This parsha, following the passing of Yaakov, Yosef, and the brothers, is the beginning of a new era in the history of Bnei Yisroel–the beginning of the Egyptian exile. “These are the names of Bnei Yisroel who came to Egypt”–the first exile.
The midrash states that the reason for the subsequent redemption from Egypt was “due to the fact that [Bnei Yisroel] did not change their names…they went down as Reuvain and Shimon and they came up as Reuvain and Shimon.” This is a comment on the name (and initial verse) of our parsha: Shemos (meaning, “names”), which refers to the beginning of the exile in Egypt, as mentioned.
The Rebbe derives from this that the verse “these are the names of Bnei Yisroel who came to Egypt” is also emphasizing the merit for which they were ultimately redeemed from Egypt (“that they didn’t change their names”). In other words–it is referring both to the beginning of the golus and also to the future Geulah from that golus.
The whole idea of “coming to Egypt” is in truth the “Geulah of Yisroel”. The descent which occurs in the meantime [until the Geulah comes] is on the superficial level (בחיצוניות), but on a deeper level (בפנימיות), the descent itself is (not only for the sake that through it will come the ascent that occurs through the redemption from Egypt, but more than that–) a part of the ascent and the Geulah itself, until we reach the ascent of the true and complete Geulah…the future Geulah.
In other words, not only is there a “descent for the sake of an ascent”, which makes the descent worthwhile in the end; here the Rebbe is saying something much greater: the descent itself is already part of the ultimate ascent!
At this point, the Rebbe turns to explain the familiar statement:
Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah said: I am like a person seventy years old and yet I did not merit (to understand the source for the obligation) to recall the exodus from Egypt at night until Ben Zoma explained: “It is written, ‘so that you recall the day you left Egypt all the days of your life.’ ‘The days of your life,’ this refers to the actual days. ‘All the days of your life,’ includes the nights as well.” Our Sages say: “ ’The days of your life,’ this refers to the present era. ‘All the days of your life,’ includes the Era of the Redemption.”
There are three levels: Day (when the light of Hashem is shining); Night (the darkness of exile); and the Days of Moshiach (Yemos Hamoshiach, which we will explain).
The Rebbe refers here to Yemos Hamoshiach as a time of “a state of Geulah”, which seemingly is not the same thing as Geulah. Rather, it is a unification of Geulah (which completely transcends all limitations) and golus, where the unlimited aspect of the Geulah is “drawn down into the limitations of the reality of olam hazeh”.
How can such a thing happen, the unlimited being drawn into the limited? This is the unique power of the Nosi, the leader of the generation (as was Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria, mentioned above):
The chiddush of the leader of Yisroel (“Nosi b’Yisroel”–the world “Nosi” coming from the word “exalted” התנשאות) is that he connects and unifies “all the days of your life” of every single Jew and of all of Israel — “all the days of your life” the physical days in olam hazeh and particularly in the time of golus (“nights”) — with the Geulah in general and with Yemos Hamoshiach in particular…specifically the Nosi has the power to connect and unify the golus with the Geulah.
For us, this means that “all the days of your life”–as a soul in a body in this physical and material world and in the time of golus, we can go out from the limitations of this world and, more than this: put ourselves in a state of Yemos Hamoshiach! It is true that the complete Geulah depends on everything being “as it should be” (תוכו כברו). Nonetheless, even in a personal state of golus (when one is not “as he should be”) he is given special help from the Holy One, blessed be He, and he is given the ability to bring about the true and complete Geulah. This is why Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria changed the policy and opened up the doors to the study halls to allow students who were not “as they should be”–because he gives them the power to transform things even while in a state of golus!
Thus, even in the “night” of golus, having descending into Egypt, surrounded by 70 nations, he can bring himself to a state of Geulah–“all the days of your life, to bring Yemos Hamoshiach”.
How realistic is this for us? The Rebbe states:
The instruction from this is understood in simple terms, especially in our generation and our time: as has been said numerous times the words of my father-in-law the leader of our generation (“Nosi Doreinu”), that in addition to the fact that already “all of the end-times have passed”, and Bnei Yisroel have already done tshuva, and finished everything, including polishing the buttons, and all that is needed is that the Holy One, blessed be He, will open up the eyes of Bnei Yisroel so they will see that the true and complete Geulah exists already, and we are already sitting at the set table, at the feast of the Levyoson and the Shor Habar, etc., etc….
This includes transitioning seamlessly from “the days of your life” into “Yemos Hamoshiach”:
and from “the days of your life” at this time and in this place, without any delay in between, chas v’sholom, every single Jew passes immediately with the ultimate perfection in a continuation of “all the days of your life” in Yemos Hamoshiach, and the eternal life that will be then.
What is our job? Our job is to actually to bring to “Yemos Hamoshiach”, with an emphasis to recognize the one who accomplishes all this:
As regards actual action, the intent is that the avodah of Bnei Yisroel now must be “to bring to Yemos Hamoshiach”, to reveal already in actuality that the state of “coming to Egypt” in golus is in truth a state of “the Geulah of Yisroel”, through this that they prepare themselves and prepare others for the state of “Yemos Hamoshiach”…and since there is already the “king from the house of Dovid who is involved in Torah and busy with Mitzvos like his father Dovid…and he will force all of Israel to go in it and to rectify its breaches and fight the wars of Hashem” — for then “we can assume that he is Moshiach” (בחזקת משיח) — that already immediately he will be “certainly Moshiach” (משיח בודאי), through this that “he did all this and succeeded and built the Beis Hamikdash in his place and gathered in the dispersed of Israel…and rectified the entire world to serve Hashem together, etc.”