The Zohar, Chapter “Shemot (Exodus),” Item 250: And when the Creator saw the great joy of this world when it improved to being as above, He said, “Let not the twelve tribes mingle with the rest of the nations, leaving a blemish in all the worlds.” What did the Creator do? He shook all of them to and fro until they went down to Egypt to dwell in their abodes inside the obstinate nation, which despises their conducts and degrades them by not marrying with them or mingling with them, and by considering them slaves. The males were loathsome of them and the females were loathsome of them until everything was bettered by the holy seed without mingling with strangers….
There is a scrutiny of one’s state as one attempts to rid oneself of egoism, and then there’s a scrutiny of one’s state when one wishes to remain in (adapt to) his egoism. If I wish to remain in my egoism, then the egoism pushes me out through its hatred for me as it senses within me the point in the heart that is opposite to it. As it is written: “The Pharaoh brought the nation of Israel closer [via pointed oppression] to Israel,” and “I have created the ego as help against you.” It opposes you, and precisely therein is its help.
Similarly, when the Soviet government pushed a hard anti-Zionist agenda in the 1960s-70s, in so doing, it actually boosted Zionism. It is precisely the evil forces (the reverse side of the Creator) that help elucidate the evil, and not the Creator or the Upper Light, openly or directly.
Exile is one’s interim state between the degrees when both the Egyptians and Israel are revealed within him, opposite one another. He is in the middle scrutinizing these qualities. He is an exile, under the Egyptians’ command. On the one hand, he is drawn to Egyptians, but they reject him over the “seed of Israel” that is within him.
In other words, the desire to enjoy despises and rejects the intention to bestow for it wants only to act for the sake of reception. This is the hatred of the nations of the world toward Israel. And then there is the opposite discernment, when one has already advanced to the desire to bestow and identifies himself with it, as he nears the exodus from Egypt and is unwilling to mingle with the Egyptians (the nations of the world).
The Egyptians’ rule over him has ended; he no longer strives to be like them, no longer does he wish to unite with them, although he still lives among them, for now. In his eyes the Pharaoh receives blows, and these blows help him to rise above his relationship with the Pharaoh. Then he distances from the Egyptians, not because they spurn him, but because he is the one rejecting them as he nears the exodus from Egypt.
The Creator conducts these scrutinies in everybody (every person in this world) from both sides, in order to help us understand to which we are drawn more: egoism or bestowal. The nations of the world feel hatred for the spark of bestowal that has remained in the nation of Israel from its previous spiritual level. They reject Israel, which is precisely the reason the nation of Israel has remained intact.
Israel did not somehow manage to survive on its own; but rather, it is the opposition to Israel that held it together. As Baal HaSulam writes, Israel exists like nuts in a bag, united not by love, but forcefully, by the external hatred that surrounds them.
From the 1st part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 4/18/10, The Zohar