Exile is likened to pregnancy, and the Redemption is likened to birth; as it is written, כי חלה גם ילדה ציון את בני-ה — “For Zion has been in labor, and has given birth to her children.”2

Our Sages teach3 that when an infant is in his mother’s womb, (a) “his head is between his knees,” not carrying out its function: it does not think, and though he has eyes they do not see; (b) “his mouth is closed and his navel is open”; i.e., his nourishment (for he eats what his mother eats) passes through his navel into his stomach and makes his body grow, rather than passing through his mouth, from which it would animate the heart and brain.

These two situations also characterize the Jewish people during the period of exile: (a) Since the Holy One, blessed be He, removed the revelation of His Presence from This World, the Children of Israel do not behold the Divine light. Moreover, (b) the life-giving flow that wells from one’s performance of mitzvos and good deeds does not enter through the mouth, from which it would animate the heart and brain, giving rise to a knowledge and love of G‑d; rather, divine service is carried out frigidly,4 מצוות אנשים מלומדה — “a commandment which men perform by rote.”

This is the essence of the spiritual meaning of exile.

Accordingly, the ultimate perfection of the days of Mashiach is a kind of birth — a revelation of the light of G‑d within the deepest recesses of a man’s heart. As it is written,5 ונגלה כבוד ה' וראו כל בשר — “The glory of G‑d will be revealed, and all flesh [together] will see [that the mouth of G‑d has spoken]”; and likewise too it is written,6 כי עין בעין יראו — “For they shall see eye to eye [when G‑d returns to Zion].”

Torah Or, Va’eira, p. 55a

Outward Self-Nullification


In the Mussaf prayer on the festivals, speaking of our present exile from the Holy Land and from the House of G‑d’s Choice, we say:8 ואין אנו יכולים לעלות וליראות ולהשתחוות לפניך — “We are unable to go up, to appear, and to bow down before You.”

Now it is obvious that in the absence of the Beis HaMikdash we cannot “go up and appear.” But why can we not “bow down before You” in any other place? Why does this require the Beis HaMikdash?

This we can understand as follows. Prostrating oneself indicates self-nullification, humble submission, and it can be done in either of two ways. A person might bow down outwardly: he subjugates his body so that it will not rebel, but in essence his innermost will does not submit. As an alternative, he might bow down inwardly, to the point that he now has no other will or desire of his own. And it was the latter degree of self-prostration that was possible only in the Beis HaMikdash, for there the Divine Presence was revealed, and the Jewish people were receptive to this revelation when they went up there for the pilgrim festivals.

Even now, however, in the time of exile, a reflection of the sanctity of the Beis HaMikdash radiates during the time of prayer, in every synagogue and in every House of Torah Study, for these are called. Megillah 29b on Yechezkel 11:16. מקדש מעט — “a miniature sanctuary.”9

Likkutei Torah, Berachah, p. 98b

Divine Energy through Intermediaries (i)


When the Beis HaMikdash stood, the Divine Presence was revealed to the Jewish people directly, neither through intermediaries nor by being garbed in any other way. (This was also the case at the time of the first revelation to all of Israel at the time of the Giving of the Torah, as it is written,11 פנים בפנים דבר ה' עמכם — “G‑d spoke with you face to face.”) At that time the Children of Israel were at such a lofty spiritual level that they were able to receive the revelation of the divine light without the interposition of any agent.

In the time of exile, however, the life-giving divine energy flows to the Jewish people by means of the angels. This is why Yechezkel beheld the celestial Chariot as if enclothed in “the face of a lion” (i.e., the angelic hosts of Michael) and “the face of an ox” (i.e., the angelic hosts of Gavriel), and so on — for at that time Yechezkel was12 “in the midst of the exile.”

Likkutei Torah, Haazinu, p. 77c

Divine Energy through Intermediaries (ii)

In the time of exile, too, there are prophets among the Jewish people, namely, the towering tzaddikim of every generation who are endowed with divine inspiration and who know future events, and likewise the sages who teach Torah publicly, filling the hearts of Israel with the knowledge of Torah and the awe of heaven.

