Israel Forever

For the week ending 4 January 2003 / 1 Shevat 5763

The Fifth Cup

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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All of us are anxious about the future of Israel, especially at such a time of local and international terror. The believing Jew, however, takes comfort in the Divine promise given to Moshe at the time of the Exodus from Egyptian bondage. As we will hear read in synagogues this Shabbat four expressions of freedom from slavery were Divinely communicated to Moshe. Our four cups of wine at the Passover Seder correspond to those four promises.

But there was a fifth promise as well. After the assurance that his people would be liberated in four stages, Moshe was also told that "I shall bring them to the land which I vowed to give to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov" (Shmot 6:8). This is a promise which was never fulfilled to the generation which heard it repeated to them by Moshe. They perished during the forty-year sojourn in the wilderness and only their children inherited the land.

The explanation offered by the commentary "Ohr Hachayim" is that while the first four promises were unconditional this fifth one had strings attached. In the passage preceding it there is a prerequisite that "you will be aware that I am your G-d Who has taken you out of Egyptian bondage". The faithlessness demonstrated by this generation in accepting the slanderous report of the spies sent to survey Eretz Yisrael and voicing a desire to turn back was proof that they were really not aware of Heaven directing their course and were guilty of defaulting on that crucial clause.

This Shabbat is Rosh Chodesh Shevat, the day 3275 years ago when Moshe reviewed the entire Torah for the new generation which learned from the mistakes of their forbears, and was on the threshold of entering the Promised Land. It should also be a time for every Jew to reflect on the indispensable condition for inheriting in peace and security the land we love. Once we fulfill the condition of recognizing the Divine author of history we shall be privileged to drink that fifth cup today reserved for the Prophet Eliyahu and enjoy Israel forever.

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