5 Stages of Redemption

Posted on January 11, 2024
By Hazzan Jacob Sandler

At the beginning of parashat Va-era, God tells Moshe what to say to the Israelites (Ex: 6:6-8): 

“אֲנִ֣י הֹ’ וְהוֹצֵאתִ֣י אֶתְכֶ֗ם מִתַּ֙חַת֙ סִבְלֹ֣ת מִצְרַ֔יִם וְהִצַּלְתִּ֥י אֶתְכֶ֖ם מֵעֲבֹדָתָ֑ם וְגָאַלְתִּ֤י אֶתְכֶם֙ בִּזְר֣וֹעַ נְטוּיָ֔ה וּבִשְׁפָטִ֖ים גְּדֹלִֽים׃ וְלָקַחְתִּ֨י אֶתְכֶ֥ם לִי֙ לְעָ֔ם וְהָיִ֥יתִי לָכֶ֖ם לֵֽאלֹהִ֑ים…וְהֵבֵאתִ֤י אֶתְכֶם֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֤ר נָשָׂ֙אתִי֙ אֶת־יָדִ֔י לָתֵ֣ת אֹתָ֔הּ לְאַבְרָהָ֥ם לְיִצְחָ֖ק וּֽלְיַעֲקֹ֑ב וְנָתַתִּ֨י אֹתָ֥הּ לָכֶ֛ם מוֹרָשָׁ֖ה אֲנִ֥י הֹ’׃”

“I am HaShem, and I will free you from the labors of Egypt, and I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and through extraordinary chastisements. And I will take you to be My people and I will be your God…and I will bring you to the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession, I HaShem.”

Rabbi Kushner writes in the Etz Hayim commentary, that these 5 verbs in bold correspond to the 5 stages of the redemption. First God frees us from the physical enslavement of Egypt. Next God delivers us from the psychological mindset of being a slave, which may persist even after we are physically liberated. Third, God will redeem us so that we see ourselves as free. Though our minds are opened in the second stage, now freedom becomes part of our identity. Fourth, God takes us to be His people, inviting us into that special relationship we have even today as Jews with Hashem. This is one of the ultimate goals of the Exodus and in fact is mentioned explicitly each time Moshe and Aaron ask Pharaoh to “Let my people go.” It’s always, “let my people go, so that they may worship HaShem in the wilderness.” 

The last stage, God takes us to the Land of Israel, fulfilling the ancient promise to our ancestors. Only there as a free people can we construct a model society based on the values and practices of Torah. It is not enough to just be free, but we are called to actualize God’s vision for us to thrive as a people in that land. 

So, we see a progression that mirrors Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: Physiological needs (physical freedom), safety needs (mental deliverance), love and belonging (spiritual redemption), self-esteem (direct and unique relationship with the Divine) and self-actualization (taking us into the land to fulfill our purpose as Jews).

And these verbs are cited in the Jerusalem Talmud as a source for the 4 cups of wine at the Passover Seder — the fifth verb thus inviting a fifth cup which is reserved for Elijah the prophet. When we think about our own lives, what do we need to fully realize the vision of freedom offered in these verses?