21 Elul 5771
There has been talk in the blogosphere about the advisability of praying for a delay in the Redemption in order to give some people more time to do teshuva. It bothered me when I first read it and it's still bothering me, so I've decided to share my thoughts on the subject.
For one thing, we pray the following three times a day, every day, in the Shemoneh Esrei...
"Behold our affliction, take up our grievance, and redeem us speedily for Your name's sake...."
"...may all wickedness perish in an instant, and may all Your enemies be cut down speedily. may You speedily uproot, smash, cast down, and humble wanton sinners - speedily in our days...."
"And to Jerusalem, Your city, may You return in compassion, and may You rest within it, as You have spoken. May You rebuild it soon in our days as an eternal structure, and may You speedily establish the throne of David within it...."
"The offspring of Your servant David may You speedily cause to flourish,...."
After petitioning the King for a "speedy" redemption, how are we then to say at the end that we didn't really mean it? We'd really like to have a "delay." Even if it's for a "good" reason like giving people more time for teshuva, it sounds absurd and I can't imagine how it would be received in Shamayim. And for another thing, my experience tells me that the more time that goes by, the more people are falling off the derech and letting go of the "rope," rather than the other way around.
Surely, the Men of the Great Assembly who composed our daily prayers and who included among them the last of the Hebrew prophets - surely, they knew what we would need most at the end of our long, hard exile - a speedy redemption!
Hashem, save us NOW! because we don't have the strength to go on anymore!!
Furthermore, Rav Eliyahu, the Gaon miVilna, who claimed to be the Mashiach Ben Yosef of his generation - surely, he knew what the people would need most at the End of Days...
From Chapter 1 of Kol Hator:
8. [c] [Isa. 60:22] "in its time, I will hasten it." Our Sages interpreted this principle to mean that, if they [the People of Israel] merit it, I will hasten it [the Redemption]; if not, I will bring it in its own time (Sanhedrin 98a). Regarding this, the Gaon commented that after all, the verse should be interpreted literally. According to the plain interpretation, even if the Redemption comes at its proper time, I will hasten it. ...This is also the meaning of "and the things that are to come upon them, will make haste" (Deut. 32). ...Many times I have witnessed the Gaon pacing around his room, speaking agitatedly, saying, "Lord of the Universe, don't you have a middle road between 'its time' and 'I will hasten it.' We insist on the plain interpretation of Your promise: "I am the Lord; in its time, I will hasten it."