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No Jew will be left behind-is this really true?
(Likkutei Sichos Vol. 11 Sicha 1)
Parshas Vaeira begins in the middle of the confrontation between Moshe and G-d regarding the redemption of the Jewish people. In the previous Parsha of Shemos G-d instructs Moshe to tell the Jewish people that they will be redeemed, although concludes with Moshe confronting G-d for not having done what He said and allowing things to get worse. In the beginning of Vaeira, G-d responds to Moshe’s claim by telling him that he should rest assured that he will indeed fulfill his promise and redeem the Jewish people, and re-instructs him to again tell the Jewish people of their imminent redemption. Moshe, seemingly reluctantly, once again proclaims to the Jewish people of their upcoming redemption, only to be ignored by the masses who did not pay attention to his words. Indeed, the Midrashim and commentators in Parshas Bo and Beshalach tell us that not all the Jewish people merited to be redeemed, and many Jews died during the plague of darkness. This raises the question as to how exactly G-d’s promise was fulfilled, as at least for them, no redemption took place? Why did these poor souls not merit to be redeemed? An even more pressing question is regarding the future redemption and whether all the Jewish people will merit redemption or if it is reserved only for the righteous and G-d-fearing, as was the case in the original redemption from Egypt. While indeed there are many Orthodox preachers who believe that only the select few, the righteous and G-d-fearing, will merit the future redemption as it was in the times of the Exodus, and therefore press on their audiences to repent lest they be left behind, this is not the Rebbe’s approach, or the classic approach that is seen from Scripture and other sources. In this talk, the Rebbe delves into the above questions, and contrasts the future redemption from the redemption from Egypt saying that in the future redemption every Jew will come out, and explains the difference between our relationship with G-d in our times of exile in Egypt versus post revelation at Sinai, which is the core for understanding why in Egypt many Jews died and why this will not occur in the future redemption.
Explorations of the Sicha:
1. Will every Jew merit to be redeemed in the future redemption or is the era of the redemption a select club reserved only for the righteous who paid their fair share in this world in serving G-d?
2. When we left Egypt, why did so many Jews not merit to be taken out, and rather died in the plague of darkness, and will this occur again in the future era, by the final redemption?
3. What new relationship did we begin with G-d on Mount Sinai if even prior to the giving of the Torah we were considered his son’s?
4. Is there a level that exists within the Jewish people that’s even higher than being considered G-d’s son?
1. G-d promises Moshe to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt even if they are sinners:
In Parshas Shemos, when Moshe asked G-d as to which name of His he should use to tell the Jewish people of the upcoming redemption, G-d replied to him that he is to say “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh/I will be to those who I will be.” What is the meaning of this cryptic message and name? The Midrash explains it in the following way, from which it is understood that with using this name of Ehyeh, G-d was relating to Moshe an important message. The Midrash explains it as follows: I will be a G-d to those who want Me to be their G-d [while those individuals who do not want Me, I will not force myself upon them to become their G-d]. However, regarding the Jewish community as a whole, I will be their G-d whether they like it or not, as the verse states, “G-d swears by his life, by a mighty hand I shall reign over you.” The Mefarshim on the Midrash explain that the intent of this statement is to say that G-d has no problem if an individual does not choose to follow His commands and that G-d will not force Himself onto that person until he accepts Him. Rather, in regard to the individual Jew, G-d makes it a voluntary relationship and if they want a relationship with Him then he will make a relationship with them, and if they don’t want a relationship with G-d he will not force them. However, regarding the Jewish people as a nation, G-d will force them into relationship with Him even if they don’t want it.
It is due to the above reason that we find that even sinners were redeemed with the Jewish people from Egypt, as since they were a large group they were considered like the public with whom G-d chooses to have a relationship with even if they’re not interested. In other words, G-d was telling Moshe to tell the Jewish people, that even if they are sinners they will still be redeemed.
2. Why did many sinners die in Egypt and not get redeemed?
The above message as expounded by the Midrash and its commentators seems to contradict the reality of what actually happened when the Jewish people left Egypt. It is explicitly recorded in the Midrash and Mefarshim, that there were sinful Jews who did not merit to be redeemed and that during the three days of the plague of darkness they were killed. The Midrash states that G-d killed all the sinners amongst Israel who did not want to leave Egypt due to their great wealth and fame amongst the Egyptians. There are various estimates and opinions regarding how many Jews actually died during the plague of darkness, and according to some opinions 80% of the Jewish population was killed. It is unclear as to why these sinners did not merit to be redeemed despite the above promise to Moshe. Furthermore, as stated previously, not all sinners perished during the three days of darkness and many did merit to be redeemed, seemingly under the above clause and promise that G-d made, to redeem even the sinners as part of the whole of the Jewish people. In fact, there were even Jewish idol worshipers who managed to be redeemed and leave Egypt with the Jewish people. The sages even state that the idol of Micha traveled with them. Thus, why were some sinners doomed to be killed and others destined to be redeemed? Either they should all be redeemed under the promise of G-d to allow sinners to pass, or all be killed due to them not being meritorious for redemption. To understand this matter we must first introduce a general question regarding the future redemption, and if in the future redemption as well there will be sinners who will not merit to be redeemed.