Nevertheless, prophecy is not granted in the time of exile in the same way that it was granted in the time of the Beis HaMikdash. At that time a prophet was not allowed to reveal his prophecy without being commanded from Above to do so. Thus Yirmeyahu, for example, was commanded,13 “Go and cry out in the ears of Jerusalem as follows.....” In the time of exile, by contrast, sages are employed in their holy work at a fixed rate, and hence teaching Torah and the awe of heaven is their obligation, even when they are not so commanded from Above.

In truth, however, just as in Temple times the command which a prophet received from Above was the divine cause for the flow of prophecy, so too there is a command from Above that tells a sage that he should teach and rebuke. This command, too, is absolutely an expression of the word of G‑d, except that it has become enclothed in a natural cause. For this is the current pattern: Every flow of divine energy that is directed to the Jewish people in the time of exile, is lowered and enclothed in a garment of sackcloth. This is why the flow of prophetic inspiration in the time of exile is enclothed in a natural circumstance.

The Short Maamarim of the Alter Rebbe, p. 149

The Materiality of Man


In the days of the Beis HaMikdash the Children of Israel were by their very nature drawn by a genuine yearning towards the service of G‑d; for them the demands of This World were a matter of necessity, to be dispensed with offhandedly, and without ardor. In the time of exile the opposite is true: A man is drawn by nature to his bodily needs and to This-Worldly matters, while his divine service and his love of G‑d are earned at the expense of considerable toil.

Likkutei Torah, Seitzei, p. 40a

Divine Service by Way of War


In the time of the Beis HaMikdash, when the Divine Presence was openly manifest, the divine sparks that had fallen into the kelippos were sifted and elevated as a matter of course: the kelippos spontaneously became null and void, losing their separate identity as they became incorporated in the forces of holiness, just as a candle becomes lost in a great flame. Moreover, the Jewish people delighted in their divine service (on account of the intense revelation of G‑dliness in the Beis HaMikdash), and by nature they were drawn to it.

In the time of exile, by contrast — when the divine Countenance is hidden, and the way of the wicked prospers — a man’s divine service is motivated mainly by the attribute of Netzach, [one of whose meanings is “conquest”]. This involves battling and standing firm against all the internal and external forces that hinder any man who seeks to draw close to G‑d. (Indeed, the attribute of Netzach is aroused specifically when one is challenged by obstacles and hindrances.)

There is another characteristic of divine service motivated by the attribute of Netzach: Even when one does not derive delight from the pleasant flavor (taam) of his service of G‑d, he persists in his service notwithstanding, “in a way that transcends [intellectual] delight (taam) and understanding.”

Or HaTorah, Shir HaShirim, p. 123

Divine Service by Way of Awe

In the days of the Beis HaMikdash the Divine Presence diffused its light openly. The divine service of the Jewish people was therefore mainly inspired by the love and desire that they felt towards G‑d, and they derived pleasure from this service. In the time of exile, by contrast, when the radiance of the Divine Presence is not manifest, divine service is mainly prompted by an acceptance of the yoke of heaven, by awe, and by self-nullification.

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XV, p. 238

Safety Fences and Regulations


At the time that the Beis HaMikdash stood, the Jewish people needed no more than the laws of the Torah, for they were not drawn so powerfully to bodily desires. It was thus easy for them to have the love of G‑d fixed firmly in their hearts, and this inspired them to serve Him with fiery ardor. Generation after generation, however, their hearts waned. The Jewish people were seared by the alien flame of worldly pleasures, until they were no longer able to serve G‑d out of love — except insofar as they were aided by the detailed and stringent regulations of the Talmudic Sages. These reflect two approaches:17 סור מרע — “turn away from evil” (i.e., all the restrictive rulings in the Gemara and in the halachic decisions of the poskim), and עשה טוב — “do good” (i.e., the ethical instruction in the aggados of the Sages and in Pirkei Avos).

Likkutei Torah, Matos, p. 85a

The Additional Day of Yom-Tov in the Diaspora


Yom-Tov is a time of divine revelation, such as took place during the pilgrim festivals in Temple times. For there is a verse that says,19 יראה כל זכורך — “[Three times a year] shall all your males appear [(lit., “be seen”) before the L‑rd your G‑d in the place that He will choose].” On this our Sages comment,20 “Just as [every man] came to see (לראות), he also came to be seen (ליראות) [by the Divine Presence].”

