Beit Midrash

  • Family and Society
  • Understanding Circumstances
To dedicate this lesson
Translated by Hillel Fendel

How Can We Know This Is Really Redemption?

I understand that the establishment of the State of Israel is an amazing miracle and cause for celebration. But is it really the beginning of the Total Redemption that our Rabbinic literature speaks of?


Rabbi Azria Ariel

Iyar 11 5781
Q. I understand that the establishment of the State of Israel is an amazing miracle and cause for celebration. But is it really the beginning of the Total Redemption that our Rabbinic literature speaks of? Even some of our great Rabbis today are not certain of this. Without prophets, how can we be sure that those Rabbis who rule that this great miracle requires a special halakhic holiday, with a Hallel blessing and other such hallmarks, are right? Perhaps they might be wrong? Why take this chance? If, for instance, all of Judea and Samaria is given away, many people will stop believing altogether in the Final Redemption!

A. First, we must explain why it is important to seek to know whether this is the long-awaited Redemption. One of the reasons is that this very knowledge brings about optimism regarding our future and that of the State of Israel. The recognition that we are in the midst of a miraculous process spurs us on to build and do more.

Many missions lie before us: Conquering the land and settling it; bringing all Jews from around the world home to Israel; stabilizing and strengthening a society that observes the Torah and its commandments and ethics in every sense; and ultimately – the construction of the Beit HaMikdash, the full expression of G-d's Divinity in our midst.

These missions are all both Divine promises, as well as Torah commandments. G-d both promised them to us, and instructed us to fulfill them. Many people today don't even realize that we are bidden to do so – apparently because the fulfillment of these mitzvot did not appear realistic for so long. Truly, during the long centuries of our Exile, we became accustomed to fulfilling only individual mitzvot, or at most communal ones. But the national mitzvot were neglected, and the religious awareness of the obligation to fulfill them did not develop.

However, today, the knowledge that we are part of the Biblical process of Redemption is a sufficient motivation to take on these mitzvot.

For instance, the mitzvah to be extra friendly to new immigrants to Israel is certainly included in that of "Love your neighbor as yourself" and even "you shall love the stranger" (see Sefer HaChinukh 431). However, what truly gives us motivation to love and help new Olim to Israel is the knowledge that their presence here fulfills Biblical verses of prophecy of the Redemption process, such as "If your exiles be at the end of the heavens, G-d will gather them even from there" (D'varim 30,4).

Similarly, regarding the mitzvah to settle and build the Land: What motivates our willingness to build new communities in out-of-the-way and sometimes dangerous places, if not our faith in the Redemptive process? Can a society that does not see our State as part of our Redemption think in active terms of preparing for and building the Beit HaMikdash? I believe not. (I am referring not to exceptional individuals, but to the public at large).

As soon as we understand that we are truly in a new process, one of Ingathering and Merging of the Exiles, we will begin to abandon old customs such as memorializing towns in Europe in the names of our Yeshivot and Hassidic communities (Ger, Ponovezh, Lubavitch, etc.). We will also cease perpetuating our ethnic divisions such as those between Sephardim and Ashkenazim.

We learn in the Books of Haggai and Zecharia that during the early days of the Second Temple period, the lack of sufficient faith in the Redemption brought about weakness and failure to help it along. We, however, can learn and know that all the signs point today to Redemption – and by internalizing this, we can take part in it in a big way!

Demographics is another example. Thank G-d, we are the only country in the world with both a high standard of living and high birth rates. This comes largely from typical Israeli optimism, which is reliant – not necessarily consciously – upon the fact that "Hashem has spoken well of Israel" (Bamidbar 10,29).

The Talmud provides us with a strong indication that we today are, in fact, experiencing the Redemption:

Rav Aba says: There is no more explicit manifestation of the End of Days than the fulfillment of this verse: "You mountains of Israel shall give your branches and yield your fruit to My people of Israel, for they will soon be coming" (Yechezkel 36,8). That is, when produce grows in abundance in the Land, this is a clear indication of the soon-arriving Redemption.

Since we know that the Land of Israel is a leader in agricultural methods and yield, after centuries of desolation, this is clearly a sign of Redemption. But take note that the sources stipulate that this abundance is only a sign of something to come afterwards: the ingathering of the exiles. And in fact this is coming true in our times – nearly half of the entire Jewish People in the world are already in the Land of Israel!

Look around you in the synagogue or in a crowded store and think to yourself, "Where were the grandparents of all these people 100 years ago?" Answer: Everywhere in the world, just not here. Only the establishment of the State of Israel made it possible for such an incredible ingathering to happen and to then develop into a successful and flourishing society, with many millions of Jews. How can this not be regarded as Divine redemption?

Q. But still, might there not be a mistake? We are only human and cannot know what will be.

A. The fear of a mistake exists. We have no prophet amongst us, and even an authorized Sanhedrin can make a mistake (see Vayikra 4,13, and Rashi there). I am unable to entertain any other explanation of the reality that we see unfolding before us – but I admit that our past sins, and maybe future ones, could cause the process to stall or even stop, as happened during the Second Temple period. Even Yaakov Avinu feared his sins might cause G-d not to fulfill His promises to him.

But this fear should not prevent us from looking clearly at what is going on and the progress we are making, and give it every chance to continue and succeed. Even Rabbi Akiva, when he saw the Redemptive potential in the actions of Bar Kokhba, gave him every encouragement to succeed.

On the contrary: The very fact that the process has not yet reached its successful conclusion, and is always in danger of being sidetracked, should spur us on to increase our observance of the Torah to ensure that it does reach its objective!

We know from our Sages that the Messiah "almost" arrived during the times of King Hizkiyahu, but that it then turned out that the time was not right. The Ramban explained in his Sefer HaGeulah that the prophecies relating to King Hizkiyahu's period had the potential to be fulfilled, but were ultimately pushed off – which means if we, helped along by our faith in the Redemption, do good deeds and teshuva (repentance) and actively cooperate with the process, this itself brings the Redemption.

Hear what the Abarbanel says about those who appeared not to take the Redemption process seriously! When a delegation came to the Prophet Zecharia from Babylon asking whether they should continue to fast on Tisha B'Av over the destruction of Jerusalem, given that they had been doing so for so long, we read that Zecharia gave his answer to "the residents of the Land and the Kohanim." The Abarbanel notes that the answer was addressed only to the residents of Eretz Yisrael, but not to those of Babylon, because of this: "After they did not want to return to Jerusalem, showing that G-d's remembrance of it and the building of the Holy Temple was as nothing in their eyes, why should they bother asking anything of the Temple's Kohanim and its Prophets? Let them do what they want in their non-Jewish countries!"

We thus see that even though Rabbi Akiva was not borne out in his prediction that Bar Kokhba would bring the Redemption, he still did the right thing: The time was potentially right for Redemption, and he wanted to help it along with all his might, even with the knowledge that complete success is not always guaranteed.

Miracles accompany us here every day! Let us fill ourselves with faith and joy, using them to do whatever we can - to greet each other with a smile and seek to help each other – and thus prove that the Torah of Israel and the Biblical Prophecies are a rejuvenating force for the Nation of Israel. And the Complete Redemption will then speedily arrive, with G-d's help, in our own days!
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