Photo Credit: Jewish Press

This Shabbat is Nachamu, named for the haftara we read to be comforted after the ordeal of Tisha B’Av. From now until Rosh Hashana we will read a series of haftarot of comfort as we prepare to be reconciled and reunited with Hashem. Accordingly, it seems a fitting time to examine the Maamar HaGeulah, the “Essay on Redemption” of the Ramchal. G-d willing, in the coming weeks we will continue that endeavor in this space.

Ramchal wrote this short book, really a very long essay, to explain the spiritual challenges of the exile and the manner in which these will all be rectified by the process of redemption. The book is predicated on a deep understanding of the mystical tradition of Israel and in particular the teachings of the Arizal. Accordingly, it can be difficult for the layperson uninitiated in these traditions to follow its reasoning and conclusions. But upon investigation, one will find an uncanny prescience, anticipating the state of the world we are living in, in spite of the book having been written hundreds of years ago. The Ramchal was a very wise and worldly individual, though he died tragically at a very young age. But the wisdom that guided the writing of Maamar HaGeulah was a profound wisdom born from knowledge of the secrets of the Torah.

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We will only be able to scratch the surface here. It is highly recommended for anyone with the skills and the training to understand such a book to learn it for themselves. This book was written to be a guide to people living in times such as ours, to help us better understand the spiritual and historical forces at work in the world and how best to comport ourselves in the face of them.

To begin this review of the text we will skip to the very end, as is fitting for Shabbat Nachamu, the touchstone for all our haftarot of consolation. The only quote from our haftara appears in the final chapter of the last of three parts that comprise the book. The navi says, “All flesh shall see as one that the mouth of Hashem speaks” (Yeshayahu 40:5). This is a unique state of affairs the navi is describing, because as we know, when Moshe witnessed Hashem speaking, his face began to radiate light. The rest of Israel couldn’t bear to hear the voice of Hashem. Ramchal explains that the navi is describing a time when our physical bodies have been made pure and radiant like the face of Moshe.

This, Ramchal says, is the final stage of redemption. After the many stages of return from exile and rectification of our spiritual and intellectual state, which we will hopefully encounter in the coming weeks, the last step is to repair the physical body. This renewed and improved body will be conducive to greater spiritual attainment and will no longer be a barrier or a handicap in the face of this kind of growth.

Throughout the book, Ramchal uses the Exodus from Egypt as a template to explain the final redemption which will be similar to the process by which Hashem first redeemed us, but much more powerful and, of course, permanent. Because as Ramchal explains in the first chapter, following the final redemption all of creation will at last find the repose that has eluded us since the beginning of time and until today.

The climax of the Exodus from Egypt was the splitting of the Red Sea. This same magnitude of event, amplified in proportion to the final redemption, must occur to mark the final triumph of the good and holy over the forces of corruption. Just as the Egyptians regretted allowing Israel to escape from bondage and followed us into the sea, abandoning all caution and care for themselves – so too at the end of days our enemies, represented by the nations of the world, will descend on Israel and Yerushalayim to besiege us and force us to return to the servitude that has defined this long exile we are still experiencing.

Ramchal explains that the true power that split the waters of the sea was not a wind blowing out of the desert or a tidal event under the waves. Hashem commanded us to step into the water (Shemot 14:15). According to the teachings of the Arizal, the forces of corruption that hold us back and trap us in the cages of material existence and our struggle for survival only exist on the edges of creation where they can attach themselves to the veins of divine bounty that sustain us even in exile. But when Hashem “awakened” His will to free us from our captivity, this entire “crust” – the whole framework that allowed for the possibility of slavery in Egypt – was overthrown and capitulated into the “waters” of existence. In the face of such upheaval, no oppressor could stand, and they were both figuratively and literally washed away.

In the final stage of redemption, when the nations of the world will pursue us – even, so to speak, into the depths of the sea – in that moment a great shofar will sound. Ramchal points out that when the shofar is mentioned, as we will soon recall in our Rosh Hashana liturgy, no name is given to the one who will blow it (Yeshayahu 27:13). It is as if the shofar is blowing of its own volition. And from the perspective of the navi relating these events, and even we who will experience them, this is how it must seem. Because the shofar is the embodiment of the divine wisdom that makes a mockery of all the machinations and distortions of the civilizations wherein we have been marginalized and oppressed. In the sound of the shofar, all of the false illusions and the power structures that sought to oppose the triumph of the good and holy will be overthrown and washed away by the splitting seas of physical reality. And on that day He will be one and His name will be one (Zecharia 14:9) and Israel will be forever bound to our G-d in love and mutual adoration.

Here the Ramchal cites the verse from Hoshea (2:21), worth quoting here in conclusion: I will be betrothed to you forever, and I will be betrothed to you in justice and righteousness and kindness and mercy, and I will be betrothed to you in faith.

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Avraham Levitt is a poet and philosopher living in Philadelphia. He writes chiefly about Jewish art and mysticism. His most recent poem is called “Great Floods Cannot Extinguish the Love.” It can be read at redemptionmedia.net/creation. He can be reached by email at [email protected].