In the time of the Beis HaMikdash, when souls were loftier, the Jewish people used to receive this revelation from an exceedingly exalted divine source, for which reason one day of Yom-Tov sufficed. In the time of exile, by contrast, when souls are lowlier, this revelation has to descend from step to step until it reaches their level, and for this reason an additional day of Yom-Tov is needed.

Likkutei Torah, Shemini Atzeres, p. 91c

The Distinctive Quality of Israel is Not Evident

In the time of the Beis HaMikdash, the Holy One, blessed be He, may be described metaphorically as “awake”; in the time of exile, He may be described metaphorically as “asleep”.

When a man is awake, all the faculties of his soul are overtly active in his body, each in its own way. Hence one can readily observe their relative merits; among other things, one can see how the intellect is superior to the other faculties and rules over them. When a man is asleep, by contrast, his various faculties are obscured to the point that they all appear equal, and there is no way of telling that the intellect is superior.

And now in the analogue: Saying that G‑d is “awake” means that the divine light is revealed in the world, just as it used to be palpably revealed in the Beis HaMikdash. In such a situation one can observe the distinctive quality of the “intellect”, i.e., of the souls of Israel. (This was indeed the case in the days of King Shlomo, who ruled over many peoples.) Saying that G‑d is (so to speak) “asleep” means that the divine light is obscured, so that the distinctive quality of the Jewish people is not discernible in the world.

Sefer HaMaamarim 5700 [1940], p. 5

A Dream


The time of exile has been likened to a dream. For so it is written,22 בשוב ה' את שיבת ציון היינו כחולמים — “When G‑d will return the exiles of Zion, we will have been like dreamers.”

A dream can fuse two opposites. In the present time of exile likewise, a man can be a paradox. While he is at prayer he is aroused to a love of G‑d; when his prayers are over this love has vanished: he is preoccupied all day with his business affairs, and gives priority to his bodily needs.23

Torah Or, Vayeishev, p. 28c

A Battle between Beasts

To understand the inner meaning of the Jewish people’s subjugation to various nations during the time of exile, one can consider the sport arranged by a noble who pits one beast against another in his palace arena, and enjoys watching how one of them overcomes the other.

The seventy nations of the world are likened to beasts, as we read in the Book of Daniel.24 The Tribes of Israel, too, are likened to beasts — Yehudah, to a lion;25 Binyamin, to a wolf;26 and so on. The Jewish people’s subjugation to various nations during the time of exile is thus a battle between beasts, each striving to overcome the other, to wrench the prey from its jaws and to overthrow it.

As to the inner meaning of this battle, this will become apparent in the Time to Come.

The Short Maamarim of the Alter Rebbe, p. 230

The Concept of Exile in Man’s Divine Service and in the Torah


The inner meaning of Israel’s exile among the nations of the world is paralleled within the spiritual life of every individual Jew. For the divine soul, which is called “Israel”, becomes enclothed and (so to speak) dispersed in the alien desires of the animal soul. This “dispersion” calls for an “ingathering of the exiles” — marshaling all these desires, by means of teshuvah, so that all the components of the divine soul are synthesized and can together ascend to the realm of unity.

In this sense we can understand the verse,28 אם יהי' נדחך משם יקבצך... — “Even if your [‘your’ in the singular] dispersion will be at the furthermost parts of the world, from there the L‑rd your G‑d will gather you.”

* * *

Not only is there a “dispersion” within every individual Jew, but in the Torah, too, there is an “exile”; i.e., the separate laws are so dispersed that it becomes impossible to discover a clear halachic ruling. (This difficulty is evident in the involved argumentation of the Gemara.) This “dispersion”, too, calls for an “ingathering of the exiles” — clarifying the various laws, defining the precise area in which each one applies, and excluding any possibility of contradiction or logical inconsistency between related texts.

In this sense we can understand the verse,29 והי' עקב תשמעון את המשפטים האלה — “And it shall come to pass, if you will listen to these judgments,....” [That is how the phrase translates on the level of pshat, the plain meaning. On the non-literal level of derush, however, it can be interpreted as follows:]

“והי' עקב: At the time of the footsteps of Mashiach,30 when the task of sifting and elevating the hidden sparks of holiness in the material world will have been completed,

“תשמעון: there will be a rallying and ingathering31

“את המשפטים האלה: of all the laws of the Torah.”

