"But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land." - Exodus 23:29-30
The Torah portion for this week is Mishpatim, which means "laws," from Exodus 21:1-24:18, and the Haftorah is from Jeremiah 34:8-22.
The Talmud tells us that once, Rabbi Hiyya and Rabbi Shimon were walking in the Arbel valley at daybreak when they saw the first rays of dawn. Rabbi Hiyya said to Rabbi Shimon, "So shall be the redemption. It will come little by little, and as it progresses, its light will increase."
Redemption doesn't happen overnight; it is a process that takes time.
Similarly, in this week's Torah portion, God told the children of Israel that they would one day settle in the land of Israel. However, He explained that they wouldn't conquer it all on the same day or even in the same year. Rather, God told them, "But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land."
God knew that it would not be good for the Israelites to take possession of the whole land too quickly. God would make the process happen slowly so that full possession of the land would only come at the time when the Israelites were ready to handle it.
God often causes big events - such as bringing the Israelites into Israel and the final redemption - to occur little by little. I think that the same principle applies to our own personal lives and personal redemptions as well. God doesn't make them happen all at once; rather, they happen slowly over time. Through the process, we are preparing ourselves until we are ready to fully possess all that is meant to be ours.
When Rabbi Hiyya explained that redemption happens like a sunrise, he was giving us a great metaphor to help us understand redemption. Sunrise can be a confusing time. Just by looking at a picture, we aren't really sure if it's sunrise or sunset. Sometimes, as we watch the sunrise, we aren't even sure anything is happening at all. Is the sun really rising? Is it really getting brighter outside? But ultimately, we do see that the sun is indeed rising and that the long night has ended and day has come.
Can you imagine if God switched from night to day in one moment? It would be jarring and harsh. Rather, God brings the sun up slowly so that we have time to adjust gently and effectively.
So, too, in our lives, it may seem at times as though we aren't progressing. Sometimes, we aren't even sure if things are getting better or worse. However, remember that God is at work in our lives, and like the sunrise, change may happen little by little, but as it progresses, and as it increases, so will the light.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President