In this week’s parashah, the plagues in Egypt reach their horrific conclusion, resulting in the freedom for the Israelite slaves (and presumably many others as well) and their expulsion from the country. Along the way, we’re given a fascinating glimpse “backstage” at the divine plan in history.
The Egyptian experience, not as a historical fact, but as a deeply-felt cultural motif, penetrates and pervades all subsequent Jewish law. The commandment to “love the stranger” appears no fewer than 36 times in the Biblical text, and serves as the basis of derivation of countless later customs and laws. The relevance of the Exodus story goes beyond mere factual truth; its true significance lies in what we’ve built on it and how it has molded us as a people who, in every generation, have made it our own.