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Rabbi’s Blog: Exile & Return

12/12/2023 02:04:46 PM


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Dear OZ family,


Although Sefer Bereshit is filled with statements to the descendants of Avraham that they would inherit the land that was promised to him, they spend much of the book in exile from that land. Avraham travels to Egypt and Philistia to escape famine, Yitzchak travels to Philistia for the same reason, (Philistia turns out to be part of the land promised to Avraham), and Yaacov spends the formative years of his family in Aram. Parshat Vayeshev represents a moment of breathing room for Yaacov (Vayeshev could mean to rest or to appease, besides its regular connotation of “to reside”). An even greater exile is soon upon us to end the first book of the Torah. Our nation’s formative years are pocked with rootlessness and exile. The “Promised Land” remained a promise even unto the end of the Torah.


The relationship between a people and its land is so interconnected, that when the Assyrians and Babylonians exiled much of the ancient world, those nations soon ceased to exist as an entity unto themselves. This did not happen to us because of our adherence to the Torah and its promises that we would always return to our land (See the end of Vayikra 26). Even the prophet of doom and destruction, so filled with jeremiads of impending exile, instilled the hope unto his people, even as other nations were swallowed up by Assyria and Babylon, that they and their descendants would outlast both of them and return to rebuild the land, and we would succeed in doing so. The second commonwealth did not succeed as Chaggai and Zecharia, and Yirmiyahu and Yechezkel envisioned. Ezra and Nechemia only succeeded in getting approximately one in a hundred Jews living at the time to return to Israel after Cyrus the Great permitted them to do so .


Assimilation, intermarriage and so many Jews remaining in exile, made it so that the return was less than what it could have been. The assimilation led to the Chanukah story, and the success of the rejuvenation of our people reminds us of the Eternal Light of the Ner Tamid that burns in Jewish hearts and a reminder of this can be seen in front of every shul. This is the light that has been burning for centuries. This is the light of our prayers for a return to Zion and an ingathering of the exiles that we recite daily.


But this historic return, along with the miraculous success of Israel does not sit well with the Jew-haters. An article in this month’s Commentary magazine explains how it is that the trans-activists, champions of women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ groups, climate extremists, and BLM supporters have so squarely aligned with a Chamas controlled Gaza where women can’t drive a car, and certainly can’t get an abortion, and gay men are thrown off of buildings. The answer is that what unites all these groups is that they all ascribe to the Marxist theory that bids them to hate the one who is better off than they are. They can’t stand Israel’s success , the same way that the Philistines couldn’t stand Yitzchak’s success in Bereshit 26 when they banished him. Never mind that Israel shares its success in making the lives of so many in the world, safer, more convenient, and healthier. Israel is at the top of the world in water treatment, and is the only country on the planet where there are more trees now than there were 100 years ago.


Can you imagine if Neo-Nazi groups had called for genocide of the Jewish people, if the presidents of MIT, Penn, and Harvard would have said that is protected speech? Could you imagine if they called for genocide of any other group, that this would have been considered protected speech? Prepare for the 2 presidents who haven’t yet been fired, to walk back their disastrous Congressional testimony. The world will forgive us for taking threats to our lives seriously. Israel is at the core of our existence as a people, and we will always seek her peace and welfare. The last 75 years has seen the realization of the words of Yirmiyahu, Yechezkel, Chaggai and Zecharia. Let us be part of their prophecies in our support of Israel in her time of need. Alisa and I will be leaving for Israel, next Wednesday, and we have a packed itinerary, about which I will report daily. Anyone who wishes to support the places we will visit, can make a check to the OZ Chesed Fund with Israel Emergency Fund at the memo.


Stay well and healthy

Rabbi Allen Schwartz

Mon, March 4 2024 24 Adar I 5784