The Medrash (Shmos Rabba 3) states that Hashem says to Moshe Rabbeinu until now their cries did not come before Me since the date of the geulah has not yet arrived. The arrival date is referring to the four hundred years decreed at the Bris Bein Habasarim of which they were still short 190. Hashem continues to say, “However, Now I will send you to Mitzrayim for the time of geulah has come.” The question on this Chazal is what changed suddenly? The time of the 400 years decree has still not yet been reached then why is the geulah coming now nevertheless?
There is another Medrash that is just as perplexing. The Torah relates ויהי בימים הרבים ההם וימת מלך מצרים ויאנחו בני ישראל מן העבודה ויזעקו ותעל שועתם אל האלקים מן העבודה The King of Mitzrayim died and the Yidden groaned from the work load and their cries went up to Elokim from the work. The Medrash comments that the death of the Pharaoh was not a real death but rather he contacted leprosy which is compared to death. The magicians of Egypt advised him to kill 150 young Jewish children in the morning and another 150 at night and bathe in their blood which will heal him from his sickness. As a result of their atrocities towards the children of Am Yisrael, this ignited the cries and groans of Am Yisrael as stated in the passuk.
This Medrash needs explanation. How do Chazal conclude from this passuk that the groans came from the slaughter of 300 Jewish children daily when the passuk openly says that Yisrael groaned from the עבודה, and similarly in the same passuk their cries were heard in Shamayim from the עבודה? Secondly, why was this tzarah worse than the previous tzaros of throwing the Jewish children into the River which did not have cause such a bitter reaction?
The Chamudei Tzvi answers that we should take note that it wasn’t the doctors who advised the king to follow this regimen for a refuah but rather the magicians who had another agenda in mind besides a cure to Pharaoh. They understood that the Yiddishe Kinder possessed an undefiled spark of holiness within themselves. They therefore devised a plan to murder the children and sacrifice their blood to avoda zarah and in this same sacrificed blood, Pharaoh was to bathe and thereby be cured from his tzaraas. When the Yidden heard that not only are they killing their children but they are using their blood for avodah zarah, they were broken like never before. They rose to a new level of unbearable agony and anguish and were groaning to Hashem from excruciating pain. This is what the passuk refers to when it says that the Yidden groaned from “avodah” which is referring to the blood of the children which was sacrificed to avodah zarah for Pharaoh’s recovery. This is also what the passuk is also referring to when it says that their cries went up to Hashem from the avodah. That it was a greater tragedy to Yisrael that the blood of their children were used to serve avodah zarah, than over the death of their children.
This was the turning point for the geulah to begin even though the decree of four hundred years did not yet terminate. The explanation is as follows. There is a Halacha (Yevamos 46) that הקדש מפקיע מידי שעבוד that even though the borrower of a loan sells his property which had a lean on it, the lender has the right to collect his debt from that sold property. However, if the borrower gifts this land with the lean on it to the Bais Hamikdash, then the lean falls off and the lender cannot collect from the land. Likewise Am Yisrael had a lean of servitude to Mitzrayim for 400 years. However, before the servitude was completed, Hashem sanctified Yisrael and made them Hekdesh to Himself. The rule applies here as well that taking the lean (400 years) on a property (Am Yisrael) and turning it over to Hekdesh (Hashem) as a gift, renders it released from collection and Mitzrayim has lost their claim of servitude on Yisrael.
However, this works only if Yisrael can demonstrate that they possess this quality of sanctification to Hashem. The first time that they showed this kedusha was in the above instance; in that they were more upset of Hashem’s desecration caused by the using the children’s blood and sparks of holiness for a sacrifice to avodah zarah, than the actual death of their children. By demonstrating that they possessed this lofty holiness, they were now able to execute the Halacha that they were sanctified to Hekdesh (Hashem) thereby releasing the lean of 400 years to Mitzrayim, making them now worthy for the geulah.
This is what the Medrash means when it said that up until now I did not listen to their tefillos since it would not help anyway for there still remains a lean of 190 years in their servitude to Mitzrayim. Now, since they demonstrated their extreme holy reaction to this decree of Pharaoh bathing in Jewish blood that was sacrificed to avodah zarah, they merited that their tefillos should be answered, and the Halacha of Hekdesh releasing the remaining 190 years of servitude could now be executed.
פקוד יפקוד (Bereishis 50,25) Hashem will remember you. These words were the code to serve as a validation and proof of the true redeemer of Yisrael and to rule out any imposter. The Baal Haturim and Tosfos write, that in the code lay the explanation of how could they be redeemed prior to the designated 400 year decree. The code of the redemption is alluding to the early redemption of 190 years which is gematriah פקוד. It is as if the passuk is saying the amount of 190 פקוד years, יפקוד will be subtracted from the decree of 400. However, according to our mamar there is yet another hint in the code of פקד giving a reason to the early geulah from Mitzrayim. As we explained above only when Yisrael attained the level of kedusha demonstrated by experiencing more anguish with their children’s blood being sacrificed to avodah zarah than their actual deaths, did the geulah kick in through the halachah of הקדש מפקיע מידי שעבוד. This is alluded to in the word פקד, Hashem will remember which is gematriah 194 equalingמן העבודה (including the two words). The turning point for the geulah occurred at this juncture in time, when Yidden showed their deveikus to their G-d gifted kedusha over and beyond their personal losses of their children’s lives. That is the time that Hashem remembered us through our tefillos and hastened the geulah.
