In Sefer Devarim 4:20 it says:

וְאֶתְכֶם֙ לָקַ֣ח יְהוָ֔ה וַיּוֹצִ֥א אֶתְכֶ֛ם מִכּ֥וּר הַבַּרְזֶ֖ל מִמִּצְרָ֑יִם לִהְי֥וֹת ל֛וֹ לְעַ֥ם נַחֲלָ֖ה כַּיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃

but you יהוה took and brought out of Egypt, that iron blast furnace, to be God’s very own people, as is now the case.

Rashi explains:

מכור. כּוּר הוּא כְלִי שֶׁמְּזַקְּקִים בּוֹ אֶת הַזָּהָב:

מכור — a כור is a vessel in which one refines gold.

Based on the Torah's description of Mitzrayim as being a kur habarzel (and other sources, I assume), Rav Yaakov mi'Lisah explains in his hagaddah (Haggadah Maaseh Nissim, d"h מתחילה עובדי עבודה זרה היו אבותינו) that galus Mitzrayim was necessary, and in fact a chessed, for the Jewish nation. Since the nation was born from people who worshipped avodah zarah (and because of the sin of Adam haRishon) there was an inbuilt filth (זוהמא) which needed to be purified and purged. Galus Mitzrayim was this "iron blast furnace" which purified the nation. This purification was necessary because without it, the nation would not be on a high enough level to receive the Land of Israel (or the Torah or Olam Habbah).

  1. My first question is: How exactly was this purification supposed to take place? What were the mechanics of galus Mitzrayim removing the national "zuhama" of our ancestral worship of avodah zarah?

  2. My second question is: Did this purification actually take place? We find midrashim which say that at the time of kriyas Yam Suf the Jews and Egyptians were BOTH worshippers of avodah zarah! (עיין שמו"ר כא, ז זוה"ק ח"ב קע, ב ,ילקוט שמות רלד) How could it be that the "zuhama" was purged and yet the Jews themselves were worshipping avodah zarah?

  • I've seen on Mi Yodeya a question that is similar to this. There were a lot of good answers there, maybe someone knows what I am talking about?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 20, 2023 at 15:38
  • Relevant (Shabboth 146a): מפני מה עובדי כוכבים מזוהמין שלא עמדו על הר סיני שבשעה שבא נחש על חוה הטיל בה זוהמא ישראל שעמדו על הר סיני פסקה זוהמתן עובדי כוכבי' שלא עמדו על הר סיני לא פסקה זוהמתן א"ל רב אחא בריה דרבא לרב אשי גרים מאי א"ל אע"ג דאינהו לא הוו מזלייהו הוו דכתיב (דברים כט, יד) את אשר ישנו פה עמנו עומד היום לפני ה' אלהינו ואת אשר איננו פה וגו' ופליגא דר' אבא בר כהנא דא"ר אבא בר כהנא עד שלשה דורות לא פסקה זוהמא מאבותינו אברהם הוליד את ישמעאל יצחק הוליד את עשו יעקב הוליד י"ב שבטים שלא היה בהן שום דופי Mar 20, 2023 at 22:09
  • And for anyone that wants to see the section of Haggadah Ma'aseh Nissim that the OP refers to inside: hebrewbooks.org/… Mar 20, 2023 at 22:31

1 Answer 1


The Ramchal in Derech Hashem is very clear that the purification did take place:

Until the exodus from Egypt, Israel was subservient to the other nations - a nation inside another. But in their exodus, they were redeemed and separated out. And behold that until that time, all the aspects of people's bodies were darkened by overpowering darkness and pollution. But with the exodus, Israel was separated, and their bodies were prepared to become pure and to be ready for the Torah and for [divine] service.

  • This just seems like an agreeing source, how does it answer 1) what are the mechanics of zuhama removal and 2) how to reconcile such removal/purification with subsequent manifestations of AZ among Jews? Mar 21, 2023 at 10:20
  • @Deuteronomy It's a partial answer for now.
    – N.T.
    Mar 22, 2023 at 8:22

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