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October 25, 2016 / 23 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘exile’

Sorry – the Exile isn’t Forever

Monday, August 1st, 2016

During the Three Weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av, it is an appropriate time to take a deeper look at the difference between Galut and Geula. Galut is the destruction of our national framework in Eretz Yisrael, when Israeli Nationhood is shattered, and we are left scattered in foreign countries around the world, living as minorities in gentile lands. Instead of being the Israelite Nation in our own Land, we become American Jews and French Jews and Russian Jews, individuals in alien lands, under foreign governments. The living, energizing Soul of the Nation no longer appears, and we are left like the dry scattered and lifeless bones of Ezekiel’s prophecy. Hashem’s light in the world, which shines forth when the Nation of Israel is in Zion, is terribly darkened. His Name in the world is desecrated, as the gentiles say that they are mightier than He, having ousted His Children from the Land which Hashem promised to give them. Christianity and Islam seize center stage, and the light of Israel and Torah are scorned. In effect, not only are the Jewish People dead in their true National fullness, Hashem is dead with them.

Rabbi Kook taught that the Jewish People needed to rise up to a higher understanding of Torah to fathom the wonder of the ingathering of the exiles and rebirth of the Nation of Israel in our time. No longer was it sufficient to study only the “four cubits of Halacha” which we were left with in Galut – the private commandments of the Torah which dealt with our private lives. We had to strive for a higher understanding of Torah and Emunah, not a Torah of the individual, based on personal mitzvot like Shabbat and Kashrut, but the Torah of the Clal, of the entire Nation, the Torah as it was originally intended to be, the Torah of Eretz Yisrael, the Torah of a mighty Jewish Nation, with its own government, army, judicial, economic, agricultural laws, and Holy Temple; a Torah which was focused on the Clal and not on the Prat. This is the “new light on Zion” which we pray for – our return to a National understanding of the Torah, and a National understanding of who we are as Jews. In rising up to this greater comprehension, we come to realize the emptiness of our exile existence in gentile lands, and we long for our own Jewish Nationhood in our own Jewish Homeland.

The state of our lives which we became used to in Galut, seeing ourselves as American or German Jews, living private lives under foreign governments, must necessarily undergo a radical change as the Geula begins, ushering in a completely new level of life. Therefore, Rabbi Kook teaches, in order to comprehend what is taking place with the Nation, in its sudden rebirth, and in order to raise ourselves up to the exalted level of life we experienced during the time of the First Temple – and to which we are returning – we have to learn to see the Torah in a higher light.

Firstly, we have to recognize the exile for what it really is – a graveyard for the Jews. We mentioned how the Prophet Ezekiel compared the exiled to a valley of dry bones. These bones represent the House of Israel in exile. A spirit of life only returns to these bones when they rise up to return to the Land of Israel: “Thus says the L-rd G-d: Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, O, My People; and I will bring you into the Land of Israel; and you shall know that I am the L-rd, when I have opened your graves, and caused you to come up out of your graves, O, My People. And I will put My spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own Land; and you shall know that I the L-rd have spoken and performed it, sys the L-rd.”

The Prophet Ezekiel describes the situation of Am Yisrael in exile as being similar to the dead in a graveyard. In contrast, the Geula comes when the revitalized bones leave the cemetery of exile and come to Eretz Yisrael.

In his book, “Binyan Emunah,” Rabbi Moshe Bleicher of Hevron, comments, “There are those who will say that this only a metaphor, and that the Prophet doesn’t really mean to say that we are like dead people when we are in exile, for, as anyone can see, we are living, breathing, and learning Torah. The Prophet, they claim, exaggerates in order to highlight a particular aspect of Galut, but he doesn’t mean to teach that there is an essential, absolute, difference between the time of Galut and Geula, like the difference between the dead and the living. However, the words of the Prophet are meant to be taken literally, at face value.”

In Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi’s classic treatise of Jewish Faith, “HaKuzari,” a deep theological conversation between a gentile king and a Rabbi, the king says that the Jewish People in exile are like a body without a head or heart. The Rabbi answers: “You say rightly, but more than this – we are not even a body, but only scattered limbs, like the dry bones which Ezekiel saw in his vision. But even so, O king of the Kuzar, these bones have retained a natural trace of vital power, having once been the vessels which housed the heart, brain, breath, soul, and intellect.”

