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The Decree Has Ended

Our sages refer to the 15th of Av as one of the most joyous Jewish holidays. According to Jewish tradition, our ancestors began to celebrate this holiday in the desert.

A decree had been placed on the entire generation of Jews who left Egypt, to die in the desert without seeing the Land of Israel. The decree was placed upon them as punishment for accepting the evil report of the spies and mourning G-d's promise to them to take them into the Land of Israel. For forty years they wandered in the desert. One day a year, on the 9th of Av, the date on which the spies had brought back their evil report, the Jews would lie down to sleep in the desert, and in the morning, some of them would not get up.

After forty years, the designated day rolled around, and all the Jews lay down for the night, expecting that a portion of them would not wake up that morning. All of them survived the night. They thought they must have made a mistake in the dates; the next night, they lay down as well. Only when the 15th of Av arrived, they saw the full moon and realized that there was no mistake. The decree had been lifted, and there would be no more dying--their generation would merit to enter into the Land of Israel.


Many generations passed, and once again, the 9th of Av became a day of suffering and punishment: The two Holy Temples in Jerusalem were both destroyed on the same date, 450 years apart.

In the desert, the Jews were not given an exact deadline when the punishment for the sin of the spies would end. Similarly, we were not given notice in advance when this exile would end. Our forefather Jacob tried to reveal the end, but G-d prevented him from doing so. Over the course of the generations there have been great sages who have revealed various end dates that were prime times for redemption--however, none of them ever gave an absolute time when the final redemption would come.

In the desert, the Jewish people never lost hope that one day they would see the Holy Land. For generation upon generation, we, too, have awaited the final Redemption, yet never gave up hope that it would come one day. Each generation gave over this faith to the succeeding one, hoping that if not they, then at least their children will merit to see the Redemption.

And our forefathers in the desert, at the end of forty years, took time before they realized that the punishment was over. We, too, in the final generation of exile, have merited to hear a prophecy of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, that we are the final generation of exile and the first of Redemption. We are the ones who will NOT die in exile; we will merit to return to our land with our final redeemer, King Moshiach.


However, in actuality, we have not yet gone out of exile. In a sense, the time that we are in now can be compared to that interim stage in the desert, between the 9th and the 15th of Av, when the punishment had ended but the people had not yet realized the fact. We have already begun to taste the miracles of Redemption: the miraculous outcomes of Israel's wars; the fall of the Iron Curtain; the ingathering of thousands of Jews to Israel.

However, it seems that we are not yet convinced. We have yet to receive the final declaration, the final evidence, that we are no longer in exile.

This is our 15th of Av, the holiday that we are awaiting. With full hearts we anticipate the complete revelation of King Moshiach, who will pierce the darkness of exile and prove with finality that the exile is over.


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