At the point of departure, the people of Israel were a nation of slaves in body, mind, and spirit.
They had no spiritual content or any real goal in life.
The only thing they did have was a vague sense of continuity, an obscure link with their forefathers.
This is what prevented them from assimilating completely with the Egyptians, and what prepared them for what they were about to be given.
Then came the call to depart from Egypt.
The very desire for freedom was a tremendous revolution in the soul of this nation of slaves; it was the awakening of the need for inner freedom that exists in the soul of every individual.
And although they did not yet know God, and had no idea as to how the Exodus would in fact occur—they believed.
The slaves had neither knowledge nor understanding, and yet they went out into an unknown and unmapped desert.
Such a spark of faith can enable those who possess it to overcome all dangers and obstacles.
True, this path of faith is almost bereft of profound intellectual content, but it creates a link that goes much deeper than that of any other kind.
It is a relationship of devotion, of inner oneness beyond perception, with the Divine.
This lightning decision, this inexplicable faith, conceals within itself the seeds of all that will in due course be revealed.
This is where the relationship begins and where its character is shaped.
The overt, external revelation occurs at a later stage; but the inner, essential relationship is there from the very beginning, from the very first act of faith.
This is why the people of Israel were able to say, prior to the giving of Torah, "We shall do and we shall hearken" (Exodus 24:7), because their essential link with the Torah, albeit hidden, was there from the first.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From "The First Step" in On Being Free by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz