One of the greatest Jewish philosophers of all time, Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, said that the exodus of Israel from Egypt will forever remain the springtime of the entire world. The holiday teaches the world that emancipation is possible. Thus, the release of the Children of Israel shines a light on all of humanity, teaching us that mankind can free itself from the shackles of nature, from the shackles of the evil inclination, and from political bonds.
Redemption from Below
In an article Rabbi Cherki compares the modern holidays of Independence Day and Jerusalem Day to Pesach and Shavuot.
Pesach Sheini – the second Pesach sacrifice brought by people who missed the opportunity to offer the first sacrifice – is different from all the other mitzvot in the Torah. “And there were men who were ritually impure because of contact with the dead, so they could not bring the Pesach on that day… And those people said to him (to Moses)… Why should we be left out and not be able to offer G-d’s sacrifice at the proper time among the Children of Israel?” [Numbers 9:6-7]. In order to alleviate their distress, the Torah commands that whoever cannot bring the Pesach in Nissan, at the first opportunity, because they are either ritually impure or far away from the Temple, can bring it a month later, on the fourteenth of Iyar.
However, we do not find that somebody who was not able to sit in a Succah is allowed to make a second one later on. Or that a person who was forced to eat on Yom Kippur marks the fast day at a later date! There is a broad principle that “If one is forced not to observe a mitzva G-d does not hold him responsible” [Avoda Zara 54a]. If so, why should a person be obligated to bring a replacement sacrifice? What would be so terrible if a person misses the Pesach because he or she was forced by circumstances?
The answer is that this case is unique, in that “a person must see himself as if he himself has just been freed from the bondage in Egypt” [Rambam, Hilchot Chametz U’Matza]. And this takes place on the night of the Seder, as part of the celebration of the holiday of Pesach. But a person who is not freed from Egypt is not part of the nation of Israel, as it were, and he cannot receive the Torah. He thus has until the holiday of Shavuot to mend the situation and to once again become part of the nation.
The initiative of the nation to make up for the incomplete observation of Pesach takes place in the month of Iyar, on the date when the first Pesach took place in the month of Nissan. The redemption on Pesach was the result of an awakening from above, “I am G-d – I am He, nobody else took part” [Haggada of Pesach]. The time of the redemption in the following month, Iyar, was set by the request of the nation, which thus achieved its freedom by its own initiative. Based on the “Torah festival” in the month of Iyar, we also have “rabbinical festivals” which mark days in modern times during which we gained our freedom: Yom Haatzmanut (Independence Day) and Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day).
Here again a person might claim: “Because of circumstances, I cannot join in the efforts to achieve freedom… ‘A man who is impure or is far away’ [Numbers 9:13] …” In terms of the nationalistic outlook, impurity and a distance can be viewed symbolically. National impurity is a matter of many sins. When we are full of sin we cannot achieve independence. Another possibility is that we are in a pure state but far away, in nationalistic terms – in exile, in a place which is geographically far from our land. A nation which cannot obtain its independence in such cases can excuse itself and cannot be blamed for the consequences.
The Torah warns us not to give in to ideological temptation. “But the man who is pure” – one who is privileged to be pure, observing the mitzvot and being filled with the fear of heaven – “and is not far away” – who lives in the Land of Israel – “and refrains from making the Pesach” – but still does not desire independence… has thus cut himself off from the historical fate of the nation. A very harsh punishment is described in the verse: “That soul will be cut off from its nation.” [Numbers 9:13]. However, even in such a situation of an ideological distance from the desire for independence, it is possible to repent, as is written in the Zohar (Behaalotecha) – the Mashiach will cause the righteous people to repent too.
Source: “AS SHABBAT APPROACHES” – a biweekly column in Shabbat B’Shabbato, Bamidbar 5773, Volume 1475. (Zomet Institute) See: www.zomet.org.il/eng
Redemption of Israel and Redemption of the World
In an article for Pessach, Rabbi Cherki notes that the redemption of Israel is really the redemption of the whole world.
I want to wish my readers a happy Pesach, a happy holiday of redemption.
This holiday which is fast approaching, the great holiday which marks the release of the nation of Israel from slavery to freedom, bears a message of good news for the entire world.
One of the greatest Jewish philosophers of all time, Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, said that the exodus of Israel from Egypt will forever remain the springtime of the entire world. The holiday teaches the world that emancipation is possible. Thus, the release of the Children of Israel shines a light on all of humanity, teaching us that mankind can free itself from the shackles of nature, from the shackles of the evil inclination, and from political bonds. All of this is possible, there is hope for mankind. But we must take into account that the freedom that we celebrate on Pesach came after a very long period of exile – an exile which was very harsh and difficult.
