Shabbat Parshat Vaera - 5760
Four Expressions of Redemption - and Three other Fours
The "Kli Yakar" comments on the verses (Shemot 6:6-7) which contain the famous four Expressions of Redemption, "Vehotzeti," "And I will take you out," "Vehitzalti," And I will save you," "Vegaalti," "And I will redeem you," "Velakachti," "and I will take you," that they correspond to the four increasingly severe expressions of servitude which Hashem had foretold to our father Avraham. They were "gerut," "Your descendants will be separated from Hashem, because they will have been strangers in a strange land," and the expression "in a land which is not theirs" implies also spiritual Exile, for "anyone who is outside of the Land of Israel is as one who has no G-d." "Vaavadum," "And they will enslave them," a harsher level, for not every stranger is enslaved. Finally, "And they will torture them;" again, a still harsher level, for not every slave is tortured.
The "Kli Yakar" also explains the four-fold occurrence of the Name of G-d in the verse that Moshe relates to his brothers in Egypt, "the G-d of your fathers, the G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzchak and the G-d of Yaakov has sent me to you." Redemption from Exile was in the merit of Avraham, for leaving the house of his father and following the direction of Hashem to a strange land. The merit of Yitzchak, who willingly allowed himself to be offered as a burnt sacrifice to G-d, saved the Jewish People from Physical Slavery. The merit of Yaakov, whose life could be described as "agony and ecstasy," with emphasis on the agony, caused Hashem to release the Jews from their torturers. And the combined merit of all the "Avot" enabled the Jewish People to achieve the level of Spiritual Redemption, the Acceptance of the Torah.
The number "Four," in addition to its significance as the number of Expressions of Redemption, also plays a role on Pesach in other ways. The Haggadah, the text we follow at the Seder, speaks of the "arbaah banim," the four types of "sons," or the four "personality types" which exist within the Jewish People and, perhaps, within each individual Jew. These are the wise "son," or component of one's personality, the wicked "son," or characteristic, the simple "son," or being a simpleton, and the "son" or aspect of oneself that is too na´ve and bashful even to ask a question about what is going on.
We also drink four cups of wine at the Seder, at points within the ceremony which are most appropriate for expressions of praise or gratitude to Hashem. This drinking of wine is not at all designed to put us into a state of drunkenness, but rather to raise us to a state of exaltation and joy.
Perhaps there is even a "remez," an allusion to the four dimensions of the world, three of space and one of time. These dimensions encompass the arena in which Jewish History has been played out, all over the world, and since the beginning of our nation - in the "furnace of iron" and "house of bondage" that was ancient Egypt - and earlier, in the lives of the "fathers" and "mothers" of our nation.
According to the general calendar, we have reached Y2K, and entered the twenty first century. According to the Hebrew Calendar, we are at least in the Year 5760 since "Creation," and according to a correction in historical dating documented by the late Rabbi Shimon Schwab, Z"L, the Rav of K'hal Adas Yeshurun in Washington Heights of NewYork City, that has generally been accepted by traditional Jews, we are already past the Year 5920. Thus, as we are but a "minute" from Y6K, which many feel is some sort of "Messianic Milestone" or "Boundary," and therefore that our basket of Pre-Messianic experiences may be nearly full, it is with increasing excitement and anticipation that we bond with our national collective memories each year, on the night of the Seder.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU