I am always intrigued by the ברית בין הבתרים, the Pact of the Parts. HaShem enters into a covenant with Avraham and informs him that his descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs for four hundred years. They will be enslaved and persecuted and then they will leave with great wealth. Why was it necessary for Avraham to know this? True, Avraham was the father of the Jewish People and HaShem loved him dearly, but we do not find that Avraham prayed to HaShem to have the decree of exile averted. Regarding the fate of Sodom, however, Avraham prayed incessantly that HaShem rescind the decree, and this was for the most wicked people on the planet!
The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 44:21) comes to the rescue as we are informed that HaShem offered Avraham a choice: his descendants could either suffer the pain of Gehinnom or they would have to accept the decree of exile, and Avraham chose exile (See Ibid for an opinion that maintains that Avraham actually chose Gehinnom). We would think that this was not really a fair choice. Can we imagine if someone said, “I will either shoot you or I will make you wander the earth for the rest of your days?” Certainly anyone sane would choose exile, so what was the purpose of HaShem offering Avraham Gehinnom?
The answer to this question is that HaShem was demonstrating to Avraham how painful the exile would be. Indeed, the Medrash (Ibid 15) states that HaShem showed Avraham all the future exiles and the suffering that the Jewish people would undergo. This means that Jews would be enslaved, persecuted, taxed, shot, killed, asphyxiated with gas, burned in the crematoria, and all the other unspeakable horrors that the Jews have experienced throughout the millennium. Yet, Avraham still chose exile over Gehinnom, similar to what Dovid HaMelech said (Tehillim 63:4) כִּי טוֹב חַסְדְּךָ מֵחַיִּים שְׂפָתַי יְשַׁבְּחוּנְךָ, for Your kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise you. Although we have suffered much, we have had the opportunity to praise HaShem for all of His kindness towards us, and that is the purpose of our existence. HaShem informed Avraham that his children would suffer greatly, but in the end we would emerge victorious, having withstood all of the trials and tribulations and praised HaShem through it all.
Let us use this Shabbos to praise HaShem for everything that he does for us and may we merit the Ultimate Redemption, speedily, in our days.
Have a praiseworthy Shabbos!