From the Editor – Pesach 5784

BY RABBI ELIE MISCHEL

The Bitter Path to Redemption

Since October 7, I’ve struggled to learn Gemara. I find it difficult to stay focused on the details of the mitzvot; as essential as they are, every time I learn a sugya, my mind wanders. The Gemara itself teaches that “One should always study that part of Torah which is his heart’s desire, as it is said, ‘But whose desire is in the law of Hashem’” (Avodah Zara 19a). Rav Kook compares the many types of Torah to food; though we might love certain foods, there are times when we need something else to satisfy us. With Torah, we must be “sensitive to the moment” and study the part of Torah that “will lift our spirits” (Ikvei HaTzon). 

Why must we go through this war? Why must so many heroic Jews suffer so terribly? As Jews, we take pride in avoiding the question of why (la-mah), focusing instead on what (le-mah) G-d is calling us to do. Until redemption fully arrives, we won’t have all the answers. But “libi omer li, my heart tells me” that I must try to understand the broad contours of G-d’s plan. For that, I must turn to the Torah that explains the bigger picture of Am Yisrael’s painful journey: Tanach.

“O L-rd! Why have You harmed this people? Why have You sent me? Since I have come to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has harmed this people, and You have not saved Your people” (Shemot 5:22–23). Moshe, of course, had a fair point. Hadn’t the people suffered enough? Why did G-d send him to Pharaoh, only to make the situation even worse than it already was? And if Moshe could ask this question, can’t we?

G-d responds by urging Moshe to step back and see the bigger picture. “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh, for with a mighty hand he will send them out, and with a mighty hand he will drive them out of his land” (Shemot 6:1). In other words: “Do not look only at this particular moment in time. Yes, My people are suffering terribly at this moment, but their suffering is necessary to bring a salvation far greater than anything you can imagine.”

“For distress shall come like a river; the spirit of Hashem is wondrous in it. And a redeemer shall come to Zion…” (Yishayahu 59:19–20). Radak explains: “‘For distress shall come like a river’ refers to the war of Gog and Magog, who will bring distress to the Land of Israel. But then the spirit of G-d will arrive and erase them from the world… and then ‘a redeemer shall come to Zion.’” G-d is quite clear, in this verse and many others – redemption will come through suffering. But why must Israel endure the excruciating pain of war before she finally enjoys peace?

“It is a general principle: whenever G-d wishes to elevate a person or the world, whenever G-d wishes to bring good to the world, it only occurs through a deep and hidden plan. For this reason pain inevitably occurs before the good. As the Sages themselves say, ‘G-d gave three gifts to Israel, and all of them came through suffering. These are: The Torah, the Land of Israel and the world to come’” (Ramchal, Da’at Tevunot 146).

Painful as it is, there is a direct correlation between suffering and greatness. Reflecting on the premature death of her parents from illness and the terrible hardships she and her brother were forced to endure throughout her childhood, the author Mary McCarthy (whose mother was Jewish) writes: “If they had both lived, we would have been a united Catholic family, rather middle class and wholesome… I can see myself married to an Irish lawyer and playing golf and bridge, making occasional retreats and subscribing to a Catholic Book Club. I suspect I would be rather stout… The fact is, Kevin and I are the only members of the present generation of our family who have done anything out of the ordinary… Was it a good thing, then, that our parents were ‘taken away,’ as if by some higher design?” (Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, 16–17).

As Rav Reuven Sasson writes in his essays of encouragement for soldiers, true growth requires resistance. When good is not progressing and fails to actualize its potential, forces of evil oppose the good and force it to awaken, move forward and develop in ways it never imagined it could. 

This is the answer to Moshe’s question. “But as much as they would afflict them, so did they multiply and so did they gain strength” (Shemot 1:12). The more the Egyptians persecuted us, the more children we had and the stronger we became. Painful as it was, the affliction was necessary to become the nation we are meant to be.

G-d has chosen our generation for greatness. The path may be bitter, but great days await. 

 

Rabbi Elie Mischel is the Editor of HaMizrachi magazine. 

© 2024 World Mizrachi

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