3. Will even sinners be redeemed in the future redemption?
A general and most thought-provoking question that is raised is in regard to whether in the future redemption as well not all Jews will merit to be redeemed, as was the case in the redemption from Egypt that many sinners were killed and left behind? Seemingly, it is possible to make an argument that the same will occur in the future redemption as well, that sinners will not be redeemed, as the above Midrash brings a verse in Ezekiel which is discussing the future redemption to draw its conclusion regarding the redemption from Egypt, that it will take place even against the will of the people. Now, just as we learn from the future redemption to the redemption from Egypt regarding the general redemption of the Jewish people as a whole even if they are sinners, so too we should learn from the redemption from Egypt, that just as in Egypt many sinners perished and did not merit the redemption, so too in the future redemption many will perish and not merit it. However, in truth this comparison is incorrect, as we will now explain from explicit verses in scripture.
4. All the Jewish people will be redeemed in the future redemption:
It states in Parshas Netzavim, “and you shall return to ocean your G-d and Hashem your G-d will return you.” Rashi there explains that this statement refers to every single individual Jew, and that G-d is promising by the future redemption that He will personally redeem every single Jew. In the words of Rashi on the above verse, “He holds onto the hands of each and every man, and gathers each and every person from amongst the Jewish people.” It is clear from here that also the first part of the verse which prophesizes that every Jew will repent, refers to each and every Jew. This idea has even been codified by the Alter Rebbe into Jewish law, as he states that every single Jew will certainly eventually repent being that no Jew will be pushed away from G-d. Accordingly, all sinners, including even the sinners who do not wish to leave the exile, will be aroused to repent and will be redeemed from the exile. This idea of G-d arousing the nation in repentance in the end of days is emphasized in the explicit verse in Isaiah, “and it will be on that day that a great shofar will be blown, and all the lost ones from the land of Ashur, and those banished to the land of Egypt, will come to bow to G-d on the holy mountain Jerusalem.” The verse is telling us that even those who have become so lost from Judaism to the point that they no longer even care about their Jewish identity and are lost amongst the Gentiles, even they will be aroused in repentance and come to Jerusalem to worship G-d.
Now, that we’ve established that in the future redemption every Jew will be redeemed, even the sinners, we need to explore why this was not the case with the redemption from Egypt in which sinners did perish.
5. After the giving of the Torah, G-d entered a relationship with each individual Jew:
Prior to the giving of the Torah, as understood from the statement brought earlier in the Midrash, G-d did not make a covenant with every individual Jew, but rather with the Jewish people as a whole. Accordingly, G-d had no obligation or desire to redeem every member of the Jewish people from Egypt, and so long as the Jewish nation as a whole would be redeemed, He was fine with the fact that some individual Jews would not merit this. The general rule was that those who were righteous and desired G-d and the redemption, would be redeemed and those who did not desire to be with G-d and be redeemed, G-d caused them to perish during the plague of darkness, as he had no obligations to the individual Jew. However, after the redemption from Egypt and the subsequent giving of the Torah, this relationship changed. Instead of G-d having a relationship just with the general body of the Jewish people, He now created a relationship with every individual Jew. This occurred from the moment that G-d said, “I am Hashem your G-d” in the first of the 10 Commandments. This command known as Anochi Hashem Elokecha was said in the singular tense, emphasizing that G-d is now entering a covenant with every individual Jew present, including those who are defined as sinners. Accordingly, even the sinners will merit to be redeemed in the future, as G-d has now taken personal responsibility of them, entering himself into a personal relationship with each and every Jew.
While the above may explain why in the future redemption every Jew will be redeemed even sinners, it still remains to be understood why some sinners merited leaving Egypt and others did not. To understand this matter we have the first elaborate on the relationship the Jewish people shared with G-d prior to the redemption from Egypt, which will consequently also shed greater light on the novelty of the relationship after the giving of the Torah.
