The Torah portion of Va’eira begins with Exodus 6:2. God speaks to Moses and explains to him that He is the God who appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that He hears the suffering of the Children of Israel, and that He will keep His promise with their forefathers and free them from the bondage of Egypt.
“Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.” (Exodus 6:9)
This exchange between God and Moses, and the subsequent repetition of the message to the Children of Israel, contains a powerful message to us, the Children of Israel, even today. God establishes the moral basis for the redemption of the Children of Israel – based on the covenant that He made with our forefathers “to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners” (Exodus 6:4). Not only did God promise the land to our forefathers, but the fact that our forefathers actually dwelled in the land already seems to give that promise extra significance. The right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel is not only a question of God’s promise, it is a question of our roots in the land.
During this passage, there are five phrases that represent redemption: “I will bring you out”, “I will deliver you”, “I will redeem you”, “I will take you”, and finally, “I will bring you into the land…” (6:6-8). At the Passover Seder, when we celebrate the redemption from Egypt, we drink four cups of wine. The number four is said to represent the four different phrases that represent redemption – the first four mentioned in these passages. But what of the fifth phrase – “And I will bring you to the land”?
Throughout our history, Jews have remembered the redemption from Egypt not only as a significant historical event but as one that would continue to be significant for centuries. Even during the worst of our persecution in strange lands, we knew that God had chosen us and had rescued us from our first persecutor, the wicked Pharaoh. But we were in exile, not in the Land of Israel, so we did not celebrate the final phrase of redemption, at least not in the same way as we celebrated the first four.
There is a fifth cup of wine at the Seder table, however, one that is placed in the center of the table and is not drunk by anyone. It is designated for Elijah the prophet, the man who will return one day to herald the arrival of the Messiah (Malachi 3:23). It is this language of redemption that refers to the return to the Land of Israel that is intimately connected to the arrival of the Messiah, and, therefore, it is this cup of wine, that we don’t yet drink.
Gadi Taub, a secular Israeli, wrote a book (in Hebrew) entitled The Settlers. The book is the author’s attempt to understand our movement. He demonstrates some understanding of our motivation, but his main criticism is aimed at the fact that the “settlers” perceive modern Zionist and Israeli events as involving redemption or the beginning of a Messianic age. But for a religious person who believes in the truth of the Scriptures, is there really any alternative vision? For centuries, as we gathered around the Passover Seder, we filled the Cup of Elijah and prayed that he would come and herald the coming of Messiah. We understood that Messiah’s coming was intimately connected with our return to the Land of Israel. If we are now returning to the Land of Israel, like never before in our history, and have even been privileged to return to the heart of the Land, to Judea and Samaria, how can we not invoke that fifth phrase of redemption, mentioned in this weeks portion: “I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord” (6:8).
This, then, is the culmination of the redemption promised by God to Moses and the Children of Israel in Egypt, so many years ago. And this then is the culmination of the redemption that we are now experiencing and that God will continue to unfold before our very eyes.
Many around the world and in our own country are like the Children of Israel – they are unable to listen to Moses because of their “broken spirit” and hard work. They miss the greater picture, and therefore, lack the faith they need to be encouraged. Thank God, there is an alternative voice gaining prominence in our country. During the war in Gaza in early 2009, every day there were Orthodox Jews, religious Zionists, interviewed on television. They were primarily parents of wounded or fallen soldiers and despite their obvious pain and suffering, expressed over and over again their faith in God and their confidence that our battle for Israel is a battle blessed by God and inspired by Him. Their faith was an inspiration for many and their words were replayed over and over, hosted by a secular media, which is usually uncomfortable with such sentiments. Unlike the Children of Israel, these incredible spiritual giants are ready for redemption and are helping others to seek their faith and reach out to God.
— Excerpt taken from Shabbat Shalom by Sondra Oster Baras.
Sondra Oster Baras was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio in an Orthodox Jewish home. Upon completing her B.A. from Barnard, she obtained her J.D. at Columbia University’s School of Law. A longtime resident of Samaria, in 1998 she opened the Israel office of Christian Friends of Israeli Communities.