Published on August 29, 2021
This week we read the portion of Nitzavim. The portion contains a description of the ingathering of exiles to take place when Moshiach ushers in the Redemption. “Then G-d will restore your captivity… and will return and gather you from all the nations.”
Our Sages comment on the word “and will return – va’shav”: “From this we learn that the G-dly Presence is in exile together with the Jewish people.” G-d will only be redeemed when the entire Jewish nation is restored, as “He has dictated the terms of His own Redemption – when He will return with them.”
What is so radical about the concept of G-d being in exile together with the Jews? Had not G-d already promised, back in the days of the Patriarchs, that He would accompany the Jewish people throughout their travails – “I will be with you” – “And behold, I am with you”? G-d specifically stated that He would accompany the Children of Israel during the Egyptian exile. What then, are we to learn from the above verse?
The fact that G-d is always with the Jews, even in their exile, implies two different things. On the one hand, G-d stands above the exile and its limitations, guarding and protecting His flock, who are likened to “one sheep among seventy wolves.” Yet at the same time, the term “and will return” reflects the fact that G-d, too, is affected by the exile, having been banished from His dwelling place in the Holy Temple. G-d suffers together with the Jewish people and will continue to do so until G-d and the Jewish people are simultaneously restored to their rightful place.
Yet this explanation presents a paradox. According to the principle that “a prisoner cannot free himself from prison,” how can G-d, Who is Himself in exile, bring about the Final Redemption? Our Sages addressed this problem by explaining that G-d “dictated His own Redemption.” Even before the exile occurred, G-d determined how long it would last and fixed the date of the Final Redemption for Himself and for the Jewish people.
Our Sages further explained that, contrary to what one might think, G-d will not first redeem Himself and then redeem the Jews. “He will return together with them” – both will occur concurrently. The Divine Presence is in exile as long as even one Jew remains in exile.
Rashi, the great commentator, continues: “Great and difficult is the day of the ingathering of the exiles, for it is as if G-d will take every single Jew by the hand, wherever he may be.” The redemption of the Jewish people is the redemption of the Divine Presence. May we speedily witness the rebuilding of the Holy Temple and the ingathering of the exiles through Moshiach. Moshiach NOW!!!