Shaarei Teshuvah, Vol. II, p. 62c

The Soul was Not Exiled (i)

In the days of the Rebbe Rashab, the Czarist regime demanded that the rabbis of Russia introduce certain reforms in Jewish education and in the rabbinate.

The Rebbe Rashab responded as follows: “It was not by our will that we were exiled from the Land of Israel, and not by our endeavors will we return to the Land of Israel. Our Father and King exiled us, and it is He Who will redeem us and gather in our scattered dispersion....

“Nevertheless, all the nations on the face of the earth must know: Our bodies alone have been handed over into exile to be ruled by the nations of the world, but not our souls.... We must openly declare for all to hear, that with regard to everything involving our religion — the Torah of the people of Israel, with its commandments and customs — no one is going to impose his views on us, and no force has the right to subjugate us.”

Likkutei Dibburim, Vol. IV, p. 1383

The Soul was Not Exiled (ii)

[The Jubilee year frees a Jew who has been forced by poverty to sell himself as a bondman.]

Concerning him the Torah writes:32 ויצא מעמך הוא ובניו עמו — “He shall depart from you, he and his children with him.”

On this Rashi makes the following comment.33

“Rabbi Shimon said: ‘[Even] if he himself is sold, who sold his children? What we learn from this verse is that his master is obliged to support the bondman’s children.’”

[This teaching can be understood on the non-literal level of derush, as follows:]

He and his children with him: Both the father (i.e., our heavenly Father) and the children (i.e., the Children of Israel) have been “sold” into exile. For, as our Sages teach,34 “Wherever they were exiled, the Divine Presence was with them.”

[Even] if he himself is sold, who sold his children? It is all very well to say that G‑d is able to (so to speak) “sell” Himself into exile, for He can survive the exile without being affected by it. But how is it possible to sell the Children of Israel into exile? For if the exile does exert an influence over them, then the very experience of being G‑d’s children cannot surface within them.

What we learn from this verse is that his master is obliged to support the bondman’s children: The Children of Israel were handed over to subjection in exile only insofar as their bodily needs are concerned. (This is hinted at by the term מזונות, here translated “support”.) Though these material needs are granted to them in this world through the agency of the heavenly representatives of their respective countries, the Jew’s soul has never been “sold” (G‑d forbid) into captivity.

His master is obliged to support...: Rabbi Shimon stresses that this is an obligation. It is true that G‑d desired that the livelihood of the Jewish people during the exile should be granted them through the heavenly representatives of their respective countries, but none of these national angels has any say in the matter: he is a mere ax in the hands of the forester. Moreover, he is obliged to satisfy the needs of the Jewish people generously.”

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXII, p. 157

The Length of the Exile (i)


The First Beis HaMikdash was destroyed on account of serious transgressions. As our Sages teach,36 “G‑d has overlooked [even] idolatry, incest and murder, but did not excuse the neglect of Torah study.” The Second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed on account of the sin of baseless hatred.37 Why, then, is the present exile lasting so long, whereas the Babylonian exile which followed the First Destruction lasted only seventy years?

We can gain a perspective on this question by comparing the respective wrongs that had to be corrected by the two periods of exile.

The seven nations that inhabited Canaan when our forefathers arrived there were the embodiment of the seven evil attributes. Though commanded to displace these nations, our forefathers did not do so, as it is written,38 “You shall make no covenant..., but you have not obeyed My voice.” As a consequence, they themselves were contaminated by the seven evil attributes. In order to rectify these attributes, (each of which comprises ten aspects,) the people of Israel were exiled from their land for seventy years.

The sins of the time of the Second Beis HaMikdash did not involve the evil attributes; rather, they were bred by baseless hatred. This is the kelippah that characterizes a particular nation that was not one of the above-mentioned seven nations — Midian, whose very name (מדיון) signifies dissension (מדון). Though this attribute is not absolutely evil, it is the root of evil; moreover, it is the antithesis of holiness, whose essence is unity and harmony.39 And this is why our exile is so extended — for it serves to correct and elevate the baseless hatred out of which it grew.

