The beginning of this week's first Torah portion discusses the various laws regarding the Yovel (Jubilee) year, the year in which land in Israel reverts back to its original owner.
The beginning of this week's first Torah portion discusses the various laws regarding the Yovel (Jubilee) year, the year in which land in Israel reverts back to its original owner. The verse describes the events in the Yovel year as follows: "In the Jubilee year you shall return each man to his ancestral heritage" (Leviticus 25:13). The Hebrew word for "return" used in the above verse is "tashuvu." Usually spelled with the Hebrew letters tav, shin, vav, vet, vav, this time it appears in its shortened form, without the first vav.
The Zohar, the basic work of Kabbalah, viewed this verse as a prophetic sign. Since it speaks about the land of Israel being returned to its rightful owners, the Zohar understood this verse to mean when the land of Israel was returned to the Jewish people as a nation. As we know from history, this finally occurred in the year 1948, which corresponds to the year 5708 on the Jewish calendar. Remarkably, the numerical value of the word "tashuvu return" when it is written without the first vav as in the verse above is that same number 708 (the 5000 part of the year only tells us which millennium from creation we are talking about). The verse itself was telling us when we would return to our homeland. How amazing that the very verse which discusses the return of the land contains an actual reference to the historical event when Israel was returned to Jewish rule!
Let us take this idea one step further. The Midrash discusses the time of the arrival of the Mashiach (Messiah) and relates the following parable: There was once a father and son who were traveling together to a big city. The boy asked his father when they would be arriving. The father replied, "When you see the cemetery, you will know that we are close, for the cemetery is located on the outskirts of the city." This is true even today; most cemeteries are located just outside the city. What relevance does this story have to the arrival of the Mashiach? The Talmud explains that the city is compared to the Mashiach. Only once we have passed a cemetery in other words, a time of death on a massive scale will the arrival of the Mashiach be on the horizon. We have witnessed such a horrific massacre in the not-so-distant past with the Holocaust, the most systematic and cruel death machine in all of Jewish history.
Now let us bring back the missing letter vav from before. The letter vav, which numerically equals six, refers to the six million Jews whom we lost in the Holocaust. Now the word "tashuvu return" is more prophetic than ever. As the Talmud stated, there will only be a return to Israel once we have passed a cemetery. Well, we have certainly passed that cemetery the deaths of six million of our own and now we can rest assured that the arrival of the Mashiach is on the horizon.
This article is based on a lecture given by Rabbi Benjamin Blech, world renowned lecturer and author of the recently published The Idiot's Guide to Jewish History and Culture.
Benyamin Cohen, a native Atlantan and alumnus of Yeshiva Atlanta, is editor of Torah from Dixie.
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