"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."
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
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
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
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
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
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.