The first Pasuk of Masei states, “Eileh Masei Venei Yisrael Asher Yatzu MeiEretz Mitzrayim LeTzivotam, BeYad Moshe VeAharon,” “These are the journeys of the children of Israel, who went forth from the land of Egypt according to their legions, by the hand of Moshe and Aaron.” The end of this Pasuk, “by the hand of Moshe and Aharon,” is interpreted by some as teaching that because it was done through human hands, our redemption from Egypt was not a permanent one. We subsequently needed to be exiled, according to this approach, because the first redemption was not done on a high enough level, i.e. by Hashem Himself.
The need for Hashem’s direct Hand in redemption expresses itself in a story of Rabbi Yehoshua of Belz, who once spent a Shabbat at a hotel in Vienna. In the midst of a “tisch” with his students, the Rebbe stopped to listen to a melodious sound coming from the adjacent room. When the Rebbe and his students walked over, they saw a young soldier sitting alone at a table, learning from a Sefer with enormous concentration.
The Rebbe waited at the door. Finally, the soldier saw him and rushed to greet him. The Rebbe then asked what was the soldier’s story was, why he was there, and why he was learning with so much intensity.
The soldier explained that when he had been drafted into the army, he had made only one request to Hashem: that he would not have to desecrate Shabbat. He miraculously had been lucky enough to be placed as a special assistant to an officer. This officer, unlike any other officer, allowed him to observe Shabbat on the condition that he work the other six days diligently.
The soldier concluded, “I vowed that if I was given the ability to keep the Shabbat every week, I would dedicate every moment of the Shabbat to serving Hashem.”
When the Rebbe left this young soldier’s room, he commented to his students, “Who knows if the Torah of that soldier is not postponing the Geulah?” The perplexed students immediately begged for an explanation. The Rebbe explained that it is possible that Hashem values this soldier’s prayers above any of the Korbanot that will be brought in the Beit Hamikdash.
The Rebbe’s words show that the future Geulah will be entirely brought by Hashem. Even though the soldier was serving Hashem so fully, which we normally assume hastens the arrival of the Geulah, it was still up to Hashem to decide what would be best. Unlike the first redemption, Hashem is ultimately in total control of this one – and it will be eternal. Editor’s note: For a different approach to redemption see Rabbi Jachter’s articles on Rabi Akiva as the role model for Religious Zionism (available at www.koltorah.org).