Parashat Netzavim-Vayelech

How will the Redemption from Exile occur?
[Tal Chermon pp. 348-350]

The later authorities disagree about this question. Some explain that the Redemption will come from Hashem and not through our own hands. We must sit, do nothing and wait until Hashem saves us. The Satmar Rebbe even explains that any act on our part to hasten the Redemption is considered a rebellion, expressing a lack of faith in and denial of Hashem. Any success (such as declaring the State of Israel, winning the wars, etc.) is an "act of Satan." Chabad expresses this idea in a less harsh manner: we did not go to into the Exile willingly, and we will not leave it on our own initiative (Sichot of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, 3 Tammuz 5714). This does not mean that it is forbidden for an individual to make aliyah, but only that it is not the proper path for the entire Nation of Israel. Other Sages, however, hold that Hashem redeems us through our own hands and actions. Hashem uses us as emissaries to redeem His Nation.

A second dispute which is related to the first is whether or not the Redemption is dependent on our repentance. According to all opinions, the Nation of Israel will repent in the time of the Redemption. The question is, however, whether repentance is a pre-condition for Redemption or whether Redemption can occur before the complete repentance of the Nation of Israel (see the dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua – Sanhedrin 97b. And see Le-Netivot Yisrael vol. 1, p. 191).

When we look into our Torah portion, we see that chapter 30 describes the process of Redemption and repentance:
Verses 1-2 – "And you will take it to heart…and you will return unto Hashem, your G-d, and obey His voice according to all that I command you" – repentance.

3-4 - "And then Hashem, your G-d, will return your captivity…and gather you…If your dispersed will be at the ends of heaven…" – Redemption.

5 - And Hashem, your G-d, will bring you to the Land…and you will possess it, and He will do good to you and multiply you…" – Redemption.

6 - "And Hashem your G-d, will circumcise your heart to love Hashem" – repentance.

7- "And Hashem, your G-d, will put all these curses on your enemies" – Redemption.

8 – "And you will return and obey the voice of Hashem and perform all His commandments" – repentance.

9 – "And Hashem will make you abundant in all your handiwork…for good" – Redemption.

10 – If you will listen…if you return to Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart and all your soul" – repentance.

There seems to be an intermingling of Redemption and repentance. What we see is in fact three things: 1. Gradual repentance. 2. Gradual Redemption. 3. The processes of Repentance and Redemption in stages one after the other (Akeidat Yitzchak – Sha'ar Ha-Meah).

The stages of Redemption are: Gathering of the Exiles and the Return to Zion (3-4), possession of and building the Land (5), military-political success (7) and economic success (9).

The stages of Repentance are: Beginning with the second stage: "And Hashem your G-d, will circumcise you heart to love Hashem" – removing the obstacles and the confusion from our hearts or, in the words of Onkelos (Aramaic translation), the "foolishness of the heart." We have to understand that this Divine act is accomplished through human beings. Just as it is clear to us that the guarantee of economic success does not contradict our going out to the field to work in order to help fulfill Hashem's promise, so too do we have to realize that the same is true of spiritual repentance. It is accomplished by educators, by people convincing others and speaking with others in their own language and style. It is impossible to approach a Charedei Jew from Hungary in the same way in which one approaches a so-called "secular" Jew. There is a style for the fathers and there is a style for the sons: "And he will turn the heart of the fathers to the sons and the heart of the sons to their fathers" (Malachi 3:24). The fathers must understand the holiness that is in the sons, no less than the sons must understand the value of the fathers. It once happened that a Rabbi visited a community outside of Israel and saw a poster which read: "And he will turn the heart of the sons to their fathers." He asked: "Where is the other part of the verse?" They responded to him: "Why is it needed? The fathers are fine, the hearts of the sons are what must change." But the prophet Malachi seems to think otherwise. He sets the turning of the fathers' hearts to the sons first, for as a result of this the sons will turn to the fathers. Nonetheless, the repentance described in this stage is not performed to fulfill the mitzvot but rather to come closer to faith in Hashem. The next stage is fulfilling the mitzvot (v. 8) – only after respect and love are entrenched in one's heart does the learning and fulfillment come (Orot Ha-Teshuvah, Tosafot Ha-Teshuvah 8). And the last stage – love of Hashem, returning to Hashem "with all your heart and all your soul," means a supreme cleaving to the Divine. And what about the first stage? It seems to contradiction what we have said since at the beginning it says "and you will return unto Hashem, your G-d, and obey His voice according to all that I command you." The difference is that the first stage is repentance unto Hashem, while the last stage is repentance to Hashem. Repentance unto Hashem is repentance out of fear. There is suffering in Exile. Israel therefore learns the lesson of blessing and curse. This, however, is physical, outer repentance caused by external factors. This is the return to Israel because the King's decrees are as harsh as Haman's, as the Gemara explains (Sanhedrin 97b). This is action without understanding, and perhaps without faith. "Unto Hashem," but not any further. The Nation of Israel returns to its language and Land without truly understanding the meaning of its actions (Orot Ha-Teshuvah 17, 2. And see Le-Netivot Yisrael p. 15 and "Ha-Medinah Ke-Hitkayamut Chazon Ha-Geulah," p. 188-190).

Only at the end of the processes of Redemption and repentance does the Nation of Israel reach complete repentance, repentance to Hashem, repentance out of love and repentance out of cleaving to Hashem.