This perspective enables us better to understand a teaching of our Sages,40 which compares “the earlier people” (i.e., those of the period of the First Beis HaMikdash) with “the latter people” (i.e., those of the period of the Second Beis HaMikdash): “Because the sin of the earlier people was revealed, the end [of their exile] was revealed;41 because the sin of the latter people was not revealed, the end [of their exile] has not been revealed.”

This we can now understand as follows. In the period of the First Beis HaMikdash, when the transgressions of our people involved visibly outright evil (i.e., “their sin was revealed”), they repented of them at once, and their exile came to an end within a short time (i.e., “the end [of their exile] was revealed”). In the period of the Second Beis HaMikdash, by contrast, the prevalent sin was baseless hatred. In such a case people can delude themselves that this is not really a sin, for they can persuade themselves that their hatred of their fellows is justifiable. That is to say, “their sin was not revealed” even to themselves. And for this reason “the end [of this exile] has not been revealed,” for people do not genuinely regret having sinned in this way.

Another possible explanation for the length of the current exile: It takes longer to sift and elevate subtle traces of evil than to sift and elevate coarse manifestations of evil, which are immediately identifiable.

Likkutei Torah, Matos, p. 85d

The Length of the Exile (ii)

In the early generations a wrongdoer was not ashamed of his evil. In the latter generations, since people are ashamed to sin publicly, they do so furtively, deceiving those around them. In this sense “their sin is not revealed,” for they conceal their sins.

Likewise: In the earlier generations a saintly individual sought to serve G‑d in truth, without any self-seeking motives. In the latter generations, evil is hidden away even in divine service itself, as in the case of a person who studies Torah for ulterior motives, rather than for its own sake.

And this is why the present exile is lasting so long — for seeking out hidden evil is much more difficult than seeking out conspicuous evil. Thus we find that Yaakov Avinu’s struggle against Eisav, who was overtly evil, was brief; coping with the wiles of Lavan took twenty years.

The Short Maamarim of the Alter Rebbe, p. 453

The Length of the Exile (iii)

The Gemara teaches:42 שית אלפי שני הוה עלמא — “The world will exist for six thousand years.”43 As is well known, these years correspond to the six middos, [and these divine attributes in turn correspond to the first six days of the week,] as it is written,44 כי אלף שנים בעיניך כיום אתמול כי יעבור — “For a thousand years are in Your eyes like yesterday that has passed.”

The first thousand years reflected the divine attribute of Chessed (“lovingkindness”). This explains the extreme longevity in that period.

In the second millennium the dominant attribute was Gevurah (“strict justice”); hence the Flood took place at this time.

The third millennium was characterized by the attribute of Tiferes (“glory”), which combines the preceding two attributes. This was the time of the Giving of the Torah, which comprises the attribute of Chessed (expressed in the 248 positive commandments) and of Gevurah (expressed in the 365 prohibitive commandments).

The fourth millennium gave expression to the attribute of Netzach (which means both “eternity” and “victory”). During this period, therefore, the two Temples stood, for, as our Sages taught,45 והנצח: זו ירושלים — “ ‘Vehanetzach’46 is an allusion to Jerusalem.” The Destruction of the Second Beis HaMikdash began towards the end of this millennium, at its “heel” (Heb.: עקב) — 172 (עק"ב) years before the fifth millennium.47 (This is hinted at in the phrase,48 ואתה תשופנו עקב. Though the plain meaning of this verse is, “You will strike him in the heel,” it can also be understood to mean, “You will strike it 172 [years before the end of the millennium].”)

The fifth millennium corresponds to the attribute of Hod (“majesty”), which in the scheme of the Sefiros is cognate with the sternness of Gevurah. And, indeed, this millennium was replete with expulsions, anti-Semitic edicts and annihilation. Incidentally, the two diverse facets of the attribute of Hod are reflected in a derush that transforms the meaning of the Hebrew word הוד by reversing its three letters. There is a verse that says,49 כל היום דוה — “...ailing all day.” Another verse says,50 והודי נהפך עלי למשחית — “My majesty was transformed for me to a despoiler.” This divine attribute can thus be viewed from two angles, so to speak.

