And we leave Egypt.
Our Egyptian exile ends, and our spiritual pilgrimage begins.
Our bondage to Pharaoh is to be replaced – we cannot even compare the two! – by servitude to the Master of the Universe. But this is our choice! We have chosen to say,“na’ase v’nishmah … First we will do and then we will understand!”
We have pledged to subjugate ourselves, but the new subjugation is our eternal freedom. “Great is Torah, for it confers life upon its practitioners, both in this world and in the World to Come, as it is said …. ‘It is a tree of life to those who grasp it ….’” (Ethics of the Fathers 6:7)
Before the Plagues began, Exile became more severe. As we read two weeks ago, Pharaoh said, “Let the work be heavier upon the men ….” (Exodus 5:9) The people complained to Moses and Moses complained to Hashem.
We can view this as prophetic of future exiles. As the saying goes, “the night is darkest before the dawn.” We left Egypt only after having descended to the forty-ninth degree of imurity. Or, in the words of King David, “When the wicked bloom like grass and all the doers of iniquity blossom, it is to destroy them till eternity.” (Psalm 92)
Before the Final Redemption, or current Exile may also become more difficult. It is written, “There is no exile more difficult than that of Yishmoel (the Moslems).” (Zohar, Exodus 17a), and “the kingdom of Yishmoel will be the last exile.” (Emes LeYaakov. Both quotes seen in Redemption Unfolding, by Rabbi A. A. Mandelbaum)
Increasingly, the Land and People of Israel stand isolated. A recent article in Yated Ne’eman discussed the future of Britain, currently one of Israel’s closest allies. The present weak government may be replaced by a Labor Party government, which would likely be intensely hostile to Israel. A poll indicated that, if the Labor Party takes power, forty percent of English Jews would consider making aliyah to Israel.
My friends, the world is darkening. The words of our rabbis regarding the days before Moshiach should be studied. I am continually recalling the words of the Malbim (on Yechezkel Hanovi 32:17) which stand at the beginning of my book, 2020 Vision, which predict that Israel before Moshiach will be isolated in the world.
We have to remember that this is all a prelude to Redemption. The guidance of our rabbis at this time is to intensify our attachment to Hashem through the study of Torah and acts of kindness (see Sanhedrin 98b). We should not be lulled into thinking that this situation can be rectified through political action or improved public relations. But, if we take our responsibilities seriously, we can expect a time of unprecedented renewal, indeed a new world filled with Torah!
Then the sun will rise on a world eternally filled
with sanctity! “Do not be afraid, My
servant Yaakov, and do not be frightened, O Israel, for I shall save you from
afar, and your offspring from the land of their captivity …. Yaakov shall
return and be tranquil, and … none shall make him tremble…. Be not afraid, for
I am with you!” (Haftaras Parshas Bo)