We might well ask: Why did the Divine Providence find it necessary to tell us in advance that the nation would have such difficult experiences? And why did the periods of exile return again and again, so much so that the vast majority of the history of Israel was spent in exile and in bondage? What was the reason for all of this?
We cannot accept that this entire history was simply the result of sins that we committed. Sins are a very serious matter and people are punished for doing them, but it would be very much out of proportion to assume that all of these periods of exile are explained merely as punishment for sins. One of the great masters of Jewish thought, the Maharal of Prague, in fact explained about four hundred years ago that exile and redemption are two essential modes of existence for the nation of Israel. We can conclude that it is important for us to try to understand the meaning of the exile in greater depth.
The Torah teaches us that the first exile in history was not that of Israel but rather the exile of all of humanity. In the story of the Tower of Babel, we learn that “seventy nations” of the world were created from an original split, because of a lack of companionship. We learn that this was a dispute that was born in the earliest stages of the history of mankind, and that this dispute led in the end to wars and much human suffering.
To this very day we can say that humanity in general is still in exile. This means that when Israel is sent into exile, they have a mission to perform when they encounter the exile of the other nations.
We see in the book of Genesis that the number of the children of Israel who first went to Egypt was seventy, corresponding to the seventy nations of the world. This is explicitly stated in our traditions, clearly implying that there is a universal objective to be accomplished when Israel descends into the other nations.
What is this mission? It is quite simple. There is a process that masters of the Kabbalah call “gathering the sparks.” Every human culture has some sort of holy root, a moral spark which is not enriched by factors that exist in other cultures because of the enmity between the various nations.
The nation of Israel is sent into exile among the other nations, and while it is there it gathers elements from all the other cultures. This is what is called “gathering the sparks.” We are the only nation that can at one and the same time be a bit American, a bit Moroccan, somewhat French, a bit Russian, sort of Australian, and also Indian. We are a combination of myriad elements that come from all the places where we were in exile. And we really did journey to the farthest corners of the world.
When we return to our own land, we bring with us all of these elements that we picked up in the “seventy” cultures of the world, and we use them to rebuild the original human being – in the image of G-d that existed before the Tower of Babel. As part of this task, we shine universal love on the entire world.
Therefore, it should be no surprise, now that Israel has returned from all over the world after gathering together traits from the other nations, to see that the other nations feel that the Children of Israel have something to offer them. And now the universal meaning of the return to Zion which shines over the entire world will be revealed. In this way, the redemption of Israel is really the redemption of the entire world.
The very fact that we have been redeemed at this point in time allows us to see humanity as a whole when we look at ourselves in a mirror. This will help build up a human brotherhood which will bring peace back to all of mankind.
The Final Redemption
In an article for Yom Haaztmaut, Rav Cherki discusses how modern history is the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies and notes that the return of Israel to its land will be remembered as a great miracle.
Shalom and my blessings,
From the time that the State of Israel has come into existence, it continues to upset many of the people who live all over the globe, in a way that is very much out of proportion to the size of our country, and is in fact out of proportion to the importance of the conflict in the Middle East as a whole. We may well ask: Why is this so?
The truth of the matter is that we cannot ignore that the dominant portion of human culture is an heir of the many past generations of Christianity. Even after the western world stopped being Christian in practice, the thought processes of the Christian world and the Christian traditions and their frameworks have continued to exist in the collective subconscious of the western world. What, then, is the significance of the State of Israel from the point of view of the Christian world?
We note that we have witnessed a complete theological revolution. For many generations, the Christian church taught that the lowly status of the Jewish nation is proof of the truth of Christianity. But then, in the middle of the twentieth century, the State of Israel suddenly appeared.
In modern times, an event of Biblical proportions is taking place right before our eyes. We can see that history really is the fulfillment of a plan. Perhaps the Tanach can be used as the instrument that can teach us how to read history. But this brings us to a second point, something quite troublesome. It may well be that the way that the Jews read the Tanach is right. But this leads to huge questions about all the content that is the basis for the approach of the Christian world (and in its wake, the western world). Thus, the communications media are obsessed with the State of Israel. They always want to know exactly what is happening here, they often misrepresent Israel and try to show that it is the most evil country in the world. But the truth is that we are the best country in the world, we are the only country that in spite of almost seventy years of constant warfare has remained democratic and continues to treat a hostile minority in a fair way. It is in fact not just a minority but one that openly desires the destruction of the country,
However, we remain fair and just. That is the truth in spite of all the accusations, in spite of everything that appears in the world media. And we are left with a worldwide challenge – could it be that Israel is right, that it was indeed taught through a tradition handed down from its forefathers and prophets that it should be a beacon of moral light that will brighten the path of the world?
The time has finally come for us to recognize the truth. As one example, take the event that we are celebrating at this time, Israeli Independence Day. If we think about this a bit we will see that it is even greater than the Exodus