Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

The last of the three haftarot of rebuke, always read before Tisha b’Av, is the initial prophecy of Yeshayahu concerning the depravity of Israel. Yeshayahu sets up the circumstances and builds the case for the exile, discussing the many ways in which we have strayed from the true service of Hashem and His commandments. We are taught to understand the justice of the exile long before we are made to endure it. Just as Hashem had done supernatural kindnesses for us, when the time comes for us to answer for our iniquity, He will visit upon us suffering beyond the order of nature.

But Hashem also gives us the strength to endure the exile and precedes the punishment with the guarantee of our eventual return. Even in this stark message of rebuke and dire warning, the prophecy concludes with Hashem’s promise that eventually Israel will be redeemed and Yerushalayim will be rebuilt.

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This has been the cycle of our existence since Avraham first made a covenant with Hashem. Hashem warned him that his offspring would be enslaved in a foreign land. (Bereishit 15:13). The Abarbanel on this passage cites the opinion of Rabbenu Nissim Gaon that the exile in Egypt was a tribulation born of love. Rabbenu Nissim explains that the hearts of the People of Israel had to be prepared for the acceptance of the Torah. This is consistent with other medieval opinions that Israel is formed as a nation in Egypt and learns to be ethical. In this spirit, Moshe Rabbenu addresses Israel in Va’etchanan, the parsha that always follows Tisha B’Av, referring to Mitzrayim as the Kor haBarzel, the iron crucible. (Devarim 4:20) A crucible purifies and refines metal by concentrating it in extreme heat and pressure.

It is sometimes difficult to understand, but when Hashem is “angry” at us or punishing us, He is acting out of love for us because He knows that we have to improve. The challenge for us when we are in these difficult circumstances is to retain our faith in and love for Hashem and also to never lose hope for our future redemption.

The first column in this series for the Three Weeks referenced the light at the crest of the hill. This imagery is not accidental. It follows the Shir HaMa’alot “from out of the depths” (Tehillim 130) and especially the special Tehillim for Purim, “For the conductor, on the gazelle of morning.” (Tehillim 22). Like a gazelle, the light of dawn first dances upon the hilltops before flooding into the valley where we wait.

Hashem also promised Avraham that his children would emerge from exile with great wealth. The verse taken as the title for this essay comes from the book of Micha (7:8). It is used to introduce the Maamar HaGeula, the essay on redemption by the Ramchal where he says that all of the secrets of the exile and future redemption are encoded in this verse.

We learn from the Gemara (Megilla 13b) that Hashem always creates the cure before the disease. Says the Ramchal, all during this long exile Israel has been thanklessly and in the most difficult circumstances performing the tasks they were given by Hashem and overcoming unimaginable adversity. All of this hard work has not gone unnoticed nor will it go unrewarded. For every deed done in this world not rewarded due to the state of exile, Hashem makes a deposit in a heavenly account bearing interest. At the time of final redemption, he says, the rejoicing will be compounded because not only will we experience the negation of the exile, but the exile itself will have become the basis for our bounteous reward.

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Avraham Levitt is a poet and philosopher living in Philadelphia. He has written on Israeli art, music, and spirituality and is working to reawaken interest in medieval Jewish mysticism. He can be reached at avraham@thegeula.com.