The first commandment from the Aseres Hadibros is the belief that Hashem took Am Yisrael out of the Egyptian bondage מבית עבדים. These last words amongst the meforshim are translated in two ways, from the house of being slaves or from slavery. Yet there is a third intriguing interpretation which we will now present and elaborate on. The בית עבדים is referring to the Egyptians who were themselves slaves. This interpretation is found in the Pesikta, Tur Hararuch on the Torah, Rabbeinu Bachya, and the Sifsai Kohen in his commentary on the Torah (Shmos). The Sifsai Kohen writes
עוד טעם אחר שהיה הגלות במצרים. לפי שהקב”ה יעד לישראל ואחרי כן יצאו ברכוש גדול ואם היה בארץ אחרת היה נראה עול וחילול השם שיקחו ממונם אפילו ששעבדו אותם. שהשעבוד הוא גזירה שנגזר עליהם ובפרט שהם לקחוהו בשאלה שנאמר וישאלו איש מאת רעה ולזה היה במצרים כי ידוע לכל שהם עבדים ומה שקנה עבד קנה רבו.
He explains why the Galus of Yisrael was in Mitzrayim even though this designated place was not revealed to Avraham Avinu during the Bris Bain Habasarim. For Mitzrayim was the son of Cham the son of Noach. He and his descendants were cursed with the decree of being a slave to Shaim as it is written עבד עבדים יהיה לאחיו (see meforshim). Shem was the most virtuous son of the three, whose descendants were Avraham Avinu and Am Yisrael. Therefore the halacha dictates (Pesachim 88b)מה שקנה עבד קנה רבו that whatever comes into the possession of the slave, automatically belongs to his master. Therefore Am Yisrael in Mitzrayim who were really the master over the Egyptians, were wrongly working as slaves to slaves. Therefore the money that we took out from Mitzrayim really belonged to us for we were their masters ומה שקנה עבד קנה רבו . Therefore there was no Chillul Hashem for Yisrael to take the wealth of Mitzrayim since they were legally the true owners.
With this interpretation, we can answer the question of the Parshas Derachim who asks how can Mitzrayim be punished with makkos and also with their money being taken over by Yisrael when we have the rule of קם ליה בדרבה מיניה (Makkos 16). This rule states that if a person is condemned to death for killing someone, he is freed from paying for the damages done during the act of murder because the Torah prescribes that the murderer is given the greater of the two punishments. Yet here by makkos of Mitzrayim they died plus Yisrael also took their money from them? However, with our interpretation above, this question does not even start since the money was legally Yisrael’s because of the din מה שקנה עבד קנה רבו .
We can now also explain the Medrash Peliah that comments on the passuk הים ראה וינוס that the Yam Suf refused to divide until it saw the great wealth that Am Yisrael were carrying out from Mitzrayim. We suggest that the explanation to this is that Chazal tell us that at Yetzias Mitzrayim there arose a big question on whether Am Yisrael was a pure breed or not. Since they were slaves in Mitzrayim fully controlled by the Egyptians, this situation also presents that their wives were also controlled by them (Bamidbar 26,5 Rashi). Consequently, the males who left Mitzrayim were fathered by Egyptians and their pure lineage was lost. Now the only reason why they were able to take the wealth from Mitzrayim was because they were descendants of Shem to whom Cham was enslaved. Without Yisrael’s legal ownership of Mitzrayim, the taking of Mitzrayim’s wealth would have caused a Chillul Hashem. The Yam Suf initially thought that it doesn’t have to divide its waters because who says that Am Yisrael in galus preserved their pure lineage from the Avos. However when the Yam Suf saw that they were taking the wealth of Egypt, it was proof that Yisrael were a pure breed and the women of Yisrael did not succumb to the immoral decadence of Mitzrayim so then it split for Am Yisrael to cross.
A second answer to this question can be gleaned from the second interpretation of Chazal on this passuk that the Yam Suf saw the coffin of Yosef which Am Yisrael carried out from Mitzrayim. Just like in the passuk we find the word וינס, so too by his ordeal with the wife of Potifar who tried to seduce him, the passuk says וינס החוצה Chazal say that by Yosef passing this incredible test, he achieved that all Yisrael in the bondage of Mitzrayim will also pass the test of immorality. So too, by the Yam seeing the coffin of Yosef, it understood that Am Yisrael is a pure breed and they have the yichus to leave the bondage of Mitzrayim.
We can see this concept in the Maariv davening in the part relating to Yetzias Mitzrayim and Kerias Yam Suf. אותות ומופתים באדמת בני חם המכה בעברתו כל בכורי מצרים ויוצא את עמו ישראל מתוכם לחרות עולם. Why did our Chazal establish this text of calling Mitzrayim by the name of the children of Cham and not Mitzrayim as it says immediately afterward כל בכורי מצרים? The source of the word Cham in this context is from (Tehillim 88.51) ויך כל בכור במצרים ראשית אונים באהלי חם. But the question still remains as why did the passuk mention Cham and not Mitzrayim?
The answer can be that by reminding us that the inhabitants of Mitzrayim were from the children of Cham who were cursed together with their descendants to be slaves to the descendants of Shaim, it emphasizes that the bondage was more severe than another galus. Being that we were in truth their masters and not their slaves, the roles of Yisrael and Mitzrayim should have been switched. By saying Bnei Cham upon whom we were their masters, we are revealing that we were allowed to take their wealth and also that it proved that we were a pure breed exclusively fathered by Yidden. Therefore the text in Maariv continues to say that Hashem took out עמו ישראל מתוכם that we retained the lineage of Yisrael and therefore merited to a חירות עולם which happened at Kerias Yam Suf with the waters splitting for our safe passage.