Moshe Rabbeinu revealed the code word פקד to Am Yisrael which explained why the geulah is happening even before the 400 years were over. In his name there is also hinted the second step of that followed their lofty level of kedusha. משה is the same acronym of הקדש מפקיע מידי שעבוד. Because of “מן העבודה” the geulah was activated through Hashem sanctifying Yisrael to be His kodesh.
With the above explanation we can understand a deeper meaning into what Chazal say (Avos 4,20) אל תסתכל בקנקן אלא מה שיש בו Don’t look at the exterior jug but rather at its contents. The author of this statement was Rabbe Yehudah Hanasi the final editor of the Mishnayos. As Nasi, he became very wealthy comparable to Roman rulers. But he gave much of his wealth to the support of the poor. It was said of him “From the days of Moshe Rabbeinu until Rabbeinu Hakadosh, there was never found such a great Torah knowledge combined with great wealth. Yet when he died he picked up his ten fingers and said Ribbono Shel Olam You alone known that with these I toiled in Torah and I did not derive from this world even the slightest pleasure. Surely this statement reflected his own personal life, for on the outside with such extraordinary wealth one would undoubtedly assume that he experienced the greatest of pleasures. Yet Rabbe Yehudah on his deathbed claimed the opposite. In essence he was declaring “Don’t look at my exterior wealth but rather my contents of my inner being which controlled my exterior wealth.
Rabbe Yehudah’s dictum also applied to the geulah in Mitzrayim as we just explained above. In Mitzrayim, Pharaoh slaughtered 150 children in the morning and 150 children at night and bathed in their blood. Am Yisrael reacted with tremendous pain and anguish. On the outside it would appear that they reacted so bitterly due to the killing and bathing in the children’s blood. However, our Chazal take us into a deeper look of what really transpired and we are handed a scenario of quite a different sort. The Yidden became broken spirited because of the Chillul Hashem that the Egyptians sacrificed Jewish blood to Avodah Zarah. They did not cry over their personal tragedy but rather over the defilement of Hashem’s kedusha. By doing so, they demonstrated their own deep attachment to the Kedusha that was gifted to them surpassed any personal tragedy and thereby they merited the beginning of the geulah process.
This concept is also hinted in Rebbe’s moral instructions אל תסתכל בקנקן אלא במה שיש בו Do not look at the קנקן which symbolizes the murder of the קנ 150 children whose blood Pharaoh bathed in every morning, and the קן 150 children whose blood he bathed in at night. That was not the real issue and the cause of Am Yisrael’s anguish, nor their reason for an immediate redemption. Rather look at the contents מה שיש בו with a deeper understanding through the lens of Chazal and realize that it was the sacrifice of their blood to avodah zara that incensed them even more than the murder of their children. Their lofty and heavenly response was the cause of their geulah.
We now have a new understanding why the first plague on Mitzrayim was that the waters of the Nile which was their avodah zara, turned into blood. The answer is that geulah only came about at an earlier time because of Yisrael’s reaction to the Jewish blood that the Egyptians sacrificed to their avodah zarah. Therefore, midah keneged midah, the first plague of the geulah was to have blood in their avodah zarah as well.
The Egyptians spilled Jewish blood and honored their avodah zarah with it. For doing so they suffered a plague that shamed their avodah zarah with blood. Basya the daughter of Pharaoh, in contrast, went down to the Nile to be megayeir and by doing so she dishonored the avodah zarah of Mitzrayim. Her action brought honor to the Jewish People by saving Jewish blood, the life of Moshe Rabbeinu, and for this she was rewarded and honored forever.
As we sit at the Pesach Seder we begin with the Kiddush. The Kiddush at this night is different from the Kiddush of Shabbos nights and Yomim Tovim. The night of the Seder which is the night of geulah only came about because of הקדש מפקיע מידי שעבוד that we became sanctified to Hashem and we demonstrated this kedusha in relationship to the spilled blood of our children. The children are made a main focus during the Seder as we are commanded from the Torah to do so. This focus is more than just an assurance to preserve the transmittance of the mesorah from one generation to another. It is also because by having their blood sacrificed to avodah zara, Klal Yisrael were able to manifest to the world that they can ascend above any personal loss, and demonstrate בכל לבבך to love Hashem with all their hearts even beyond the love of their children. It is the children’s role and their merit in Mitzrayim to be the catalyst through whom the geulah came is one of the reasons why we also focus on them during the Seder night.