Lessons in Truth – SEFER SHEM OLAM – 1st Elul, 5769
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Lessons in Truth
30 Av, 5769 / August 20, 2009
Day 89 – Don’t Despair
SEFER SHEM OLAM — Chapter Thirteen: The Birthpangs of Mashiach — II (cont.)
“Because of our sins we were exiled from our Land.” These words, from the Mussaf Shemoneh Esrei of yom tov, indicate that the purpose of exile is to atone for our sins so that we may merit redemption. In advance of each exile in Jewish history, Hashem calculated exactly how long it needed to last before the people could be cleansed of their sins sufficiently. Hashem informed our forefather Avraham that the Egyptian exile would have to last four hundred years [beginning with the birth of Yitzchak]. The Babylonian exile was destined to last exactly seventy years: “Seventy years have been decreed upon your people and your holy city…” (Daniel 9:24). The current exile, too, has a fixed time by which it must end. Though this date has not been revealed, the prophet did say that it would be long in coming:
For many days the Children of Israel shall sit, with no king or officer and no sacrifice or pillar and no ephod and teraphim. Afterward the Children of Israel shall return and they shall seek Hashem their G-d and David their king, and they shall tremble for Hashem and for His goodness in the end of days (Hoshea 3:4-5).
Though earlier generations were superior to our own, they would have required an enormous degree of merit to have brought the Redemption in the way of “I will hasten,” that is, before the final, hidden date by which Mashiach must appear regardless of our collective merit. As with our analogy of the Jewish slave who sold himself to the gentile, the earlier the generation, the more merit they would have required. Thus, though we are not on the spiritual level of earlier generations, it is easier for us to merit Mashiach’s arrival before the final date. The sufferings of our people in recent times may have left us with comparatively little work to do to be deserving of that glorious moment for which we all yearn.
The Torah mentions a case where a Jew actually sells himself into slavery to chop wood or draw water for a house of idolatry (Vayikra 25:47). Though the Jew was wrong for doing so (as it could well lead to his assimilation), Hashem took pity on him and decreed that if his relatives do not redeem him, then he must go free in any case when Yovel (the fiftieth year of the agricultural cycle) arrives. Surely, then, Hashem takes pity upon His beloved people, who sacrificed themselves for His sake during this exile, and He will ultimately redeem them.
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