והיה בי-תבאו עליך כל-הדברים האלה הברכה והקללה אשר נתתי לפנ,נך והשבת אל-לבבך בכל-הגוים אשר הדיחך יהיה אלקיך שמה: ושבת עד-יהיה אלקיך ושעת בקלו ככל אשר-אנכי מצוך היום אתה ובניך בכל-לבבך ובכל-נפשך: ושב יהיה אלקיך את-שבותך ורחמך ושב וקבצך מכל-העמים אשר הפיצך יהיה אלקיך שמה:
It will be that when all these things come to pass – the blessing and the curse that I have presented to you – then you will take it to your heart among all the nations where Hashem your G-d has dispersed you. And you return to the Lord your G-d and you and your children heed His command with all your heart and soul…then the Lord your G-d will restore your fortunes and take you back in love. He will bring you together again from all the peoples where the Lord your G-d has scattered you. (Deut. 30:2-3).
The final stages of redemption are mentioned in this week’s parasha, although there is some disagreement about what those stages will be, and in what order. According to the Jerusalem Talmud, first the Temple will be built, and then Moshiach will arrive. Rambam (Sefer HaHinch 85) believes that the ingathering of exiles will precede the building of the Temple, but that will happen only when the majority of Am Israel is ingathered.
In Chapter 1 of Bereshit G-d is refered to only as “Elokim” – denoting both Justice and Judgment. When we read the first depiction of creation, the laws of the natural universe are set down. Thus G-d is the creator or physical laws that will govern the universe. G-d’s actions are described in terms of natural laws, like Newton’s laws of motion, governing the order of creation, from the order of the heavens, to creation of man. We might not understand everything about these laws, but we know that they apply everywhere, holding the universe together and enabling planets to orbit around their suns.
Chapter 2 of Bereshit, recapitulates the creation story with focus on the advent of man, and with the advent of man – possessed of soul . In this version of creation G-d is referred to as Hashem Elokim – – the tetragrammaton – denoting Mercy.
Mercy is unnecessary in a discussion the laws of physics. G-d acted to create a cohesive physical universe. Mercy is, when discussing the actions of man far more necessary.
According to Rabbi Soloveitchik,* in Chapter 1 the Torah describes man as a creative being who asks, “How is the world constructed?” “How does nature operate?” out of his desire to imitate nature, to improve and control it. In contrast, man as described in Chapter 2 is a philosophical being who asks questions of cause and effect: Why was the world created? To what purpose was man created? Who is the Creator, who is the Ruler of the Universe?
If Am Israel had followed the laws of Hashem blindly, as the laws of the physical universe move in unfailingly predictable fashion, exile would not have happened. G-d would be only the G-d of the laws of the natural universe. Yet it’s not enough thank G-d for setting up the order of nature , nor does it benefit man to consider the physical world to be the only recognizable act of G-d.
The blessing and the curse is that man can and must ask to what purpose was man created, and to query the nature of the Creator Himself. It’s a given that the answers we seek will scatter us to all parts of the earth. Likewise we can be secure in knowing that G-d’s attribute of Mercy ensures that tshuva will bring us back home again.
*Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The Lonely Man of Faith (Doubleday, 1992), pp. 19-28. [First published in Tradition, Summer 1965]