The Three Weeks 5778

The King’s chain[1]

ושב יקוק אלקיך את-שבותך ורחמך ושב וקבצך מכל-העמים אשר הפיצך יקוק אלקיך שמה
Hashem will return with your captives and will have mercy on you. He will return and gather you in from all the nations from which Hashem your G-d scattered you to[2]

The Rabbis teach us[3] that Hashem attached His name to our nation’s name of Yisroel[4]. The last two letters of ישראל are “El”, which means G-d. What was the purpose of this? It’s similar to a King, who has a key to a small palace[5]. The King realized that if the key remained as it was, it would surely become lost. He therefore attached a chain to it, such that if it got lost, it would easily be recovered[6]. So too Hashem, who said that if He left the Jews as they were, they would surely become lost among the nations. He therefore attached His name to theirs. This teaches that this world is really the palace of the King[7], and the Jews are the key to that palace. If there were no Jews, it would be as if the palace was sealed off[8]. If the palace was closed, it would no longer serve any purpose. It couldn’t even be referred to as a house, as it would have no entrance. So too if there were no Jews, the world would serve no purpose.

The parable taught that if the Jews would be left as is, they would disappear among the nations. This is because the Jewish people are a separate, unique nation, unlike any other. This uniqueness is the cause of their perpetual persecution by the other nations[9]. Certainly, this oppression would naturally overpower the Jewish people, causing them to assimilate and disappear while in exile. Therefore, Hashem attached His name to His people. Meaning, the Jews are completely clung to their Creator, without any separation whatsoever. This relationship is called a “chain”[10], because a chain conjoins the key to its carrier so that it will not become lost. Therefore, Hashem binding His name to that of the Jewish people was to bind them to Him, so that they will never be lost[11].

However, there’s a different understanding of this teaching than what’s evident from a cursory reading. When it says that the Jewish people would become lost among the nations, it is not specifically referring to while they are in exile. This is because even when the Jews are not in exile, they need Hashem’s name attached to theirs. Otherwise they would become nullified among the nations, who outnumber them by many magnitudes. There would then be no key to the palace which is this world. Therefore, Hashem attached His name to that of the Jewish people. This way they would remain separate from the surrounding nations and would not become absorbed into them[12]. However, when the Jewish people are in exile, in any event they wouldn’t need to worry. This is because Hashem is with them in their exile.

The Rabbis teach us[13] that in every exile the Jews have experienced, the Divine Presence was with them. They bring various prooftexts which demonstrate that Hashem was with the Jews in the Egyptian[14] and Babylonian[15] exiles, and is with them in the current Roman exile[16]. We also learn that in the final redemption, Hashem will be with them[17]. However, this last point appears obvious. If He is with the Jewish people in their exiles, surely He will be with them when they are redeemed[18]. If He is with them in such a lowly state, surely He will be with them in their most elevated state! However, it’s the exact opposite. There’s more of a reason to say that Hashem is with us specifically in exile, as opposed to in our redemption. It’s a greater novelty to say that He will be with us even in redemption. Why is this so?

We are taught[19] that the Divine Presence rests with someone who is ill. There are two reasons for this[20]. The first is that anything that needs extra protection, receives more Divine supervision. We see this from the fact that Hashem protects the orphan, the widow[21], and the convert[22]. Therefore, someone sick, who has left their normal state of being, needs more protection. This protection comes directly from Hashem, resulting in the Divine Presence at their location. The second reason is because of the verse which says[23] that Hashem dwells with the lowly and downtrodden. This is Hashem’s mode of conduct. Therefore, the ill person who is in a lowly state of being, Hashem dwells specifically with them.

It is therefore fitting that due to these two reasons, Hashem would more likely be with the Jewish people while they are in exile. In exile, the Jews are like someone who is sick; they are outside their normal state of being. It is not natural for one nation to be under the dominion of another. Therefore, Hashem is with them in their exile. If this wasn’t so, how could the Jews have survived for so long, under such horrible subjugation and oppression? It must be that Hashem was by their side, protecting them from annihilation. Hashem also dwells with the lowly and downtrodden, which aptly describes the Jews in their exile.

However, when the Jews will finally be redeemed from their exile, a person might think that Hashem would no longer need to be with them. The Jews will no longer need special protection from their oppressors, and will no longer be in a lowly state. Therefore, we are taught that even at that time Hashem will be with the Jews. Since as stated above, Hashem attached His name to the Jewish people, making them forever inseparable. This relationship is so strong, it has survived all the exiles. As such, it will also continue in the ultimate redemption.

May we merit to see the final redemption, speedily in our days

[1] Based on Netzach Yisroel Chapter 10 s.v. ובירושלמי דתענית

[2] Deuteronomy 30:3. See note 17

[3] Yerushalmi Taanis 2:6

[4] Instead of calling us ישורון (Korbon HaEidah ad. loc.)

[5] פלטרין. Korbon HaEidah ad. loc. translates as chamber

[6] See Penei Moshe ad. loc.

[7] Since there can be no King without a people (Gevuros Hashem Chapter 47 and Tiferes Yisroel Chapter 21, among other places), the place of the people is the place of Kingship

[8] Since the Jews are the עיקר המציאות of the world, as evident from Netzach Yisroel loc. cit.

[9] Since physicality inherently opposes spirituality

[10] See Nefesh HaChaim Sha’ar Aleph Chapter 19 for a deeper explanation behind this chain

[11] See Netzach Yisroel loc. cit. where he explains why this is only true for ישראל and not for the nation of ישמעאל, who also have G-d’s name attached to theirs

[12] The concept of ביטול ברוב doesn’t apply when the minority is clearly distinguishable from the majority (Tosafos to Nazir 37a s.v. אמר; Rashba to Shabbos 29a s.v. כי אדליק; Mordechai to Chullin 10:736). See also Tosafos Yom Tov to Kilaim 2:1

[13] Megillah 29a

[14] I Samuel 2:27

[15] Isaiah 43:14

[16] ibid 23:1

[17] Based on Deuteronomy loc. cit., which says ושב יקוק אלוקיך את שבותך and not והשיב

[18] Ritvah to Ein Yaakov ad. loc. He answers that for Hashem’s honor, instead of saying that He is with us in this terribly long and great exile, where the Jews are scattered throughout the entire world, Chazal said He will be with us in our redemption

[19] Shabbos 12b

[20] Both are brought in Netzach Yisroel loc. cit., and the second one is brought in Gur Aryeh to Genesis 47:31 § 34

[21] See Rashi to Exodus 22:21

[22] See Gur Aryeh to Deuteronomy 10:18 § 15

[23] See Isaiah 57:15