6. The Jewish people are considered the sons of G-d; Why would G-d not redeem his sinful sons?
When G-d said to Moshe to relate to Pharaoh His request that he free the Jewish people, He told Moshe to tell Pharaoh, “So says G-d, my firstborn son is Israel. I am asking you to send my son so he can serve Me.” We see from here that G-d considered the Jewish people to be His children. If this is the case, then why didn’t the sinners of Israel merit redemption from Egypt? What kind of father leaves his child behind just because he doesn’t listen to him? In the above verse G-d was emphasizing to Pharaoh of His love for the Jewish people like a father to his son, which is not dependent on good or bad behavior on the part of the son. Every Jewish man and woman who was in Egypt was considered like a son to G-d, and the connection and feelings between a father and son is natural and intrinsic to the point that it cannot be erased and changed. So is understood from the sages who write, “whether you obey Me were not you are called My children, and I cannot switch you for another nation.” Hence, why was not every single Jew, even the biggest of sinners redeemed, and what could have happened after the giving of the Torah that would create an even greater relationship than that of a father to a son which would then merit even a sinner to be redeemed?
7. Even the relationship between a father and son has limitations:
[Although the relationship between a father and son is intrinsically ingrained deep within the souls of the father and son, it does have limitations which when crossed can at least temporarily ruin the relationship. For example, a father can still naturally love his son even if his son has disabilities, and has struggles and failures. Even if his son does not try hard enough and therefore fails tests in school, and even if he doesn’t do chores as he is asked, a father still naturally loves his son. Furthermore, even if a son does not respect the wishes of his father and goes against his commands and instructions, the natural love still remains, even though it is being challenged from being consciously revealed. However, if a son rejects his father’s love and wishes to have nothing to do with him, then this may prove most difficult for the father, and may cause the love for his son to go dormant. It is along this idea that the Rebbe now explains why certain sinners did not merit to leave Egypt.]
The limitations to the atonement of Yom Kippur:
The day of Yom Kippur atones for all sins with exception to the sins of Yom Kippur itself. Meaning, that only one who guards Yom Kippur can expect the day to give him atonement however one who does not guard Yom Kippur should not expect to benefit from the atonement of Yom Kippur being that one’s prosecutor cannot also become a defense attorney. This concept is known as Ein Kateigor Naaseh Saneigor.
The limitations to the fatherly love:
This same concept applies here as well regarding the relationship of G-d with the Jewish people prior to the giving of the Torah, in which the Jewish people were treated like a son. A father is able to handle many sins and transgressions of his son and still have love for him, and therefore G-d allowed even Jews who were sinners and idol worshipers to be redeemed from Egypt, as nonetheless they are his sons. However, those sinners who did not desire at all to leave Egypt and completely ignored the father-son relationship they had with G-d, caused G-d’s fatherly love to go dormant towards them and therefore they were not redeemed. Those who acted to sever the relationship of father and son that they share with G-d could not now have that relationship save them from Egypt, as a matter of sin cannot become one’s reason for merit, as explained above. Those sinners who merited to leave Egypt at the very least still cherished the relationship with Hashem and desired to be with Him even though they knew that they were sinners, and therefore merited to be redeemed on the basis of the fatherly love. Those who did not even want to leave, forfeited their fatherly love and therefore perished.
8. The reason that in the future redemption even those who don’t want to leave will merit to leave:
The ceremony of the giving of the Torah did not just represent the giving of G-d’s laws to the Jewish people, but also presented a new stage in the relationship between G-d and His nation. By Matan Torah the Jewish people went from being G-d’s children to becoming G-d’s chosen people, and servants of G-d. In Hasidic teachings, it is explained that true freedom of choice comes from the essence of the soul. When G-d chose the Jewish people on Mount Sinai, he created an essential connection with the Jewish people that is even higher and greater than the relationship that a father and son share. The essence of G-d became bound with the essence of the Jew in the same applies vice versa, that the Jews essence became bound with that of G-d. This new relationship is also the reason for why the Jewish nation became considered G-d’s servants after the giving of the Torah. The difference between the service of a son to a father versus a slave to his master, is that a son contains sense of self and serves his father out of love and feeling, which emphasizes his separate existence. However, a slave has absolutely no identity of his own and his entire existence is that of his master’s. Accordingly, when they received the Torah the Jewish people were elevated to an even higher level of relationship with G-d. By this higher level there is nothing that can get in its way and break the relationship. After the giving of the Torah G-d’s love for his people is even higher and more essential than the love of a father for his son, and therefore even if a Jew chooses to ignore G-d and his father-son relationship that he shares with Him, it will still not forfeit G-d’s love, and he will nonetheless merit to be redeemed. Furthermore, after the giving of the Torah, a Jews essence is essentially bound with G-d and is not able to be undone. Therefore, after the giving of the Torah it’s not really possible for a Jew sever ties with G-d, and his decision to do so is peripheral and external, and covers over his true and essential connection to G-d that remains intact. Thus, after the giving of the Torah it’s not possible for a Jew to deny his relationship with G-d and likewise it is not possible for G-d to deny his relationship with us. Accordingly, there is nothing that can get in the way of G-d’s desire to be with each and every individual Jew, and therefore He will redeem each and every one of them, by first arousing their hearts in repentance and having them come back towards Him.
