Thursday, April 27, 2017

“On the Eighth Day his Flesh will be Circumcised”

By HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

In his book “Mo’adei Har’iyah” Rabbi Moshe Tziv Neriya writes about some ideas which he received from the linguist Meir Medan (page 319), who quotes what Rav Kook said during the Pesach Seder when the “Cup of Eliyahu” was filled.

In the special “Harachaman” prayers added to the Grace after Meals on the occasion of a brit, we first ask the Holy One, Blessed be He, to send to us “His anointed one, who goes in perfection.” This refers to Machiach, the son of David. We then ask Him to send us “A righteous priest who is concealed.” This is a reference to Eliyahu. However, as we know, Eliyahu comes before the Mashiach. Why then do we reverse the sequence in our request from G-d?

After discussing the matter, Rav Kook said that the proper sequence is indeed for Eliyahu to come first as the harbinger of the arrival of Mashiach Ben David, but that the footsteps of Machiach will appear first. And they are felt before the footsteps of Eliyahu. In other words: the early physical stages of redemption – ingathering of the exiles, rebuilding of the land, high production of fruits – will be visible before the full redemption comes and before the spiritual awakening and the process of repentance which will be part of the arrival of the Mashiach.

Rav Kook added that this is what appears in the verse, “Help Your people... and shepherd them and lift them up forever” [Tehillim 28:9]. First “shepherd them” with good pasture from a physical point of view, and only afterwards “lift them up” in a spiritual sense.

From other sources in the writings of Rav Kook we see that this idea appears in other places in the Torah, and it is also repeated in the Prophets. It is written in the Torah portion of Nitzavim, “And G-d will bring back your captives and show you mercy, and He will return and gather you from among all the nations where your G-d has scattered you. If your outcasts have been driven to the ends of the heavens, G-d will gather you from there and from there He will fetch you. And G-d will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed...” [Devarim 30:3-5]. Only after the physical return to the land is it written, “And your G-d will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring...” [30:6]. And even though this passage begins with the statement, “You will return to your G-d and listen to His voice...” [30:2], Rav Kook explained that the very fact that we return to the land is in the spirit of repentance: “The general awakening of the people to return to its land, its essence, its spirit, and its traits contains within it a spark of repentance.” [Orot Hateshuva, Chapter 17].

“And this is even clearer in the words of Yechezkel (Chapter 36). The passage begins with a declaration that the fact that Yisrael is in exile is a desecration of G-d’s name. This is because the other nations see it as support of their position that G-d has rescinded His covenant with Yisrael and has made a covenant with another nation. But this cannot be tolerated, and therefore it is written, ‘I do not act for you, O House of Yisrael, but rather for My holy name... And the other nations will know that I am G-d... And I will take you from the nations, and I will gather you from all the lands, and I will bring you to your land.’ [36:22-24]. Only after Yisrael returns to their land will a process of repentance begin. ‘I will sprinkle holy water over you and you will be cleansed from all your impurities, and I will purify you from all your idols.’ [36:25].”

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