The Rabbi agrees with the king of Kuzar that Am Yisrael in exile is like a body without a heart and brain. However, the truth is even worse – we don’t have even a body, but merely dry bones. Nevertheless, buried in these dry bones is great hidden life, the “genetic” remnants of the full life we had when we were in Eretz Yisrael, and these dormant “chromosomes” are destined to return to new life at the time of the Redemption.

Rabbi Bleicher notes that Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi lived in Spain when he wrote “HaKuzari.” During this era, Torah learning flourished, but he described his personal situation, and the state of Am Yisrael, like death and mere dry bones. Thus we see that the description of the Prophet Ezekiel is real. The time of exile is death for the Jewish People. Even though there may be times when things are going well, this is only on an individual level – the Jewish Nation itself remains scattered bones lacking life. The soul of the Nation is lost.

The Gaon of Vilna explains:

“Since the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, our spirit and our crown departed, and only we remained, the body without the soul. And exile to outside of the Land is a grave. Worms surround us there, and we do not have the power to save ourselves from the idol worshippers who devour our flesh. In every place, there were great Jewish communities and yeshivot, until the body decayed, and the bones scattered, again and again. Yet, always, some bones still existed, the Torah Scholars of the Israelite Nation, the pillars of the body – until even these bones rotted, and there only remained a rancid waste which disintegrated into dust – our life turned into dust.”

It must be remembered that the Gaon lived in the city of Vilna, which was nicknamed “the Jerusalem of Lithuania” because of the grandeur of Torah which flourished there. The Gaon himself learned Torah with incomparable holiness and purity, teaching scores of students, but, with all this, he still declares that this is a state of death, because the Nationhood of Israel, the vessel which brings the light of G-d to mankind, is shattered and missing from the world.

All of this may leave the reader perplexed and perhaps annoyed. After all, in America, life couldn’t be better! He makes a good living, his kids learn in excellent Jewish schools, they have lucrative careers awaiting them after college, everything is hunky dory – but this is all on a private level. Identifying with life in America, he doesn’t miss being a part of his own Jewish Nation. Rebuilding the vessel that brings the light of G-d to the world sounds nice, but it isn’t on his agenda. It wasn’t a part of his learning in yeshiva, so why think of it now? He’s content with keeping Shabbos and eating kosher food in a foreign gentile land. This is his Galut.

Thankfully, Hashem doesn’t want us in Galut forever. During these Three Weeks, we are supposed to mourn over the exile from our Land and former National grandeur. We are supposed to long for the higher existence of Geula – of Jewish sovereignty in our own Land, with our Holy Temple in our midst. But to do this, we have to rise up to a higher vision and understanding of Torah. To the Torah of Redemption.

Tzvi Fishman

Remembering Babylon: New Exhibit Explores Roots of Jewish Life in Iraq

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

The only museum in the world, dedicated to the history of the Ancient Near East from a biblical perspective, has a new exhibition examining the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people as never seen before. The Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem has amassed a collection of over 100 cuneiform tablets, original documents from the Judean community, which are now on display to the public for the first time.

“The exhibition shares the unique artifacts that illustrate the devastation and resilience of the exiled Judeans as they built their lives in Babylonia,” exhibition curator Dr. Filip Vukosavović told Tazpit News Agency.

“Until now we had been unable to tell the complete story of the Babylon Exile and to understand what actually happened to all the Jewish refugees once they were forced out of Judah,” said Dr. Vukosavović of the new exhibition, By the Rivers of Babylon.

The cuneiform clay tablets are known as the Al-Yahudu Tablets because most were written in the Babylonian city of Al-Yahudu (the city of Judah), located near a river. The tablets are small in size and with text in Akkadian, the extinct Semitic language of Mesopotamia, along with occasional text in Aramaic and Paleo-Hebrew. They contain dozens of personal names of Jewish exiles, whose biblical Hebrew names are still in use today.

“This outstanding exhibition focuses on one of the most significant periods for the Jewish people; a brief chapter in time that changed the culture, cohesion, and practice of Judaism and the Jewish people,” notes Bible Lands Museum director, Amanda Weiss.

Many important elements of Judaism today originated in ancient Babylon including the Hebrew calendar and Babylonian Talmud.

“The exhibition was inspired by the loan of the Al-Yahudu Archive from David and Cindy Sofer, who entrusted the museum with the once in a lifetime opportunity to research study, publish and exhibit this important historical evidence,” she told Tazpit.

By the Rivers of Babylon, which also features innovative multi-media, original animations and local archeology from the First Temple, traces the family tree of fourth-generation Judean exile, Hagai Ben Ahiqam, all the way back to his great-grandfather, Samak Yama, who was born in Judah. One tablet describes the division of inheritance among Haggai and his brothers in Bablyon – the kind of information that Dr. Vukosavović says that one could find in a lawyer’s file cabinet today.

