By Rabbi Chanan Morrison
There are six measures, the Sages taught, by which we are judged:
“When brought for heavenly judgment, one is questioned: ‘Were your business dealings honest? Did you set fixed hours for Torah study? Did you engage in procreation? Did you anticipate redemption? Did you discuss wisdom? Did you discern new insights?'” (Shabbat 31a)
Most of these questions indeed are the cornerstones of a life well-lived. But the fourth one - “Did you anticipate redemption?” - why is that so important? Don’t we all hope for the best? What does this trait reveal about how one has lived one’s life?
Part of the Nation
It is important to understand that this anticipation is not simply hoping that our personal difficulties will quickly be resolved. Rather, it means that we should anticipate the redemption of Israel and all of humanity. As Rashi explains, one should look forward to the fulfillment of the visions of the prophets.
This demand is not a trivial one. As individuals we are easily caught up with our own personal problems and issues. In truth, we should feel that we are like a limb of a great organism. We should recognize that we are part of a nation, which, in turn, is part of all humanity. The betterment of each individual contributes to the life of the larger community, thus advancing the redemption of the nation and the universe.
The question “Tzapita leyeshu'ah?” is an important measure of one’s life. It is the yardstick that determines whether our lives have acquired a selfless, universal quality. By anticipating the redemption of the greater community, we demonstrate that we were able to raise ourselves above the narrow concerns of our private lives. We strive not just for personal ambitions, but also for the ultimate elevation of the nation and the entire world. We are part of the nation; its joys are our joys and its redemption is our redemption.
It is instructive to note that the heavenly tribunal does not ask about our hopes (tikvah) for redemption, but rather our anticipation (tzipiyah) of redemption. The word tzipiyah indicates a constant watchfulness, like a soldier posted to the lookout (tatzpit), serving at his observation post for days and even years. The sentry may not abandon his watch, even though he observes no changes.
We, too, are on the lookout. We should examine every incident that occurs in the world. With each new development, we should consider whether this is perhaps something that will advance the redemption of Israel and the entire world.
However, tzipiyah leyeshu'ah is not merely passive observation. Woe to the army whose sentries perceive a threat but fail to take action. The moment there is some development in the field, the soldiers must respond swiftly, to defend or retreat. Our tzipiyah also includes the readiness to act promptly. While these two traits - constant watchfulness and rapid response - may appear contradictory, they are both included in the obligation of tzipiyah leyeshu'ah.
(Silver from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. I, pp. 279-280; Ein Eyah vol. III on Shabbat 31a (2:164).)