This is the second Shabbat of consolation following Tisha B’Av and we continue our tour of the Maamar HaGeulah, the Essay on Redemption of the Ramchal. As we did last week, we will examine how Ramchal treats a verse from our haftara. As a result, we are moving backwards from the end of the last section to the beginning of the second section of the book.
The second section of Maamar HaGeulah deals broadly with the mechanisms by which the redemption corrects the blemishes of exile that were enumerated in the first section. We will, G-d-willing, learn about these in the coming weeks, but as Hashem always provides the cure before the disease, we will know how they are repaired before we discover what they are.
Ramchal describes the processes of corruption and of rectification as adjuncts to the laws of nature, following similar principles to those we can observe in our material world. This approach is similar to what Aristotle described in his Metaphysics – understanding phenomena that we cannot measure but which nevertheless proceed according to laws we can define by way of our research and observation. The alchemists used to say, “As above also below,” and as with many of the basic principles of alchemy, this idea was taken from the Jewish mystical tradition.
Ramchal begins his description of redemption by explaining how the seasons of a year follow a divinely ordained plan that also governs eras of human history. In the Land of Israel, as is well known to us from our prayer liturgy, there are seasons of rain and dry seasons when the world is sustained by life-giving dew. The time for redemption is Nissan, the last month of the rainy season and the month in which we were freed from bondage in Mitzrayim. In Nissan the clouds depart from the skies, the sun shines, and flowers bloom throughout the meadows of Israel. Mists rise from the saturated land and the waters below are united with the waters above. Everything is fresh and new and invigorated with life force.
When Israel is redeemed from exile, Ramchal explains, the Divine Presence (Shechina) that was exiled with us rises up to be reunited with her counterpart above the physical universe. We are all elevated with her. This is the basic principle of the activation of redemption as a natural process – the sacred things that had been cast down to earth in the exile begin returning to their home in the heavens.
In Shir HaShirim we read, “The first shoots can be seen in the land” (2:12). These are the visible manifestations of the growth that has been hidden since Tu B’Shvat. In the process of redemption, these are the physical bodies of the human agents of our redemption, the two Moshiachs – the son of David and the son of Yosef. Just as all of the water is united in the clouds, so the people of Israel are brought back to the Land of Israel. Ramchal says that whenever something ascends to a higher level it is accompanied by music – songs of thanksgiving, songs of joy.
But there is another important process that is happening which Ramchal introduced in the preceding chapter: Throughout the long exile, Hashem sustained us and preserved us by bringing just enough light through the darkness of the “winter” of exile. Now that the spring has arrived, all of the light that had been withheld against this day is coming into the world. Because of this, the “windows” that has been opened into existence thousands of years ago are shutting. Prior to the redemption it wasn’t possible for Israel to endure the pure light of redemption and survive, just as we couldn’t bear to hear Hashem “speak” to us at Har Sinai. As the light intensifies and its apparent origin changes, Israel must adapt to this new reality. (We will, G-d-willing, address this in more detail in future weeks as we go further back towards the beginning of the Maamar HaGeulah.) In the beginning of spring, we must hear the songs, and sing our own songs – we must adapt to the new light and be changed by it.
Finally, Ramchal explains that once the Beit HaMikdash is rebuilt and Moshiach ben Yosef struggles to restore justice among the nations of the world, everything that had been ruined must be restored to its original glory. Thus, the process of redemption follows systematically the trail of destruction of the exile, restoring the damage. Every “prince,” he explains, every warrior returns to his station. The navi Yeshaya said, “Give cause to Yerushalayim to rejoice and let all those who love her celebrate” (66:10), meaning Israel “and those who have mourned her destruction,” referring to the malachim. As we recently saw in Eicha, the inhabitants of Tzion had all been driven out, leaving only the malachim behind to mourn the ruined city.
This brings us to the pasuk taken from our haftara, “For Hashem has consoled Tzion, He consoled all her ruins.” (Yeshayahu 51:3). This refers to the celestial counterparts to the earthly towers. When the city was laid low, all of the higher forces who were embodied in it were similarly humbled. As the city is restored to its former glory, as below so above: All of the heavenly hosts and the pride of Israel is similarly restored. The ruins rejoice because they have been rebuilt.