The sixth millennium reflects the divine attribute of Yesod (“foundation”), [which focuses and transmits the accumulated spiritual riches of the preceding Sefiros]. It thus serves as a preparation for the seventh millennium, יום שכולו שבת — “the day which is entirely Shabbos.”51

Let us now consider the Redemption from this historical perspective.

Concerning the promised time of the Ultimate Redemption, the Sages say,52 זכו: אחישנה; לא זכו: בעתה — “If [the Jewish people] are found worthy, I shall hasten it; if they are not found worthy, [the Redemption will come] at its appointed time.”

Had the Jewish people been found worthy of it, they would have been redeemed at the beginning of the sixth millennium, which followed after the previous millennium’s dark night of exile. To use the above-mentioned metaphor of days, the beginning of the sixth millennium was the first “morning”.53 However, since at that time the Jewish people were not found worthy of redemption, the exile has now extended beyond the five-hundredth year of the sixth millennium,54 which is the second “morning”.55 Indeed, the author of Or HaChayim writes56 that the sparks of the revelation of the Redemption first began to appear from the five-hundredth year of the sixth millennium, by virtue of the lofty tzaddikim who flourished at that time.

The Maamarim of the Alter Rebbe on the Parshiyos of the Torah and the Festivals, p. 419

Comparative Chronological Table

Millennium & Jewish Date Gregorian Date Corresponding Events Mentioned Above

1st: 0-1000 3760 BCE - 2760 BCE Longevity of early generations

2nd: 1001-2000 2760 BCE - 1760 BCE The Flood: Year 1656 (2104 BCE)

3rd: 2001-3000 1760 BCE - 760 BCE Sinai: Year 2448 (1312 BCE)

4th: 3001-4000 760 BCE - 240 CE 1st Temple:2928-3338 (832-422 BCE)
2nd Temple:3408-3828 (352BCE-68CE)

5th: 4001-5000 240 CE - 1240 CE Massacres, expulsions, Crusades

6th: 5001-6000 1240 CE - 2240 CE Preparation for the era of Mashiach

The Length of the Exile (iv)

Fulfilling mitzvos during the time of exile is like sowing seeds. A seed planted in the ground sprouts into a harvest that far exceeds its beginnings. So, too, by fulfilling mitzvos, one “sows” and increases the lights Above, in the Supernal “Land”, and the harvest will “sprout” in future time. Moreover, the longer a seed remains in the ground, the richer will be the yield. So, too, the longer this exile is extended, the more intense will the revelation be in time to come.

This link between the present and the future is hinted at in the following verse:57 ואמר ביום ההוא...זה ה' קוינו לו — “And it shall be said on that day,...’This is G‑d in Whom we hoped.’ ”

That is to say: “In anticipation of the divine revelation (‘This is G‑d!’) that is manifest to us now, in the time of the Redemption, we already prepared, through our divine service during the exile, conduits and lines (קוין) for the downward flow of divine energy.”

Likkutei Torah, Shir HaShirim, p. 50a

“Lebanon” will be Felled by a Mighty One


Whenever the Jewish people are made to submit to the rule of any nation, that nation at first gains ascendancy over all others, and as long as the Jewish people are subject to them, that nation continues to grow ever more powerful. This was the case with Pharaoh of Egypt, with Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, with the emperors of Rome, and with the great powers of later generations.

The explanation is that when the Jewish people are exiled, the Divine Presence is exiled together with them, in the spirit of the teaching of our Sages,59 גלו לאדום שכינה עמהם — “When they were exiled to Edom, the Shechinah accompanied them.” And it is not seemly that the Divine Presence should be in exile at the hands of a lowly nation.

Toras Chayim, Bereishis, Vol. I, p. 92a

* * *

The Rebbe Shlita adds: “Our generation, too, has observed that so long as the bulk of our people lived in Russia, the world quaked in dread of her. More recently, when most of its Jewish population migrated to the United States, this country has become the world’s most powerful.”

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XX, p. 142

With Him In His Distress (i)


There is a verse in the Torah in which G‑d speaks of a period in which the Jews will break their covenant with Him:61 “Then My anger will burn against them..., and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them” — “ if,” adds Rashi, “I did not see their distress.”

Only as if..., for G‑d does not actually forsake Israel: He observes them and (as it were) feels their anguish. In the words of the prophet,62 בכל צרתם לו צר — “In all their distress, He is distressed.”

