Redemption and Repentance

Some say the Geula (redemption) will come only through G-d and not through our actions. We must wait patiently and do nothing until G-d redeems us. On the contrary, they claim, any such act on our part is to be considered an act of rebellion, expressing apostasy and a lack of faith. Any apparent success of these actions is to be considered an act of Satan.

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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
In recent years there has been a disagreement among rabbis:

Some say the Geula (redemption) will come only through G-d and not through our actions. We must wait patiently and do nothing until G-d redeems us. On the contrary, they claim, any such act on our part is to be considered an act of rebellion, expressing apostasy and a lack of faith. Any apparent success of these actions is to be considered an act of Satan.

Others claim that G-d redeems us through our actions. He uses us as his messengers to bring redemption to His people.

Another argument is about teshuva or repentance. Everyone agrees that the Jewish people will repent at the time of redemption. The question is whether repentance is a necessary condition for redemption or redemption may come before the process of repentance is completed.

In chapter 30 of this week's parsha (Nitzavim-Vayelekh) the processes of redemption and repentance are both described:

Verses 1-2: "And you will repent... and you shall return to the L-rd your G-d and you will obey Him in all that I command you...." (Teshuva)

Verses 3-4: "And the L-rd your G-d will restore your return... and gather you, even if you are in a far off place." (Geula)

Verse 5: "And the L-rd your G-d will bring you to the Land... and you will inherit it, He will improve your lot and multiply you." (Geula)

Verse 6: "And the L-rd your G-d will circumcise your heart in order to love G-d." (Teshuva)

Verse 7: "And the L-rd your G-d will place all these curses on your enemies." (Geula)

Verse 8: "And you will return to obey G-d's voice and carry out all His commandments." (Teshuva)

Verse 9: "And the L-rd your G-d will leave all your actions to turn out for the best." (Geula)

Verse 10: "For you will obey and return to the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul." (Teshuva)

This passage seems to be a purposeful blend of both Geula and Teshuva. From this, three things are apparent: a) Teshuva is gradual; b) Geula is gradual; c) Both are parallel, interdependent processes.

The described stages of redemption are as follows:

Verses 3-4: The ingathering of the Exiles and the return to Zion.

Verse 5: Capturing the Land and building the Land.

Verse 7: Military and political success.

Verse 9: Economic success.

The stages of repentance are as follows:

For a moment, let us skip the first stage (verses 1-2). The next stage (verse 6 - circumcision of the heart) refers to the removal of obstacles and confusion, or as Onkelos says, "removing the foolishness of the heart."

The following stage (verse 8) is the practical execution of the commandments.

Verse 10 refers to the final stages - love and dedication, study and fulfillment, leading up to cleaving to G-d.

Clearly, just as the promised economic bounty does not prevent us from going out to work - on the contrary, it is through people that this is accomplished - so, too, repentance is carried out by people - teachers, preachers and educators.

What about the first stage of repentance? Verses 1-2 apparently contradict our explanation of the stages, for it describes a full-blown repentance right at the start.

For the answer, we must look carefully at the words used. Verses 1-2 talk about Teshuva "up to G-d" ("ad Hashem"), while the last stage refers to Teshuva "unto" G-d ("el Hashem"). The first stage is Teshuva miyirah - repentance brought about by external forces, literally scaring us back to G-d. This is a repentance of actions, an external behavioristic repentance brought about by the trials and tribulations of the exile. This is the return to Judaism and to the Land of Israel brought about by "a king whose decrees are as extreme as those of Haman." (Sanhedrin 97b)

It is only at the end of the redemptive process that the Jewish nation does complete, conscious Teshuva out of love and understanding.

[From Tal Chermon by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner. Translated by Yossi Baumol.]
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"Our brothers who still live in the Diaspora receive from their brothers , the settlers and builders of Yerushalayim, thousands upon thousands times more than they contribute to Yerushalayim, even when they do so generously. For all the bounty of salvation, blessings, redemption, benevolence, mercy, good fortune, good health, etc., etc., of all of Israel in all their various dispersed places, comes only from Yerushalayim and her construction." (The Vilna Gaon)

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