Shabbos Parashas Shoftim – On Suffering and Redemption

In last week’s d’var Torah, we presented a discussion by the Maggid about how the misfortunes we go through are all in actuality acts of planting toward the final redemption. David HaMelech declares (Tehillim 126:1): “When Hashem returns the captivity of Zion, it will be as if we had been dreaming.” In the end of days, the Maggid explains, we will realize that when we viewed the hardships we bore as being bad, it was if we had been dreaming, for in fact Hashem orchestrated these hardships entirely for our good. We now present the continuation of this discussion.
David declares further (ibid. 126:2): “Then our mouths will be filled with laughter and our tongues with joyous song.” Laughter is generated by situations where something is made to appear to be the exact opposite of what it really is, such as when a peasant impersonates a nobleman, wearing fancy nobleman’s clothes and mimicking a nobleman’s gestures. Shlomo HaMelech declares (Koheles 7:3): “Anger is better than geniality.” The Gemara comments (Shabbos 30b): “The anger that the Holy One Blessed Be He shows toward the righteous in this world is better than the geniality that the Holy One Blessed Be He shows toward the wicked in this world.” Hashem shows anger to the righteous and geniality to the wicked, but both are just a show – in truth, Hashem loves the righteous and hates the wicked. And the angry stance that Hashem takes toward the righteous now is only to build up their spiritual strength, to enable them to receive the blessing He has in store for them.
David continues (Tehillim 126:3): “Then they will declare among the nations, ‘Hashem has done greatly with these.’” At the time of the final redemption, the nations of the world will not recognize that all the blessings that they see coming to us are the fruit of our prior hardships. They will regard these blessings as being a spontaneous display of benevolence coming into effect just at that moment, sent our way by Hashem as a free gift. They will conclude that Hashem “has done greatly” with us – that is, He has given us more than we deserve. They will thus declare (ibid. 126:4, homiletically): “Had Hashem had done so greatly with us, we would rejoice.” That is, they will say: “If Hashem gave us free blessings like that, we would also be happy.” They will wonder why Hashem is giving blessings only to us, when He could just as well give the same blessings to them, and so they will be jealous of us. By way of analogy, if a person sees someone else get rich by working hard, he will understand and accept this outcome, but if he sees someone else finding an expensive object or receiving an expensive gift, he will feel upset and say: “Why him and not me?” This is how the nations will feel when they see our success in the end of days.
Speaking of the end of days, Yirmiyah declares (verse 31:12): “Then the virgin will rejoice with dancing, and the young men and the old together, for I will transform their mourning into joy, and I will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.” Were it the case that the blessings we will receive in the end of days will come to us spontaneously, rather than as result of prior developments, the outlook of the old would differ from that of the young men. The young men would feel total joy, for they never suffered hardships. The old, on the other hand, would feel joy only over their experiences from the point of redemption onward, but not over the experiences of the past. But since in fact the hardships are what will produce the blessings, the old will rejoice over the past as well. And so the young men and old will rejoice together – both will feel total joy over everything they experienced during their lives.
The Maggid draws an analogy to a festive meal. Putting together a festive meal involves a lot of cooking, baking, frying, and other hard work. But when the preparations are done, everyone sits down at the table and they all happily enjoy themselves.
In the Song at the Sea it is written (Shemos 15:2, following Rashi): “God’s power and vengeance were my salvation.” That is, everything we have experienced and will experience – both the powerful outpour of blessing that we will experience in the end of days and the chastisements that we have suffered throughout the course of history – everything is brought about by Hashem as part of our salvation. And therefore (the conclusion of Shemos 15:2): “This is my God and I will glorify Him, the God of my fathers and I will exalt Him.” We will glorify Hashem on account of the blessing He will shower upon us, and exalt Him on account of the many misfortunes that our fathers went through, which produce the eventual blessing.
In the opening verses of Tehillim 126, David HaMelech speaks of the process of suffering producing blessing. The remainder of the psalm reads as follows:
Return our captivity, Hashem, like rushing streams through dry land. Those who sow with tears will reap with joy. The one bearing the measure of seed walks along weeping, but he will come home with joy, bearing his sheaves.
David declares: “I know that our suffering now is meant to produce blessing in the end. But we have already had our fill of ‘bad dreams.’ So please return our captivity now. The time has come for those who sowed with tears to reap with joy. We are walking along weeping from our troubles. We experience our suffering now as real, not as a mere dream. So show us gracious compassion by bringing the day when we will come home with joy, bearing our sheaves.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.