Indeed, the ultimate reason for which G‑d “hides His face” is to arouse His people to return to Him. This demonstrates how deep is His love for them, no matter what their condition.

The Alter Rebbe63 likens this to the case of “a son who is at home with his father; the father, however, hides his face from him so that the son should become more aware of his own love for his father and express it more ardently — which will assuredly result when the son realizes that his father is present but is hiding his face.”

Likkutei Sichos, Parshas Vayeilech, 5748 [1988]

With Him In His Distress (ii)

“I will hide My face from them..., and many evils and troubles will befall them; and they will say on that day, ‘It is because our G‑d is not among us that these evils have come upon us.’ ”64

Rambam explains65 that when G‑d hides His face and Divine Providence is (so to speak) withdrawn, the Jews are “left to the devices of chance,” and thus it happens that evils and troubles come upon them. Hence the expression in the above-quoted verse, “...will befall them,” and “have come upon us.”

At the same time, however, this mode of Divine conduct itself is also determined by hashgachah pratis, the active and particularized Divine supervision which is known as Divine Providence. For Divine Providence is of two kinds: (a) hashgachah pnimis (lit., “inward Providence”), which is manifest, not being hidden in the garb of nature; and (b) hashgachah chitzonis (lit., “outward Providence”), which is enclothed in the workings of nature. Accordingly, the state in which G‑d “hides His face” (hester panim) does not imply that Divine Providence is suspended. What is being hidden is only the panim (for this word means both “face” and “inward”): it is only the inward and undisguised form of Providence that is hidden. And this Divine self-concealment can reach a point at which a man is likely to perceive his troubles as being “the way of the world,” or (to borrow the expression used by Rambam66 ) “happenstance” — something that “befell” him, whereas in truth, at such times too Divine Providence determines every detail of his life.

(Compare the following statement at the end of Shomer Emunim: “Nothing occurs by chance without Divine intent and Providence; as it is written,67 ‘I shall be indifferent to you’ — from which we see that even chance is a Divinely-chosen mode of conduct, for everything comes from G‑d through particularized Divine Providence.” Note likewise the words in which Rambam67 paraphrases the above verse: “When I shall bring troubles upon you,... I shall add the fury of this chance indifference.”)

This conception resembles the teaching of the Baal Shem Tov on Divine Providence, that68 “G‑d decreed that a particular living blade of grass should live, etc.” — except that this very decree is enclothed in the garb of nature.

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVIII, p. 199

With Him In His Distress (iii)

“Wherever they (the Jewish people) have been exiled, the Divine Presence is with them.”69

After all, the law prescribes that70 “If a disciple is exiled, his teacher is exiled with him.” Moreover,71 “[G‑d] commands Israel to do what He Himself does.”

The point of the former quotation is that the master is not (for example) brought with his disciple, but that he is exiled. He is not simply located in the same town as a free man: he, too, is in a state of exile. The same is true of G‑d and Israel:72 “The Divine Presence experiences, together with Israel, the distress of their exile.”

It is therefore self-understood that there is no justification whatever for despair (G‑d forbid) in the face of this awesome exile, for “his teacher is...with him.” Or, in the words of Tehillim,73 “G‑d is your guardian; G‑d is your protective shade [because He is present] at your right hand.”

Hence, since “the Shechinah is in exile,74 then even if the spiritual state of the Jewish people would suggest that the present exile should be prolonged, G‑d will nevertheless bring the Redemption for His own sake, so to speak — “For My sake, for My sake, will I do it.”75

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIX, p. 93

Yaakov Avinu Planted Cedars in Egypt

“And from where did they have [cedar wood] in the wilderness? Rabbi Tanchuma explained: ‘Yaakov Avinu had seen with divine foresight that the Jewish people would one day build a sanctuary in the wilderness. He therefore brought cedars to Egypt and planted them there, and commanded his sons to take them with them when the time came to leave Egypt.’ ”76

The wilderness: This alludes to the time of exile. Many sources compare the exile to the wanderings of the Jews in the wilderness, in77 “the wilderness of the nations” — a place of kelippos, of78 “snakes, vipers, scorpions and drought,” a place desolate of anything holy.

