Photo Credit: Jewish Press

We saw last week the importance of mathematics and science to the Vilna Gaon, according to his students who wrote Kol HaTor. They explained that the secrets of the end of history and the beginning of redemption are encoded in the numerical values of the words of the Torah. Everything derives from numbers, they say, because all numbers can be derived from the prime integers that constitute the fundamental building blocks of the universe according to the Sefer Yetzira and the Sfira diTzniyuta, both of which have celebrated commentaries written by the Vilna Gaon. The information is hidden in the numerical formulae and also in the secrets of combining letters that were known by previous generations of Torah scholars.

Ultimately, what is most important in the process of unfolding redemption is the manifestation in the material world of these secrets which are concealed in the text of the Torah. Again, the message is stressed that has been a motif running through the text – that the work of redemption is principally performed in the physical world although it conforms to principles that are prevalent On High. Because the Torah is the clearest means by which the celestial principles can be known by humans, it is chiefly through the study of Torah that we come to understand the challenges of the era preceding the final redemption and how we can best meet those challenges.

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Towards the end of Kol HaTor, there is a list of the stages of the unfolding redemption, including the victory over Amalek. Amalek is defeated on three levels: the evil inclination in the heart of every individual, the corruption of the nation that prevailed in exile, and the physical enemy who seeks to exterminate us. The victory over Amalek will be complete on every level because the heavenly Jerusalem has to be manifest in the earthly city below, as the earthly city reflects the structure of the heavens above. Israel will accomplish these victories with the aid of Hashem, through the wisdom we gain from properly understanding the Torah and from fulfilling its mitzvot.

Ultimately, however, the final redemption comes about through tzedakah. The actual performance of tzedakah is necessary – from Hashem towards us and from us to one another. As always, the lower realms reflect the higher. But it is the concept of tzedakah that is most essential to this process. The navi Yeshayahu once said, “Tzion will be redeemed in justice and her returnees by tzedakah” (Yeshayahu 1:27). The difference between justice and tzedakah is very subtle, but the verse alludes to the kindness Hashem bestows on us in bringing us out of our terrible exile.

Both justice and tzedakah derive from a similar principle: the exercise of the Divine attribute of judgment. But while the affronts against the city of Jerusalem must someday be answered through the strict application of justice, an argument might be made that the people of Israel brought suffering upon ourselves through our own wrongdoing. However, when we show kindness to one another and demonstrate that we can be identified with the principle of attending to the genuine needs of another, we also make ourselves worthy of Hashem’s attention to us in a similar vein. Hashem redeems those who return to Tzion with charity when those who are returning can demonstrate that they are charitable.

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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].