Pesah- Unity as a Prerequisite to Redemption
There is a famous tradition that before the Exodus from Egypt, a civil war of sorts broke out among the Egyptians. The firstborns heard of Moshe’s warning that they would be killed by a plague, and they demanded that Beneh Yisrael be released, so their lives would be spared. When their demands were rejected, they took up arms and waged war against the leadership. Many Egyptians died in the ensuing conflict.
Rav Yehezkel Landau of Prague (author of Noda Bi’yehuda, 1713-1793), in his Talmud commentary ("Selah"), reflects upon this episode, and cites the Gemara’s teaching that Beneh Yisrael’s condition is inversely proportional to that of the gentiles. When the Jewish People decline, the other nations rise; and when we rise, our enemies decline. Rav Landau thus deduces that if the Egyptians were embroiled in deadly conflict in the days before the Exodus, this must mean that Beneh Yisrael had achieved perfect unity. If our enemies were torn apart by strife and discord, then necessarily, our nation was united, living together peacefully.
Rav Landau adds that this unity is a vital prerequisite for redemption. Beneh Yisrael needed to achieve peace and unity in order to be worthy of being freed from Egypt. And this is true of our current exile, as well. In order to earn our long-awaited redemption, we need to transcend our differences, forgive one another, and build cohesion and peaceful relations with all our fellow Jews. Rav Landau writes that this is why Eliyahu Ha’nabi will be sent to us before the arrival of Mashiah, as the famous prophecy of Malachi (3:23) foretells: "Behold, I am sending Eliyahu the prophet to you before the arrival of the great, awesome day of G-d…" One of Eliyahu’s responsibilities at that time will be to bring us together, to create peace and harmony among the Jewish People so we will be worthy of, and prepared for, our final redemption.
The Maharal of Prague (Rav Yehuda Loew, 1520-1609) made a similar comment in explaining the Halacha requiring that the Korban Pesach be roasted whole, rather than cut into pieces. This represents the "wholeness" of the Jewish People, that we are called upon to come together and form a single, cohesive entity in order to earn our redemption.
Hacham Baruch Ben-Haim often cited the Rabbis’ teaching that when the Jews are united, and live together peacefully, the Satan has no power to cause us harm, even if we worship idols. The prophet Hoshea (4:17) says, "Habur Asabim Efrayim, Hanah Lo," which can be read to mean that even if Efrayim – a reference to Am Yisrael – worships "Asabim" – "idols," the Satan leaves them alone ("Hanah Lo") if they are united.
As we celebrate our redemption from Egypt, let us learn and apply this lesson, that unity is a vital prerequisite for redemption. Let us make a special effort to dispense kindness and show respect to all our fellow Jews, even those who are different from us, so we can be worthy of our final redemption, speedily and in times, Amen.