Citing the verses in Isaiah 11, “And it shall come to pass on that day, that the Lord will set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people…. And He will assemble the dispersed of Israel, and gather together the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth,” Rashi comments that it will be the “second time” just as He redeemed them from Egypt, where the redemption was crystal clear and obvious (be’rura) with no vestige of bondage remaining. The redemption leading to the rebuilding of the Second Temple was incomplete, as the people of Israel remained under Cyrus’s rule.
He notes the Ramban at the end of Ha’azinu, describing the mockery of the world’s nations during the time of the Second Temple, when the best among them worked in heichal ha’melech bavel.
Most striking, my grandfather cites the Talmud in Yoma (21b) that discusses five elements lacking from the second Temple: the Ark, Ark cover and Cherubim; the fire from Heaven; the Shechinah (Divine Presence); the Holy Spirit; and the Urim VeTumim. Commentaries elaborate and explain that these were merely the major elements missing from Bayit Sheni. In reality, more was missing.
So we pray that we be worthy of the second geulah, one as absolute and complete as the first geulah, geulat Mitzrayim. We pray in the nusach S’fard, “U’maer l’gealenu geulah sh’leimah” – that He speedily redeem us with a complete and whole geulah. Not a geulah as existed during the time of the Second Temple but an absolute geulah where nothing that is required for completeness is missing.
As I understand my grandfather’s insightful response, the ultimate geulah is yet to come; a geulah synonymous with geulat Mitzrayim, complete, with no doubt or hesitation as to its authenticity. In the meantime, God provides various categories of geulah – as during the time of Bayit Sheni when the Ark and even the Shechinah itself was absent. Yes, lacking. Yes, incomplete. Yes, not perfect. But, nevertheless, geulah – geulah with all that was the splendor of Bayit Sheni.
In our own lifetimes, God has also provided geulah, incomplete though it may be. It is true that it lacks even more components than geulat Bayit Sheni but it is undoubtedly geulah – geulah after endless galut, endless wanderings and suffering that culminated in the most terrible churban of all time.
Yes, we need to continue praying that He redeem us a second time. In the meantime, let us never close our eyes to the geulah we live or to the miracles God brings to our own lives. Let us never fail to embrace the geulah that is Israel. Let us celebrate it even as we commemorate the tragedy upon which it rose.
Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran serves as OU Kosher’s vice president of Communications and Marketing.