Tombstone of the Maharal and his wife at the old Jewish cemetery in Prauge, Czech Republic. The covered portion of the tombstone reads "from the offspring of the Geonim who draw their lineage to David, son of Yishai (Source: Wikipedia)

Exile, the Best Proof for Redemption

With a mix of precise analytical skill, a clear sense of faith in the words of Chazal and philosophical principia, the Maharal sets out to seek proof for the inevitability of the future redemption, which he finds ironically in three aspects of the exile itself • A free rendition of a portion of the teachings of Rabbi Yehuda Lowe of Prague on the topic of Moshiach in honor of his 406th Yahrzeit on the 18th of Elul – Taken from the opening chapter of his Netzach Yisrael

A true appreciation of a good matter can only be obtained from knowledge of its polar opposite. Our sages say [1] that when the Haggadah is recited it must be prefaced with the shameful aspects of our ancestry which is then followed with the praiseworthy ones. Why must we begin with the pejorative? The reason is because the praiseworthy aspects can only be truly distinguished and recognized on the backdrop of the opposite.

When we turn to elucidate the final redemption, it is only possible if we explain the meaning of the exile and the destruction, which will in turn allow us to discover the salvation and goodness we await.

What is Exile? There is no doubt  that exile is an unorderly phenomenon. G-d has arranged and placed every nation in its respective location and he allocated the Jewish nation to the land of Israel; the fact that the Jewish nation is not in its own country is unnatural.

There is no doubt  that exile is an unorderly phenomenon.

Anything, once not in its natural placement finds no steadiness in its foreign land and strives to return to its place; if it were to settle in its unnatural habitat then that which was unnatural to it would have become its nature which by definition is impossible.

By way of analogy: fire naturally rises upwards while dust of the earth is accustomed to fall downward. Would you have forced some fire to remain below and some soil to remain above and they would have each habituated to their new surroundings – that would exhibit the unnatural becoming natural.

So too, the reality of the world is that the Jewish people belong in their own land under their own independent rule, as our sages decree [2] “there is nothing that has no place” If we were to assume that the Jewish nation can remain forever exiled in a land which is not their homeland then we would be declaring an unnatural phenomenon natural.

Such a concept is unacceptable because the natural tendency instilled by the Creator into every respective creation is its distinguishable life force. Were it possible for something to adapt and change its nature then its previous nature would be void and in retrospect totally unnecessary, something impossible to comprehend.

Another unnatural aspect of exile which proves it must eventually end is the aspect of dispersion it contains. Just as the nature of any object is to return to its natural place, so too is the nature of any of its units and elements to remain united and if they are dispersed for whatever reason they certainly must eventually reassemble.

If they are dispersed for whatever reason they certainly must eventually reassemble

The reason for this is understood to anyone sensible: all the parts share a common denominator which makes them one, so why would they separate? Any dispersion is therefore destined to reunite. A physical example for this: all the rivers flow to the sea, since they are all one being – water.

The dispersion of Israel among the nations of the world is also an unnatural phenomenon. Since they are one people it only is logical that they reassemble and eventually reside together as one Moreover, the uniformity of the nation of Israel is far greater than the uniformity of other nations and therefore dispersion is even more unnatural and abnormal to them, than it would have been to others!

Despite all the wrongdoings we may have done to cause our dispersion, it is an unnatural state of being which eventually must be undone. Were we do remain dispersed, then the unnatural would have to become natural, which as explained above is impossible.

Another point to consider: each nation was created by G-d individually, therefore the natural order of the world dictates for every nation to exist independently and not be subjugated to another. The only exception to this rule is the superiority of the nation of Israel over all others when they fulfill the will of G-d. This too is a natural phenomenon when considering the advantage of the nation of Israel.

Now if the present exile, the polar opposite of what was just described, would forever remain and the Jewish nation would languish forever under foreign rule it would be yet a third unnatural phenomenon turned natural!

Obviously, this isn’t possible. And therefore we may conclude that exile alone points too and proves the inevitability of the redemption.

***

Using their divine wisdom, our sages alluded to this concept in the Midrash [3]:

“G-d said to Avraham know you shall know [that your offspring will be strangers in a land not theirs for four hundred years]”

Know” that I will disperse them, “you shall know” that I will ingather them;

Know” that I will pawn them, “you shall know” I will redeem them;

Know” that I will subjugate them under foreign rule, “you shall now” I will liberate them.

It would have been sufficient to mention just one of the three – “Know that I will subjugate them under foreign rule, you shall know I will release them,” which is the general term used anywhere discussing the exile and redemption of Israel!

The subjugation of the Jewish people to other nations is a punishment for sin and must eventually end – therefore “I will liberate them.”

The meaning of this Midrash is this: the words know and you shall know (ידוע and תדע) allude to the exile and redemption. Know — in the past tense — refers to the exile and you shall know – in the future tense — refers to the redemption. Scripture is telling us, through using the same verb to describe exile and redemption, that from exile alone redemption can be proven.

This is why it describes three aspects of exile and redemption: The very same three aspects of exile can be used to prove that redemption ought to eventually arrive!

“I will disperse them” – dispersion, as explained above, is unnatural to a unified entity such as the nation of Israel and anything unnatural is destined to return to its natural state and be united – therefore “I will ingather them.”

“I will pawn them” – pawning is placing an object owned by one person in another’s possession for a while. It is out of the ordinary for the Jewish people to reside not in their own land like a collateral – therefore “I will redeem them.”

“I will subjugate them” – subjugation of one nation to another is unnatural [4]. G-d, the arranger of all reality will never allow for something which isn’t orderly to happen unless it is temporary, because of sin. In such a case it isn’t a breach of the natural order because it will remain only temporary and not become natural order. The subjugation of the Jewish people to other nations is a punishment for sin and must eventually end – therefore “I will liberate them.”

 

[1] Pesachim 116a
[2] Avos 4:3
[3] Midrash Rabbah on Lech Lecha sec. 42
[4] See Gevuros Hashem ch. 35 in length.

 

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