B’nei Yissaschar: Shemot: Cleansing
The 18th of Tevet is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Tzvi Elimelech Shapira of Dinov (1783-1841 or 1850), born to Reb Pesach and his wife, the niece of Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk. A talmid of the Chozeh of Lublin, Tzvi Elimelech was told by the Chozeh that he was from Shevet Yissascher, which explained the talmid’s special feelings towards Chanukkah, as it is known that the Sanhedrin of the Chashmonaim had many members from Shevet Yissascher. This is the source of the name of his sefer, Bnei Yissascher.
The Chida writes that Torah is completely Ruchniyot – Spiritual – and cannot be accessed until one has cleansed and purified himself of evil thoughts and the distractions of the evil inclination. Therefore, God sent Israel into exile in Egypt to be purified of the Yetzer Harah sothey could receive the Torah at Sinai.
We can use this idea to understand the verse, “And they placed taskmasters over them in order to make them suffer in their labors.” This verse is explaining the purpose of the servitude in Egypt: All the work and suffering was to cleanse Israel of their evil inclination so that they would be prepared for Sinai.