As we mentioned above that the servitude to Mitzrayim was worse than an average bondage since the pain and anguish was intensified by becoming “slaves to slaves”. This could also have been the explanation as to why the 400 decreed years of bondage was decreased to 210 years. This concept can be included in words of Chazal, קושי השעבוד השלים that the severity of the enslavement completed the bondage earlier. This could be hinted in the words of the passuk (Shmos 6,5) וגם אני שמעתי את נאקת בני ישראל אשר מצרים מעבידים אותם ואזכר את בריתי that Hashem says I also heard the agonizing cries of Yisrael arising from Mitzrayim’s enslaving them and I remembered my treaty. The emphasis is that Yisrael experienced an extra severe pain due to the fact that it was specifically Mitzrayim who themselves were legally slaves to Am Yisrael, who were their oppressors. These severe cries caused Hashem to reexamine the Bris in which He decreed 400 years and now Hashem was moved to say enough! והוצאתי אתכם מתחת סבלת מצרים והצלתי אתכם מעבודתם. I will remove you from the extra excruciating anguish to bear the oppressor Mitzrayim who are really your slaves. Secondly, I will save you from the servitude והצלתי אתכם מעבודתם as if it was any other nation who forced you into servitude.
והוצאתי אתכם מתחת סבלת מצרים and Rashi writes as it is written in the Bris Bain Habasarim ואחרי כן יצאו ברכוש גדול. We find that the רכוש גדול of the geulah is juxtaposed together with סבלת מצרים. According to our interpretation, the relationship between them is סבלת מצרים that Yisrael’s extra burden of the oppressors being a descendant of Cham which makes them actually slaves to us executes the application of the halacha of מה שקנה עבד קנה רבו. That is why we can leave Mitzrayim with great wealth because it really belongs to us. This could also be a reason why Dovid Hamelech mentioned Cham instead of Mitzrayim in Tehillim which is repeated in the Maariv tefillah, in order to refute the objection of how we were redeemed earlier than the 400 decreed years.
We can now return to the Medrash Peliah and give yet another explanation to what exactly transpired. The Yam Suf did not want to split because the 400 decreed years were not yet over making our departure from Mitzrayim a premature redemption. However, the Yam also saw the wealth of Mitzrayim that Yisrael were asked by Hashem to take, and Hashem’s obvious lack of concern of causing a Chillul Hashem. The Yam Suf then understood that the relationship between Am Yisrael and the Egyptians was that the Yidden were the masters of Mitzrayim who were really the slaves and מה שקנה עבד קנה רבו. It also now realized that the servitude of the Yidden to Mitzrayim was doubly severe psychologically, emotionally and physically being more difficult and challenging since the slaves were the masters of their fate. Simultaneously it understood that because of this the 210 years the Yidden of this type of servitude made up for the 400 years of normal servitude and it therefore split its waters for them.
In the Haggadah we say וכל המרבה לספר ביציאת מצרים הרי זה משובח anyone who tells the story of the geulah from in Mitzrayim with a generous and lengthy manner, ביציאת מצרים is praiseworthy. The prefix ב before the word יציאת is superfluous. It can allude to the retelling of the ב two exoduses from Egypt. One type of geulah was from slavery. The other geulah was from the oppressors “Mitzrayim”, the son of Cham, who were technically our slaves which made the servitude even more unbearable. To earn the title of being praiseworthy, one who relates specifically the duel slavery and geula. Am Yisrael was formed into a nation while being in a state of slaves serving slaves. Hashem caused this switching of roles in order to train His new nation to detest and never to forget what it meant and felt to be a slave to another slave even though you were his true master. This training for the Am Yisrael nation is required every day in order for one to serve Hashem’s properly and fulfill His Torah and mitzvos. It is the yetzer harah who is called an עבד. This is derived from the passuk in (Mishlei 29,21)
מפנק עבדו מנער ובסוכה נב: רש”י מבאר שהיצה”ר עבדו של אדם שאם רצה הרי הוא מסור בידו שנאמר ואתה תמשול בו ע”כ.
The yetzer harah is called a servant, for it is man who is designated to rule over him. From the galus of Mitzrayim and its geulah, we have learned to detest such a painful lopsided relationship. Hashem has already redeemed us from such a fate thereby implanting within us the inner power to make sure that it doesn’t repeat itself in our personal lives. The first commandment of the Aseres Hadibros says אנכי ה’ אלקיך אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים מבית עבדים. Hashem says that you must serve Him and fulfill His 613 mitzvos. You cannot say that such an observance is too difficult to fulfill because you have a struggle with your yetzer harah. Did I not take you out of Mitzrayim who themselves were slaves to you yet they acted as your masters. You despised every second of servitude to a slave and I redeemed you from that horrific oppression. How then can you turn around now and say I cannot accept or keep the Torah since I am a slave to my slave the yetzer hara.
Our sefarim tell us that Pesach is the time to rid ourselves from chometz which symbolizes the yetzer hara. In light of the above, Pesach has the segulah to free ourselves from the shackles of making ourselves slaves to slaves. On Pesach we learn to become masters of our own fate and choose life for eternity. Therefore there is a mitzvah to remember Yetzias Mitzrayim every day.
Every morning we say the beracha שלא עשני עבד. Let us include in this beracha that we thank Hashem for not letting us fall to be a slave to our slave the yetzer harah ואל תשלט בנו יצר הרע ודבקנו ביצר הטוב ובמעשים טובים וכוף את יצרנו להשתעבד לך