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How Will The Geulah (Redemption) Arrive? Gradually or Suddenly?

In a wonderful class on the process of Geula – redemption – Rav Hanan Porath zatsa’l teaches how the redemption will arrive.

Below I will try to provide notes in English explaining the gist of the lesson. Items in square brackets [ ] are my own additions/explanations/thoughts.

Tip: The Rav’s introduction seemed like an aside that wasn’t necessary if you just want to understand the core of his message… until I wrote these notes for myself. He explains why Lamenazeach l’Ayelet HaShachar is the Tehillah that Queen Esther and Mordechai read. Esther’s real name was Hadassah, and Esther was her Persian name. Our Rabbis taught that it’s derived from the Persian name for the morningstar, Esthahara. As we’ll see in the following Midrash, the morningstar is symbolic of Israel’s progressive redemption (which is also how it happened – step-by-step – in Purim.)
The Rav begins with the well-known midrash in the Talmud Yerushalmi that two Amoraim were walking in the Arbel valley and saw the morningstar – Ayelet HaShachar, hence the title given to the class on Machon Meir’s site – and one said to the other, “just as the morningstar first shows two bright rays of light in the darkness, thus is Israel’s redemption, step by step.”

The midrash is oft-cited in Religious Zionist circles as support for the belief that we are in the beginning of the Geula.

There used to be a sharp argument with the Haredi world, or more specifically with certain elements within it lead by the Satmar Rebbe, who cited other verses from the Tanach in support of their assertion that the Geula would come about suddenly, with great agitation and miracles.

As Rav Porath zatsa’l explains, the question is not whether the process arrives gradually or suddenly, but how can they in fact both be true? The Tanach doesn’t contradict itself, and the whole of it is true… so how does the one tie in with the other?

In Tehillim (Psalms), we read two seemingly contradictory verses within the very same tehillah.

1. “Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.” How does the agricultural process function? Step-by-step – sowing, watering, fertilizing, progressive growth and maturation of the plant, harvesting etc.

2. “Return, G’, our captivity [those of us in exile] like the streams in the Negev [desert].” How do such streams return to the Negev? After the dry season, the rainy season comes and powerful streams gush forth with massive force. [The father of an acquaintance of mine once saw such a stream carry away a British army truck, full of troops, that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.]

The Tanach’s metaphores are beautiful, yet this beauty masks a great depth, explains the Rav. The deeper one goes in understanding them, the better one understands the message.

The Negev streams do not emerge out of nothingness, despite their sudden appearance to those in the desert – they emerge from individual drops of rain falling one at a time, gathering together in trickles and progressively assembling into shooting torrents.

Similarly, we spent 2000 years in exile. Our eyes became accustomed to darkness. What happens if you suddenly shine bright lights in the eyes of someone accustomed to darkness? They go blind. It’s a divine kindness that the Geula happens progressively because we would not be able to handle it if it were sudden.

[What about the redemption from slavery in Egypt, which came about with great miracles? It seems to me that the great miracles were too much for many of the Israelites to accept – and therefore only one fifth made it out of Egypt alive. (Our Rabbis derived that from the verse, “Chamushim ‘alu Bnei Israel,” where the word chamushim is derived from chamesh, 5.)]

That being said, there are sudden elements or miracles that happen with a gradual process. The Rav cites the redemption of Jerusalem in the 6 Day War as something we prayed for for 2000 years, that was built to progressively by the early Zionists and then came about suddenly in a lightning war.

This too is a blessing, because the disadvantage with a progessive redemption is that one grows accustomed to the light and fails to recognize the greatness of what is happening. Thus the miraculous elements’ spark allows even accustomed eyes to behold the underlying truth.

A Collaborative Geula

The Rav goes on to explain that what characterizes the current Geula is collaboration between Israel and G’. Does G’ need our collaboration? Can He not, as He did in Egypt, just grab us and take us out with great miracles and signs?

R’ Yoseph Caro zatsa’l wrote that the Maggid [Mi’Mezritch? Rav Porath zatsa’l didn’t specify] appeared to him in a dream to explain the meaning of a verse in Bereshit. There, it says that G’ placed man in the Garden of Eden to take care of the souls there.

Did G’ need him to do that? Of course not.

Rather, Adam was placed there to collaborate. Until that point, all of creation ate thanks to G’s kindness; they didn’t earn it. Working for something makes it an integral part of oneself, an acquisition.

If we did not participate in our Geula, did not collaborate with G’, it would be a Geula of embarassment.

Going back to the question of what would happen if G’ Himself carried out the redemption with great miracles, everything would be over in an instant. There’d be no room for man to participate.

That’s why the Geula is gradual. So that Israel can participate in it. Even with the wars of Israel, won miraculously in the face of odds unsurmountable for any other people… there was still collaboration of Israel with G’. Cooperation requires the gradual approach.

But… Cooperation / Collaboration / Participation Isn’t A Game

We need – as a people, for our collaboration is as a people and not a group of individuals – to collaborate in the best way possible. It’s not real collaboration if there’s no free choice and we can only participate for the better – there is an option to cause setbacks, albeit never total ones. There will not be a third exile.

Even as we’re on the way to a full redemption, there’s still place for crises, for high points and low points. That’s not saying we should despair … but to enjoin upon us to work our hardest so that the redemption doesn’t come with great suffering, or shame. That we should get a bit more help than what we deserve, but the Geula should come in a way that we can be proud of, because we worked for it and deserved it.

Posted in Judaism.

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