We are living in a generation wherein we can actually hear the footsteps of redemption. All one has to do to truly hear it is to open one’s eyes and see. We see pictures of the emaciated survivors arriving from the death camps of Europe and remember the prophet Ezekiel describing the bones beginning to wear sinews and flesh (Ezekiel 37). We look towards the city called Jerusalem reunited in 1967 and can then understand the verse from psalms “”Jerusalem that is built like a city, in which all is re-united together.” (Psalms 122:3). We watch the children playing in the streets of the old City and hear Zechariah prophesying “and the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets.” (Zechariah 8:4-5) .We hold a fruit in our hand and ponder the prophecy of Ezekiel “But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to My people Israel; for they are quickly coming( Ezekiel 36:8)
The signs are all around us. Why then, are so many of us deaf to the sound and call of redemption.
Moshe called out to his people; “Moshe spoke thus to the children of Israel, but they did not hearken to Moshe because of [their] shortness of breath and because of [their] hard labor.( Exodus 6:9. )
Ibn Ezra writes “And he spoke and they did not hear – They didn’t pay heed to his words because their spirit was impatient by virtue of the long exile and the hard work that had been placed on them anew. ”
The Ramban writes” It was not that they did not believe in G-d and in His prophet. rather they paid no attention to his words because of impatience of spirit, as a person whose soul is grieved on account of his misery and does not want to live another moment in his suffering even though he knows that he will be relieved later.
The oppression of slavery had diminished their ability to hope. During slavery the only direction possible for one’s eyes are the few meters before one’s feet. Looking towards the heavens had become an impossible feat. After hundreds of years of bondage and slavery, the children of Israel lost the courage to experience faith and dreams.
Yet when it seemed they were beyond retrieval, the outside world began to deteriorate:
“And it came to pass in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died; and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And G-d heard their groaning, and G-d remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God saw the children of Israel, and God took cognizance of them.” (Exodus 2:23-25)
When the powers around them descend into chaos, the people found enough vision and voice to cry out. The sigh represented a spark of a hope. Yet “they didn’t pay heed to his words because their spirit was impatient”
Reb Nachman of Breslov points to a verse in Kohellet /Ecclesiates ;
” The end of a thing is better than its beginning; better the patient in spirit ( erech ruach) than the haughty in spirit ( Gvah Ruach) ( Ecclesiates 7:8).
Reb Nachman teaches that the words” patient in spirit ( erech ruach) is literally translated as “long in spirit” Such people are people of long and patient faith. The Hebrew slaves had not lost their belief in G-d and in His prophet. ” And the people believed, and they heard that HaShem had remembered the children of Israel, and they kneeled and prostrated themselves.”(Exodus 4:31). They had lost faith in themselves and in their worthiness. Their spirit was “short “ and broken. They simply could not see themselves worthy of such a redemption.
So it is with our generation. We remember our ancestors who were so much more spiritual. We look at the world that has faded and think of how much purer it was. We cannot imagine that we are the generation that is to hear the call of redemption. As a result we end up with leadership that flounder and swagger from one opinion poll to another. We have ideologues that have lost track of their unique destiny and calling. We have statesmen who want to appease rather than lead.
It is time that we learned to open our eyes and our ears because the call is resounding, in spite of the fact that we may not be worthy. We are in fact suffering from “shortness of breath and spirit”
Instead we fill our days with passionate pursuit of material gains and physical desires. We rush through our life, never stopping to pause and reconsider. We too are oppressed with “hard labor”.
Yet it is not our worthiness that is bringing about the change. It is occurring despite our being distracted with our busy work, our “hard labor”.
“Therefore, say to the house of Israel; So says HaShem G-d: Not for your sake do I do this, O house of Israel, but for My Holy Name, which you have profaned among the nations to which they have come. … For I will take you from among the nations and gather you from all the countries, and I will bring you to your land. And I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you will be clean; from all your impurities and from all your abominations will I cleanse you. .(Ezekiel 36:22-25)”