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Parsha Mitzvot: Bo; Ramban: Remembering The Exodus

The mitzvah of “zechiras yetziyas Mitzrayim,” remembering the Exodus, occupies an incontrovertibly prominent position in Jewish consciousness. Ramban (Shemos 13:16) notes that the Jew’s constant recollection of yetziyas Mitzrayim attests to his unwavering belief


in the veracity of the Creator and His Torah, and that “Because HaKadosh Baruch Hu will not perform overt miracles in every generation to (convince) the wicked and the deniers, He commanded us to make a constant recollection of what our eyes saw, and to transmit the matter to our children, and from their children to their children, until the final generation.” In underscoring the significance of this commandment, Ramban enumerates the plethora of other mitzvos which also serve to deepen the Jew’s awareness of yetziyas Mitzrayim, ranging from chametz and korban Pesach to tefillin, mezuzah, krias Shema, and sukkah. The Ramban emphasizes that by perceiving the providence of HaKadosh Baruch Hu throughout our national history, we cultivate an acute awareness of His omnipotent existence and the truth of His Torah. Our recollection of the unquestionable Divine involvement in the wondrous miracles of yetziyas Mitzrayim proclaims our steadfast belief in HaKadosh Baruch Hu. At the same time, however, Ramban adds that our attention to these “great” miracles should never distract us from the “minor” miracles which occur constantly throughout our own lives. On the contrary, a fundamental and inviolable tenet of Jewish belief is that “From the great miracles, a person comes to admit to the hidden miracles that are the foundation of the entire Torah. For no one has a portion in the Torah of Moshe until he believes that all of our words and events are miracles, and they are not all a product of nature.” According to the Ramban, the daily requirement of zechiras yetziyas Mitzrayim teaches us the eternal mission of the Jew: to perceive and appreciate the undeniable presence of the yad Hashem in each and every aspect of life.

The Ramban’s notion that miracles exist in both revealed and concealed forms is evident in the very meaning of the word “neis” itself. The conventional translation of the term “neis” denotes a “miracle” or “wonder”, as Rashi describes in Shemos 17:16. However, the Torah also employs the very same term to signify a “banner” or “flag,” as seen in Bamidbar 26:10 and Yeshayah 18:3. In light of the Ramban’s explanation, these two definitions are not coincidental. The glorious and overt miracles serve as a “banner,” proclaiming and confirming the miraculous status of the smaller, “natural” miracles and wonders. Such a relationship is certainly apparent in the dual miracles of Chanukah. Chanukah celebrates both the “natural” military victory and the “supernatural” burning of a small amount of oil for 8 days. The unquestionably supernatural burning of the oil corroborated the equally miraculous nature of the military victory.

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