Vaera (And I Appeared) – Exodus 6:2 – 9:35
This week’s portion begins with Exodus Chapter Six verse 2. G-d speaks to Moses and explains to him that He is the G-d that appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that He hears the suffering of the Children of Israel and that He will keep His promise with their forefathers and free them from the bondage of Egypt. “And Moses spoke these words to the Children of Israel but they did not listen to Moses, from shortness of spirit and hard labor.” (Exodus 6:9)
This exchange between G-d and Moses and the subsequent repetition of the message to the Children of Israel, contains a powerful message to us, the Children of Israel, even today. G-d establishes the moral basis for the redemption of the Children of Israel – based on the covenant that He made with our forefathers “to give them the Land of Canaan, the land of their dwelling place, where they dwelled.” (Exodus 6:4). Not only did G-d promise the land to our forefathers, but the fact that our forefathers actually dwelled in the land already, seems to give that promise extra significance. The right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel is not only a question of G-d’s promise; it is a question of our roots in the land.
During this passage, there are five phrases that represent redemption: “And I will remove you”, “And I will save you”, “And I will redeem you”, “And I will take you”, and finally, “And I will bring you to the land…” At the Passover Seder, when we celebrate the redemption from Egypt, we drink four cups of wine. The number four is said to represent the four different phrases that represent redemption – the first four mentioned in these passages. But what of the fifth phrase – “And I will bring you to the land”?
For centuries, we could remember the redemption from Egypt as a redemption that not only happened long ago, but that had significance for centuries. For even during the worst of our persecution in strange lands, we knew that G-d had chosen us and had rescued us from our first persecutor, the wicked Pharaoh. But we were in exile, not in the land of Israel, so we did not celebrate the final phrase of redemption, at least not in the same way as we celebrate the first four. There is a fifth cup of wine at the Seder table, one that is placed in the center of the table and is not drunk by anyone. It is designated for Elijah the prophet, the man who will return one day to herald the arrival of the Messiah. (Malachi 3:23) It is this language of redemption that refers to the return to the Land of Israel that is intimately connected to the arrival of the Messiah, and, therefore, it is this cup of wine, that we don’t drink yet.
I recently read a Hebrew book that has just been published, written by a secular Israeli, entitled “The Settlers.” The book is the author’s attempt to understand our movement. He demonstrates some understanding of our motivation, but his main criticism is aimed at the fact that the “settlers” perceive modern Zionist and Israeli events as involving redemption or the beginning of a Messianic age. But how can we be otherwise? For centuries, as we gathered around the Passover Seder, we filled the Cup of Elijah and prayed that he would come and herald the coming of Messiah. We understood that Messiah’s coming was intimately connected with our return to the Land of Israel. If we are now returning to the Land of Israel, like never before in our history, and have even been privileged to return to the heart of the Land, to Judea and Samaria, how can we not invoke that fifth phrase of redemption, mentioned in this weeks portion: “And I will bring you to the Land, which I have raised my hand to give it to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and I will give it to you as a legacy, I am G-d!” (Exodus 6:8)
This, then, is the culmination of the redemption promised by G-d to Moses and the Children of Israel in Egypt so many years ago. And this, then is the culmination of the redemption that we are now experiencing and that G-d will continue to unfold before our very eyes.
Many around the world in our own country are like the Children of Israel – they are unable to listen to Moses because of their “short spirit” and hard work. They miss the greater picture, and therefore, lack the faith they need to be encouraged. Thank G- d, for He has opened the hearts and minds of so many – May He open that many more.
Shabbat Shalom from Samaria,
Director, Israel Office