“Breaking the Vessels” → “Repairing the World”

The history of the Bible swings at various times in two opposite directions for the nation of Israel: dispersion and regathering. This is a very prominent aspect of Jewish thought, that is not found in most Christian (or secular) literature.

The Jewish view of “salvation” has been described in Hebrew as “Galut” and “Geulah” – גלות וגאולה – exile and redemption“. Salvation, redemption, regathering to the land of Israel, setting up of an Israelite kingdom, and the coming of the Messiah – they are all connected.

In biblical history, there are five exiles:

  1. Egypt – sojourn at time of the patriarchs
  2. Assyria – northern tribes at time of Hezekiah
  3. Babylon – Judean kingdom at time of Jeremiah
  4. Persia – continuation of Babylonian exile
  5. Rome – main 2,000-year exile until modern Zionism.

One reason the pattern of exile and return is necessary is because the kingdom of God is both Israelite and International.

Each exile took place at the pinnacle of the empire of the nations listed above. In each case there was an option for a positive blessing on the nation, or a negative judgment, depending on their relationship with Israelite “refugees”.

  1. Egypt became the greatest empire of the world in the time of Joseph (Genesis) and then was destroyed at the time of Moses (Exodus).
  2. Assyria became the greatest empire of the world right after their repentance at the time of Jonah (Jonah 3), and then was destroyed when they attacked Jerusalem (Isaiah 37).
  3. Babylon was the greatest empire of the world at the time of Daniel.
  4. Persia was the greatest empire at the time of Mordechai and Esther after almost coming to an end at the time of Haman.
  5. Rome controlled southern Europe as the apostolic mission of Paul spread there.

This prophetic pattern is so profound that the gospels state that Yeshua had to go into symbolic exile into Egypt as a baby and return, in order to fulfill the covenantal history of the people of Israel. Matthew 2:14-15 – “Out of Egypt I have called my son” (see Hosea 11:1).

The 2,000-year exile up to present times, occurs during the expansion of the international ekklesia as the gospel extends around the world. The restoration of Israel points to the final stages of the process toward the coming of Messiah to establish the kingdom of God on earth.

Between the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the time of the Holocaust, the greatest tragedy of the Jewish people was the exile from Spain in 1492 at the height of the inquisition period. Since Spain was the primary center of Jewish life, culture and population in that century, the trauma was felt in cosmic proportions.

Jewish religious writings began to search for a spiritual meaning to the exile. How could a good and all-powerful God, who has a covenant with the Jewish people, allow for such disasters to occur? They began to seek a hidden, divine purpose in the exile itself.

It was at this time, particularly in the mystical writings of Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572) in Safed, that the idea of “shevirat ha kelim” – שבירת הכלים – and then “tikkun haolam” –  תיקון העולם – became popular. These may be translated as “the breaking of the vessels” and “the restoration of the world”.

While these concepts were written outside of any reference to the New Covenant, there is some surprising parallel to the Apostle Peter’s view of “the restoration of all things” – Acts 3:21, and to the Apostle Paul’s view of grafting international Christians to the “Olive tree” in Romans 11:17-24. (We take the names of our ministry Tikkun Global from the reference in Acts 3:21 and Revive Israel from Romans 11:26.)

An underlying similarity of the Lurianic mystical view and the New Covenant apostolic view is finding a redemptive purpose in the destruction and dispersion of the Jewish people.

In the view of “breaking the vessels” the Jewish people are seen as a clay jar which is shattered (reminiscent of Jeremiah 19). In the clay jar there was light, and that light was scattered with the broken pieces in millions of small “sparks” (compare Gideon’s jars in Judges 7:16-20 and the light of the nations in Isaiah 42:6, 49:6).

The idea was that these sparks would then attract and gather other sparks scattered among the nations, and then the pieces of the clay jar would be regathered and reassembled, together with the light, in a greater way than it was before.

This is a parallel concept to the gospel going out to the nations (Acts 1:8), myriads of Gentiles coming to the light of salvation, leading up to the “fullness of the Gentiles” and then “all Israel will be saved” – Romans 11:25-26, which would include greater riches of the world” and even “resurrection from the dead” – Romans 11:12, 15.

Destruction and disaster among the Jewish people would lead to salvation and redemption to the nations, and then the Jewish people would be restored.  That is the mystical view of “breaking of the vessels” and “repairing the world”. That view in the New Covenant is incorporated into the gospel commission, the unity of the Church, world revival, and ultimately into the Second Coming of Yeshua.

The New Covenant includes a positive role for the Gentiles (ethnos). They will spread the message of the Messiah and also be a part of bringing salvation to the Jewish people by a godly form of “jealousy” (Deuteronomy 32:21 – kin’ah קניאה, Romans 11:14 – parazeloo).

Personal Application

In all these themes, there is also a personal devotional lesson.  In our lives, families, and congregations, there is often a period of destruction and scattering, which leads later to a better and more purified completion.

There is a divine purpose and logic behind these disasters, in which the greater and wider good will be made apparent later on. To every dream and vision, there is a death and rebirth. May God give us all more grace, faith, hope, and perseverance to walk out what is hidden from us in times of horribly painful scattering and suffering.

This article originally appeared on Revive Israel, March 11, 2021, and reposted with permission.