Hagai’s family lived in the Babylonian city known as Al-Yahudu, an important city, among many cities, which were settled by Judean exiles over 2,500 years ago, following Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple in 586 BCE.

The earliest document on display from the Al-Yahudu archive, written barely 15 years after the destruction of Jerusalem offers a glimpse into the lives of the Judeans in exile and their relationship with the Babylonian rulers and society. The administrative and legal texts document many facets of life including business transactions, tax payments, and rentals in Babylonia, which show that the status of Judeans was one of state dependents and not of slaves.

“In Babylonia, Jews were considered quite unusual; their belief in one invisible God stood in stark contrast to the Babylonians’ belief in multiple gods that could be seen and touched,” said Dr. Irving Finkel, an archaeologist of the British Museum during a recent lecture at the Bible Lands Museum.

“Some of the best cuneiform tablets I have ever seen are in this collection,” added Dr. Finkel.

While many Jews returned to Jerusalem once the Persian King Cyrus the Great allowed them to do so in 539 BCE, many like Hagai and his family remained in Babylonia. As one of the longest surviving Jewish communities in the world, 2,500 years of Jewish history in Iraq came to an abrupt end when 130,000 Jews were evacuated to Israel during Operation Ezra and Nehemiah from 1949 to 1951. Today, there are five Jews left in Iraq.

“For Jews of Iraqi heritage, this exhibit is especially meaningful,” added Weiss.

By the Rivers of Babylon exhibit will be on display at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem throughout the next year.

Anav Silverman, Tazpit News Agency

Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg zt”l: Exile and Its Egregious Effects

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

We may not notice it as much as previous generations did due to the relative good relations with the non-Jewish world (though recent events have shaken us), but we are in exile and have been for almost 2000 years. The prolonged exile has devastated normal Jewish life in numerous ways.


The period of the Three Weeks of mourning the Temple’s destruction, from 17th of Tamuz until 9th of Av, is designed to remind us of all that we are mourning. While it is true that the Three Weeks have now passed and we have reverted back to our relaxing summer vacations, it is important particularly now to reflect on the growth that we were supposed to have attained.

We do this in the spirit of the Talmud in Brachot 32b, “The early pious ones would prepare for prayer for an hour, pray for an hour, and contemplate their prayers an hour afterwards”, in order to apply and bring the growth they just experienced into their regular lives. At the end of our reflections, we will see a strong link to our weekly Torah portion, Shoftim

The Three Weeks determines the “who we are and how we live” as Jews. When we mourn for the Temple, when we feel the pain of its loss and the sufferings that our ancestors experienced during this period, it is not a “pain” that we are mourning. Pains don’t last 2,000 years. The most intense and sharpest of pains dissipate. A year later they’re weak, ten years later they’re weaker, and a thousand years later they’re not felt at all. It isn’t the pain that our ancestors felt which we are mourning; it is the loss that is affecting us to this day.

This is the recognition and the statement that we make when we fast on 17th of Tamuz and keep the laws of mourning of the Three Weeks and Tisha B’av. It is a statement that not having a Temple renders us a broken people, unable to live a normal life. It means that we have been thrown to a state of spiritual disease and illness, where we cannot think correctly, feel correctly or live correctly.

We are in a state of darkness, unable to reach out and to relate to our Creator as we should to live spiritual, healthy and full lives. It is not simply that extra opportunities are lost to us, but we are crippled and we live as cripples. This is the most important and tragic effect of all. A blind man reaches the point where his blindness is so accepted that he is not aware of a sense of loss. He is not aware that he does not live a normal and full life, that he is handicapped and that there are whole areas of experience and existence that are closed to him. He starts thinking that this is life at its fullest. He doesn’t know that the inability to see colors, the inability to see the magnificence of God’s creation, is a lack and a loss. He accepts it as being the norm. That is tragic because in doing so, he reduces God’s creation.

If this is true in material matters, how much more so is the effect when it comes to accepting a spiritually crippled life as being the norm. If we come to feel that as a people without a Temple we are living a full life, think of the effect this has on our understanding of what existence is all about, of what our relationship with our Creator is all about. We accept as a normal way of living life without God’s face turned to us. Somehow it seems to us as though the way we live is perfect. It doesn’t make sense to us to go and bring animals, slaughter them in a Temple, put them on an altar and burn up the meat. As a nation, we have begun to feel that maybe sacrifices aren’t necessary after all.

