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Insights - Q&A on Redemption

Question:

Why, in his prophecy on Redemption, does the prophet Isaiah mention "those lost in the land of Assyria and those exiled in the land of Egypt"?


Answer:

According to the commentary of Rabbi David Kimchi, the Jewish people are divided into two groups: Those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those exiled in the land of Egypt. The lost in Assyria are the ten tribes, who were exiled there by the king of Assyria in 722 B.C.E., before the destruction of the first Temple. The exiled in Egypt refer to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, who were dispersed throughout the whole world, but who will eventually concentrate in Egypt to make their ascent to the Holy Land.

However, these two groups do not only represent two different populations, but two types that are relevant to all Jews.

Chassidic teachings explain that Assyria and Egypt are two spiritual illusions to which Jews are drawn. Assyria is a land of wealth, of physical comfort and luxury. Those who are lost there are those who desire physical bounty and thus lost their taste for spiritual pleasures and the depth inherent in G-d's own teachings.

The land of Egypt is a land of obstacles and barriers. Those exiled in Egypt are those who, due to their intense suffering in exile, no longer have the spirit or mental power to devote to service of G-d or study of Torah. As is written regarding the enslaved Jews in Egypt, "They did not listen to Moses due to their shortness of breath and hard labor" (Shmot 6:9). The difficult burden placed upon them prevented them from properly adhering to the words of Moses.

In the future, we are assured that both groups--those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those exiled in Egypt--will be elevated from the spiritual depths in which they have sunk, and "They will prostrate themselves to G-d on the holy mountain, in Jerusalem." Abraham referred to the place of the Temple as "G-d's mountain," and it was there that he displayed his breathtaking love for G-d, when he was ready to give up his son for G-d's sake. Jerusalem is a contraction of the two Hebrew words, Yirah Shleima, complete awe, which is a symbol of fear of G-d.

In other words, even the lost and exiled will reach a state of perfect love and fear, as symbolized by "the mountain of G-d, in Jerusalem."

Isaiah 27:13, see Radak. Likutei Torah, Rosh Hashanah, 60a.

 

 


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