The Book of Shemos teaches us about the Jewish people's adventures as slaves in Egypt and their ultimate redemption.
Egypt was the mother of all Exiles. They paved the way for anti-Semitic nations throughout history to feel a sense of entitlement to jump in on the action and take a crack at wiping us off the map. But in a sense, it is because of Egypt that we have become the unstoppable and undefeatable nation that we have been throughout history.
When the Jewish people went down to Egypt they were a small family of 70 people, but when they left, 210 years later, they were a nation of over 2 million! We were born in Egypt, under impossible circumstances. We stared genocide in the face, and prospered. It is in our blood. It is in our DNA. And because of that, after 3000 years of nations trying to wipe us out, of trying to assimilate us, of persecutions, pogroms and libels, we are still here trying to reclaim the vision that God had for us when he gave us the Torah, to be a light unto the nations.
We are able to learn a lot about ourselves from Egypt's game plan how to wipe us out. They knew that you can't destroy someone by just wearing them out physically. As long as someone has vitality from their day-to-living they can tap in to an endless well spring of renewal and joy. Egypt understood that there are three ingredients to a person feeling that freedom and vitality in their day-to-day life and it was in those areas that they put their primary focus to try to take away from us. Those areas are:
(1) Individual Expression. The Egyptians made sure that every individual engaged in tasks that would not allow them to express their talents and skills. They forced intellectuals to do physical labor, tough guys to sit behind a desk, artists and musicians doing worked that lacked any creative talent. They understood that the key to extinguishing a person's zest for life is to not allow them to achieve their potential. The first key to freedom is to realize our unique talents and skills and how we can use those to bring our light into the world. If we are not living a life that matches our skills and talents, that allows us to use our creativity and express our individuality, we are falling back into the slavery of Egypt.
(2) "Me" time. The Egyptians knew that if we even had the smallest amount of time that we were not on call, we would use it to meditate, to reflect, to introspect, and to dream about a better life. They knew that even these few moments would be a source of vitality for the Jewish people and would ensure their continuity. The second ingredient to freedom is to make time daily to escape the outer world and connect with our inner world. Unplugging completely from one's phone, email, the web, TV and just think for a few minutes about the big picture. What's working and what's not, what's making us happy and what's bringing us down, what are our goals and what is holding us back, what we can do to step up our game for tomorrow.
(3) Sense of Accomplishment. The Jewish people spent most of their time building structures on land that was unstable, and the structures would collapse a short time later. The Egyptians realized that even with all of the harsh labor, if, at the end of the day, the Jews could look back at what they accomplished and feel good about it, they would be able to find vitality and motivation to continue. Setting up small landmarks for our successes is one of the most important things we can do to propel ourselves forward, and when we reach those those mileposts, taking the time to properly celebrate. It is so important to live life with clearly marked goals, and just as important to pour ourselves a l'chaim or reward ourselves in some meaningful way at the end.