From Baal HaSulam’s article “This is for Judah”:
That bread, which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. The Mitzva of eating Matza was given to the children of Israel even before they departed Egypt, relating to the future exodus, which was to be in haste. We, too, are as when we were enslaved abroad. Also, with this Mitzva, we aim to extend the redemption that will happen soon in our days, just as our fathers ate in Egypt.
We were slaves…“Begins with denunciation, and ends with praise.” Concerning the denunciation, it begins with the words “in the beginning, our fathers were idol worshipers,” or with the “We were slaves,” which is according to Halakha.
The reason for “beginning with denunciation and ending in praise” is, as it is written, “as far as light excellth darkness.” This is why “a wild ass’s colt is born a man.” And in the end, he acquires the shape of a man. This was so in the rooting of the Israeli nation, too.
The reason for it is that the Creator elicited Creation, existence from absence. Hence, there is not a single creation that was not previously in absence. However, this absence has a distinct form in the still, vegetative, animate, and speaking levels in creation.
We find that the beginning of the still is necessarily complete absence. However, the beginning of the vegetative is merely its former degree: sowing and decay. Also, it is the same with the absence of the animate and the speaking: the vegetative form is considered absence, with respect to the animate; and the animate form is considered absence, with respect to the speaking.
This is why it is written, “a wild ass’s colt is born a man,” as it is necessary for every person to begin in the state of a beast. And the writing says, “Man and beast Thou preserves, O Lord.” And as a beast is given all that it needs for its sustenance and the fulfillment of its purpose.
What is the advantage of man’s form over the beast from the perspective of their own preparation. Indeed, it is discerned in their desires, since God’s salvation of man differs from God’s salvation of a beast.
The only need in man’s desires, which does not exist in the whole of the animate species, is the awakening towards Godly Dvekut (adhesion). It follows that the whole issue of presence in the human species is in that preparation imprinted in him to crave His work, and in that, he is superior to the beast. And many have already said that even the intelligence in craftsmanship and in political conducts is present, with great wisdom, in many elements in the animal world.
Accordingly, we can also understand the matter of the absence that precedes the existence of man as the negation of the desire for God’s proximity, since one is in the animate degree. Now we understand the words of the phrase that said, “Begins with denunciation, and ends with praise.” This means that we must remember and research the absence that precedes our existence in a positive manner, as this is the denunciation that precedes the praise, and from it we will understand the praise more profoundly.
This is also the meaning of our four exiles, exile by exile, which precede the four redemptions, redemption by redemption, up to the fourth redemption, which is the complete perfection that we hope for soon in our days.
Exile refers to “absence that precedes the presence,” which is redemption. Thus, all the letters of redemption (Ge’ula) are present in exile (Galut), except for the Aleph, since this letter indicates the “Aluph (Champion) of the world.” This teaches us that the form of the absence is but the negation of the presence.
And we know the form of the presence – redemption – from the verse, “and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor …for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them.” Hence, the form of the previous absence, meaning the form of exile, is only the absence of the knowledge of the Lord. This is the absence of the Aleph, which is missing in the exile, and present in the redemption – the Dvekut with the “Champion of the world.”
The absence in itself is what prepares the presence ascribed to it. We see that in the concept of freedom, which is a sublime concept, only a chosen few perceive it, although even the least among the people will not tolerate enslavement.
We begin with denunciation, so that through it the salvation will be thoroughly appreciated. Hence, we need to begin not from the time of Terah, but Egypt, where His love and work was already planted in a few within the nation. Also, the added difficulty of enslavement in Egypt is not a deficiency in itself in the life of the nation called “Adam.”
The absence prepares the presence, it is considered a part of His salvation, and should be met with gratitude, as well. Hence, we should not begin with, “in the beginning, our fathers were idol worshipers,” since that time is not even regarded as “absence that precedes the presence.” This is because they are completely devoid of the human type of presence, since they were completely removed from His love, like the neuter, which is devoid of love.
Hence, we begin with the enslavement in Egypt, when the sparks of His love were burning in their hearts, to an extent, but due to impatience and hard work, it was being quenched every day. This is considered “absence that precedes the presence.”
The concept of the freedom of the nation in the knowledge of God is a very high concept, which only a chosen few understand, and even then it requires appropriate preparations. Conversely, perceiving the hardships of enslavement is clear to all.