Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Miracle of Aliyah

Before I forget I wrote this for Kumah for Pesach and figured I might as well post it here too.

What is the greatest miracle? The Exodus comprised of numerous of the greatest miracles of all time, ultimately culminating with the very Splitting of the Red Sea. Yet we are taught the miracles of the Exodus will pale in comparison to those that will occur at the Final Redemption during "the end of days" (i.e. today!)

The Passover Haggadah opens with a fascinating, but seemingly unimportant story relative to its prominent position following just after the Four Questions. It is about a Seder conducted thousands of years ago in Bnei Brak:

It happened that Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Tarphon were reclining [at a Seder] in Bnei Brak. They were discussing the Exodus all night, until their students came and told them, "Masters! It is time for the morning prayer Shema!"

The Yalkut Me'am Lo'ez discusses this at length. Now we are starting the Seder. We should remember not to rush through it. We see it is proper to go all night discussing the Exodus. But why is it important to write that their students had to remind them to say Shema? It would be better to just write that they went all night?

In truth the "minor detail" about Shema is perhaps the most important part of the story, or more specifically, the fact that the students had to emphasize that it was the morning Shema. Today we know that both the morning and night Shema are identical. But this wasn't always the case, and there was a long running scholarly dispute as to whether or not the section of Tzitzit [fringes] should be included at night since one is only required to wear Tzitzit when they can be seen by the daylight.

This is precisely what the Haggadah continues to discuss. Rabbi Elazer held the Tzitzit portion - which remembers the Exodus - should indeed also be said at night, but he could not prove it until Ben Zoma pointed out a Biblical exegesis. "That you remember the day you left Egypt all the days of your life." The extra word all included the nights. The Rabbis went further. The word days itself already includes "mornings" and "nights." The word all is used to teach that this portion shall still be said during the Messianic Age.

Hear this dispute. Ben Zoma held there will be no obligation to recall the Exodus after Moshiach comes. This claim is backed up with the words of Hashem through his prophet:

Behold days are coming... when they shall no longer say, "The living G-d who brought the children of Israel out of Egypt," but "The living G-d who brought... the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all the countries where I had driven them, so that they dwell in their own land." (Yermiyahu 23:7,8)

In other words mass Aliyah itself is such an awesome miracle that it will actually replace the great miracle of the Exodus from Egypt as what will be used to describe Hashem's glory!

We are taught if we are worthy Moshiach will arrive "on clouds" (i.e. amid open glorious miracles,) and if we do not merit it, he will arrive "on a donkey" (i.e. it will appear to be a natural occurrence.) But if he comes "on a donkey" how can Yermiyahu declare that this will be so great it will eclipse the Exodus and become known as the greatest miracle of all time?

The answer lies in how we open our eyes. HaRav Eliyahu Dessler, ZT"L, emphasizes the following fundamental of Judaism:

Nature itself is a miracle. Should someone protest and say that nature is rooted in a cause, we may very well ask him why that particular cause produces such a particular result. Nature is a miracle - but we have become accustomed to it.

Were we to be told that a man died, was buried, that his body had rotted in the ground and that the grave had opened and he had come forth, we would exclaim, "A miracle, a revival of the dead." Yet, when a seed is planted and grows forth after it has rotted in the ground, is that not, too, a revival of dead? Bury the lobe of a calf's ear deep in fertilizer. If a full-grown cow were to spring up, that's a miracle. When a full-branched tree grows from the planting of a small shoot, is that any more natural? But to one we are accustomed and see it as part of nature; to the other we are not and name it a miracle. (Haggadah Gedoli Tunoas HaMusser, P.104)

Were we to open our eyes we would realize to begin with the great miracle the survival of the Jewish People! We are not a large population in comparison with the rest of the world. In the words of Mark Twain the Jewish People are but "a nebulous dim puff of star-dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way." For thousands of years this "star-dust" has been thinly scattered over the four corners of the earth. To survive after such an extended period under such conditions is itself a miracle. But to be completely gathered up and returned to our Homeland? Who can fathom such a thing? Open your eyes! Mass Aliyah is the greatest miracle ever!

Even the Rabbis that dispute Ben Zoma agree that the Final Redemption will certainly overshadow the Exodus. The Yalkut Me'am Lo'ez quoting from Gemarah Berochot explains the position of the Rabbis:

The prophet does not mean to say that the Exodus will be forgotten completely. He is merely saying that when the Messiah comes, the Exodus will become secondary. Although the miracles of the Exodus were very great, they will be like nothing compared to the miracles of the final redemption when the Messiah comes. Furthermore, after the final redemption, there will no longer be any exile or subjection for the Jews.

May the Jewish People merit opening our eyes and seeing the Miracles that Hashem is performing for us today by giving our generation the opportunity to make Aliyah. May we all return Home without delay. And may we come to thank "the living G-d who brought... the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all the countries where I had driven them, so that they dwell in their own land." Amen!

Chag Kasher V'Samayach!


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