Rabbi Hizkiyah opened with "Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers (in exile)? Did not G‑d..." (Isaiah 42:24) Come and see: From the time the Temple was destroyed, no blessings rested upon the world. They stopped as if detained Above [in the world of Atzilut] and Below [in the Lower worlds]. All these lower levels [of spiritual influence] were strengthened; they ruled over Israel, because Israel had caused it by their transgressions [for the Temple would not have been destroyed if not for Israel’s sins].

This verse contains a contradiction. It is written: "Who gave Jacob for a spoil?" After it said, "Who gave Jacob for a spoil" and "Israel" [in 3rd person], why does it continue with "we have sinned" [in 2nd person]? It should have said, 'They sinned'. Since it said, "We have sinned," why does it continue with, "They would not walk" instead of saying, 'We would not walk'?

When the Temple was destroyed and the Holy of Holies was burned and the people were exiled, the Shechinah wanted to be uprooted from Her place and go into exile with them. She said, I will first go and see my house and palace and visit the places of the priests and the Levites, who served in my house.

Rabbi Elazar said that at that time, the Congregation of Israel [the Shechinah] looked up and saw that Her husband [Zeir Anpin] had left Her and ascended on high. She went down, entered the Temple, and looked at all those [destroyed] places. And a voice was heard way on high, and a voice was heard below [for the place of the Shechinah is Above and Below], as the verse states: "A voice was heard up high, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel [i.e. the Shechinah] weeping for her children [and the Temple's destruction]." (Jeremiah 31:14) This has been explained.

When She went into exile [and descended with Israel to save them from their enemies], She looked at the people and saw how they were hard-pressed and trampled under the feet of the other nations in exile. Then She said, "Who gave Jacob for a spoil..." And [the children of Jacob] responded, "Did not G‑d, He to Whom we have sinned." The Shechinah asked, "And in whose ways they would not walk, and to whose Torah they were not obedient1?" (Isaiah 42:24)

When G‑d will come to redeem His people, the Congregation of Israel first return from the Exile, then go to the Temple - because the Temple will already have been built. G‑d says to Her, "Rise from the dust" [where the external forces dwell with Israel]. But the Shechinah responds, "Where do I go? My house is destroyed and my palace is burned in fire." This will continue until G‑d will first rebuild the Temple, fix the inner chamber [of the Temple], and build the city of Jerusalem. Only then does He raise them from the dust, as it is written: "G‑d builds Jerusalem." (Psalms 147:2) He first builds Jerusalem – then after "He gathers together the outcasts of Israel" and tells Her, "Shake yourself from the dust [of the external forces]; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem." (Isaiah 42:2)

Then He gathers the exiles of Israel. Thus it first says: "G‑d builds Jerusalem" and then "He gathers together the outcasts of Israel." Then: "He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds," (Psalms 147:3) which refers to the resurrection of the dead. And it is written: "And I will put my spirit within you [to arouse their hearts], and cause you to follow my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments [with a complete heart], and do them" (Ezekiel 36:27) Blessed is G‑d forever. Amen, amen.

BeRahamim LeHayyim: What does the above mean to you, and why is it revealed to you right now during these 3 Weeks of Mourning?

The saddest fact of exile is that the Divine Presence is not apparent, as it was during the time of the First Temple, when the sense of G‑d was palpable and manifest in daily miracles perceived by all. Now we are in a back-to-back relationship with the Eternal, not the face-to-face context of old. This works well, for when we miss the mark, it is not, as it were, in G‑d's face.

But, the times they are a changin'. For in these days of constriction, and especially during these 22 days, where we fail to sense His Presence, the above Zohar says that He has ascended up high, but will visit His people in exile. Like right now, right when we least expect it.

What can we do on our side? For starters, we can really believe that we can make a difference. Do what we can to walk the walk and talk the talk of redemption. We want Mashiach Now! This is not just a slogan, it is a way of life, a positive way of looking at the upcoming change of life. It starts right now, for today is the first day of the rest of your life. Start it right with Mashiach!

Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
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