Is This the Redemption?

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Tazria- Metzora 5769 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: I’m sick of this country! This isn’t the country we were waiting for. Even the army is no longer the “Israel Defense Forces,” but an operation based on alien ideologies that contribute nothing to the inhabitants’ security. A third of our youth dodge the draft – and not just the Charedim – and they’re right.

Answer: I don’t believe you really think it is fair for some to be killed as soldiers while others enjoy life. I don’t believe you really think we could survive even a moment without the army. And altogether, I don’t believe that you’ve really never heard that the redemption is meant to come gradually. Certainly you heard it, but perhaps you forgot:
“One time, Rabbi Chiya the Great and Rabbi Shimon ben Chalafta were strolling through the Arbel Valley as morning approached, and they saw the breaking of dawn. Rabbi Chiya said to Rabbi Shimon, ‘Such is Israel’s redemption. At first it is gradual, but the further it moves along, the faster it is.” (Jerusalem Talmud, at the beginning of Berachot). Countless times I have passed through that area, during the seven years I lived on Kibbutz Lavi in the Lower Galilee, and now, as well, that my daughter lives there in Kfar Zeitim, near the Sea of Galilee. Were Rabbi Chiya to see all of this, he would burst with pleasure and pride at how gloriously Eretz Yisrael is being rebuilt and how plentifully it is bearing its fruits. Indeed, this is one of the points that distinguish the intelligent from the unintelligent: the understanding that there are phenomena that do not occur all at once but involve a prolonged, painful, gradual process.

To what may this be compared? To sunrise. The sun doesn’t suddenly appear out of total darkness. Rather, first comes dawn, the brightening of the east, sunrise, and at noon the sun appears in all its might. It is the same with the start of redemption. Light and darkness intermingle. There are ups and downs, crises and setbacks, difficulties and complications.

And why is that? Would it be too hard for G-d to bring redemption all at once, instantaneously? Certainly not, but such is G-d’s will, that we should be partners in redemption, and such is the nature of people, that they are not angels but just people with weaknesses, mistakes and oversights.

Therefore, if we see problems along the way, we mustn’t despair. We mustn’t think we have erred in our direction. All the questions only prove that our country does not constitute the complete redemption but only its first flowerings. Or, more precisely, we are already at an advanced stage of our redemption process.

One might say: “I can agree to the redemption’s proceeding gradually, but not to its regressing and to our losing what we have already gained.” If so, however, my response is that G-d does not need your consent. Moreover, you’ve forgotten that the Jerusalem Talmud brings as a first example of gradual redemption, the Purim miracle, which began with Mordechai’s exposing the plot against King Achashverosh. Yet one can ask: Wasn’t that success followed by a decree to exterminate all the Jews, men, women and children?

The commentary on Sefer Charedim provides an answer to this: The “gradualness” referred to relates to the increase in light, yet it is also possible that within this process there will be times of great darkness.

You’ve also forgotten that when Moshe came to redeem Israel, at first the situation deteriorated and Pharaoh hardened his decrees, as Ramban explains at the end of Shemot. The rule is this: the redemption is not a sudden burst of light like the moon at midday, but light and darkness in coexistence. We rejoice over that light on Israel Independence Day, and we weep over that darkness on Tisha B’Av, and struggle to rectify it.

Therefore, in the Pesach Haggadah, we seek a “day that is neither day nor night.” We certainly long for a situation of total day, but we know that there is an intermediate situation of neither day nor night, and even for that we cannot possibly offer enough thanks, in comparison to the previous situation that was total darkness. The source is the Prophets, from Zechariah 14:7: “There shall be one day which shall be known as Hashem’s, not day, and not night, but it shall come to pass that at evening time there shall be light.” It shall not be entirely like the future redemption, nor as difficult as the exile (Rashi, Radak).

Don’t worry. We are not stuck half-way through. “Shall I bring her there but not assist in the birth? Shall I begin to assist her but stop? – the word of G-d” (Isaiah 66:9). Rashi explains: “Shall I bring the woman to the birthing stone but not open her womb to remove her fetus? Shall I start something without being able to finish?” Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook writes [with Rav Aviner’s comments in square brackets], “In the end of days, a silent movement has arisen [the Zionist Movement, quietly working to influence hearts and minds] full of strengths and desires, full of contradictions and contrasts, full of light and darkness, and seeking to reach the shore of Jewish salvation. It represents a small light from the light of the Messiah [yet compared to the darkness of the exile, it is an enormous light]” (Orot, Yisrael U-Techiyato 20).

Is this the country we have been waiting for?
Absolutely! It’s not yet total light, but it has a lot of light, and it is getting brighter.