Liberating Names!
The book of Shemos-Exodus begins with the story of our Egyptian bondage, followed by the description of our Exodus. The first parsha of this book, Shemos (which shares its name with the entire book), covers the period of our bondage. It discusses the bitter exile and enslavement, Pharaoh’s attempt to annihilate all newborn Hebrew males, Moses’ selection by G‑d as the redeemer, followed by Moses’ failed attempt to have Pharaoh free the Jews from slavery. Moses proved unable then even to convince Pharaoh simply to ameliorate conditions for his brethren. Indeed, the parsha concludes with Moses’ complaint to G‑d about how badly things had deteriorated since he was sent to demand liberation.  Matters had come to the point where even Moses, the redeemer of Israel, could not see a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
Yet, this entire sidra, with all of its exile/bondage drama, is part of a greater book known as the book of Exodus! We are thus compelled to conclude that when we dig deeper we can find the seeds of liberation in this sidra.
Indeed, our Sages tell us that the opening verse itself contains within it the secret of our ultimate liberation from Egypt:
At the very beginning of the parsha, the Torah lists the 12 sons of Jacob who came to Egypt with their families. The Midrash comments that they-and their progeny— kept their Hebrew names throughout their sojourn in Egypt. The fact that they kept hold of their identities as children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob gave them the power to survive and ultimately be freed from bondage.
The lesson for our times is clear: As we stand on the threshold of Redemption, we must never allow our Jewish identities to be compromised. Preserving our identity means much more than surviving the forces of assimilation; it will actually empower us to overcome the forces of exile and be redeemed.
Liberating by Proliferating
Another “seed of Redemption” can be found in the Torah’s description of the incredible rate at which the Hebrew population grew. The Torah uses six expressions to describe this growth:
“The children of Israel were fruitful and swarmed and increased and became veryvery strong.” These six expressions, our Sages teach us, indicate that the women gave birth to sextuplets!
On the surface it would seem that it was their proliferation that Pharaoh found threatening and propelled him to enact even more harsh decrees against them. In truth, the opposite is true. Their proliferation actually was the force that led to their ultimate freedom.
Our Sages (Talmud Yevamos 62b) teach us that the Messianic Age will come about when all the souls destined to enter this world have done so. The birth of every child with a Jewish soul introduces a new liberating force. Their aggregate force becomes so powerful that nothing can stand in the way of their freedom. It is reasonable to assume—especially when the prophet Micah compares the future Redemption to our Exodus from Egypt—that the same was true with respect to the Exodus. Each newborn soul brought them closer to their Redemption from bondage.
The lesson is clear. Contrary to all the negative prognosticators and their dire predictions, the material condition of society has improved commensurately with the increase of the world’s population. This is because the introduction of each soul unleashes G‑dly power that changes the very fabric of the physical world, rendering it less resistant to the Divine liberating forces.
Quadruple Vision
We can find another “seed of Redemption” in this week’s parsha:
When Pharaoh commanded the Hebrew Midwives to murder all the newborn male children, he told them: “When you help the Hebrew women give birth, and you will see them on the birth-stool, if it is a son…”
The words “and you will see” appear in three other, totally unrelated, places in the Torah. Traditional rules of Torah construction encourage us to find the common underlying theme that runs through these references:
When Moses sent the Twelve Spies to survey the Land of Cana’an, he told them: “you will see the land…”
In another verse, where the Torah commands us to wear tzitzis-fringes on the corners of our garments, it says of them, “you will see it and remember the commandments of G‑d…”.
Finally Moses and Aaron used the same expression: “in the morning you will see the glory of G‑d…” when they informed the Hebrews that G‑d would provide Manna to them the next morning.
How can we connect all these Torah references to seeing? And how do they relate to the process of liberation?
These expressions are used in four different contexts: the birth-stool, the land, the tzitzis and G‑d’s glory.
The sages tell us that “G‑d’s glory in the morning” alludes to the Messianic Age when G‑d’s light and glory will be fully revealed.
How are we to bring that about?
