Sunday, March 29, 2009

Will the Redemption be in Nissan or Tishrei?

Will the Redemption be in Nissan or Tishrei?

Based on a discourse of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

There is a dispute in the gemora between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua (Rosh Hashana 11a). They disagree on the following point: will the final redemption take place in Tishrei or Nissan. Rabbi Eliezer says that we were redeemed from Egypt in Nissan, but the final redemption will take place in Tishrei. Rabbi Yehoshua says that just as we were redeemed from Egypt in Nissan, so too the final redemption take place in Nissan.

This dispute echoes another dispute between these same two sages: when was the world created? On that question, Rabbi Eliezer says Tishrei (as above) and Rabbi Yehoshua says Nissan (as above).

"When was the world created"—this is a question?! Every Rosh Hashana (first of Tishrei) we celebrate the creation of the world! Where is Rabbi Yehoshua's question coming from? (And even more so: before the world was created there was no such thing as time, so how can we even ask the question "when" was the world created?!)

Chassidus explains as follows: Nissan and Tishrei represent different qualities. These qualities are found in the months (moments in time) of Tishrei and Nissan, but in the Supernal realms where there is no time they still have unique identities. Tishrei is the month of Rosh Hashana, when the spiritual energy of the year is brought down. This is a fixed measure of spiritual "shefa" (energy). Even the Hebrew word for year "shana" reflects the idea of repetition. Nissan, on the other hand, is when we came out of Egypt amidst miracles and wonders. Nissan is the head of the months, the very first mitzvah in the Torah (read in every synagogue on Shabbos Hachodesh). The Hebrew word for month, "chodesh" reflects the idea of newness. Tishrei is nature, Nissan is miracle.

Rabbi Eliezer holds that the world was created in Tishrei, as we know that it was in actuality. This is the laws of nature, the level of Egypt and limitation. Rabbi Yehoshua holds that the world was created in Nissan because the true purpose of Hashem's creating the world was for the sake of the Jews leaving Egypt. Egypt is only created so the Jews can leave; exile is only for the purpose of redemption. The thought of Nissan preceded the fact of Tishrei. If Hashem had no intent for the miracles of Nissan, there would have been no creation in Tishrei. So Rabbi Yehoshua holds that the world was created in Nissan. In thought: the world was created in Nissan; in action: the world was created in Tishrei.

In a similar vein, Tishrei (the month of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) represents tshuva (the work from below, in nature); Nissan represents a bestowal from Above that transcends nature and is not dependent on our efforts (we did not "earn" our liberation from Egypt, as the Hagadah says: we were naked and bare meaning we had no mitzvos). Rabbi Eliezer's asserts that the Jews will be redeemed in Tishrei because he also holds (Sanhedrin 97b) that only if Yisroel does tshuva will they be redeemed. The redemption, according to Rabbi Eliezer, is dependent on tshuva, the characteristic of Tishrei. Rabbi Yehoshua, on the other hand, asserts that the Jews will be redeemed in Nissan because he disagrees with Rabbi Eliezer about the redemption being dependent on tshuva. Bringing the verse from the prophet Yeshayahu 52:3, "you were sold for nothing and you will be redeemed without money", Rabbi Yehoshua argues that Yisroel will be redeemed even if they don't do tshuva—a gift from Above in the manner of the redemption from Egypt: Nissan.

We find that the Rambam (Maimonides) seemingly rules in favor of Rabbi Eliezer. In his Laws of Repentance, Hilchos Tshuva 7:5, the Rambam states that "Yisroel will not be redeemed except through tshuva". Similarly, in Tanya the Alter Rebbe writes that all the revelations of the Messianic age are dependent on our efforts and actions in the time of exile. Yet we find that Midrash Shmuel Rabba 15:11 sides with Rabbi Yehoshua: that the ultimate redemption will take place in Nissan. Seemingly our sources are in contradiction.

The Rebbe resolves the contradiction: the tshuva of Yisroel at the end of exile is a guarantee of Hashem in His Torah! (See the Rambam there: וכבר הבטיחה תורה שסוף ישראל לעשות תשובה בסוף גלותן ומיד הן נגאלין) Therefore the work of Yisroel, the tshuva (aspect of Tishrei) has within it the power of a promise of the Torah which is unlimited by nature (aspect of Nissan). And more than this: they will be able to feel that what they are accomplishing in the way of tshuva is not natural, not within the realm of human nature. Rather, it comes from the power of the Torah's promise that Yisroel will do tshuva—that the Torah's promise is bringing them to tshuva, which is the aspect of Nissan (above nature) within the aspect of Tishrei (tshuva).

This idea: Nissan within Tishrei, the miraculous within the natural is in fact the purpose of the creation of the world. Before there was a world, there was no limitation to Hashem (ohr ein sof). When He created the world, via tzimtzum (cosmic contraction), He imposed limitation on Himself within the world. (It must be remembered that as far as Hashem Himself is concerned, there is no change in Him whatsoever from the creation of the world.) The purpose of all of this, and the purpose of the giving of the Torah, is in order reach a third stage wherein the unlimited ohr ein sof is revealed within the limitations of world. The unity of unlimited and limited--Nissan and Tishrei.

This unity of limited vessels containing unlimited G-dliness is what every Jew will experience in his physical body with the coming of Moshiach—may it occur immediately!

Originally posted 3/21/06

The original Chassidic discourse upon which this essay is based can be viewed on the internet both in English and in Hebrew

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