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Jeremiah's prophecies- about Bavel or final redemption?

Rabbi Ari ShvatAdar 25, 5777
151
Question
Dear Rabbi, How are we to understand the prophecies of exile and redemption? Do the prophecies apply to all our periods exile and redemption or do they each only apply to a specific case? For instance, in Jeremiah 31 it says, "For so says the Lord to Jacob, "Sing [with] joy and shout at the head of the nations, make it heard, praise, and say, ’O Lord, help Your people, the remnant of Israel!’ "Behold I bring them from the north country and gather them from the uttermost ends of the earth, the blind and the lame amongst them, the woman with child and she who travails with child all together; a great company shall they return there." In Jeremiah 29 it says, "And you shall call Me and go and pray to Me, and I will hearken to you. And you will seek Me and find [Me] for you will seek Me with all your heart. And I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will return your captivity and gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will return you to the place whence I exiled you." I have heard some Rabbi’s apply this to our period of exile/redemption. On what grounds can they do this? From the context it looks like Jeremiah only has the Babylonian exiles in mind. Aren’t people misusing the text by applying this to our generation when Jeremiah was clearly directing this to the Babylonian exiles? Thank you Darren
Answer
When the prophet received a message from God, not all of the exact details were clear to him. In addition, it’s hard to know what Jeremiah understood, but now we know, that as compared with the destruction of the 1st Temple and the exile to Bavel (Babylon, in 586 BCE), after the destruction of the 2nd Temple by the Romans (70 CE), the Jews were scattered(!) much more and to many different countries, so those prophecies of the return of the scattered apply a lot more now, since the engathering of more than 6,000,000 Jews from more than 100 countries, than in the pitiful return of Ezra from Bavel. [Although the 10 tribes were scattered and assimilated about 150 years beforehand (722 BCE), being that they didn’t return with Ezra (and haven’t returned to this day!) it’s difficult to think that Jeremiah and Isaiah were referring to them).] In addition, we know that the elders who had remembered the First Temple before Jeremiah’s exile, were very disappointed when they saw the second Temple (Hagai 2, 3), and that most of the Jews actually remained in exile and never returned to see the 2nd Temple (only 42,360 returned). That’s why we say in the kdusha prayer of Mussaf, “and God will save and redeem us for the second (!) time” (the first being from Egypt), and not “for the third time”, because the return from Bavel was far from complete! Whether the return from Bavel could have potentially been the final return isn’t known, but we do know that, as above, from the very beginning it was understood that “this isn’t the great and final redemption we heard about from the prophets”. In short, we today have more understanding than Jeremiah about his own prophecies.
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