“Let us deal wisely with them, in case they increase, and in the event that war occurs and they join our enemy and fight against us and escape the land.” (Shemos 1:10)
WE TAKE IT FOR GRANTED, but the similarities between the processes of giving birth and of redemption are similar in some obvious and some not so obvious ways as well. Understanding some of both helps to put into perspective the events of this week’s parshah, and our present stage of history as well. For as mentioned in the past, quite a few comparisons are made between the leaving of Egypt and the Final Redemption (Sanhedrin 111a).
This is especially true Kabbalistically. Every new creation is a function of a new light that has come into the world, which is always a function of what is called a zivug, or pairing, the same word used to describe a match between a man and woman for the sake of marriage. In order to create something new in Creation, a zivug has to take place between certain specific sefiros in the uppermost realms, usually between Chochmah and Binah, which results in the creation of a new light.
There are similar stages of development as well. There is ibur, or impregnation, and laidah, or birth, and yenikah, or nursing, the period of time the new light receives additional light in a certain mode, before becoming an independent world of its own. Like a fetus, the new world begins as a “seed” of light called M”N (pronounced “mann”), which is elevated either by God or through the actions of man, specifically as a result of the performance of mitzvos and the learning of Torah.
However, all of that takes place beyond our ability to see. We don’t really know what is happening in the spiritual realm until it starts to manifest itself in the physical realm, making up our history. All of the events and people of everyday life are just the result of lights that are born, enhanced, or reduced in the spiritual realm, as per the will of God, as per the actions of man.
There are different stages to the birth process. For the first few months, it is not even evident to the world that a woman may be expecting. Likewise, at the beginning of the development of Moshiach, it is not even apparent to the world that Moshiach has been conceived and is in the process of development on the way to birth. The world, including the Jewish people, just goes about its business as usual.
Indeed, when Moshe Rabbeinu was born, only his sister Miriam saw in his birth the promise of a future redemption. Their father, Amram, the leader of the Jewish people, was skeptical, and likewise so was the rest of the Jewish people. And with good reason: the exile was bad and getting worse, and there was still much to go through before Moshe Rabbeinu would assume his role as redeemer.
After the first trimester, in general, it becomes apparent that a woman is expecting. Likewise, at a certain point in the development process of Moshiach, events occur to indicate that Moshiach is in the works. However, just as a woman can, God forbid, lose the child at any time, likewise, the Messianic process can slow down, or be temporarily aborted, because it is not yet time for him to come.
Then, as the baby grows to its full pre-birth capacity, the woman’s life revolves around the extra weight she is caring around, and the date she is due to give birth. It is not much different when it comes to history: as Moshiach comes close to arrival, the lives of many come to revolve around that time, and some literally adjust their lives in anticipation of the “delivery” date.
However, it is rare for a baby to be born smoothly, without much difficulty that is called chevlei leidah, birth pains. It is for many, without a doubt, the most difficult part of the birth process, and perhaps the most dangerous as well. One of the great ironies of life is how in the process of giving life to a new born baby the mother who bore it can lose her own.
Chevlei Moshiach is no different. As the time for Moshiach becomes more imminent, there is danger for the generation that gives birth to him. At the very least, there is pain, with times that look as if Moshiach is about to be born any second, only to see him swallowed up again as history “contracts,” seemingly pushing off his birth somewhat longer. Like the mother who has had enough and just wants to give birth already, the Jewish people sigh, and then are forced to prepare themselves for the next opportunity for his arrival.
Losing Gush Katif in 2005 was such a contraction.
Increased anti-Semitism is such a contraction.
World pressure on Israel is such a contraction.
The War of Gog and Magog, though, will be, by definition, the final birth pang through Moshiach will enter the world and subdue it.
For quite a while, in Egypt, Pharaoh was able to stave off Moshe Rabbeinu’s attacks on Egypt, leaving him on his throne, and Moshe and Aharon his brother to regroup and prepare for the next round. And the Jewish people, those who still dared to hope, had to deal with additional disappointment and prolonged oppression, which probably compelled many to abandon the idea of leaving Egypt altogether.
But, even though it took 80 years for Moshe to become Moshe Rabbeinu, a seemingly false start that only instigated Pharaoh, and then an additional year of plagues to finally break down the iron wall of Egyptian security, there was a single moment in time at which point the pendulum changed its direction and began to swing in the opposite direction.
It may not have been apparent at the time; it rarely is. Emotions are extremely powerful, and what we feel at any given moment in time colors what we perceive at that time. Our eyes see things happen, and somewhere, in some quiet part of our brain a voice may say, “Could this be that?” But, since the emotions are crying out with their feelings of the moment, it is a voice that is barely heard, if at all, and so important tell-tale moments may pass unnoticed.
Later on, after redemption has occurred, and our emotions have calmed down once again, we may look back and say, “You see, that was that moment after all. That’s when things began to turn in our favor, even though it was a while after that we actually benefited from it.” We become like the new mother, who, holding her newborn baby in comfort and with joy, recounts fondly the birth that, at the time, almost made her lose herself.
