From Darkness to Redemption: Your Personal Roadmap

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Every study that we have seen shows that levels of depression,
sadness, despondency, anxiety and many types of mental health disorders have
skyrocketed since the outbreak of Covid, reaching record levels across
practically all demographic groups including the very young. As the verse says
in describing the conditions of our world just prior to the dawning of a new,
better age (Yeshayahu 60:2): כִּי־הִנֵּה הַחֹשֶׁךְ
יְכַסֶּה־אֶרֶץ וַעֲרָפֶל לְאֻמִּים
(For behold, the darkness will cover the Earth and a thick darkness the
nations). Is this darkness to be understood literally? No, it is the darkness
of our minds, the scope of which defines the true pandemic which has
spread over the world in the wake of the Covid situation.

The Torah describes the exodus from Egypt as
follows (Shemot 13:18): וַיַּסֵּב
אֱלֹקִים אֶת־הָעָם דֶּרֶךְ הַמִּדְבָּר יַם־סוּף וַחֲמֻשִׁים עָלוּ
בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם (And G-d led the people by the Desert Yam Suf
Road, and they went up chamushim from the land of Egypt). Many different
interpretations of the word chamushim exist, but Rashi brings down from
the Mechilta that the word teaches that only one-fifth of the Jews were worthy
of coming out of Egypt while four-fifths died during the plague of darkness. Since
600,000 men came out of Egypt, not including women and children, we can
safely estimate the number of Jewish people in the exodus of at least 2-3
million. If so, the number of Jews who perished in the darkness was at least
10-15 million. What a staggering statistic! This was worse
than the Holocaust.

The Torah reveals that the first redemption,
i.e. the exodus from Egypt, happened quickly (Devarim 16:3): כִּי בְחִפָּזוֹן יָצָאתָ מֵאֶרֶץ
מִצְרַיִם (For in
haste you came out of the land of Egypt). We also know that the final
redemption will not happen quickly (Yeshaya 52:12): כִּי לֹא בְחִפָּזוֹן תֵּצֵאוּ (For you
will not come out in haste). Why did the first redemption have to happen so
quickly? If the redemption would have been delayed even for a moment, the Jews
would have descended to the unredeemable depth of the 50th level of
impurity. Therefore, they were ushered out while still at the 49th
level of impurity. This was the reason for the haste. And since the prophet
tells us that the final redemption will not be in haste, the implication is
that the final redemption can take place even if the Jewish people descend to
the 50th level of impurity. What is at the root of this difference?
The Matok m’Devash on Tikkunei Zohar 15a explains that since the Jews hadn’t
yet received the Torah, they wouldn’t have been able to ascend from the 50th
level of impurity. However now, there is no existential threat to the Jewish
People if we fall to the 50th level of impurity. How come? Because
the Torah itself enables us to rise up out of the lowest level of impurity! The
Torah is our travel papers, our national passport. (As a side point, this explains
the rather strange paradox of our age—how it can be that we as a nation have
descended to such low levels, unimaginable to our ancestors, while at the same
time we are learning more Torah than probably any other generation in history.)

Why were so many Jews unworthy of the first
redemption so much so that four-fifths of them perished in the plague of
darkness? The prophet reveals to us a very important principle (Yeshaya 55:12):
תֵצֵאוּ וּבְשָׁלוֹם תּוּבָלוּן (For you will come out in simchah and in
shalom you shall arrive). The only way to get out of exile and
experience redemption is through happiness. Redemption is possible only when we
are filled with simchah and inner peace. There is no other way. This principle
explains both redemptions: why the first one had to happen quickly at the cost
of so many Jewish lives being lost, and the final one, why it is happening so
slowly. The first redemption had to happen quickly to make sure that the Jews
didn’t drop down to the unredeemable level of the 50th gate of
impurity. Since they hadn’t yet received the Torah, there would have been no
way out if they had dropped down to that level. Therefore, the redemption was
hastened even though many Jews would not merit it. And why didn’t they merit
it? Why were they unworthy of redemption? Because they were filled with
negative emotions, depression, sadness, hopelessness, etc. and yet, the only
way out of exile is through happiness. But the final redemption is totally
different. The Jewish people have the Torah. There is no race against the clock
because even if we descend to the 50th gate of impurity, we can
still rise up. Therefore, the redemption is slow in order that everyone can
be redeemed and no one left behind, lost in the darkness. Everyone will have
time to learn how to be in a state of simchah and shalom.

