Seeds and Hands by Rabbi Ezra Wiener


Many of us take comfort in the statement quoted in the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 10:1) that affirms that every member of Kelal Yisrael has a share in the World to Come. The Mishnah utilizes a Pasuk from Yeshayahu (60:21), the last Pasuk in this week’s Haftarah, as a proof text for this teaching: “VeAmeich Kulam Tzaddikim LeOlam Yirshu Aretz,” “And your people are all righteous; forever they will inherit the land.” This Pasuk continues to describe the Jewish people as a nation that brings glory to God, but in this description an apparent redundancy is expressed: “Neitzer Mata’ai Ma’aseih Yadai.” God portrays His people as, “A blossoming shoot of My planting,” and immediately thereafter as, “The work of My hands”. What is the difference between these two apparently synonymous depictions of Kelal Yisrael?

Rav Hirsch explains that God is teaching us that the moral perfection of Israel, and consequently its ultimate redemption, can come about in one of two ways. It is possible that we will blossom as a result of God’s repeated plantings. These plantings refer to the events in Jewish history, such as hidden miracles on the one hand or misfortunes on the other, which God expects us as a people to learn and grow from. This is one aspect of God’s teachings, whose goal is to inspire us to strengthen our faith. In addition, of course, we have His Mitzvah experiences, such as Shabbat and Yom Tov, which grant us the opportunity to spend time with our Creator and strengthen our bond with Him. These plantings, or experiences, are designed to provide the Jew with the impetus to spiritually blossom. The Jews that do so, taking advantage of these plantings, can be accurately identified as “Neitzer Mata’ai.”

On the other hand, it is quite possible that all of these teachings will have little, if no, influence on Kelal Yisrael. Only overt miracles, or unfortunately, excessive calamities, will awaken this nation from its spiritual slumber. A harsh blow may be the only way for God to obtain any significant blossoming from His people. Since the small plantings are not productive, God must therefore transform us into spiritual beings through a severe turn of events. In this sense we are “Ma’aseih Yadai” – God must create us anew because we don’t respond to the messages of the plantings.

These disparate views of Kelal Yisrael are echoed in the last Pasuk of the Haftarah. God promises, “BeItah Achishenah,” “I will hasten (the redemption) in its time” (60:22). Chazal were already sensitive to the apparent contradiction exhibited in this Pasuk. If the redemption is hastened, then it is not in its time, and if it is in its time, then it hasn’t been hastened. Rav Hirsch suggests that these two possibilities parallel the two responses of Kelal Yisrael discussed above. If the Jewish people choose to blossom from God’s plantings as “Neitzer Mata’ai” then “Achishenah” – God will hasten the redemption. However, if we choose only to respond when we are hit with a big blow, then “BeItah” – we will have to wait until the Keitz, End of Days, arrives, however far into the future that may be. The choice is ours.

Punishment and Prayer by Nachum Fisch

Lack of Honesty or Lack of Trust? by Tzvi Rotblat