Footsteps of Redemption

July 23, 2023

There was a time, not very long ago, when a Bible believer could turn on the TV and comfortably watch the innocent fare available on the tube. These wholesome shows included “The Honeymooners,” “The Brady Bunch,” and “Mister Ed,” featuring talking horses, well-behaved kids, and some good-natured husband/wife humor. But today? Buyer beware! Even the “tame” television shows are filled with profanity, sexuality and subversive messages that undermine morality.

And today’s Politicians, celebrities and cultural leaders? At best, they generally ignore God as “irrelevant” – maybe there is a God, maybe there, isn’t but we certainly don’t need to talk about Him!  At worst, they actively mock religious believers as out-of-touch fools. Basic principles of biblical theology and morality are trampled every day.

It was not very long ago that President Kennedy famously told the nation: “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” – an orientation towards life that aligns with biblical values of humility and service. Nowadays? We live in a culture that is extraordinarily self-absorbed, which tells us that life is all about me and making me happy.

We are living in a world gone mad. Synagogues and churches throughout America are empty. Men believe they are women, and women believe they are men. And everywhere truth is presented as falsehood and falsehood as truth. “Because honesty stumbles in the public square and uprightness cannot enter.” (Isaiah 59:14)

As the world turns away from God and upside down, how can God-fearing believers maintain their faith?

In a teaching that eerily reflects our own time, the sages explain that the generation during which the final redemption will arrive will have the following characteristics: “The wisdom of the scholars will become foul; those who fear sin will be despised; the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog (one will not be ashamed to do questionable acts before another); truth will be absent… and he who turns away from evil will be considered mad by other people.” (Sanhedrin 97a)

In Jewish tradition, the “upside down” generations before the final redemption are referred to as the “Ikva D’Meshicha,” the “heels (footsteps) of redemption.” It is the time just before the final days, when the “heels” or “footsteps” of the Messiah can already begin to be heard.

This week, Jews around the world will read the Torah portion called “Ekev” (Deuteronomy 7:1211:25), which literally means “heel.”

“And it will be, if you will heed these ordinances [of the “heel”] and keep them and perform, that the Lord, your God, will keep for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers, and He will love you, and bless you, and multiply you.” (Deuteronomy 7:12-13)

According to Rabbi Shlomo Rabinowicz (1801-1866), the Bible uses this verse to teach something very important to faithful believers living in the final generations before the redemption. God is saying: “If you are able to follow My ways and keep My commandments, even during these upside-down generations before the redemption when most people turn away from Me – I will love you, bless you, multiply you and protect you!”

God understands how difficult it is to serve Him in a world that is so self-obsessed and materialistic – and so He deeply appreciates all of our efforts to serve Him! As Rabbi Rabinowicz explains: “It is important for every person to understand that during the final darkness of the exile [before the redemption], every effort we make to serve God, every effort we make to pray and study the Bible – even if it is only a small effort – is precious in the eyes of God and equivalent to the great holiness of earlier generations. And so every man must arise with strength and fear of God at this time, as if the King Himself is lovingly waiting by the gate for him to return home.”

Yes – we live in crazy times, when so much of the world has gone mad. But the confusion of our time is a harbinger of the redemption that is soon to come. And it is precisely now, when our culture has turned against God, that our worship and service of God matters more than ever! For if we can faithfully serve Him, if we bring God’s light into the world even as the powerful waves of our secular culture threaten to extinguish that light, what could possibly be more precious to God?

Rabbi Elie Mischel

Rabbi Elie Mischel is the Director of Education at Israel365. Before making Aliyah in 2021, he served as the Rabbi of Congregation Suburban Torah in Livingston, NJ. He also worked for several years as a corporate attorney at Day Pitney, LLP. Rabbi Mischel received rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. Rabbi Mischel also holds a J.D. from the Cardozo School of Law and an M.A. in Modern Jewish History from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. He is also the editor of HaMizrachi Magazine.

Rabbi Elie Mischel

Rabbi Elie Mischel

Rabbi Elie Mischel is the Director of Education at Israel365. Before making Aliyah in 2021, he served as the Rabbi of Congregation Suburban Torah in Livingston, NJ. He also worked for several years as a corporate attorney at Day Pitney, LLP. Rabbi Mischel received rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. Rabbi Mischel also holds a J.D. from the Cardozo School of Law and an M.A. in Modern Jewish History from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. He is also the editor of HaMizrachi Magazine.

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