Rabbi Boruch Leff

The Admor who Sits in Bavel and Sees a Carcass in Eretz Yisrael

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

In the wake of our tremendous pain over the murder of the three innocent teens, a desire has arisen within the Nation to understand why this has happened. The Admor of Satmar, who dwells in the Exile, claims that it is a punishment for the teens learning in the “Settlements” and blames the parents for sending them to learn there.

We fear that assigning such blame may violate the prohibition of “Ona’at Devarim” (distressing others). As the Gemara in Baba Metzia (58b) says, one may not speak to one who is suffering affliction or illness, or whose children have died, the way Iyov’s friends spoke to him: “Surely your fear was your foolishness, your hope and the sincerity of your ways” (Iyov 4:6). And we can add that the Rishonim on this Gemara write that the problem is not only causing distress to another person but also arrogance in thinking that we can know the ways of Hashem.

This recalls the reciprocal placing of blame that occurred following the horrors of the Holocaust: Some said that it happened on account of Zionism, others said it was because there was not Zionism. Still others blamed it on the Enlightenment. Each group’s explanation came from its own biased outlook, with no regard for the idea: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts and My ways are not your ways” (Yeshayahu 55:8).

As is known, the uncle of the Admor of Satmar, Ha-Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, wrote a book “Va-Yoel Moshe” which is based on the idea that the murder of the holy one during the Holocaust was because of Zionism and the Return to Tzion.

But the great Rabbis of Israel have already answered that if the main transgression was Jews making Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael in an organized fashion, then the first Jews to make Aliyah should have been murdered. Yet those who came to Eretz Yisrael and “violated” the Three Oaths (according to the Satmar Rebbe’s opinion) were saved, and those who did not make Aliyah were the ones who were murdered! (See the book “Alo Naale” – Response to Va-Yoel Moshe #43).

The number of Jews murdered in Auschwitz alone was, in fact, higher than that of all of the Jews murdered in all of the wars and terror attacks since the beginning of the Return to Tzion. Today – with the kindnesses of Hashem upon us – there are almost half a million Jews who live in Yesha. Therefore the Admor of Satmar’s claim is not valid.

Regarding the question itself, whether learning in Yesha is permissible: this was already asked of Ha-Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Rabbi of “Ramat Elchanan” (neighborhood in Bnei Brak).

A student was learning in a Yeshiva in Yesha and his parents were opposed on account of the danger. Ha-Rav Zilberstein proves that “a frequent damage” (Pesachim 8b. See Mesilat Yesharim, end of Chapter 9) is five percent. Baruch Hashem, 5% of the residents in Yesha are not murdered! And Ha-Rav Yitzchak Isaac Herzog in Shut Heichal Yitzchak proved based on Shut Rabbi Akiva Eiger (#60) that a frequent danger is not five percent, but one in a thousand (Shut Ha-Rav Herzog Vol. 1, p. 269).

Baruch Hashem, one in a thousand Jews is not murdered in “Yeshe”.

The basic halachah is therefore that there is nothing to fear. Obviously, nothing is 100% certain, but nowhere in this world is 100% safe, not Yerushalayim and not Tel Aviv, and it is all based on the definition of “a frequent damage”.

We agree with the Admor of Satmar that there are many Arab murderers in Eretz Yisrael, but we must see things in proportion. We have already been living in Yesha for 40 years and the number of murders that occur there is extremely low. The same is true in all of Eretz Yisrael. We must remember that according to a report of the WHO, World Health Organization, 8 out of 100,000 Israeli citizens are murdered each year. That’s compared with 15 out of 100,000 citizens in France, and 25 out of 100,000 Americans. Therefore, it is more dangerous for the Admor of Satmar, may he live a long and good life, Amen!, to live in America than to live in the “Settlements”! We must thank Hashem, and his loyal agents – Tzahal, the police, the Mossad, the Shabak and the rest of the security establishment – day and night for the peace and quiet we merit in our Land.

In the Gemara in Chullin (63b), Rabbi Abayu asks: Why is there a bird called “Ra’ah” (the one who saw)? He answers: Because he sits in Bavel and sees a carcass in Eretz Yisrael. The great Rabbis explain that this is a parable to someone who dwells outside of Eretz Yisrael and see the deficiencies in Eretz Yisrael and speaks Lashon Ha-Ra against it…

This obviously in no way detracts from the incredible merits of the Admor of Satmar in strengthening Torah and fear of Hashem in America, and we pray regarding them: “May our eyes behold Your return to Tzion in compassion”.

