On the Aftermath of Exile

Parashas Shemini recounts the events of the day the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was inaugurated. Correspondingly, one of the Midrashim on parashas Shemini discusses the era of the third Beis HaMikdash (Holy Temple) in the end of days, which is also the topic of the haftarah for the eighth day of Pesach outside of Eretz Yisrael. The Midrash, as the Maggid explains it, also sheds light on the aftermath of the Exodus from Egypt. The Midrash reads as follows (Vayikra Rabbah 11:2):
“With all forms of wisdom she built her house” (Mishlei 9:1) – this refers to the [third] Beis HaMikdash …. “She hewed out its seven pillars” (ibid., end) – these are the seven years of Gog. … All these seven years, the handles of swords, spears, and knives will be used for firewood. As it is written (Yechezkel 39:9): “Then the inhabitants of the cities of Yisrael will go out and kindle fires and fuel them with weapons, with shields and bucklers, with bows and with arrows, with clubs and with spears – they will fuel fires with them for seven years.” These seven years are the preliminary feast of the righteous before the future era, as indicated by the saying: “Those who dine at the pre-wedding feast will dine at the wedding feast.”
The Maggid explains this Midrash as follows. When we were in Egypt, we lived in a state of deprivation. We did not receive the standard measure of bounty that Hashem usually allots. Hashem made up for this deficit later, when we entered the Land of Israel. Just before we entered the land, Hashem told us that He would grant us “large and goodly cities that you did not build, houses filled with all sorts of good that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, and vineyards and olive-trees that you did not plant,” and He cautioned us to take care that these blessings not lead us to forget Him (Devarim 6:10-12). The word of caution was vitally necessary here, since the blessing was an unconditional grant that Hashem was conveying irrespective of how we would behave. Hashem was giving us an abundance of bounty which we did not have to work for at all or earn in any way, and which had no strings attached, as restitution for the bounty He withheld from us during our stay in Egypt. Similarly, at the time of the final redemption, Hashem will convey to us all the bounty He withheld from us during our time in exile. The Midrash above relates to this payment of restitution.
The Maggid brings out the point with an analogy. Suppose a traveler buys various food items at an inn. He can then ask the innkeeper to let him use a stove and some pots, and the innkeeper will surely oblige. But if he buys food from one inn and then goes to the inn next door and asks the innkeeper there for the use of a stove and some pots, the innkeeper will baldly turn him away, saying: “Go to where you bought this food, and use their stove and pots.” The parallel is as follows. At each given point in time, Hashem provides food to the world, and makes available the means for cooking the food, such as, for example, trees of the forest that can be used for firewood. Now, at the time of the final redemption, Hashem will give us extra bounty, as restitution for bounty He withheld from us previously. It stands to reason that the fuel for cooking the extra food not come from the trees standing at that time, but rather from wood that is available from before, and, indeed, thus the Midrash teaches. The seven years of Gog constitute the preliminary stage of payment of the reward stored away for the righteous, and during these seven years the firewood will come from wood already at hand – the handles of swords, spears, and knives.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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