Remembering the Exodus from Egypt, by Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz of Mir


Translated by Ralph Anzarouth and an anonymous friend

Remember the exodus from Egypt:

"[...] so that you shall remember the day
when you went out of the land of Egypt
all the days of your life."
[Parashah of Reeh - Devarim 16, 3]

Whatever is scarcer is more expensive, for example silver and gold. This value is incidental and not intrinsic in itself, since only what is indispensable to life is truly valuable. Accordingly, we see that whatever has incidental value is scarce in the world, since it is possible to survive without it. For instance, wine is very much esteemed and even though, it has no intrinsic value, since it is also possible to survive without it; thus, if someone is very thirsty and he is accustomed to drink wine, even though, if people demand of him a hundred silver rubles for one glass of wine, all the more so if people demand of him half his wealth or all his wealth, he will not give it, since he can survive by drinking water; on the other hand, if he were hungry for bread or thirsty for water, he would give all he had to save his soul, since it is impossible to survive without them.

Therefore, we see that whatever man needs more and he cannot subsist without it, the Holy One blessed be He created in greater abundance. For example, there is plenty of bread and water; and similarly air, without which it is impossible to survive even for a short time, is to be found everywhere. Thus, the abundance of any commodity is an indication of its intrinsic value, since it is impossible to live without it.

This being so, we find that we have been obliged to remember the exodus from Egypt twice a day, and one of the six things which we are commanded to remember every day is the exodus from Egypt; also, all the Mitzvot remind us of the exodus from Egypt. As a consequence, we can understand that it certainly has intrinsic value and that life is impossible without it1, since its purpose is to reflect that the Blessed One supervises and rules over the world. Accordingly, one who does not reflect upon the exodus from Egypt is not alive. This is what is meant by (Psalms 115, 17) “The dead will not praise the Lord”, where [the word dead] refers to people who are considered as dead, “nor all those who descend to the grave”, whereas (ibid, 18) “and we shall bless the Lord from now and until eternity, praise the Lord”.

Note of the translators:
[1] We assume that Rabbi Yerucham means spiritual life.

A poignant biography of Rabbi Yeruchem Halevi Levovitz (or Leibovitz), the Masghiach of the Yeshivah of Mir, can be found here.