Gem of the Week from Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt”l


Growth Thru Galus

V’zacharti es brisi Yaakov, v’af es brisi Yitzchok, v’af es brisi Avraham ezkor, v’haaretz ezkor”. The names of the Avos in this pasuk represent not individuals, but examples of the way Hashem’s bris has manifested in our past.

Each of the Avos has a unique bris. We, as their children, are promised that our destiny will also involve changes of fortune, but despite that, we will be the object of Hashem’s special hashgacha and guidance. Because we shine among the nations with our self-sacrifice and complete devotion to the mission of mankind, Hashem will transform the darkest night of exile to shining rays of guidance. And like our Avos, we will always remain faithful to G-d’s covenant, whether our fate is like Avraham, Yitzchok, or Yaakov.

The galus is destined to bring us to ultimate freedom, so, as the pasuk indicates, it will develop in reverse order.

First is Bris Yaakov,” the years of servitude, in which Hashem’s promise sustains us through trials and tribulations. This stage is perhaps behind us. As Yaakov, we have proved ourselves, inscribing our loyalty to the Torah in blood on the pages of world history.

Next comes the test of the second stage, Bris Yitzchok: to walk free and independent among the nations, not to fear being different and to remain undeterred by envy, to carry on the heritage of Avraham even without suffering, with complete trust that the bris of Hashem will protect us against envy and jealousy.

During the Yaakov period, we endured the hatred of the nations. Now, like Yitzchok, we will suffer their envy. We must learn the second lesson of galus, which, given our nature, will not be easy. With growing prosperity, living among nations who waver between acceptance and jealousy, we will have to preserve our unique character. We will have to use all our resources, more than ever before, for a more perfect fulfillment of our unique mission in galus, disregarding the envy that isolates us from the rest of the world.

When we have passed the second test and fulfilled the Torah even in prosperity, only then v’af es brisi Avraham: we can look forward to the last stage of galus, in which we will win the respect of the nations, not despite being Jews, but because we are Jews.

Ultimately, the nations will respect the Jews because we know and observe Hashem’s Torah. Just as Yaakov, who wrestled with the sar of Esav, received his blessing at the end of a long struggle, the children of Yaakov and Yitzchok—hated, tolerated and envied—will finally be greeted as the people of the G-d of Avraham: like Avraham, nasi Elokim, we will walk with pride among the nations.

Have a wonderful Shabbos,

Moshe Pogrow, Director, Ani Maamin Foundation

Please note: The “Gem of the Week,” is based on excerpts from Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt”l’s commentary on Chumash, with permission from the publisher.



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