Monday, November 23, 2009

A Midrash Explained - The Future Foretold

Not all Jews left Egypt in the historical "Exodus". In fact, a minority left. Because they didn't want to leave, the majority died during the Plague of Darkness several weeks earlier (Rashi; Shmos 10, 22). Thus G-d spared the remaining Jews, busy burying their dead, from being embarrassed by Gentiles who otherwise would see this tragedy; Nor could the latter take joy in this.

The any-day-now final exodus for the Jewish diaspora will differ in some respects from the first exodus, one difference being the percentage of Jews involved. The final exodus, unlike the first, will include 100% of world Jewry - said the Rebbe. No matter how remote or obscure a place a Jew will be in, physically or spiritually, every Jew will be included.

How many, in fact, departed in the first exodus? The Torah uses a cryptic word to tell us (Shmos 13, 18): "... and the Israelites left Egypt 'penta-armed'". Just what does this Hebrew word mean? The Mechilta says, "It means 'well-provisioned' [i.e., all left]. Some say 1 out of 500 left, some say 1 of 50, and some say 1 of 5".

But how can opinions differ regarding a physical fact (probably well known in the time of the sages)? What's more, how could the disparity be so ridiculously vast, from 0.2% to 100% - a 500-fold variance?!

Says the Rebbe, these are not disagreements. Rather, the Midrash comes to teach us what The Final Redemption will look like! The sages are not speaking of the past; They're actually intimating to us what stages the future redemption process will go through!

At first, only 1 in 500 Jews will actually want this exile to come to an end. Most will prefer to focus on their primary concerns of business as usual. But the few desiring redemption will persist. Their tenacity will pay off because, later, 1 in 50 will push for its arrival. Finally, thanks to the perseverance of this minority, 1 in 5 will want out, and ultimately - it will include every Jew.

It's not unusual for a "Chabadnik" to hear, "What's this issue you have with Moshiach; He'll come when he'll come; What's with the urgency?"

Chabad responds simply by holding up a little light of truth that dispels more and more resistive darkness.

The many voices opposing Moshiach over the few "Moshichists" will not deter the latter.

A historical story from Tanach illustrates the point. King Chizkiyahu was faced with Sanheriv's huge army surrounding Jerusalem. They were primed for attack. The elders of Israel, even the majority of the Sanhedrin, tried to persuade the king to capitulate to this tremendous force, but Chizkiyahu held firm to his own opinion. He heard from Isaiah, the prophet of the generation, that G-d will vanquish the enemy. That was enough for him. The king remained without fear. Despite his many critics, he went to bed and slept soundly, sure to awake in the morning with a miracle rendered. He was proven right.

The majority doesn't hold sway against words of a prophet.

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