did you enjoy this? Get personalized content delivered to your own MLC profile page by joining the MLC community. It's free! Click here to find out more.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
The Meaningful Life Center