Bar-Ilan University's Parashat Hashavua Study Center

Parashat Ki Tavo 5763/ Sept, 13,

Lectures on the weekly Torah reading by the faculty of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. A project of the Faculty of Jewish Studies, Paul and Helene Shulman Basic Jewish Studies Center, and the Office of the Campus Rabbi. Published on the Internet under the sponsorship of Bar-Ilan University's International Center for Jewish Identity.
Prepared for Internet Publication by the Computer Center Staff at Bar-Ilan University.
Inquiries and comments to: Dr. Isaac Gottlieb, Department of Bible, gottlii@mail.biu.ac.il


Parashat Nitzavim - Va-Yelech 5763/ Sept. 20, 2003


The Stages of Redemption

Dr. Yair Barkai

Jerusalem


"And you return to the Lord your G-d and you and your children heed His command with all your heart and soul...then the Lord your G-d will restore your fortunes and take you back in love. He will bring you together again from all the peoples where the Lord your G-d has scattered you." (Deut. 30:2-3).

While our rabbis and Torah commentators ascribed these verses to the final redemption of the Jewish people, opinions are divided as to the stages of the redemption and their order.

According to the Jerusalem Talmud (Ma'aser Sheni, Chapter 5), first the Temple will be built and the next stage will be the coming of the Messiah.

According to Sefer Ha-Hinukh (Mitzva 85) the building of the Temple will be preceded by the ingathering of the exiles, at the end of which most of the Jewish people will be living in the Land.

Isaac Abarbanel, quoting Ran (Rabbenu Nissim Gerondi) claims that in the first stage the people of Israel will be find relief among the nations, the second stage will be the ingathering of the exiles, and only in the third stage will the Temple be constructed.

Netziv of Volozhin (Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, 1817-1893), author of the bible commentary Ha'ameq Davar, provides a detailed and original interpretation of the stages of redemption in his interpretation of the above verses. In the continuation of this article we will focus on his words and ideas. In the first stage there will be an awakening within the people of Israel living among the great nations after "He (G-d) will place in the heart of the nations a love for you". This arousal will be expressed in a sweeping Aliya movement, "He will bring you together from all the peoples". Once the main part of the Diaspora has returned from among the nations, "G-d will return to gather you from those nations in which he has dispersed you in little groups", i.e. also from the smaller nations and countries. And he continues:

Likewise Nahmanides in his interpretation of Shir ha-Shirim on the verse "You may have the thousand, O Solomon" (8:12) says that at the beginning there will be a small ingathering of exiles by permission of the leaders of the various countries, and then G-d will stretch His hand again, as is written: "He will bring you together again...and from there He will take you". We did not understand the meaning of this "taking", until we found an explanation in the words of the prophet Isaiah: "And from them likewise I will take some to be levitical priests, said the Lord" (66:21). That is, even from those places where there are not large numbers of Israelites, and even if the few that are there are less worthy and less learned, even if they have no clear lineage as priests and are not worthy of serving in the Temple, nevertheless Isaiah states that "from them likewise I will take..." that there should be...among them stalwarts worthy to serve in the Temple and to be placed in the priestly ranks.

On the verse "Then the Lord your G-d will open up your heart and the hearts of your offspring to love the Lord your G-d with all your heart and soul, in order that you may live" (30:6), Netziv is very precise, saying
One might think that "G-d will open up your heart" means only the generation that comes to Erez Yisrael will be special, as it was in the days of Joshua, but not the following generations. Therefore the Torah writes "and the hearts of your offspring". The promise is that the future redemption will equally change your heart and that of your descendants "to love the Lord your G-d," because during our sojourn outside the Land even the most religious person cannot achieve total love of G-d because G-d does not, as it were, cleave to us to bring upon us the Holy Spirit [in the exile].

Netziv's words are daring: The Jew in the Diaspora cannot achieve the highest stage of love of G-d despite all efforts on his part, and that because the Lord does not "attach Himself to us" while we are outside of the Land!

Therefore G-d must "circumcise our hearts" at the time of the redemption in order to prepare us for the proper love of Him with our arrival in the Land. In the final stage of redemption, after "the Jews regain their lost honor", then will G-d make all the nations pay for the cruelties they inflicted on the people of Israel.

"And he put all these curses..." (Deut. 30:7); after the Jewish people arrive in Erez Yisrael and are gathered in from among the nations, then G-d will punish the peoples that pursued Israel during that time. Because first the Jews will regain their lost honor and then those who deserve punishment will be punished.

Therefore, because we have, thank G-d, been granted the early stages of the redemption, and the people of Israel have begun to gather from both the lands of the heathen and the lands of the nations, some openly and some clandestinely, we can only pray and hope that we will have the privilege of seeing the following stages of redemption speedily in our time.