For us, this is the beginning of history. At the close of Bereishit we were numbered at 70 souls but now we are a nation. For the first time we are called am bnei yisroel, the people of the children of Israel and, as we read in the Haggadah, mighty and populous.
We had been in Egypt for 400 years with the last 200 or so years in subjection if not downright slavery. Why then, at the time promised to Abraham, does God harden Pharaohs’ heart?
There is a legal phrase “Cui bono” who benefits? Just possibly, it might have been for us as a people. Slavery may not just be of the body but of the spirit. Had Pharaoh said” if you want to go then go” would we have responded “what’s the catch?” Would we have decided that what we knew was better that the unknown? After 400 years was the covenant with Abraham a distant memory or a living promise?
The plagues and the evidence of the hand of God would have been a powerful message not just to Pharaoh but to us. We are a stubborn people, but God is more persistent.
Freedom comes with the responsibility to act. It may be a step by step process but perseverance and facing challenges is part of the deal. It also requires faith in ourselves and in our own destiny, not just as individuals but as a people.