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In an article I found online, the following gave me pause:

As our 'ye'ud' - our destiny - is to become a nation that will serve Him, G-d found it necessary to send us down to Egypt in order that He could redeem us. This could be the deeper meaning of Rashi's interpretation of the pasuk "ve-higgadeta le-bincha ... ba'avur zeh" - that we must explain to our children that G-d took us of Egypt in order that we keep His mitzvot. [See Rashi & Ibn Ezra 13:8.] Rashi understands that the primary purpose of "magid" is not simply to explain why we are eating matza, but rather to explain to our children why G-d took us out of Egypt - or in essence, why He has chosen us to become His nation and hence keep His mitzvot. To complement this thought, we will show how this same theme may relate as well to the very purpose of G-ds first covenant with Avraham Avinu - "brit bein ha'btarim".

Why were our slavery to Pharoah in Egypt and subsequent Exodus necessary in order to become a nation that would serve G-d? Could this goal not have been achieved by Avraham and his descendants without slavery and Exodus?

Additionally, why did Avraham need to be told about the forthcoming slavery and Exodus?

  • Famous question. Curious what sorts of responses you'll get. +1. – DonielF Sep 1 '16 at 3:46
  • I wonder if Ramba"m discusses this. Offhand conjecture - perhaps the concept of being a "slave to G-d" (eved hashem) can be better understood and appreciated by comparison, by first being a slave to another human. This is not a far-fetched idea when you consider that the 1st mitzvah given to us as a nation was related to time. It was also related to us while we were still slaves in Egypt. As slaves to humans, we had no control of time. Now, that we are slaves to G-d, He commanded that we set aside our free time while allotting time for G-d. – DanF Sep 2 '16 at 17:59
  • The concept Chazal use as referring to Mitzrayim as "Kor HaBarzel" specifically evokes the principle of "trial by fire" in order to purify the resulting metal. This implies there were "impurities" within the nation that required removal before we were to receive the Torah. – Isaac Kotlicky Sep 12 '16 at 15:50
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Perhaps a different question that I answered might help here. The Gemara in Pesachim 116a says that the Hagadah begins with גנות and concludes with שבח. Why does the גנות aspect of the Haggadah begin with the story of תרח? Why is this significant?

Perhaps so that the Jews do not have any cultural pride. Our religion is not based on a cultural heritage or a Yichus (lineage) per se. It is not Avraham, because he came from a certain family, but rather it is Avraham because of the choices he made. Avraham rejected Avoda Zarah and embraced his mind in search of the truth.

Perhaps a similar idea as to why the Jewish nation had to be formed out of slavery. Every other nation owes its formation to a particular triumph or positive defining moment. America prides itself on the Boston Tea party etc. However, as Jews we came from slavery. Our only salvation was brought about exclusively by Hashem, not because of anything that we did per se to bring it about. Even later when we faced the Egyptians, Hashem said that he would take care of it. It says in אז ישיר that "כִּי־גָאֹה גָּאָה." Unkelos in the Targum explains "וְגֵאוּתָא דִילֵהּ הִיא". The true might belongs to Hashem, not man. Our existence is totally due to Hashem’s will.

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    Is there a reason you've written three separate answers to the same question rather than combining them to a single answer? I recommend you cut and paste them together as a single answer with alternate explanations. – Isaac Kotlicky Sep 12 '16 at 15:49
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Just to respond to the one part of your question regarding why Avraham was told:

בָּרוּךְ שׁוֹמֵר הַבְטָחָתוֹ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, בָּרוּךְ הוּא. שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא חִשַּׁב אֶת הַקֵּץ לַעֲשׂוֹת כְּמָה שֶׁאָמַר לְאַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ בִּבְרִית בֵּין הַבְּתָרִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: "וַיֹּאמֶר לְאַבְרָם יָדֹעַ תֵּדַע כִּי גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם וַעֲבָדוּם וְעִנּוּ אֹתָם אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה, וְגַם אֶת הַגּוֹי אֲשֶׁר יַעֲבֹדוּ דָּן אָנֹכִי וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן יֵצְאוּ בִּרְכֻשׁ גָּדוֹל" (בראשית יג-יד).

Blessed is He Who keeps His promise to Israel, blessed is He. For the Holy One, Blessed is He, calculated the end [of the exile], to do as He said to Avraham our father at the Covenant Between the Parts, as it is stated: And He said to Avram, “Know that your offspring will be a stranger in a land not theirs, and they will serve them and they will torment them for four hundred years. But also the nation whom they will serve I will judge, and afterward they will go out with great wealth” (Bereishis 15:13-14).

In Boruch Shomer Havtachaso, Hashem tells Avraham what he will do. Why is that important? Why does Hashem even tell him?

If one is told what the plan is and then you see it unfold, you are able to learn from it and understand the strategy. Likewise, Hashem told Avraham and the Jewish people what the plan was to show them the patterns of Hashem’s Hashgacha, his providence. These patterns can affect the way we live.

It also gave the Bnei Yisroel hope and was merciful allowing them to know they will be ultimately saved.

It also provided an answer for those that questioned God’s justice. They knew ultimately justice would be served.

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    Is there a reason you've written three separate answers to the same question rather than combining them to a single answer? I recommend you cut and paste them together as a single answer with alternate explanations. – Isaac Kotlicky Sep 12 '16 at 15:49
  • @IsaacKotlicky I guess the same could be said about your comments =) Seriously though, I felt they were three distinct answers that should be assessed on their own. Two of the answers are responding to why slavery. The other answer focuses on why Hashem shared this with Avraham. These are different points. I separated the two answers to why slavery because I felt that given that they are different answers one might accept one and not the other. – RCW Sep 14 '16 at 2:12
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Another possible answer: The Jews became part of the Egyptian Society. They were very comfortable in Egypt. They had become influential people. They had positions of power and wealth. They would not have so readily given up their comfy situation. Chazal say that they had an arena and games and the people looked up at the Jews in their influential positions and were upset at them. They became prominent in the society and tremendous Hatred was directed toward them. Perhaps had the Bnei Yisroel not lost their material comforts, they may have not been so willing to leave Egypt to receive the Torah and a new way of life. We do see that even after they endured slavery and were in the Midbar they wanted to go back to Egypt despite what they had gone through.

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    Is there a reason you've written three separate answers to the same question rather than combining them to a single answer? I recommend you cut and paste them together as a single answer with alternate explanations. – Isaac Kotlicky Sep 12 '16 at 15:49

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