Haftaras Shoftim

In this week’s haftarah, which deals with the end of days, it is written (Yeshayah 52:12):
You will not go out in haste, nor will you proceed in a flight, for Hashem will go before you, and the God of Yisrael will be your rear guard.
The Maggid presents an explanation of this verse that he heard from the Vilna Gaon. The terms flight and haste refer to two different reasons for traveling speedily. The term flight (מנוסה) refers to running away from a threat approaching from behind, while the term haste (חפזון) refers to eagerly hurrying to reach an ardently desired destination that lies ahead.
Now, the Jews who left Egypt were hurrying for both reasons. On the one hand, they were fleeing in fear from the Egyptian pursuers. On the other hand, they were rushing to draw close to the Divine Presence and to attain the glory that Hashem had promised them when He told Moshe (Shemos 3:12): “You shall serve God on this mountain.”
By contrast, in regard to the future redemption, Yeshayah tells us that we will not need to travel speedily, neither to flee from an approaching threat nor to rush to gain a desired blessing. We will not need to rush to draw close to the Divine Presence, for “Hashem will go before you” – the Divine Presence will be right in front of us. And we will not need to flee from an approaching threat, for “the God of Yisrael shall be your rear guard” – Hashem will follow behind us to guard us from all pursuers.
The Maggid then offers an alternate explanation of the verse, building on the following Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 19:6):
In this world, when the Jewish People ate the Pesach offering in Egypt, they ate it in haste, as it is written (Shemos 12:11): “And thus you shall eat it: with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staves in your hands, and you shall eat it in haste – it is a Pesach offering unto Hashem.” The reason (Devarim 16:3): “For in haste you went out of the land of Egypt.” But regarding the end of days it is written: “For you will not go out in haste, nor will you proceed in a flight.”
What is this like? Here is an analogy: A merchant came to an inn to lodge. He stayed there all day. In the night he got up, took everything in the inn, and went on his way. The innkeeper got up in the morning and began to scream: “Look, this dealer got up in the night, and took everything I had and left!” The dealer heard this and said to himself: “What caused me to hear this screaming? It is because I left at night. So now I swear that I will never leave at night again.”
Similarly, the Jewish People prepared during the night to leave in the early morning. The Egyptians got up after they left and said: “Let’s chase after them, for they took everything we had!” As it is written (Shemos 14:9): “And Egypt pursued them.” Said the Holy One Blessed Be He: “What caused you all this? The haste with which you left. But in the future, you will not go out in haste. In the past, I went ahead of you together with My court.” As it is written (ibid. 13:21): “And Hashem went ahead of them in the daytime.” [In Bereishis Rabbah 51:2, the Midrash states that whenever it is written “And Hashem,” it means Hashem and His court.] “But in the end of days I will go ahead of you alone.” As it is written: “Hashem will go before you, and the God of Yisrael will be your rear guard.”
The Maggid asks: What advantage is there in the fact that in the end of days we will not go out in haste? He answers by explaining that the haste with which we left Egypt was to our detriment. Hashem had told Avraham that we would be in exile for 400 years. But in the end Hashem took us out early, after only 210 years in exile, because we had fallen to such a dismal state that it was perilous for us to stay in Egypt for longer. Since we left prematurely, we had to make up for the lost years by going into exile again. But in regard to the end of days it is written (Yeshayah 60:20): “Your days of mourning will be completed.” Our sojourn in exile will completely fulfill its purpose, and there will be no further exile.
This is the message of the Midrash. In the verse from our haftarah, the term go out denotes departure from the place where we had been, while the term proceed denotes the process of traveling from our departure point to our destination. When we left Egypt, we proceeded (at least initially) in a flight, for the Egyptians were pursuing us. The Midrash says that the reason we were pursued is because we went out in haste. But the final redemption will not take place prematurely, but at its proper time. And we will be permanently freed from the bonds of exile the moment the time for the redemption arrives. Accordingly, our exit from the lands of our exile will not be in haste, and so we will not need to proceed in a flight.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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