A story of a renegade Jew, a Holocaust survivor, who returned to his people as a result of the above talk:
The following story was told over by Rabbi YY Jacobson, as he heard it from Rabbi Shalom Lipsker, of Bal Harbour, Florida:
Rabbi Shalom Lipskar founded the Aleph Institute whose mission is to reach out to Jewish inmates in state prisons. As part of the activities of Aleph Institute Rabbi Lipsker traveled with a friend down from South Florida up to northern Florida, by the Jacksonville area, for the sake of visiting a Jewish inmate. Unfortunately, they ended up arriving too late to be admitted an audience with the inmate, and were offered to come back the next day. Not wanting to have to make the close to 6 hour Road trip once again, they decided to find a motel to stay the night. They happened upon a rural gas station whom they stopped by to ask directions to the closest motel. The large husky fellow running the gas station looked at them in bewilderment and shock, and after leaving to the back room ushered them to quickly enter the back office of the gas station. When the two young rabbis entered the office, they saw a scrawny older man sitting on a chair who stretched out his hand to them and said to them in a heavy Yiddish, Shalom Aleichem. The older man introduced himself as the father of the large husky fellow who was running the gas station, and in Yiddish told the two young rabbis to sit down to hear quite a story. The older man went on to tell his life story to the two men sitting across from him: I grew up in a small town in Poland to a Hasidic family of Belzer Hasidim. I went to the Belzer Cheder, and was a young prodigy of my family and Hasidic community, until World War two struck, and the ensuing Holocaust. I was a young teenager at the time and all of my family perished by the Holocaust, all of my many brothers and sisters, and my father and mother, uncles and aunts, grandparents, were all murdered. I managed to escape and immigrate to America. The pain that I traveled with and brought to the shores of the country was so great and unbearable, that I decided that I would have no contact with any Jews any longer. I was furious at the G-d of the Jewish people for having done what He did, and I vowed to have nothing to ever do again with him or his nation. I eventually made my way down to Florida and began working for a redneck family, never revealing to them my true identity. Eventually, I married the daughter of my boss, and I remain married to her until this day, and the large husky fellow is one of our children. Why then am I telling you this story and why did my son usher you into my office? So, a number of years ago I was lying down in bed flipping the channels of the television, and low and behold I saw a sight on the screen that I hadn’t seen in decades. There was an elderly Rabbi sitting in front of thousands of Hasidic followers saying a sermon. The sermon was in Yiddish and I understood it clearly. Although I only remained done for a few seconds, the words that the Rabbi mentioned in those few seconds stayed with me the rest of my life till this day. The Rabbi said that G-d will eventually come and collect each and every Jew, even the most distant and renegade, and bring him back to the Jewish people and to Judaism. Those words of the Rabbi rang in my mind and heart and gave me know rest until I told my family, my wife and older children, that I am really a Jew and one day I will return to my people. When my son saw you two rabbis coming to the gas station, a most rare site in these rural areas, he immediately remembered what I had spoken and assumed that you were emissaries who were sent to bring me back home. The elderly man then began bitterly crying, and used the rest of the night to sing old Hasidic and Belz melodies until the next morning when he donned tefillin for the first time in his life since he left Europe. He passed away shortly thereafter, dying as a religious Jew, having come back to his people.
 Shemos 3:14
 Shemos Raba 3:6
 Yechezkal 20:33
 Matanos Kehuna, Yefei Toar, Pirush Marzu
 Shemos Raba 1:34-35; Tanchuma Shemos 10; Zohar 170b; Rashi Shemos 2:14
 Shemos Raba 14:3; Tanchuma Vaeira 14; Mechilta Beshalach
 Rashi Bo 10:22
 Zohar 170b; Mechilta Shemos 14:28; Yalkut Reuveini Shemos 14:27; Shemos Raba 43:8; Tanchuma Sisa 14
 Sanhedrin 103b
 Netzavim 30:2-3
 Hilchos Talmud Torah 4:3; Tanya chapter 39
 Shemos 4:22-23
 Kidushin 36a
 See Yuma 85b; Tzafnas Paneiach Yibum 4:20