From the gradual conquest of Canaan to the coming of Moshiach, the Torah teaches us that progress requires patient, consistent effort, but once conditions are met, transformation can be immediate. * Each act of kindness and each Mitzvah we perform serves as a pivotal transformation towards ushering in the era of Moshiach. * On the first reading of Parshas Eikev.
Have you ever wondered why the 'quick fix' rarely seems to be the best solution? This idea is profoundly explored in this week's Torah portion.
In Deuteronomy (7:22), God tells the Israelites that they will conquer their enemies "little by little". Here, the verse is teaching us about the value of gradualism. It reminds us that important tasks, such as the conquest of a land, cannot be rushed but require patience and time to ensure success. In a world that often seeks quick solutions and immediate results, this verse instructs us to respect the process and to appreciate that some things simply take time.
Rashi, in his commentary, brings an additional perspective. He suggests that the gradual conquest was also due to God's knowledge of the future sins of the Israelites: "It was, however, revealed before him [Moses] that they would sin in the future" (Rashi, Deut. 7:22). This commentary tells us that the slow pace was not just for practical reasons but was also a way to manage the moral and spiritual development of the Israelites, giving them time to grow and to learn from their mistakes.
Bereishit Rabba (44:12) uses a beautiful metaphor to capture this idea of toil and patience: "A person does not have a tree that yields fruit unless he has toiled and labored much over it. So too with Israel: although they toil and labor, they do not see a blessing unless they have toiled much." Just like a tree requires time and care to bear fruit, so too, the nation of Israel had to go through its own process of growth, of struggle and learning, to reach a point of blessing.
The Talmud extends this metaphor to a universal truth about personal and spiritual growth. In Sanhedrin (32a), it states: "A vessel can only be filled drop by drop." This teaches us that growth and learning are incremental. We become fuller, wiser, and more complete not in a single leap, but little by little, one experience, one lesson at a time.
Maimonides, in his Guide for the Perplexed (III, 32), reinforces this idea with a broader view, suggesting that gradual change is not just beneficial but necessary to prevent confusion and disorder: "It is also part of His wisdom that changes are not sudden, but are gradual, lest they lead to confusion and disorder." This insight carries a profound truth about human nature and the nature of society. Sudden changes can be disruptive and destabilizing, while gradual changes allow time for adjustment and assimilation.
THE TWILIGHT OR REDEMPTION
Chassidic teachings, particularly those of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, shed light on this. The Rebbe draws a parallel between the dawning of the day and the coming of the Moshiach: "Night is followed by dawn; then the sun rises, higher and higher in the heavens. So, too, will be the Redemption" (Talmud, Yoma 28b). Just like the transition from night to dawn to midday is a gradual process, the coming of Moshiach, too, is seen as a gradual transition from a world of spiritual darkness to one of spiritual light.
In this framework, every act of kindness, every Mitzvah we do, every effort we make in our personal growth and in improving the world around us, is a step towards that bright new day. While we may sometimes wish for immediate results, we must remember that change is a process, that it takes time, and that every small step we take today brings us closer to a brighter tomorrow. The idea of Moshiach is not just about waiting for the future; it's about what we can do now to bring that future closer.
The idea of gradualism versus immediacy is also expressed in the context of the coming of Moshiach, particularly in the Lubavitcher Chassidic tradition. The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, launched the "Moshiach Now" campaign, exhorting each individual to prepare themselves and the world at large for the imminent coming of Moshiach. Yet, this didn't suggest that the redemption will occur in an abrupt manner, but rather emphasized that every individual's actions at any given moment can tip the scales and bring the redemption closer.
"Moshiach Now" is a call to action, and it reflects the understanding that every mitzvah we perform, every act of kindness and every moment of Torah learning, can potentially be the final action that ushers in the era of redemption. The Rebbe constantly encouraged the performance of mitzvot and acts of goodness and kindness, as these spiritual efforts have the power to hasten the arrival of Moshiach. This is an example of the gradual change we've been discussing: each small action is a 'drop' that fills the vessel, contributing to the ultimate redemption.
In a similar vein, the phrase "miyad hem nigalim", which translates as "they are immediately redeemed", is often quoted from the Rambam (Maimonides). The Rambam states in his "Laws of Kings and Their Wars" (11:4) that once the necessary conditions are met, the redemption will come immediately, without any further delay. However, preparing for these conditions has been, and continues to be, a long and gradual process. This mirrors the idea of the gradual transition from night to dawn to broad daylight.
In this regard, the words "miyad hem nigalim" aren't suggesting an abrupt transition, but rather indicate the immediacy of redemption once the gradual process of preparation has been completed. They express the urgency and potential immediacy of redemption, which depends on our collective actions.
These teachings underscore the relationship between gradual effort and immediate transformation in Jewish thought. While the arrival of Moshiach may occur in a moment, it's the product of a lengthy, cumulative process. Our daily efforts, in performing mitzvot and acts of kindness, serve to gradually create the conditions necessary for this transformation. Therefore, although we anticipate and hope for the immediate coming of Moshiach, we recognize that our daily actions play a crucial role in making this a reality. Each day, we contribute to the transition from the metaphorical night of the current exile to the dawn of the redemption, from the gradual efforts of our daily actions to the immediate transformation of the world with the coming of Moshiach.