Torah Sparks: Shabbat Hagadol – V’ga’alti by Rabbi Cantor Eliezer Kepecs

“V’hotzeiti, v’hitzalti, v’ga’alti, v’lakachti.”  The fourfold divine promise of liberation found in Exodus 6:6, “I will bring you out from under the burdens of Egypt; I will rescue you from their bondage; I will redeem you with an outstretched arm; I will take you for my people.”  This concept manifests itself in the four cups of wine which we drink on Pesach, the four questions, the four sons.  Three of these ideas are self evident.  “V’hotzeiti etchem mitachat sivlot mitzrayim,” I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. “V’hitzalti etchem me’avodatam,” I will rescue you from their bondage. “V’lakachti etchem li l’am, v’hayiti lachem leilohim” I will take you for my people, and I will be unto you a God. Our tradition holds that these ideas did take place; that they did come to fruition.  One concept, however, is not so easily understood.  “V’ga’alti,” I will redeem you.

What is redemption?  The dictionary translates redemption as:  repurchase, buyback, or salvation, the act of delivering from sin, saving from evil; atonement and expiation.  The feast of Pesach is about redemption.  Exodus 13:8 instructs that one of the main mitzvoth of the Seder is to retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, and how B’nei Yisroel, the Children of Israel were saved from the oppression of that empire.  In fact at the Seder, he, who has not recounted the story, has not fulfilled his obligation, even though he drank four cups of wine, and ate matzoh, and maror, as the biblical account commands us to do.  We also have a fifth cup of wine, the Kos Eliyahu because of the phrase “V’heiveiti” I will bring you into the land of Canaan.  Since it is our tradition that Eliyahu will act as the herald of the Mashiach, the Messiah, in the end of days, it is appropriate that this last cup be reserved exclusively for him.

The Rambam, Maimonides 12th principle of Jewish faith states: “Ani ma’amin b’emunah sh’leyma b’viat hamashiach…” I firmly believe in the coming of the Messiah; and although he may tarry, I daily wait for his coming.”  The Rambam’s 13 principles are also reflected in our Yigdal prayer which states: “Yishlach l’ketz yamin m’shicheynu, lifdoth m’chakei ketz y’shuato.”  “By the end of days, He will send our Messiah to redeem those longing for His final salvation.”  When is this “End of Days?”  When the seventh millenium from the time of Adam and Eve comes around – the year 6,000.  Since our Jewish calendar currently reads 5,772 corresponding to the secular calendar of 2011-2012, we still have up to 228 years left, though he can come sooner than that, if we are worthy of his presence.

The Jews for Jesus, who are not actually Jews at all, but are indeed Christians, love this whole concept.  They tend to twist the Passover’s meaning into a time where their “paschal lamb” will one day reappear.  Sure, they will observe the holiday with cups of wine, matzos, and other traditional Passover symbols, but they alter the Jewish traditions, holding that the wine symbolizes their savior’s blood, the matzoth, his body, and the three matzoth on the table as the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.  Traditional Judaism holds that the Mashiach will be a regular person, born human, and he himself does not even know that he is going to be appointed as the Mashiach.  In every generation, there are 36 possible candidates, which we call the “Lamed vavnicks,” for the appointment of “Melech HaMashiach,” “King Messiah.”   When the time is right, God would come to him, giving him instruction, just like He gave to Moses. He may show the designated one, signs and wonders.  Chapter 11 of Hilchot Melachim Umilchamoteihem among other sources, explains that if the Mashiach, a mere mortal person born of man should die before his divine job has been completed, then he was not the Mashiach.  So what is his job??  A God fearing individual and a Tzaddik, a righteous person, the Mashiach must create world peace, according to Ezekiel’s extensive visions.  He must commence the in-gathering of the Hebraic exiles, and the ten lost tribes of Israel.  He must re-establish the Davidic reign, and the Judaic kingdom, and build the Third Temple in its proper place in Jerusalem, on the Temple Mount where the mosque, the Dome of the Rock, now stands.  He must resurrect the dead, as in Ezekiel’s vision of the “Valley of the Dry Bones.”  No matter what this person’s “special abilities” and “gifts” might be, if the designated one does not do all these things within his lifetime, he cannot be called the Mashiach, but should be treated as the other prophets, or even a heretical False Messiah, if he preached against biblical law, such as against observing the Shabbat, Brit Milah, and the other biblical laws and precepts of Judaism.

