Sunday, July 03, 2005

"The Great Redemption" (3)

"The Great Redemption" by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto

-- A Discourse on The End of the Exile and the Beginning of the Great Redemption

Translated by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman


The first (imperfection) is explicated by the verse that reads, “I will surely hide My countenance on that day” (Deuteronomy 31:18), which touches upon a great mystery.

For (we’re taught that) G-d arranged for Luminaries to allow His emanations to shine upon the universe, and so they shine upon each other as well as upon their offshoots. But know that everything in the universe is an offshoot of these Luminaries -- all the angels, all people, and all other creatures. So, when these Luminaries set their countenances toward the lower world to illuminate it, all windows, light, and blessing open up, goodness intensifies everywhere, and there’s no longer any tribulation or sorrow in the world.

But (our) sins cause the Luminaries to hide their countenances and to not shine upon each other, and their offshoots become malnourished as a consequence. Holiness and everything that draws from it weakens, and the force of impurity become strengthened accordingly.

Understand well, though, that all this comes about because of the sins of the Jewish Nation. For impurity becomes emboldened and enstrengthened when they sin, which thus allows it to take the place of holiness. Know, too, that impurity has become so enstrengthened (as a consequence) that if that were to continue, the world would have to be destroyed!

But G-d loved the Jewish Nation so that He didn’t wait for their measure (of sin) to be filled and He set off the redemption (from Egypt), in keeping with the verses that read, “G-d kept a careful watch over evil and brought it upon us ... because we did not obey His voice. But now G-d our L-rd, who has brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand ..., let Your anger and fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain..., and shine Your countenance upon Your Sanctuary” (Daniel 9:14-17).

Now, understand just how this came about. For when the Luminaries shone as lustrously as they originally had, upon whom did this emanation shine? Why, the Jewish Nation. So the other nations couldn’t overpower them enough to cast them into exile, to say nothing of destroying the Holy Temple (which signaled the beginning of the final exile)!

But the emanations started to wane when the Luminaries hid their countenances, and they illuminated the Jewish Nation and the Holy Temple to a lesser degree. That’s when the other nations overpowered them and brought on the (final) exile.

All this was actually to the Jewish Nation’s advantage. For the prosecutors [i.e., the forces of impurity] could then inherit their portion (i.e., sustenance) and withdraw from holiness, and thus not defile the pathways (to holiness ... but that’s aside from the point at hand).

In any event, things stayed that way because the Luminaries were concealing their light. Don’t think that they didn’t emanate at all, though, for the world simply couldn’t exist if that were so. What they did was emanate only as much as was necessary (to maintain the world) and no more. That’s why everything’s in a circumscribed and limited state and why there’s no joy.

The (Divine) service of the great ministering angels and of many eminent guardian angels has been suspended as well because of the cutting back of this emanation and been replaced by (the Divine service of) other, lesser ones. And it’s (also) why fruit hasn’t any taste, as our sages pointed out (see Sotah 48A), and why in fact everything is smaller and much more lowly now.

The great conduit that emanates upon the Shechina was the first one to be stopped up. But it wasn’t completely stopped though, as we explained; it’s just that its opening was narrowed and whatever emitted from it only did so very clandestinely.

But let me now explain this in more detail. At first the (Divine) emanation flowed profusely and openly, and the Shechina was bolstered by a superabundance of honor, glory, and joy; and it (fully) ruled over all its hosts and camps. The Jewish Nation was likewise powerful and in all its splendor, and it prevailed over all the other nations.

When the times became calamitous, though, all that glory was taken away, and both the Shechina and the Jewish Nation only derived (spiritual sustenance) in a very covert way. The Shechina’s rule became unapparent, and the Jewish Nation held no sway whatsoever. In fact, the Shechina only derived (spiritual sustenance) from Yesod, and the Jewish Nation only suckled from holy Immah's breasts.

This then is the first imperfection (of the four) that the exile has brought about -- the hiding of the Luminaries’ lights and the (collateral) lessening of the (Divine) emanation and power.

Torah also came to be lacking among the Jewish Nation as a result and wisdom was lost. As it’s written, “the wisdom of their wise men will perish and the understanding of their sages will be be hidden” (Isaiah 29:14).

(c) 2005 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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AT LONG LAST! Rabbi Feldman's translation of "The Gates of Repentance" has been reissued at *at a discount*! You can order it right now by logging onto (or by going to and searching for it). Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has translated and commented upon "The Gates of Repentance", "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason Aronson Publishers). And his new work on Maimonides' "The Eight Chapters" will soon be available from Judaica Press.
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