“Shepherd Your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, who dwell alone, in a forest in the midst of a fertile field. Let them graze in Bashan and Gilad, as in days of old. Like the days of your exodus from the land of Egypt, I will show it [My people] wonders! The nations will see and they will be ashamed for all their might. They will place hand over mouth, their ears will be deafened. They will lick dust like a snake, like crawlers of the earth; they will tremble from their strongholds. They will fear the Lord our God, and they will be afraid of You.” (Micah 7:14-17)

The prophetic book of Micah ends with words of hope and comfort. The prophet requests God to shepherd His flock – the Jewish people – in a serene, peaceful forest. He is nostalgic for the “days of old” when Israel dwelt peacefully in their land before invading armies attacked and before the nation was sent into exile. God responds with a promise: “Like the days of your exodus from the land of Egypt, I will show them wonders.” The final redemption will be akin to the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. Micah then describes the reaction of the nations to this wondrous redemption (as explained by Metzudot David): “The nations will see and they will be ashamed for all their might” – they will be embarrassed that, notwithstanding their military power, they were not able to defeat the Jewish people. “They will place hand over mouth” – they will be rendered speechless in wonder and “their ears will be deafened” – they will not want to hear about the phenomenal success of the Jewish people which causes them grief, and they will act like deaf people. “They will lick dust like a snake” – they will bow to the ground in submission before the Jewish people and appear as if they are licking the dust. “They will tremble from their strongholds” – they will be frightened of the vengeance that will be meted out to them for holding Jews in captivity in their strongholds and for ruling over them.

From Micah, one gets the impression that the future redemption (may it be soon in our days!) will be equal to the exodus but other sources suggest it will be far greater. Jeremiah (23:7-8) states, “Therefore, behold, days are coming – the utterance of the Lord – and they will no longer say: As the Lord lives, who brought the children of Israel up from the land of Egypt. Rather [they will say]: As the Lord lives, who took up and who brought the descendants of the house of Israel from the land of the north, and from the lands to which I banished them, and they will dwell on their land.” The future redemption will be so magnificent and awe-inspiring that the exodus will pale into insignificance and become a distant, almost forgotten memory.   

This is the view of Ben Zoma in the Mishna (Brachot chapter one), which we recite at the Seder: “The exodus from Egypt is mentioned at night. Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria said: I am approximately seventy years old, and I was never privileged [to prove that there is a biblical obligation to have] the exodus from Egypt mentioned at night, until Ben Zoma interpreted it homiletically, as it is stated: “That you may remember the day you went out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life” (Devarim 16:3). “The days of your life”, refers to daytime alone; however, the addition of the word “all”, as it is stated: “All the days of your life”, comes to add nights as well. And the Rabbis, [who posit that there is no biblical obligation to mention the exodus from Egypt at night, explain the word “all” differently and] say: “The days of your life”, refers to the days in this world, “all” is added to include the days of the Messiah.” Ben Zoma is of the opinion that there is currently a mitzvah to mention the exodus in our prayers, both in the day, and in the night. However, in the era of the Messiah, there will be no obligation, either in the day or the night, as stated by Jeremiah in the above verse.  The Rabbis, however, are of the opinion that even in the Messianic era we will be required to mention the exodus in our prayers.

The Talmud (Brachot 13a) provides an analogy to explain the view of Ben Zoma, as deduced from the words of Jeremiah: “To what is this comparable? To a person who was walking along the way and a wolf accosted him and he survived it, and he continued to relate the story of the wolf. A lion accosted him and he survived it, and he continued to relate the story of the lion. A snake accosted him and he survived it, he forgot both the lion and the wolf, and he continued to relate the story of the snake. [Each encounter was more dangerous and each escape more miraculous than the last, so he would continue to relate the most recent story.] So too with Israel; more recent troubles cause the earlier troubles to be forgotten.”

There are at least two ways in which the future redemption will be greater. Rashi (Devarim 30:3) notes that at that time, “God Himself will hold the hand of each person” and bring them to the Holy Land as it states (Isaiah 27:12), “It will be on that day that the Lord will thrash from the torrent of the river until the stream of Egypt and you will be gathered one by one, children of Israel.” There is a pragmatic reason for God’s individual treatment and also a philosophical one. In Egypt, the Jews all lived in roughly the same place, the district of Goshen in the area of Ramses. It was not that difficult to gather them all together and set out into the wilderness, as we read in our parsha (Shmot 12:37), “The children of Israel traveled from Ramses to Sukkot, some six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children.” However, in the era before the Messiah, the Jewish people will be scattered to the four corners of the earth, making their ingathering far more difficult. The second reason is more subtle. The exile in Egypt was extremely painful. There was hard labour, oppression, interference in family life, depravation and infanticide. But in the era preceding the Messiah, most Jews will be living comfortable, affluent lives in the diaspora. They will be free to practise their religion, engage in local politics and enter the marketplace in whatever career they choose. For many, the idea of moving to Israel would be nothing short of a major downgrade. They will be oblivious to the fact that they are in exile because they are living in a gilded cage. Hence, God will have to arouse in the hearts of all the dispersed Jews around the globe, the desire to leave the diaspora and relocate to Israel.

The tragedy of Simchat Torah 5784, 7 October 2023, and the events that have followed in Israel and worldwide, have shaken up the Jewish people. Many are questioning if they are really welcome in their host countries. Perhaps this is part of the greater Divine plan – to remind us that our true home is Israel and that we can never really be free anywhere else.

Lee, Chani Merryl and Naomi join me in wishing you Shabbat Shalom!  

Rabbi Liebenberg.

Link to Rabbi’s YouTube message for the parsha: https://youtu.be/MroWvmgjA9A?si=aOeActA6QPvDd6s1


Tu B’Shevat, the 15th day of the month of Shevat, is the New Year for trees for the purpose of determining tithes in the Land of Israel. Tithes may not be given from the produce of one year for another year and the 15th of Shevat is used as the cut-off date for fruit. Thus, any fruit that began to blossom before the 15th belongs to the previous year and any fruit that began to blossom after the 15th belongs to the current year (Mishna Rosh Hashanah 1:1). It is customary to eat fruits on this day and some people hold a special Tu B’Shevat ‘Seder’ that is rooted in Kabbalistic wisdom. In particular, the special fruits of the Land of Israel are eaten – grapes, pomegranates, figs, olives and dates.

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