Are we coming or going? An analysis of Hashkiveinu, the Exodus and Life

By Rav Yitzchak Avraham Twersky

There is a common mistake that people make all the time. They think that Hashem took us out of Egypt in order to bring us to Har Sinai and give us the Torah. People often say that the destination of the Exodus was Mount Sinai. They are wrong!

One of the greatest giants of our generation, Rav Zuriel, points out [in his Derishat Zion (parshat Vaera)] that one of the greatest of the Achronim, Rav Meir Simcha of Devinsk [in his Meshech Chochma] identifies Israel as the telos of the Exodus. While we needed to receive the Torah at Sinai, the goal was to then live it in its ideal context, Eretz Yisrael (see e.g. Devarim 4:13-14; 6:1-3; 12:1; 31:13; Shut HaRashba I:134)[1].


The fact that Israel was the destination is actually stated repeatedly in the Torah, starting with the very beginning of the process of Yeziat Mizrayim. Already at the sneh, Hashem tells Moshe that his intention is to take us out of Egypt and bring us to the land of Israel (Shemot 3:8). Similarly, in the end of Az Yashir(Shemot 15:17) the Torah spells out this progression, as well. It is also alluded to in the Haggadah, in the dayeinu which outlines the maalot, the steps or rungs, leading up to Hashem.The Gemara (Berachot 4b) explains that Hashkiveinu, which we say in maariv right after the blessing of redemption (Gaal Yisrael), is considered an extension of that blessing (geula arichta).

Talmidei Rabbeinu Yona explain its connection to the blessing of redemption: On the night of the Exodus the Jewish people were terrified, as they were surrounded by death and destruction. They prayed to God to protect and shield them from harm. This prayer is the basis for Hashkiveinu, in which we ask for Hashem’s protection from threats and dangers.

If we think about the Gemara through this prism, a fascinating perspective emerges. Chazal are teaching us that threats and danger are part of redemption! There are unfortunately Jews today who fail to see the current redemption because they think that the existence of war and threats are antithetical to redemption. Chazal repeatedly make the point that, on the contrary, difficulties, fear and pain are part and parcel of the redemption (see e.g. Sanhedrin 98b).

Rav Aviner noted that it is ironic that some Jews today claim that we aren’t living in the time of atchalta d’geula because there are wars in Israel. This would be funny, were it not so sad, as the only time that Chazal use the term atchalta d’geula is when they say that wars are atchalta d’geula (Megilla 17b)!


As is well known, the Torah describes the redemption using four terms:

שמות (פרק ו)

(ו) לכן אמר לבני ישראל אני ה’ והוצאתי אתכם מתחת סבלת מצרים והצלתי אתכם מעבדתם וגאלתי אתכם בזרוע נטויה ובשפטים גדלים: (ז) ולקחתי אתכם לי לעם והייתי לכם לאלהים וידעתם כי אני ה’ אלהיכם המוציא אתכם מתחת סבלות מצרים:

There are some, who unfortunately understand neither Chazal nor the biblical text, who mistakenly think that Chazal arbitrarily chose these four; and that one could have just as well defined the section, and therefore the number of terms, differently. Chazal actually said what they did because they understood the Torah. If we look at the section again closely we will see that it has a clear opening and closure which parallel each other (such “brackets” are very common in Tanach in general, and Chumash in particular):

שמות (פרק ו)

(ו) לכן אמר לבני ישראל אני ה’ והוצאתי אתכם מתחת סבלת מצרים והצלתי אתכם מעבדתם וגאלתי אתכם בזרוע נטויה ובשפטים גדלים:

(ז) ולקחתי אתכם לי לעם והייתי לכם לאלהים וידעתם כי אני ה’ אלהיכם המוציא אתכם מתחת סבלות מצרים:

It is to this section that Chazal refer. It is important to note that while there are four terms, they are all part of a larger category of Yeziat Mizrayim, which is the opening and closing of the section, as we noted. The Torah then goes on to say, in the following sentence:

)ח) והבאתי אתכם אל הארץ אשר נשאתי את ידי לתת אתה לאברהם ליצחק וליעקב ונתתי אתה לכם מורשה אני ה

V’heiveiti - bringing us to Israel- is, of course, the fifth of the four terms of redemption. If stands apart from the four of the Exodus, but is the completion of redemptive process, as we noted above.

If we put this together with the perspective of Talmidei Rabbeinu Yona that we saw above, a fascinating conclusion emerges. We conclude the blessing of hashkiveinu with the prayer that Hashem watch over our goings and comings-

וּשְׁמוֹר צֵאתֵנוּ וּבוֹאֵנוּ לְחַיִים וּלְשָׁלוֹם מֵעַתָּה וְעַד עוֹלָם

If we understand that hashkiveinu is modeled after the Exodus, and that the redemption of the Exodus consisted of two components, והוצאתי... והבאתי, then we understand where this closing prayer in hashkiveinu comes from!

In life we aspire to travel on two paths. First, we need to leave from that which constrains, enslaves and oppresses us, that which hurts us and holds us back. This is the path of v’hozaiti/ zaitainui.

We also need to move forward to that which makes us better and more complete. We need to not only leave the negative behind, we also need to move to that which is innately good. This is the path of v’heiveiti/ u’voeinu.

In hashkiveinu, we pray that Hashem help us on that dual journey through life.

[1]This is pointed out by Chazal and virtually every major Rishon in numerous places, and is the subject of countless sefarim and articles and beyond the scope of this brief article.