To build a sanctuary in the wilderness: The purpose of this trek is to build a sanctuary for G‑d in the wilderness, a dwelling place for Him among (and within) the dwellers of this lowest of all worlds.

Cedars: An allusion to tzaddikim, as in the simile,79 “The righteous will flourish like a palm, grow tall like a cedar in Lebanon.” More specifically, the towering cedar alludes to a nasi of Israel, to the leader of each generation (for the term נשיא is related to התנשאות, meaning “elevation”).

Yaakov Avinu brought cedars to Egypt: As its Hebrew initials suggest,80 every nasi is a “spark of Yaakov Avinu” נ'יצוץ ש'ל י'עקב א'בינו. Moreover, his soul derives from the Land of Israel, for in truth he transcends exile — except that during this time he has been “planted” in “Egypt”, in order to give his fellow Jews the courage and strength to contend with the darkness of exile.

This is the explanation of Rabbi Tanchuma: This is Israel’s consolation (for the name Tanchuma means “consolation”) — that even when they are in the thick of exile, they have in their midst those “cedars” that Yaakov Avinu planted in every generation.

Likkutei Sichos, Parshas Terumah, 5748 [1988]

The Butchers’ Market

There is a promise in the Torah which reads,81 “Yet even then, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not abhor them nor spurn them so as to destroy them.”

On this the Zohar writes:82 “During the time of exile the Jewish people may be likened to a bride standing in a butchers’ market. Because of her Bridegroom’s great love for her, its foul odor does not deter Him from visiting her where she is; indeed, in His imagination she is standing in a bazaar of perfumers.”

“This relationship,” comments the Rebbe Shlita, “refers to the time of exile. But the time has now come that there should be an end to the exile,83 and we have to get ready for the Redemption. And surely it is obvious that we cannot accompany G‑d to the chuppah wearing the same ‘garments’84 that were good enough for the butchers’ market....”

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XX, p. 178

G‑d Regrets Having Created Exile

There are four things, as our Sages teach,85 that G‑d regrets having created. One of them is — exile. It is wise to remember this constantly: exile is not the true state in which G‑d would like His people to be.

Our Sages taught us about this regret for two reasons:

(a) in order that we should not come to be satisfied with the state of exile, but that we should remember that it is a punishment:86 “Because of our sins we were exiled from our Land”;

(b) in order that we should not be daunted by the darkness of exile, nor driven to despair — for we know that exile is not a substantial reality, and it will ultimately dissolve.

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIV, p. 175

“Exile Comes to the World”


“Exile comes to the world because of idolatry, incest and murder, and because the land is not left to rest during the Sabbatical year.”

This teaching stresses that it is so unthinkable that exile should exist in the world, that it is brought on only by the weightiest transgressions in the Torah. In other words, even if (G‑d forbid) all the other 609 mitzvos were spurned, the punishment of exile would still not be warranted.

The reason is simple: Since this is G‑d’s world, it is unthinkable that it should comprise a component like exile.

From a talk of the Rebbe Shlita on Shabbos Parshas Balak, 5744 [1984]

Four Reasons for Thanksgiving

[A person who has safely survived a voyage across the ocean, a journey in the wilderness, imprisonment on a capital charge, or serious illness, is obliged to express his thanksgiving.88 In the days of the Beis HaMikdash, this took the form of a Korban Todah (a thanksgiving offering); in our days, the appropriate blessing (Birkas HaGomel)89 is recited immediately after one has been called to the Reading of the Torah.]

The condition of the Jewish people during the time of exile may be compared to each of these four states:

The ocean: The insistent demands of making a livelihood, which distract a man from his service of G‑d, are comparable to turbulent waters, as in the chassidic interpretation of the verse,90 “Many waters cannot quench the love [which the Jewish people feel toward G‑d].”

The wilderness: This place of91 “snakes, vipers, scorpions and thirst, a place without water,” alludes to the spiritual desolation of exile.

Imprisonment: For the Jewish people, this long exile is a veritable prison.

Illness: The dense darkness of exile makes the Jewish people lovesick with an ardent yearning for G‑d.

And when Mashiach comes, we will express our thanksgiving to G‑d for having liberated us from these four constraints.

From a talk of the Rebbe Shlita on Shabbos Parshas Tzav, 5740 [1980]