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25 Teves 5762 - January 9, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
The Four Leshonos of Geulah

by HaRav Shammai Zahn, zt"l

"Therefore, say to the Bnei Yisroel, I am Hashem, and I shall take you out shall take you out from under the burdens of Mitzrayim, and I shall rescue you from their slavery, and I shall redeem you with an outstretched Arm and with great judgments, and I shall take you to Me as a Nation." (Shemos 6:6)

Chazal teach us that these four leshonos of geulah -- the four terminologies of Redemption which Hashem used to spell out His Salvation to the Jewish People -- correspond to the four empires which ruled over us during our history as a Nation. The four kingdoms are: Bovel, Poras Umodai, Yovon, and Edom.

The first exile began with the Churban Bayis Rishon. Nevuchadnetzar burned the Bais Hamikdosh and waged war against the Bnei Yisroel in Eretz Yisroel. Yes, then he ruthlessly killed thousands, R"l. However, for those remaining, it was a relatively light exile during which there were no persecutions, and no mass killings. They were brought to Bovel as slaves, yet enjoyed a peaceful life. They only bemoaned the fact that they could not return to Eretz Yisroel, as stated (Tehillim 137:1) "Al naharos Bovel, shom yoshavnu gam bochinu!"

Regarding this first golus, Hashem promised us "Vehotzeisi eschem" -- and I will take you out; I promise you that you will return to Eretz Yisroel, and there will be an end to this exile.

The second kingdom, the Persian empire of Poras Umodai who conquered the Babylonians, was the kingdom of Achashveirosh. The wicked Haman "sought to wipe out, destroy, and annihilate all the Jews." Regarding this decree came Hashem's promise of "Vehitzalti eschem" -- I will rescue you from the danger of death and annihilation. This was the miracle of Purim.

The Greek empire -- Malchus Yovon -- ruled during the second Beis Hamikdosh. The Jewish Nation then dwelled in Eretz Yisroel, but we were not independent. The Yevonim decreed terrible gezeiros to cause us "to forget Your Torah, and remove us from the Laws of Your Will." Regarding these decrees, Hashem promised us "Vego'alti eschem" -- and I will redeem you. We would triumph over the Yevonim, succeeding to be free once again to keep the Torah as we wished.

Malchus Edom, the Roman Empire, is the one who destroyed the second Beis Hamikdosh. Thereafter, began our long and difficult golus of close to two thousand years! We have been dispersed among the nations, to all four corners of this earth. As a result, many became assimilated, forgetting their priceless heritage as the children of Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov. Many have gravitated terribly towards the ways of the gentiles!

In regard to this golus, Hashem promised us "Velokachti eschem"--and I will take you to Me for a Nation. The Ba'al HaTurim explains that this means even if it is against our will. Hashem will return assimilated Jews to the fold, to once again become a nation apart, even if it is against their will. Time and again, the antisemitism, which has arisen throughout the generations, served as a reminder, that nothing would work to bring us to be like "all the rest." We are a separate people, and will remain that way forever.

In our present-day golus Edom, which is typified by assimilation, we have additionally tasted a bit of all the previous exiles combined. At times, our exile was relatively easy, with hardly any persecutions and almost no troubles, as was golus Bovel. Yet as we were threatened during golus Poras Umodai, we have undergone terrible mass killings, ruthless pogroms, and the previous generation suffered Churban Europe at the hands of Hitler yemach shemo.

In Spain over five hundred years ago, we suffered gezeiros against Yiddishkeit similar to golus Yovon. We have undergone so, so much, yet we have always emerged to see the Salvation of Hashem. As we recite in the Hagaddah shel Pesach -"Shebechol dor vo'dor, omdim oleinu lechaloseinu, veHakodosh Boruch Hu, matzileinu miyodom.."

The Eitz Yosef (printed in the Otzar Hatefillos siddur), explains the following: The paragraph "Tzur Yisroel" immediately preceding the shacharis Shemone Esrei is recited specifically then, in keeping with Chazal's adage to mention "ge'ulah somuch letefillah." This means that there is an inyan to refer to Redemption immediately prior to davening Shemone Esrei. In this paragraph, the word "Yisroel" is mentioned five times. Four times, is a reference to the four empires which Hashem redeems us from. The fifth one refers to the ge'ulas hanefesh --the spiritual redemption of our souls, which is up to us. We request siyata diShmaya for this, so that we are successfully redeemed from our bondage in this area as well.

What is ge'ulas hanefesh?

The gemora (Shabbos 105b) expounds on the posuk "You shall not have a foreign god" (Tehillim 81:10). Which foreign god can man possess within himself? Answers the gemora: this is the evil inclination.

The yetzer hora which is the foreign god in the heart of man, comprises all his sinful thoughts: lust, jealousy, hatred, etc. When these evil feelings dominate man's heart and mind, they take the form of a foreign god in the sense that he becomes totally subservient to them.

The Rambam (Hilchos Teshuva 3:13) states: "One should not think that repentance is merely for positive acts of sin such as adultery, theft, and robbery. Just as one must repent for these sins, he must additionally search out his rotten attitudes, and repent for those too -- the anger, the hatred, the jealousy and so forth."

The words of the Nefesh Hachaim (Chapter 1) are well known: "At the time that a person strays to have an impure thought of adultery, R"l --or any transgression and sin which a Jewish person might bring into his heart, Heaven forbid, such as the foreign fires of anger or other wicked desires, R"l, it is as if he is bringing a zonah -- the symbol of (Hashem's) revenge, into the Heavenly Kodesh Hakodoshim. This is far, far worse than the domination of impure powers caused by the wicked Titus bringing a zonah into the earthly Kodesh Hakodoshim."

Ge'ulas Hanefesh -- redemption of the soul -- means that man frees his heart and soul from the slavery of the yetzer hora. He banishes thoughts of lust, jealousy, and hatred, so that his heart will be free to think pure and holy thoughts. This is what we pray for at the end of the Shemoneh Esrei: "Open my heart to Your Torah, and may my soul constantly chase after Your mitzvos."

The gemora (Brochos 9b) teaches: "One who refers to redemption immediately before he prays, will not be harmed that entire day."

What is truly the connection between mentioning redemption and davening? According to the Eitz Yosef who explains that the fifth word "Yisroel" in the closing brocho of "Boruch Atoh Hashem, Go'al Yisroel" refers to the ge'ulas hanefesh, this gemora can be very well understood. Only if a person will merit to redeem his soul and purify his thoughts of all evil, can he properly pray to Hashem with all his heart. He will then be free to cling to his Maker, and to daven with perfect trust in his Creator, thus meriting special protection that entire day.

In view of the terrible matzav that we find ourselves in at present, when it is truly eis tzoroh leYaakov, R"l, and all of Klal Yisroel are davening that Hashem speedily send his Salvation, may we always remember to be "someich geulah letefillah." That is, we must banish all forbidden thoughts, both bein odom leMokom, and bein odom lechavero. In this way, we will be able to daven with a pure and whole heart, which will allow us to merit the Yeshu'a, may it come speedily in our days.

HaRav Shammai Zahn, zt"l, was rosh yeshivas Netzach Yisroel, Sunderland.

The above article appeared in the Nisan, 5751, edition of the bi-annually published Kol Hatorah journal. It has been adapted and translated with permission.

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