So when will this Mashiach get the divine signal to reveal himself? “The Rav,” Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik’s passing in 1993, sparked a discussion about whether the “right-wingers” showed adequate respect for the Rabbi.  The discussion snowballed into Rabbi Soloveichik’s shitas (opinions), Yeshiva University’s shitas, and which Yeshiva University’s shitas Rabbi Soloveichik agreed with.  Many people at that time, and still today, do not seem to understand how HUGE the gap is between YU and “the right-wing.”  Many people on the “right” vehemently oppose everything YU stands for, or at least what they think it stands for, and will not give any respect to anybody or anything connected to it.  Each group had extremely harsh statements about the other group.  Very few people in the opposing groups seem to recognize any good that the other accomplishes.  Anything good that happens in this world, seems to be because of their own group’s accomplishments.  Any evil is the other group’s fault.

I recently re-read a poem, which was composed in 1993 by Rabbi Yitzchok Feigenbaum, in response to the events following the passing of Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik.

T’was the night of the ge’ulah,
and in every single shteibel,
sounds of Torah could be heard,
coming from every kind of Yeidel.

This one in English,
some in Hebrew, some in Yiddish,
some saying p’shat,
and some saying chiddush.

And up in shomayim,
the Aibishter decreed,
“The time has come
for My children to be freed.

Rouse the Mashiach
from his heavenly berth,
have him get in his chariot
and head down to Earth.”

The Moshiach got dressed,
and with a heart full of glee,
went down to the Earth, and entered
the first shteibel he did see.

“I’m the Moshiach,
Hashem has heard your plea,
your ge’ulah has come,
it is time to go free!”

They all stopped their learning,
this was quite a surprise,
And they looked at him carefully
with piercing sharp eyes.

“He’s not the Mashiach!”
said one with a grin,
“Just look at his hat,
at the pinches and brim!”

“That’s right!”, cried another
with a grimace and a frown,
“Whoever heard of Mashiach
with a brim that is down?!”

“Well”, thought Mashiach,
“If that is the rule,
I’ll turn my brim up
before I go to the next shul!”

So he walked on right over
to the next shul in town,
confident to be accepted
since his brim was no longer down.

“I’m the Mashiach!”, he cried
as he began to enter.
But the Jews there wanted to know first,
if he was left, right, or center.

“Your clothes are so black!”
they cried out in a fright.
“You can’t be Mashiach —
you’re much too far right!

If you want to be Mashiach,
you must be properly outfitted.”
So they replaced his black hat
with a kipa that was knitted.

Wearing his new kipa,
Mashiach went out and he said,
“No difference to me
what I wear on my head.”

So he went to the next shul,
for his mission was dear,
But he was getting a bit frustrated
with the Yidden down here.

“I’m the Mashiach!” he cried,
and they all stopped to stare.
And a complete eerie stillness
filled up the air.

“You’re the Mashiach?!
Just imagine that.
Whoever heard of Mashiach
without a black hat?!”

“But I do have a hat!”
the Mashiach then said.
So he pulled it right out
and plunked it down on his head.

Then the Shul started laughing,
and one said, “Where’s your kop?
You can’t have Mashiach
with a brim that is up!

If you want to be Mashiach,
and be accepted in this town,
put some pinches in your hat,
and turn that brim down!”

Mashiach walked out and said,
“I guess my time hasn’t really come,
I’ll just have to return
to where I came from.

So he went to his chariot,
but as he began to enter,
all sorts of Jews appeared,
from left, right, and center.

“Please wait, do not leave,
it’s all THEIR fault!” they said,
And they pointed to each other,
and to what was on each other’s head.

Mashiach just looked sad,
and said, “You don’t understand.”
And then started up his chariot
to get out of this land.

“Yes, it’s very wonderful,
that all of you learn Torah,
But you seem to have forgotten,
a crucial part of our mesorah.”

“What does he mean?
What’s he talking about?”
And they all looked bewildered,
and all began to shout.

Mashiach looked back and answered,
“The first place to start,
is to shut up your mouths,
and open up your heart.

To each of you, certain Yidden
seem too frum or too frei
but ALL Yidden are beloved,
in the Aibeshter’s eye.”

And on his way up he shouted,
“If you want me to come,
try working a little harder
on some ahavas chinam.”

When we are worthy of the coming of the Mashiach, then, and only then, will he make his appearance.  At that time, during Pesach, v’ga’alti, the divine promise of redemption, will take place on this Earth.

–by Cantor Eliezer Kepecs

Written and presented by Rabbi Cantor Lawrence Eliezer Kepecs. All rights reserved. No part of this speech may be reproduced in any way, without mention of the copyright’s name.


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2 Responses to Torah Sparks: Shabbat Hagadol – V’ga’alti by Rabbi Cantor Eliezer Kepecs

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