The real galut is the exile of the soul
In Likutey Halachot 200, Rav Natan asks a question: What is the whole matter of galut (exile) and what is the matter of geula (redemption)? Apparently the answer is pretty simple: galut is when Am Yisrael is residing outside of Eretz Yisrael, and geula is when we are to be found in Eretz Yisrael.
Except, Rav Natan is really asking what is the deep, internal matter of galut and geula? Because we can see that right now, we are living in Eretz Yisrael, but we’re still haven’t achieved redemption.
We’re still living in a reality that is rightly called ‘galut’.
Rav Natan writes about this in a few places in Likutey Halachot, but especially in Honaa, halacha #3.
He explains that the matter of galut is when the Nefesh of a Jew remains far from Hashem, and that geula occurs when a Jew draws closer to Hashem.
We need to connect to Hashem
If we want our innermost level to be filled up with simcha (happiness), menucha (relaxation) and contentment, this only occurs for a Jewish person when they’re connected to Hashem. The moment we aren’t actually connected to God, this is effectively called the galut hanefesh or exile of the soul.
The general redemption is simply the revelation and expression of all our private redemptions, and our private exile is when we’re not connected to Hashem.
There are very deep reasons as to why a Jewish person cannot experience, under any circumstances, the feeling of being entirely whole and complete, and of feeling contentment and peace other than in those circumstances when they are connected to God.
You could give a Jewish man a billion dollars, and you could give him all the success in this lowly world, in every single aspect of life, so that he’d lack for absolutely nothing – but if he’s not connected to God, he’ll still be living the reality of exile.
So, Rav Natan tells us that at the deeper level, the whole matter of the exodus from Egypt was really a matter of leaving the exile of the soul which was occurring in Egypt until the true redemption, which occurred at Matan Torah. But this redemption was not complete, because we all know what all of Am Yisrael is still going through, or what every single one of us is experiencing in our private lives.
According to Chazal and the midrashim, the exodus from Egypt occurred over 10 months. It took Moshe Rabbenu 10 months to take us out of Egypt. From that point, right up until today, we’re still busy trying to get Egypt out of us.
Getting out of Egypt took a year, getting Egypt out from inside ourselves has taken 3,300 years.
And this is what Rav Natan tells us is the true matter of geula, namely to get ‘Egypt’ out from inside of us.
Translated and adapted from Rav Ofer Erez’s teaching in the Ohr HaDaat newsletter, #119