Reflect on Three Things
One interpretation of these three other references to “seeing” is based on Ethics of the Fathers.  We are counseled there to reflect on three things to avoid coming close to sin: know that you come from a putrid drop, that you’re going to a place of worms and maggots, and that you will be judged by G‑d.
These three reflections parallel three things the Torah says we will see:
The “birth-stool” is linked to the putrid drop; the “land” is the resting place of worms and maggots where we all must end up; and the reference to seeing the “tzitzis” to be reminded of G‑d’s commandments can be understood to refer to G‑d’s judgment.
When understood at a literal, superficial level, these three reflections appear intended to humble and intimidate us so that we don’t get out of line.
When we delve more deeply into the three things which the Torah says we should see, we discover a far more positive understanding of them and how they relate to the process of Redemption.
Celebrate Your Birthday
First, it is necessary for us to look at the birth-stool; and through it, the significance of bringing a new soul into the world.
The Rebbe explained the real reason for celebrating our birthdays. It is the anniversary of G‑d’s declaration to us that “you are needed and special! Your soul is unique and its contribution to the world cannot be matched by anyone else. If I had another soul identical to yours, it would not have been necessary for Me to send your soul into this world.” G‑d, we are taught, does not do redundant things.
Moreover, as mentioned above, the birth of every child is instrumental in hastening the time of Redemption. In other words, while each soul is capable of making a unique and unprecedented contribution to the world, each and every soul also brings us closer to the Redemption, first just by showing up and then exponentially by translating our capabilities into practice.
The Holy Land Paradigm
Second, we must “see the land.” Moses’ intention in sending the Twelve Spies was for them to bring back glowing reports about the land so that the Jewish people would enter it with relish and delight. After all, Psalm 106 refers to the land of Israel as “a land of desire.”
One of the necessary preparations for the Messianic Age is to show our delight in the land and that we will never relinquish any part of it; every inch of the Land of Israel is precious to us.
Moreover, “seeing the land” can be understood as looking beyond its physical assets to reflect more deeply on its inner spiritual dimension. We must see the land as a Divine gift. It is the place which evinces a desire to fulfill G‑d’s will.
The Land of Israel, known as the Holy Land, is the model for the entire world. The terms “land” and “holy” are usually understood to be mutually exclusive.  One who is obsessed with the physicality and materiality of the world is not holy. The Land of Israel demonstrates that there is no meaningful dichotomy between the physical and the spiritual. The Land of Israel presents us with a paradigm for the entire world to follow. And in the Messianic Age, the dynamic synthesis of Holy and Land will spread and extend to the entire world.
Thus, “seeing the land” is the message we must internalize now as we stand on the cusp of that Age: we must transform our lives and our environment into a Holy Land in preparation for the age when that synthesis of so-called opposites will become the manifest reality for all.
See All of the Mitzvos!
The third preparation for the Redemption is seeing the tzitzis, which serve as a constant reminder of observing all of the commandments. While every Mitzvah stands on its own, there are certain Mitzvos that encompass all the others. One such Mitzvah is tzitzis because it relates to the number 613, the total number of commandments in the Torah. (Rashi cites a Midrashic commentary that the word tzitzis has the numerical value of 600. When we add the eight strands and five knots of the tzitzis, it yields the number 613.)
While every mitzvah prepares us for the future, we must be reminded of this and prepared for the prospect of observingall of the commandments, including the hundreds we are denied because of exile and the lack of a Beis Hamikdash in Jerusalem.
Awareness that our ability to fulfill all of the commandments is compromised by virtue of our being in exile is integral to our preparation for Moshiach. We must therefore look at the tzitzis and recognize that we need to bring wholeness and integrity to our Judaism. That quest, in and of itself, is a force that brings us closer to and prepares us for the Redemption.
Thus, when we see, a) the value of every new soul, b) appreciate the Land of Israel paradigm, and c) be mindful of and crave the totality of Jewish observance, we will be ready for the final Redemption. We, while still in exile, will have internalized the primary energies of Redemption.