Rabbi Yaakov Haber
Parallels Between the Exodus from Egypt and the Final Redemption
The Haftorah of Shabbos HaGadol ends with one of the last passages from Malachi which speaks of Hashem's sending Eliyahu before the coming of the "yom Hashem haGadol v'haNorah," "the great and awesome day," a reference to the coming of the Mashiach, the redeemer. (Some even suggest that it is from this passage that Shabbos HaGadol received its title.) The obvious connection to the holiday of Pesach is Chazal's tradition that "b'nissan nig'alu uv'nissan asidin lhiga'el," "in Nissan they were redeemed, and in Nissan they will be redeemed" (see L'vush 430).
This statement appears puzzling since we believe that the Ge'ula could arrive at any time, suddenly, without warning. This is highlighted in the "Ani Ma'amin" which many recite daily. There, we state "achakke lo b'chol yom sheyavo," "I await his [the Mashiach's] coming every day." Clearly, then, the time of ge'ula is not limited to the month of Nissan!
The Talmud in Sanhedrin (98a) poses a contradiction between two phrases in Yeshaya (60:22). There, the prophet states: "Ani Hashem b'ita achishena," "I am Hashem, I will hurry it [the Redemption] in its time." Whereas "in its time" implies a predetermined, set time for redemption, "I will hurry it" implies an earlier salvation. The Gemara resolves this contradiction by noting that there are two possibilities for ge'ula. If we merit, it will arrive early; if not, it will be in its time. Consequently, we can suggest that the tradition of the Ge'ula occurring in Nissan refers to the Redemption in its prescheduled time. The hurried salvation can arrive at any time, without notice.
Indeed, the Brisker Rav, Rav Yitzchak Ze'ev Soloveitchik, uses this principle to resolve a seeming anomaly in the "Ani Ma'amin." Of the 13 principles of faith delineated in this list, the belief in the Messiah and Redemption is the only one that includes an implicit question and answer. There we say: "v'af 'al pi sheyisma'mei'ah im kol zeh achakke lo b'chol yom sheyavo," "and even though he [the Mashiach] tarries, with all this, I still await his arrival every day." At first glance, we are merely reaffirming our faith in the ultimate Redemption, teaching ourselves not to lose hope even after we have experienced so many years of Exile. However, we do not use a similar formulation in any of the other statements of our creed. For example, we do not state: "I believe that G-d rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked, and even though we find sometimes that the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper, nonetheless we still believe that these events do not alter the truth of this principle." The same could apply to all the other principles. Why, then, the unique formulation concerning redemption? The Rambam (Hilchos M'lachim 11:1) writes that one who does not believe in the Mashiach or does not await [m'chakke] his arrival, denies the words of the prophets as well as Toras Moshe. Apparently, a crucial part of the belief in the redemption is the belief in his imminent arrival. This is explicitly mentioned in the "Ani Ma'amin" because it is part of the belief. It is not just a reaffirmation of our belief; it is a separate, but integral, component of the belief in the Redemption. The existence of the possibility of a hurried ge'ula, then, is not just a truth, but a component of the very belief in the Redemption. (See Otzros Acharis Hayamim Chapter 1, footnote 3, and Kovetz R'shimos Shiurim 'al Maseches Bava Me'tsia, Kuntres b'Rambam Hilchos M'lachim, by Rav Y. Y. Kalmenson, Chapter 1).
There is a fascinating parallel between these two possibilities of the Redemption and the times given for the Exodus from Egypt. Hashem informs Avraham Avinu that the Exile in Egypt would last 400 years (B'raishis 15:13). Yet, tradition maintains that the actual stay was 210 years! Rashi (ibid.) explains that G-d counted the 400 years from the birth of Yitzchak, "a stranger in a land not his" in a certain sense, since Eretz Yisrael was not conquered yet. However, the simple understanding of Hashem's words is that the actual Exile was to be 400 years. Apparently, then, the original period was shortened to allow the Jews to leave earlier. In the very first Exodus, then, we have these two possibilities of redemption spelled out: the set time of 400 years and the hurried redemption which took place after 210 years. Commentaries suggest that the workload in Mitzrayim was increased immediately after Moshe's first communication to Pharaoh to "squeeze in" all of the required servitude in only 210 years so that the Jews could leave earlier. (Also see Rav Sa'adia Gaon in his Emunos V'Dei'os, Chapter 8, for a slightly different approach to these different dates for the Exodus.)
Several methods and approaches exist in order to hasten the redemption. T'shuva (D'varim 30:2-3), T'fila (Yeshaya 21:11), and longing for the Redemption (Yalkut Shimoni T'hillim 736) can bring the Ge'ula more quickly. A generation wholly undeserving can also cause an earlier redemption (Sanhedrin 98a) presumably based on Hashem acting "lma'an sh'mo," for the sake of His own Name (see Yechezkel 36:22-24). Increased yissurin or suffering can also rush the ge'ula as it did in Mitzrayim (see Sanhedrin ibid. and Ohr HaChayim to VaYikra 25:25-28).
The Chafetz Chayim gives an inspiring mashal, analogy, showing how we can hasten the ge'ula in our time and not despair by comparing ourselves to earlier, greater generations who did not merit redemption in their period. The Torah rules that inherited land sold in Eretz Yisrael can be bought back, "redeemed," from the purchaser according to the number of years left to Yovel (Vayikra 25). If the field is not redeemed by then, the field automatically goes back, for free, at the Yovel. So it is with the our Redemption. When the set time of redemption comes, we are saved automatically even without the merit necessary for a hurried ge'ula. However, we can "redeem" ourselves earlier through payment, this being T'shuva, Torah and Mitzvos , or Yissurin. The amount and degree depend on how close we are to the set time of Ge'ula. Earlier generations did not merit a rushed redemption because the "debt" was greater. As we get closer and closer, the debt gets less and less.
Many of the great Torah sages of the past century through modern times (the Chafetz Chayim, R. Elchanan Wasserman, zt"l, and lbchl"ch R. Ovadia Yosef Shlita and others) have declared our age to be the era of Ik'v'sa DiM'shichah, the period of the "footsteps of the Messiah," based on the fulfillment of the signs of this era outlined in the last Mishna in Maseches Sota. Some have even labeled our times as "Aschalta D'Ge'ula" (see HaTekufa HaGedola by Rav M. M. Kasher zt"l, and Journal of Contemporary Halacha, Vol. 16, "Land for Peace: A Halachic Perspective," by Mori V'Rabi Rav H. Schachter Shlita). Clearly, the words of the Chafetz Chayim ring louder than ever. In our post-Holocaust era and with the current wave of tragedy after tragedy in our Holy Land, we are reminded of the words of R. Yochanan (Sanhedrin 98a), "if you see a generation with troubles befalling it like a river [constantly], await him [the Messiah]." Let us increase our devotion to Hashem's Torah, let us pour out our hearts to Him in our prayers, let us concentrate on "ki lishuas'cha kivinu kol hayom" -- "for your salvation we have awaited every day" -- in our Shemone 'Esrei to reawaken our longing for redemption, let us better ourselves with T'shuva, whether in small or large ways. May Hashem look at the suffering of His people and allow this to hurry our Redemption as well. May we have the merit of bringing about the Ge'ula of "Achishena" immediately! "V'nochal sham min ha'Z'vachim v'ha'Psachim!"