Increasing Performance: Avoiding Evil
The Torah portion, Bo, discusses the Jews' spiritual preparations for the exodus from Egypt. When G-d decided to take the Jewish people out of Egypt, He saw that they were bereft of mitzvot. There was not one mitzva in whose merit they were worthy of being redeemed!
What did G-d do? He gave them two commandments with which to prepare themselves before the exodus: the blood of the Pascal sacrifice (the Jewish people were commanded to slaughter the Passover offering and put its blood on the door posts and lintels of their homes), and the blood of brit mila (the commandment to circumcise themselves on the night of the exodus from Egypt). It was in the merit of these two mitzvot that the Jews were redeemed.
These particular commandments were chosen by G-d because they represent the two dimensions of our Divine service: "depart from evil" and "do good."
"Depart from evil" means that we must rid ourselves of negative character traits and refrain from committing transgressions. "Do good" means that we must strive to strengthen our positive character traits and increase our performance of good deeds.
The Jewish people's G-dly service in Egypt was defective on both counts, both in the sphere of "departing from evil" and "doing good." The Jews did not sufficiently distance themselves from wrongdoing, due to the negative influence of the Egyptian environment. Nor did they engage in doing mitzvot or performing acts of goodness.
Thus, in order to be redeemed, they had to correct their behavior in both directions.
"Depart from evil": The blood of the Pascal sacrifice signified the Jews' unequivocal dissociation from the evil of their surroundings. The Egyptians were idolators, and the lamb was one of their primary deities. Yet the Jews were commanded to take this "deity" and sacrifice it to G-d! By doing so the Jewish people irrevocably cut themselves off from the Egyptians' depravity.
"Do good": By performing brit mila, the Jews entered into an eternal covenant with the Creator.
"Depart from evil" and "do good" are thus both components of the process of redemption from Egypt, as it states, "When you have brought forth the people out of Egypt, you shall serve G-d upon this mountain."
"Depart from evil" refers to the exodus from Egypt.
"Do good" refers to the Jewish people's acceptance of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
By avoiding evil and increasing our performance of good deeds, we too will merit to leave our present exile and be worthy of greeting our righteous Moshiach.
Adapted for Maayan Chai from volume 16 of Likutei Sichot