The Bitter Path to Redemption

April 23, 2024

Why must we go through this war? Why must so many heroic Israelis suffer so terribly? As Jews, we take pride in avoiding the question of why (la-mah), focusing instead on what (le-mah) God is calling us to do. Until redemption fully arrives, we won’t have all the answers. But my heart tells me that we must try to understand the broad contours of God’s plan. 

Moses, of course, had a fair point. Hadn’t the people suffered enough? Why did God send him to Pharaoh, only to make the situation even worse than it already was? And if Moses could ask this question, can’t we?

God responds by urging Moses to step back and see the bigger picture:

In other words: “Do not look only at this particular moment in time. Yes, My people are suffering terribly at this moment, but their suffering is necessary to bring a salvation far greater than anything you can imagine.”

“For distress shall come like a river; the spirit of God is wondrous in it. And a redeemer shall come to Zion…” (Isaiah 59:19–20). Rabbi David Kimche explains: “‘For distress shall come like a river’ refers to the war against Gog and Magog, who will bring distress to the Land of Israel. But then the spirit of God will arrive and erase them from the world… and then ‘a redeemer shall come to Zion.’” God is quite clear, in this verse and many others, that redemption will come through suffering. But why must Israel endure the excruciating pain of war before she finally enjoys peace?

“It is a general principle: whenever God wishes to elevate a person or the world, whenever God wishes to bring good to the world, it only occurs through a deep and hidden plan. For this reason, pain inevitably occurs before the good. As the Sages themselves say, ‘God gave three gifts to Israel, and all of them came through suffering. These are: The Torah, the Land of Israel and the world to come’” (Rabbi Moses Hayyim Luzzato, Da’at Tevunot 146).

Painful as it is, there is a direct correlation between suffering and greatness. Reflecting on the premature death of her parents from illness and the terrible hardships she and her brother were forced to endure throughout her childhood, the author Mary McCarthy writes: “If they had both lived, we would have been a united Catholic family, rather middle class and wholesome… I can see myself married to an Irish lawyer and playing golf and bridge, making occasional retreats and subscribing to a Catholic Book Club. I suspect I would be rather stout… The fact is, Kevin and I are the only members of the present generation of our family who have done anything out of the ordinary… Was it a good thing, then, that our parents were ‘taken away,’ as if by some higher design?” (Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, 16–17).

True growth requires resistance. When good is not progressing and fails to actualize its potential, forces of evil oppose the good and force it to awaken, move forward and develop in ways it never imagined it could. 

This is the answer to Moses’ question.

The more the Egyptians persecuted us, the more children we had and the stronger we became. Painful as it was, the affliction was necessary to become the nation we are meant to be.

God has chosen our generation for greatness. The path may be bitter, but great days await.

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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 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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