Mashiach rides a donkey, not a thoroughbred. As
it is written (Zecharyah 9:9): גִּילִי
מְאֹד בַּת־צִיּוֹן הָרִיעִי בַּת יְרוּשָׁלִַם הִנֵּה מַלְכֵּךְ יָבוֹא לָךְ
צַדִּיק וְנוֹשָׁע הוּא עָנִי וְרֹכֵב עַל־חֲמוֹר (Greatly rejoice daughter of Tzion! Shout out
daughter of Yerushalayim! Behold, your king is coming to you. He is a Tzaddik and
saved [himself], humble and riding on a donkey). Rashi says regarding נוֹשָׁע that the Mashiach
is himself saved by Hashem. And when this verse is brought up in Sanhedrin 98a,
Rashi says that riding a donkey indicates laziness, i.e. slow movement, taking
one’s time, not rushing. Why? To make sure everyone makes it!

please don’t demand, “We want Mashiach now!” You don’t know what you’re saying.
Instead, pray in humility for the coming of Mashiach and be grateful that you
and your loved ones still have time to learn how to be filled with simchah
and inner peace in all circumstances.

So how do we achieve simchah and inner
peace so we don’t die in the darkness of our minds and our emotions? Focus on
the reality that Hashem is good to all (Tehillim 145:9) even when we experience
life circumstances that from our perspective don’t seem particularly good. This
is called having real emunah, knowing and believing that everything that
has happened to us and is happening to us right now must be for our good and
couldn’t possibly be any better. Next, know that it is not possible to put simchah
in your own heart by your own efforts as David ha-Melech says in his prayer to
Hashem (Tehillim 4:8): נָתַתָּה
שִׂמְחָה בְלִבִּי (You put
simchah in my heart). So how can we become filled with simchah if
we can’t put it into our own hearts ourselves? Our job is to work on removing
the crookedness from our heart. If we can accomplish that, then simchah
will naturally fill the heart because simchah can only dwell in a heart
that is straight or upright, as David ha-Melech says (Tehillim 97:11): אוֹר זָרֻעַ לַצַּדִּיק וּלְיִשְׁרֵי־לֵב
שִׂמְחָה (Light
is sown for the Tzaddik and simchah for the upright of heart).

And finally, we have one last step to explain.
How do we remove crookedness from our heart (so we can experience true simchah,
so we become worthy of the final redemption)? Chazal taught (Berachot 59a): לֹא נִבְרְאוּ רְעָמִים אֶלָּא לִפְשׁוֹט עַקְמוּמִית שֶׁבַּלֵּב (The only reason thunder was created was to
remove crookedness from the heart). What a strange statement. What does this
mean? Rebbe Nachman explains in Likutei Moharan 5:3 based on the Zohar (Pinchas
235b) that thunder corresponds to our prayers. And these words of prayer, like
thunder, strike the rainclouds of our mind, which in turn starts the rain falling,
drop by drop. As it is written (Tehillim 77:19): קוֹל רַעַמְךָ בַּגַּלְגַּל הֵאִירוּ
בְרָקִים תֵּבֵל רָגְזָה וַתִּרְעַשׁ הָאָרֶץ (The sound of thunder in the orb, lightning illuminated the
world, the earth shook and roared). The sound of our own voice in prayer, in
our own skull, brings light to the world of our mind, banishes the darkness of
depression and sadness, resulting in a positive shockwave in our life. When the
Torah that we placed in our head (chochmah) makes its way to our heart (binah)
through prayer—heartfelt, honest prayer with concentration and sincerity—we give
birth to understanding (daat). And it is this daat that drives
out the crookedness from our hearts, thereby preparing the ground for Hashem to
plant His simchah into our hearts.

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