ישיבת כרם ביבנה

Haftarah: "In its time I will hasten it"

הרב אברהם ריבלין, המשגיח הרוחני לשעבר

The two concluding words of this week's prophecy of consolation, "b'ita achishena," relate to the time of redemption: "In its time I will hasten it." (Yeshaya 60:22) A large group of commentators explain that "in its time I will hasten it," relates to the single designated time of redemption: "When its time arrives, I will hasten it to complete it quickly, for the time will not be long from the beginning of the salvation until its conclusion." (Radak; similarly Ibn Ezra and Metzudat David) The Malbim adds explanation that the verb achishena, "I will hasten it," does not refer to the time of redemption, but rather to its form: "When the designated time arrives, I will do it diligently [for this is the definition of the verb chish] and I will fulfill my promise." The adverb "diligently" is a description of the manner more than a description of the time.

According to this opinion, the redemption from Egypt serves as a proof of the future redemption. The nation waited for the Exodus for four-hundred years, but when the time arrived, the redemption came swiftly. Thus, the pasuk says: "On this very day, all the legions of Hashem left the land of Egypt." (Shemot 12:41) Rashi comments: "This teaches that when the time arrived, G-d did not delay them at all."[1]

However, Chazal took a different approach. Rashi and Radak cite the Gemara: "If they are worthy – I will hasten it; it they are not worthy – in its time." (Sanhedrin 98a) According to this explanation, the pasuk allows for two different times for the fulfillment of the prophecy of redemption: There is a Divine plan for the fulfillment of the redemption, which will occur in any case at the specified time. But if Bnei Yisrael are worthy, they have the ability to cause the redemption to come before its time; they can hasten the time of redemption.[2]

The difference between the two explanations is not just literary, whether we are dealing with one redemption or with the possibility of two different periods of redemption. Actually, the two explanations differ on a fundamental question: Is the redemption dependent only on G-d, or does the nation have the possibility to have impact on the redemption? Chazal's explanation stresses very much the fact that Bnei Yisrael, based on their spiritual status and their actions, have a great influence on the time of redemption. This is because the merit of the patriarchs is not an external reason to be lenient in their judgment, a kind of "bank transfer" of merits from one who has to one who does not. In fact, we should be more severe with the punishment of a criminal from an upright family than with one from a crime-ridden family. Rather, the zechut avot refers to the zakut, the purity, of the patriarchs that is inherent in their descendents. So, too, everywhere that it says "worthy" and "not worthy,"[3] it does not refer to fate or some external decision, but of inherent purity and worthiness. [See R. E. Dessler, Michtav M'Eliyahu, vol. I, p. 14.] Therefore, the time of redemption is completely dependent on the status of Israel, and, if they purify themselves, they can significantly hasten the time of redemption. However, even if they do not purify themselves, and will all be guilty, the redemption will not be canceled, but will arrive in its time in the end of days.

Chazal's explanation contains the principle that we term "fulid prophecy." [In Yonah: Nevuah V'tochacha, p. 189 and on, I explained this principle at length.] Many prophecies were given in a language and manner that can be fulfilled in various ways. Man's free choice determines, in a retroactive way, the proper meaning of the prophecy. We will illustrate this principle with a few examples.

1. Yonah prophesied: "Another forty days and Nineveh will be turned over." (Yonah 3:4) As we know, Nineveh was not overturned. Was Yonah a false prophet? The Gemara says: "Yonah was originally told that Nineveh will be turned over. He did not know whether for good or for bad." (Sanhedrin 89b) Rashi explains: "It can also mean for good, that their actions will turn from bad to good. When they repented, the prophecy was fulfilled [in this way], and not retracted." There is no need to say that G-d retracted Yonah's prophecy. From the beginning the prophecy was "fluid", and when Nineveh was turned over with a spiritual revolution, they spared themselves the overturning of the city like Sodom and Amorah.

2. "They will enslave and torment them for four-hundred years." (Bereishit 15:13) This prophecy seemingly was not fulfilled literally, since Bnei Yisrael were in Egypt only 210 years (Bereishit Rabbat 91:2), and the enslavement was even less than this, only from the death of Levi; i.e., 108 years total. The four hundred years must therefore begin from an earlier period, "From the time Yitzchak was born until Israel left Egypt was four-hundred years." Who determines when to begin the count? This depends on the merit of Israel. "In the merit of the righteous women our forefathers were redeemed." "On account of three things Israel were redeemed from Egypt: They did not change their names, their language, and their clothing." Thus, four-hundred is a set number, but its application is fluid and depends on the choice of Israel.[4]

3. "The older, will serve the younger." (Bereishit 25:23) The simple meaning is that the older one (Esav) will serve the younger (Yaakov). However, it is possible also to read, "The older – the younger will serve [him]." Thus, in the Midrash: "R. Avahu said: "If [Yaakov] is worthy – [Esav] will serve; if he is not worthy – he will be served." The ibn Ezra explains: The word et, which indicates the object is lacking, and we don't know if the older one will be a servant to the younger, or the younger to the older." The Netziv adds: "Hashem said a language that can understood in two ways ... but either way, one will serve the other, and this depends on the time." Yaakov and his children in each generation will determine the practical application of the prophecy for better or worse.

Therefore, we must work harder to increase merits and be deserving, in order to hasten the redemption, so that the wonderful description taught in this week's Haftarah: "Never again will your sun set, and your moon will not be withdrawn; for Hashem will be unto you an eternal light, and the days of your mourning will be ended" (Yeshaya 60:20) – will not be fulfilled only in its time, at the end of days, but will come hastily. It is in our mouths and hearts to do it: "If they are worthy – I will hasten it."

[1] In Yonah: Nevuah V'tochacha, pp. 313-315, I addressed the educational message in limiting the time of punishment, that only this proves the love of the chastiser.

[2] Chazal also explain the pasuk, "I will make a helper opposite him: If he is worthy – she helps him; if he is not worthy – she is opposite him." (Yevamot 63a) In other words, we are dealing with two different situations.  Although the simple meaning of the pasuk is that woman helps man in that she is opposite him, "The helper, who is woman, should be made in a manner fitting all states of man; and this is 'opposite him' – how he constantly needs help, according to his nature. (Ha'amek Daver, there. See also, Harchev Davar.)

[3] For example, regarding woman: "If he is worthy – she helps him; if he is not worthy – she is opposite him." (Yevamot 63a) Learning torah: "If he is worthy – it is an elixer of life; if he is not worthy – it becomes a poison potion." (Yoma 72b) Man and woman: If they are worthy – the Divine Presence is amongst them; if they are not worthy – fire will consume them." (Sotah 17a)

[4] See Yonah: Nevuah V'tochacha, p. 199, a long discussion of the fulfillment of this prophecy. We presented there thirteen events that influenced the date of Israel's exodus from Egypt.

 

 

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