Weekly DT: Destiny

D’var Torah

(Comments and reactions are always welcomed in response to the ideas presented in the Dvar Torah)

Hashem bringing B’nai Yisrael to Eretz Yisrael emerges as a major theme in the early stages of Sefer Shemot.  Almost every time the ensuing redemption is mentioned, it is followed by a promise to bring the newly forming nation to their destined homeland.  Twice in Hashem’s opening address to Moshe Rabbenu, at the “Burning Bush” it is well established where this is going or where they will be going.  Similarly, at the beginning of our parsha, Parshat Va’era, after the ד’ לשונת של גאולה, we are reminded once again that Hashem will bring us (sooner or later) to The Land Flowing with Milk and Honey.

Neither I nor any other Zionist inserted these lines into Hashem’s speeches, recorded in our holy Torah.  We are all passive witnesses that the will of The Redeemer and the destiny of the Bnai Ysrael culminates in Eretz Yisrael.

Taking a simple approach to the story, one can argue that the process of Yitziat Mitzrayim, which did in fact complete itself with Bnai Yisrael reaching Eretz Yisrael, however off schedule it was, was a one-time national experience and does not have far reaching applications after it happened.   In other words, this approach would claim that while Yitziat Mitzrayim is most significant, there is nothing that can be applied to our generation in terms of the general story and sequence of events.

A serious Jew is a student of Jewish history.  So many Jews today are locked out of a deep, meaningful connection to Judaism and Torah because they have no understanding or appreciation of Jewish history.

As we are taught by Chaza”l, Jewish history, after the First Temple Period leading up to current times, is divided into four periods.  These are known as the ד’ גלויות or Four Exiles.  The Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman Exiles comprise the ד’ גלויות.

In a brilliant commentary, the Shem Mishmuel, Rebbi Shmuel of Shachachov, finds hints to the Four Periods of Exile in the opening sections of Sefer Shemot, which describe the Egyptian enslavement of Bnai Yisrael.

“They (Egyptians) embittered their lives with mortar and with bricks.” (Shemot 1:14)

This is a reference to Babylonian Exile, as it says in the story of the Tower of Babel in Parshat Noach, “Come let us make bricks.” (Bereshit 11:3)

“If it is a son, you are to kill him.” (1:16)

This is hinting at the Persian Exile, during which a decree to completely annihilate the Jewish people (the Purim story) was issued.

“And every daughter shall you keep alive.” (1:22)

This represents the Greek Exile which made immoral decrees involving the violation of Jewish woman (as was discussed in details a few weeks ago.)

“Let the work be heavier upon the men.” (5:9)

This final decree symbolizes the extended Roman Exile which has seen numerous periods of unbearable pain and suffering, like the Destruction of the Second Temple, Crusades and the Shoah, among many other atrocities.

The Shem Mishmuel is teaching us here that the root of the Four Periods of Exile can already be traced, each in its own right, to the Egyptian Exile.  This no doubt expresses that which Chaza”l teach us that Mitzrayim is the source of all manifestations of galut/exile in the world.

After recognizing the reference to the ד’ גלויות, both in terms of the slavery in Egypt (four stages) and their broader, historical significance, it should not surprise us that we find ד’ גאולות or “four redemptions” follow.

The Torah Temima, Rav Baruch Halevi Epstein, explains that each word of the four verbs used at the beginning of our parsha (Shemot 6:6,7) describing God’s redemptive Hand and also teaching us the Mitzvah of the “four cups of wine” on Seder Night, are really four separate, actual stages of the Redemption from Egypt.

והוצאתי – This verb teaches us that God took us out from under the heavy yoke of the Egyptian slavery and oppression.

והצלתי – This verb teaches us that B’nai Yisrael stopped working completely.

וגאלתי – This verb teaches us that God took us out of Egypt.

ולקחתי – This verb teaches us that God Chose us as His acquisition and Chosen People.

Asks the Torah Temima, why are there only Four stages of Redemption (i.e. Four cups of Wine at the Seder) and not five?  The fourth stage is followed by “והבאתי”.  Here God promises that He will bring the nation into Eretz Yisrael.  This stage should have also been included in the redemptive process and there should be Five Redemptions!?

The Torah Temima of Pink, Lithuania, pre-World War II, answers that “since we are now in exile and the land is in the hands of foreigners, for this reason we cannot take a fifth cup of wine.  It is possible that this is why we have a special cup of Eliyahu, as a hint and a remembrance that we hope for his coming and the revival of the Nation and the Land.”

It is unclear, and most probably unlikely that Rav Epstein would take a fifth cup of wine Seder Night if he lived in our generation, even though one could make a good argument to do so.  What is clear is that Rav Epstein is both learning from the Torah and applying it more broadly to Jewish hstory, as did the Shem Mishmuel, and even more daring, learning from modern times and applying it to the Torah.

You will excuse me for stating the obvious, but we are privileged to live during a fantastic period in our nation’s history.  We live at a time when we can clearly testify that God not only took us out of Egypt and brought us to Eretz Yisrael, but God is also, currently, taking us out from under the yoke of the Four Exiles and bringing us back to Eretz Yisrael.  Eretz Yisrael is the destiny of the Jewish People that left Egypt, and Eretz Yisrael, after 4 painful Exiles is the real, living, breathing destiny of the Jewish people right now. אשרינו שזכינו!

Shabbot Shalom!

Shalom Tzvi


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