Are conditions in the world getting better, or do they keep getting worse? This may be a glass-half-full or half-empty sort of question; it all depends on your perspective. Look at the advances in science, technology and health--the appliances that save us time and energy, the miracle drugs and surgical techniques that allow us to overcome diseases that once would have been deadly. Yet there are the drawbacks. The modern-day technocratic society has been using up the world's resources at a rapid pace and degrading the environment. While modern medicine has saved many lives, many others have died in car crashes or through exposure to radiation and other hazards of industrialization. A great many people also suffer from anxiety and depression, and complain of a poor quality of life. So we have a serious question--is life getting better, or have we simply exchanged one set of problems for another?
From a Jewish perspective, we know that every generation, every year, every moment that passes brings us that much closer to Redemption. Our good deeds over the course of history have accumulated, and we have already completed our task in perfecting the world. According to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, our generation is the last generation of exile and the first of Redemption; all we need to do is greet Moshiach in actuality. If this is the case, we would expect to see a steady improvement in our living conditions, rather than the mixed blessing that technology has proven to be.
In this week's Torah portion, we find an interesting parallel to modern times. G-d sent Moses on a mission to Pharaoh, to demand of him to "let my people go!" Rather than redeeming the Jews, though, Pharaoh reacted imposing even harsher conditions on the slaves. Moses returned to G-d with a complaint: "Why have you done evil to this nation? …From when I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, You have done evil to this nation and You have not rescued them!"
The cry of Moses can still be heard echoing in our generation. "Why have you done evil to this nation?" We have been promised the Redemption. Why do we still experience sorrows, tragedies, aggravation? G-d responded to Moses' complaint with a reassurance: "I have heard the cries of the children of Israel… Go tell the children of Israel: I am G-d and I will take you out of the suffering of Egypt."
We must remember that as their suffering in exile intensified, the Jewish People also intensified their prayers and requests for the Redemption. So, too, in our generation. The improvements in our quality of life, freedom and religious liberty give us hope that the era of Redemption is indeed at hand. The Rebbe's prophecies make it clear that we are on the brink of Redemption. However, our ongoing struggles and troubles remind us that we have not yet reached the end of the road. We must continue to pray and beseech G-d to send us the true redeemer and the complete Redemption.