In the third chapter of Pirke de Rebbe Eliezer we read that prior to Creation, G‑d and his name were all that existed. If the universe had continued according to G‑d's original intentions, i.e. if man had not introduced sin, there would not have been a "kelipa" [meaning "peel" in Hebrew], i.e. something like an iron curtain between man and G‑d. Sanctity would have prevailed on earth, and G‑d's name would have been read and pronounced exactly the way it is spelled [yud, hei, vav, hei - as opposed to how we pronounce it today, as the divine name Ado-nai]. The atmosphere of the world would have been totally pure, uncontaminated. …the universe will not again be purified until the advent of the Mashiach

Since this kelipa, unfortunately, has grown and expanded further and further, this name cannot be pronounced even when Israel is on its own land, except within the confines of the Holy Temple. This is so because the universe will not again be purified until the advent of the Mashiach, when the state of the earth will correspond to the original desire of its Creator.

The purpose of Israel's exile and enslavement in Egypt was to refine the nation in the "iron crucible", to enable it to receive the Torah so that the contamination caused by the original serpent would be purged from them. At the time of the giving of the Torah, the whole of the universe was meant to rejuvenate itself and become like it had been at the time G‑d had created Adam. It would have remained in that state had the Jewish people not sinned during the episode of the Golden Calf. Proof of this theory is found in Psalms: (82:6-7) "I said, I had taken you for divine beings, [immortal] sons of the most High, but you have to die as men do…"

G‑d had planned for the Exodus to become mankind's renewal, and this was the revelation to Moses when He taught him that He had not truly revealed His name i.e. the four-lettered name [Havayah]. All this had been in response to Moses' question "when they say to me what is His name, what shall I tell them?" (Ex. 3:13) At that time G‑d had revealed to Moses the concept of Chidush Ha'olam - Renewal of the World, as I have explained at length in my commentary on the Haggadah Shel Pesach.

We find that all Moses' warnings to Pharaoh were uttered in the name of that name of G‑d, i.e. "that G‑d [Havayah] is greater than all the g-ds." The essential element in this reference to G‑d was that it reflected the past, present and future - the eternal nature of G‑d, the Source of all existence and the One without whom no existence endures. He alone is the One who supervises everything that goes on in His universe. He is totally free to do as He pleases.

G‑d told Moses that in this imperfect world His name cannot yet be pronounced as it is written. Only when Israel would accept the Torah, be purified, and cleave to G‑d, this would commence. This was G‑d's plan for the world's rejuvenation. The Exodus is equivalent to the act of creating the universe…

The statement of our sages that the words "remember" and "observe", referring to the Shabbat, were said simultaneously [i.e. the difference between the versions of the Ten Commandments recorded (in Exodus 20:7 and in Deuteronomy 5:11)] is linked to the Exodus from Egypt [as distinct from the Shabbat of Creation]. In Deuteronomy the reason for the legislation is the departure from Egypt, the Exodus, whereas in Exodus it refers to acts of creation. Clearly then the Exodus is equivalent to the act of creating the universe, in other words, a renewal of the world.

Originally, G‑d had considered creating a universe that was to be maintained according to strict justice. This is hinted at in the story of Creation.

The Zohar, in commenting on the line "May the Name of G‑d be blessed [in Hebrew, 'mevorach']" (Job 1:21) divides the word "mevorach" [spelled mem, beit, reish, chaf] into the number mem-bet, 42 [referring to the 42-letter name of G‑d, which is associated with the attribute of gevura-severity, i.e that G‑d had first planned to create the world based on strict justice] and the word "rach" [meaning "soft" in Hebrew]. This combination hints at the "softening" of the attribute of severity via its co-option by the attribute of mercy.

You find a parallel in Israel's experience in Egypt, when the "hard labor" [in Hebrew "parech"], was tempered by "peh rach" [a play on words], meaning "soft words" in Hebrew. (See Exodus 1:14) The reason that this word [spelled peh, reish, chaf] also appears in reference to hard labor, is to remind us that the wicked are initially allowed to live in peace, only to face afflictions in the Hereafter. The opposite is true of the righteous whose experience in life begins with afflictions.

G‑d in His righteousness begins with mem bet, i.e. the attribute of justice, only to sweeten it by way of the attribute of mercy at a later stage. This is why His name is blessed, i.e. mev o rach. Just as creation began with the mem bet, so the initial experience in Egypt which emanated from the wicked Pharaoh proceeded in the reverse order, i.e. commencing with "peh rach" [soft words], while ending in hard labor.

This experience led to a refinement of the character of the Jewish people.

[Translation and commentary by Eliyahu Munk]