The [need for the] Eglah Arufah is only because of stinginess (literally, tzoras ayin; stingy eye), as it says, “They will answer and say, ‘Our hands did not spill this blood’ ” (Devarim 21:7). (Sota 38b)The mitzvah of the Eglah Arufah, the calf whose neck is to be broken, occurs when a dead body has been found outside of a city and the murderer is not known. The procedure was that five members of the Sanhedran went out and measured from the place that the corpse had been found, in order to ascertain the closest city.
They measured from the nose of the body (the place through which the soul was breathed into the first man). (Sota 44b; Sefer HaChinuch, 530.) Like in the case of measuring for an eiruv, a rope fifty amos in length was used to measure the distance. (Eiruvin 57b; all measurements are with ropes of 50 amos in length (Babba Kamma 23b).) Then, the elders of the closest city decapitated the calf, and washing their hands in a strongly flowing river, recited, “Our hands did not spill ... ”
The Talmud says that such a devastating tragedy befell a town for not properly showing its wayfarers the proper amount of hospitality, for tzari ha’ayin—for a tight eye. However, at this point, whenever we come across any mention of ayin, we know that it has to do with vision, specifically the vision of the mind’s eye. The Eglah Arufah came to counteract the blindness of the spiritual, mind’s eye.
There is another similar mitzvah. On the way out of Egypt, God commanded the Jewish nation:When God brings you into the land of the Canaani, which He promised to give to your fathers, and will give to you; then you should set aside to God every first offspring of the womb, and every first offspring prematurely born to an animal which you have; the males will be for God. Every first offspring of a donkey you should redeem with one of the flock. If you do not redeem it, then you must break its neck (va’a’rafto) ... (Shemos 13:11)Imagine the scene. The Jewish people, after 116 years of slavery were finally leaving Egypt. After ten months of plagues, and the systematic decimation of Egypt, the unimagined day had come—Paroah had been broken—like the neck of the calf and the donkey. The Jewish people had to leave, at the insistence of Paroah and his people. There had been packing to do, the preparation of provisions, the dressing for a journey to an unknown destination ... And a mitzvah to redeem the firstborn donkey?
It can be taken for granted that a mitzvah occurs in the Torah at a specific place to allude to its sod. If the mitzvah of Petter Chamor (firstborn donkey) occurs in the Torah just as the Jewish people were leaving Egypt, it is because inherent in that mitzvah is the sod of Yetzias Mitzrayim—redemption from Egypt.
The Talmud records:Rebi Chanina said, “I asked Rebi Eliezer in the big Bais Medrash ... ‘What was the difference between the first offspring of the donkey, of the horse, and of the camel?’The above Talmudic passage directly precedes the one that discusses the significance of the name, “Refidim,” the place that Amalek attacked the Jewish nation, after the episode of the munn. (See Section One (Purim), Chapter Three.) However, that is less significant than the fact that the animal that symbolizes the Egyptian nation is the chamor, the donkey. (Maharal, Gevuros Hashem, Chapter Ten (Page 62).) In fact, Egypt is represented by another animal as well: the eigel (calf)—
‘It is a Heavenly decree. Furthermore, when the Jewish people left Egypt, there wasn’t a single Jew who didn’t have ninety donkies laden with silver and gold from Egypt.’ ” (Bechoros 5b)A beautiful (yafi fi’ah (This is really one word, but it appears as two words, which, as we will discuss shortly, has significance.)) calf is Egypt ... (Yirmiyahu 46:20)Furthermore, the word arufah can also be arranged to spell the name Paroah, the infamous ruler of Egypt and main antagonist in the Pesach story:
(ayin, raish, vav, peh, heh—peh, raish, ayin, (vav), heh
who made the critical mistake of asking, “Who is Hashem?” (Shemos 5:2.) Not only this, but Paroah’s name can also spell:
peh ra’ah (peh, (heh), raish, ayin, heh) — evil mouth
This may not seem overly significant, until one considers that Moshe, the main protagonist brought in to challenge and overcome Paroah, was one whose power was in his mouth (Rashi, Balak 22:4.), who came to save a nation that “conquers only through their mouth.” (BaMidbar 31:8, Rashi.)
(Incidentally, this is why the goal of the slavery was to make the Jewish nation kotzer ruach (Shemos 6:9), which means “shortness of spirit,” and not kotzer nefesh, which means “shortness of soul.” According to Kabballah, the part of the soul that corresponds to action is the Nefesh, whereas, the part that corresponds to speech is called Ruach.)
Even the navi, when referring to the beauty of Egypt broke the word yefifiyah into two parts, which literally mean, “her beautiful mouth.” No wonder the central mitzvah of Seder night is the mitzvah of Haggadah, to tell the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim, even if you are alone and know the story by heart.
What else would one expect for holiday called Pesach—the mouth that spoke! And where else would such a redemption take place from, but from a place called Mitzrayim:
meitzer yumm (mem, tzaddik, raish, yud, mem) — the constricted “sea”
where the gematria of the last word, yum, is equal to fifty—the Fifty Gates of Understanding!
And though the Jews left Egypt at Paroah’s command, it took only seven days for Paroah to regret his decision, and pursue the nation once more to return them to Egypt. He caught up to the Jewish people and stranded them by the shore of the Yum Suf.
However, that was Paroah’s second mistake. For, though he had believed that it had been the god Ba’al Tz’fon who ruled the shore at the Yum Suf, in truth, the Jews had been trapped by Paroah at Pi HaChiros—the Mouth of Freedom. (Shemos 14:2.) It was there that Jewish people made their final break from the Egyptian people, who were washed up al s’fas hayum—on the “lips” of the sea. (Shemos 30:14; as mentioned before, yum (sea) is equal to fifty in gematria, and an allusion to the Fifty Gates of Understanding.)
It seems as if Golus Mitzrayim, which can be traced back to Yosef (and the loshon hara he spoke), was an exile of da’as. It had been Paroah’s role to constrict the flow of Da’as Elokim to the Jewish people, to loosen their connection to the Fifty Gates of Understanding; to make a division between Elokim and Hashem in the minds of the Jews.
Hence, the Egyptians didn’t merely enslave the Jewish people, but they enslaved them bepharech (bais, peh, raish, chof), (Shemos 1:13.) which literally means “hard work,” but which the Talmud (Sota 11b.) understands to mean, b’peh rach (bais, peh, (heh) ... raish, chof)— soft mouth. And, though Moshe had claimed to have “uncircumcized lips,” he had been chosen by God to free the “mouth” of the Jewish people, thereby making it possible for them to re-connect up to the da’as of the Fifty Gates of Understanding. Perhaps this is what is meant by:From a man’s mouth you can tell what he is. (Zohar BaMidbar 193)For, it seems, there is an inherent and intimate connection between the mouth and da’as, and Yetzias Mitzrayim surfaced that connection, so that every Jew in each generation could “look at himself as if he too left Egypt.” (Haggadah shel Pesach.)