By: Rabbi Menashe Sasson
Reporting from Yerushalayim, Israel
Parashat Vayyiggash marks the beginning of the Egyptian exile. The Egyptian exile is instructive because, as we know,
Ramban on Genesis 12:6:1
In other words, history repeats itself. Just as the Israelites moved to Egypt, made significant contributions to that country’s success, and then became a disfavored minority upon whom blame can be assessed for every perceived wrong, real or imagined, so too, Jews in the United States and other Western and diaspora countries will suffer the same fate.
The Reasons for Exile / Galut [גלות]
The reason for the Babylonian exile was punishment for sin.
Masekhet Menachot 52b.
Although one reason for the Babylonian exile is punishment for sin, the Jewish people will, ultimately, repent and return to both HaShem and Eretz Yisra’el.
The second reason for the exiles is perhaps more surprising:
Masekhet Pesachim 87b.
Rabbi Elazar lived during the years following the destruction by the Romans of the second Beit HaMikdash. Although the purpose of the Babylonian exile (which occurred concurrently with the destruction of the first Beit HaMikdash), and perhaps arguably the subsequent exiles, was punishment for sin. However, at least one purpose of the current exile is to create Jewish converts, a purpose which, unfortunately, has largely gone unfulfilled.
In Rabbinic literature, converts are sometimes referred to as “Holy Sparks” and the process of attracting converts is referred to as “gathering” those “Holy Sparks.”
The source of these Holy Sparks can be traced all the way back to the beginning of the Torah itself. “And the earth was astonishingly [תהו] empty [ובהו], and darkness [וחשך] was upon the face of the deep [פני תהום], and the Spirit of HaShem [ורוח אלהים] hovered upon the surface of the waters.” Bereshit 1:2.
“Astonishingly” [תהו] refers to the Babylonian exile (423-371 BCE); “empty” [ובהו] refers to the Median (Persian) exile (371-356 BCE); “darkness [וחשך] refers to the Greek exile (318-138 BCE); “face of the deep” [פני תהום] refers to the current, Roman exile (approx. 63 BCE through the present); and the “Spirit of HaShem” [ורוח אלהים] refers to the Messianic period at the end of days. Genesis Rabba 2:4.
The Babylonian, Median (Persian), and Greek exiles have all come to pass, just as the Torah tells us they would. We are now in the fourth, and last, the Roman exile. And as we shall see shortly, we are “knocking on the door,” so to speak, of the Messianic era.
We know that the appearance of Mashiach and the beginning of the Redemption will occur no later than 6,000 years from creation. Masekhtot Rosh Hashana 31a, Sanhedrin 97a; Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer, Gerald Friedlander, Sepher-Hermon Press, New York, 1981, p. 141; Zohar 1:117a, Zohar Vayera 119a.
Each 1,000 years is analogized to one day, which means that each hour consists of approximately 41.67 years. The current year from creation, the year on the Jewish calendar, is 5782. Thus, there are 218 years, or approximately 5.23 hours left in the “day” that constitutes the final 1,000 years.
Thus, if we assume that the “day” which constitutes the final 1,000-year period will end at 6:00 p.m., the current “time” is approximately 12:48 p.m.
Recall that Mashiach may come at any time and that the 6,000 year “deadline” for the arrival of Mashiach is the latest time at which he could appear.
We know that there will be four major exiles, the Babylonian, Median (Persian), Greek, and Roman exiles; that 3 of the 4 exiles have come to pass; that we are in the fourth exile; and that the dual purpose of the exiles is to punish the Jewish people for sin and to gather converts, Holy Sparks,” from the four corners of the world.
We also know that the Messianic period can begin at any time, but not later than the year 6000 from creation; that we are currently in the year 5782 from creation; and that, if each 1000 years represents one day, it is now almost 1:00 p.m. on the last day before Mashiach will come no later than 6:00 p.m.
Lastly, our Sages teach that only 20 percent – 1 out of every 5 – Israelites left Egypt during the Exodus; meaning that 80% stayed behind! Rashi, Shemot 13:18. Who were these 80 percent? They are who we would classify today as assimilated Jews, who would prefer to stay in galut rather than come to Eretz Yisra’el.
Time is rapidly running out. May HaShem bless all the Jewish people, as well as those who want to convert to Judaism, to make and finalize their preparations and to make Aliyah (immigrate to Eretz Yisra’el) without further delay.
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Menashe Sasson is a Sephardic rabbi and American attorney who resides in Jerusalem, Israel.