By HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh
In this week's Haftorah, it says: "Zion will be redeemed through justice, and its returnees through charity." (Yeshaya 1:27) We note that the redemption of Zion will be through "justice," whereas the return of the exiled people will be through "charity."
R. Chaim Volozhoner zt"l explains this based on the laws of loans and guarantors. When the borrower establishes a guarantor, who will be responsible for the repayment of the debt, the law is that when the borrower repays the loan – the guarantor is also rightfully exempt. However, when the lender cancels the loan, there is a distinction between the exemption of the borrower and the exemption of the guarantor. The borrower is exempt due to the kindness of the lender, who canceled his load. However, the guarantor is not exempt due to the kindness of the borrower, but rather, once the borrower is exempt – the guarantor is rightfully exempt from his guarantee.
We find the Temple is a guarantor for Israel's "debt" to G-d. "These are the reckonings of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of Testimony." (Shemot 38:21) Rashi writes: "The Mishkan, the Mishkan: Two times, an allusion to the Mishkan (i.e., Temple) that was taken as collateral (mashkon) in the two destructions for the sins of Israel." Thus, the Mishkan is a guarantee. When Israel sinned, G-d took the guarantee. When G-d will have mercy on Israel and forego their sins, the guarantor will no longer be obligated, and the Temple will be rebuilt – just as the cancellation of the debt exempts the guarantor.
This is what the prophet says: "Zion will be redeemed through justice, and its returnees through righteousness." The returnees merit G-d's kindness, and it is charity from Him that He exonerates them. However, Zion is redeemed through justice; after G-d exonerates Israel, the Beit Hamikdash will be rebuilt rightfully – through justice – and not through charity.
R. Chaim added that Zion, which symbolizes Klal Yisrael, has a promise that it will be redeemed in any case: "Your children will return to their border." (Yirmiya 31:17) The Ohr Hachaim writes that the redemption will come even if all of Israel are completely wicked, G-d forbid. However, the returnees, the individuals – will not be redeemed other than in the merit of their good deeds: charity.