There is one word in the Torah that explains the entire reason for the Egyptian slavery, the Exodus, and even how we are to live a major portion of our lives today. Actually, it is not even the word that is the key to its importance, but simply its grammatical tense.
"For I am Hashem Who elevates you from the land of Egypt to be a G-d unto you; you shall be holy because I am holy."[i]
Hashem said this to us well after the slavery was over, after we received the Ten Commandments and were moving from place to place in the wilderness. Shouldn't He have said, Who elevated you from the land of Egypt? After all, we were already elevated from Egypt when He said this. This is the beauty of understanding this word.
The slavery in Egypt did not happen because we had to go down into Egypt to find food. It happened because of the way we went down. Everyone has to go down into the world to find food … to make a living. But when you go down focusing only on the money you become enslaved by that money. The tribe of Levi also went down into Egypt, but they went down never losing sight of the primary importance of Torah and mitzvahs. Since their focus was on the holy and not the mundane, they never became enslaved.
When we were enslaved and cried out to Hashem to save us, when we relied entirely upon Hashem, he elevated us out of Egypt and brought us into the wilderness.
So why did Hashem use the presence tense and not the past tense when He said that He elevates us out of Egypt? He uses the presence tense here because the story of Egypt, its slavery, its solution, the wandering in the desert; all these are ongoing events. This is how we, to this day still live our lives.
We have to go out and make a living. This is Egypt. If our sole intention and focus while there is money we will become enslaved by our desires. We will never be satisfied no matter how much money we make. But, if we go down into that same world to make that same money with the intention to use that money for Torah and mitzvahs we will be like the tribe of Levi who did not become enslaved.
When we are caught again in the money trap and are in pain over our lives, if then we call out onto Hashem with all our hearts He will elevate us out of that quandary. He will bring us into the wilderness where we will find our food lying on the ground in front of us, and all we have to do is to bend over and pick it up.
So it is with all of the details of the slavery, the exodus, the wandering in the wilderness, and even being brought into our Land. We can learn all this by simply paying attention to the grammatical tense the Torah uses in this one place; "I am Hashem Who elevates you from the land of Egypt to be a G-d onto you…"
[i] Leviticus 11:45