Some, at such moments, have hit their husbands, or anyone else within striking range. Others have sworn off all future childbirth. Pain is a powerful distraction, and it can turn a person upside down. It is certainly turning many Jews upside down who have found it easier to join the them than fight them, cooperating with the enemy against their own people.
When you think about it, it is amazing that God has made childbirth such a painful, and sometimes even a dangerous process. And, not just childbirth, but pre- and after-birth as well. Last night I helped celebrate the marriage of the daughter of a good friend of mine. It was a great simchah. The day before, I had to help console someone who, six months after giving birth, was depressed because of the responsibility it has strapped her with.
I am no stranger to this. My wife began an organization years ago devoted to helping women who suffer from the more severe effects of Postpartum Depression, and when I say severe, I mean severe. And, raising money to keep the organization going, which literally saves lives and keeps families together, something that is supposed to be incredibly central to the Jewish people, is extremely difficult, worse than pulling teeth.
You can blame the donors for their shortsightedness, and maybe God will. But, at the end of the day, it is God Who runs the world, and Who inspires the money people to give where they do as they do. If raising funds to save Jewish families and children is hard to do, that is the way God wants it, as much as we think He should want it the other way around.
We could blame Adam and Chava. Just as they are the reason why childbirth and raising children is difficult, they are also the reason why bringing Moshiach into the world is so painful. All that has gone wrong began that fateful day, indeed, that fateful hour, indeed, that fateful moment when they listened to the snake, disobeyed God, and ate from the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Rah.
In fact, when Moshe Rabbeinu went back down to Egypt and caused the slavery to increase, and the people complained to him, he could have answered, and rightly so, “What do you want from me? I wasn’t the one who ate from the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Rah against the will of God! Talk to Adam HaRishon if you have any complaints to make.”
Likewise, when a woman cries out in pain as she is about to give birth, she could cry out to God, “Why me? What did I do to warrant this much pain? I’m doing this for You, to help fulfill the commandment of being fruitful and multiply, and to populate the earth! Why should I have to pay such a heavy price for doing so?! Collect Your debt from Adam and Chava instead!”
God’s answer? I am, and I have been, for 5,770 years now.
Consider the following:
Thus, there are three types [of souls], the first being those which were not included in Adam HaRishon and which are considered to be completely new souls. The second type is the result of Adam’s sin, after which his limbs “fell off” and he was reduced until he was no higher than one 100 amos, b’sod, “and laid Your hand upon me” (Tehillim 139:5). Just as it happened to his body, so too did it happen to his soul (Chagigah 12a). The sparks of his soul which remained after the sin were necessary for Adam HaRishon himself. After the sin, he fathered Kayin and Hevel and as Chazal (Pirkei d’Rebi Eliezer, Ch. 21) and the Zohar say, it was from these sparks that they came. These are the second level. The third level are those sparks of his soul that left him at the time of the sin and which returned to the depths of the Klipos. Chazal alluded to them, calling them “limbs that fell off.” It was from this third level that the soul of Shais, the son of Adam HaRishon was taken. (Sha’ar HaGilgulim, Ch. 7)
And therefore, the rest of us. When we suffer, we are rectifying our part of Adam HaRishon’s sin, because, we were a part of him when it happened, whether we are talking about the pains of actual childbirth, which are the result of Chava’s involvement in the eating from the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Rah, or the pains of the birth of Moshiach, which are the result of Adam’s eating from the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Rah.
Hence, all the snake symbolism in the Exodus Story. As mentioned before, the gematria of nachash-snake-and Moshiach are the same, because Moshiach comes to rectify what the Original Snake caused. When Moshe Rabbeinu was told by God to pick up the snake by its tail (Shemos 4:4), it was a way of indicating that the redemption from Egypt had the potential to be the redemption of all mankind.
And, not just in Moshe’s time, but in Yosef’s time as well:
Yosef said to them, “What have you done? Didn’t you know that a man like me can divine-nachesh yenachesh?” (Bereishis 44:15)
Encoded in the last four words of the verse, starting with the Mem of “kamoni,” and with a skip of two letters, is the word Moshiach backwards.
Hence, just in advance of the resolution of the brothers, which the Haftarah of Vayigash says is part-and-parcel of the Final Redemption, there is an allusion to the snake, and Moshiach, as if to day, “If we get this right, we can finally rectify Adam’s sin, and bring Moshiach in our time.”
Too bad the brothers didn’t pick up on the opportunity. Because they didn’t, the souls of Adam just keep on splitting over the course of time, and they keep on spreading throughout the course of history, dividing up what is left of the tikun until the very last one is performed.
Today, in our time, with such intense historical contractions, can the final tikun be too far off?
Copyright © by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Project Genesis, Inc.
Rabbi Winston has authored many books on Jewish philosophy (Hashkofa). If you enjoy Rabbi Winston’s Perceptions on the Parsha, you may enjoy his books. Visit Rabbi Winston’s online book store for more details! www.thirtysix.org