In our generation, the fast on the tenth of Tevet is dedicated to a day of remembrance for the martyrs of the Holocaust. On this day we cherish the memory of the six million, and recall the snuffing out of the Jewish life in eastern Europe. A thousand years of life in Europe spanning the entire continent disappeared – all this a painful hint from Heaven that the time for the liquidation of the exile has arrived.
Parshat Vayigash concludes with the following verse: “Israel lived in Egypt, in the Goshen district, they took possession of it (literally in Hebrew – “and they gripped onto it”), and were fruitful and multiplied exceedingly”. On this seemingly innocent verse, the commentator the Kli Hayakar says: “This whole verse levels an accusation against the People of Israel. God decreed that their seed would be ‘strangers’ (Genesis 15:13) [i.e. temporary residents], whereas they sought to live there permanently. The verse likewise blames them for seeking a foothold in a land not theirs…so entrenched did they become, and so much did they
wish to remain in Egypt, that G-d had to take them out by force. Those who still wished to remain, died in the three days of darkness.”
From a few words of scripture, the Kli Hayakar gleans the great historical lesson of the Jew in the exile. Only a short time after
Yaakov, against his will, goes down to Egypt and his children declare that they are going there “to sojourn”, and not, God forbid, to settle down, we already find the expression, “and they took possession of it”! No more sojourning. No more packed suitcases waiting in the doorway. No. The children of Israel had settled down in Egypt, sowed deep roots, proliferated, and became wealthy.
Loving the Whip
Our ancestors behavior foreshadows our own. The accusation which the Kli Hayakar levels upon our forefathers in Egypt is the same accusation which escorted us throughout all the exiles – the first, the second, and the final one. In Egypt, our forefathers didn’t want to leave when the time of redemption came; in Babylon, Jews refused to make Aliyah excluding a
small minority of Jews from the lower and impoverished echelons of society; and in this final exile, Jews feel comfortable and tranquil, and have “taken possession” and fallen in love with the land of their exile. And so, with the time of redemption having arrived – with Eretz Yisrael bearing its fruits and the ingathering of the exiles and building of Jerusalem underway – most Jews refuse to see that the current exile has reached the end of the line.
And the Almighty? He sits and cries. For this he cast us into the exile? So that we would “take possession of” and fall in love with it, and forget that the exile was intended as a punishment? Oy, for we have turned the punishment into a house of pleasure! Like a man who loves the whip that strikes him. The sages in Tractate Succah (52) even say: “God regrets having created four things: the exile, Kasdim, Ishmael, and the evil inclination.” Sure God regrets creating the exile – because He
created it as a punishment, and this purpose was not fulfilled.
“With Anger Poured Out, I Will Be King Over You”
In this fateful era we live in, God decided, as described in Ezekhiel 36, that the situation of Am Yisrael sitting in the exile and desecrating the Name of God can no longer continue. The time for redemption has arrived. At that point, two parallel processes began. The first process – return to Zion and building of Eretz Yisrael. The second process – the elimination of the exile. Since the majority of Jews did not participate with the process of return to Zion, the elimination of the exile proliferated in horrible fashion. There are many people who have so much trouble dealing with the Holocaust, that they prefer to sweep the matter under the rug and say: “It is impossible to understand”. But such an approach ignores the fact that our prophets explicitly wrote about it: “As I live, says the Lord of God, surely with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with anger poured out, will I be King over you. And I will bring you out from the peoples and will gather you out of the countries in which you were scattered, and with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm AND ANGER POURED OUT…and I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 20:33-38)
This coincides almost verbatim with the above Kli Hayakar: “so entrenched did they become, and so much did they wish to remain in Egypt, that God had to take them out with an outstretched arm. Those who still wished to remain, died in the three days of darkness.”
Indeed, when most of the Jews didn’t want to leave Egypt, God, so to speak, had to “cut the matter short”, and to eliminate the exile in cruel and abrupt fashion. And the first redemption, we know, is a sign for the final redemption. In our times, as well, He was forced to “pour out his anger”, and to eliminate the exile in a brutal, abrupt way.
As difficult as it may be to say these things, they must be said. For God does not abandon His supervision of the world and leave things to chance. If we believe that God indeed supervises over every minuscule aspect of our lives, then surely it is forbidden for us to suppress the Divine message that lay behind a huge event like the Holocaust. It is incumbent upon us to study carefully the words of the prophets and our sages regarding the end of days, and to see what they say about such an event, so as to understand what this “great anger” is all about.