Prepared and translated by Rabbi Mordechai Tzion

Rav Shlomo Aviner

Pesach’s Dusty Windows (Part Four)

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

For the past several columns I’ve been focusing on “windows” – albeit dusty windows that block our vision and prevent us from looking out and seeing the reality of our Jewish lives.

These windows are everywhere; they encompass our Yom Tovim and all events that befall us. These windows speak. They send us messages. But our ears do not hear. Our eyes do not see. Our windows are covered with layers of thick dust that have accumulated over the millennia.

We have just celebrated the wonderful days of Pesach when G-d broke the chains of our bondage and led us forth to Sinai and the Promised Land. We had beautiful Seders, and while at some point our eyelids may have become heavy with slumber, we forced ourselves to remain awake as we related the story and sang the songs of the Haggadah.

In the midst of our celebration, however, it never occurred to us to look out of our dusty windows, and after Yom Tov we returned to normal everyday life.

Yet the windows of Pesach are crucial. Through them we can see our bitter exile.  Yes, the Haggadah speaks loud and clear: In every generation there are those who stand ready to pounce upon us and devour us but Hashem saves us from their hands. But few of us look out our windows and ask, Why does Hashem have to save us? Why are they trying to devour us?

We fail to understand that all of Jewish history is a replay of sorts. “Whatever happened to our forefathers is a sign” – a message to their descendants concerning what will happen throughout their long and bitter exile.

Let’s dust off the windows and study that first bondage of Egypt – the bedrock of all our future suffering.

Joseph is in Egypt and becomes the country’s viceroy. He sends a message to his father, Jacob, to come join him with the entire family. Jacob comes and Joseph, along with his entire entourage – what in our day would constitute members of Congress, the president’s cabinet, and the elite media – goes to greet him.

Paradoxically, Joseph tells his father to present himself and the family to Pharaoh as shepherds. It’s an odd message, since the Egyptians, as Rashi notes, considered sheep to be sacred and held shepherds in disdain.

Why would Joseph wish to portray his family in such a negative light? Why would he wish to alienate them from Pharaoh and the Egyptian people?

Joseph, who had survived in Egypt for twenty-two years as a lone Jew, had become an expert in preserving Jewish life in exile. He knew that in order to protect his people from disappearing, he would have to settle them in their own community where they could adhere to their own traditions without being threatened by assimilation. But for that to happen, the Egyptians would have to keep Jews apart from the mainstream of Egyptian society and isolate them in their own neighborhood, hence Joseph’s instructions to Jacob. And indeed, a “Jewish city” arose – Goshen.

Thus, Joseph laid down one of the first principles of Jewish survival – a strong, self-contained Jewish community. The Jews prospered, but while they became a vital part of Egypt, they remained a nation apart. All this came to a dramatic halt with the death of the Jacob. This change is related in the Torah in so subtle a manner that the casual student would probably not even pick it up.

Every Torah portion in a sefer Torah either starts on a new line or is separated from the next portion by at least a nine-letter space. But the last portion of Genesis, Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26), in which Jacob’s demise is announced, is not separated from the previous portion (Vayigash), and is therefore known as a “stuma” – closed.  Rashi explains that “with the death of the patriarch, the eyes and hearts of the Jewish people closed – shut down due to the anguish of the bondage.”

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

BBC Yanked Israeli Film on Jewish Exodus from Jerusalem (video)

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

An Israeli-born filmmaker has charged that the British Broadcasting Corp. pulled his documentary on the Jewish exodus from Jerusalem in 70 A.D., displaying “a mixture of incompetence, political naïveté, conscious or subconscious political pressure.”

Ilan Ziv wrote on a blog that the BBC showed “a lack of courage of broadcasters when they are faced with the complexity of the Middle East issue and the intense emotions, fears and aggression it generates.”

The documentary “Exile: A Myth Unearthed” theorizes that many Jews did not leave Jerusalem after the destruction of the Temple, and that many modern-day Palestinians may be in part descended from those Jews.

The BBC had been scheduled to show the documentary, cut and renamed “Jerusalem: an Archaeological Mystery Story,” late last week before it was taken off the schedule at the last minute.

The film was screened for a week at the Jewish Film Festival in Toronto, was shown on Canadian TV and is scheduled to be shown in France and Switzerland.

The BBC told The London Guardian that it dropped the film because it did “not fit editorially” with the tone of the season, which has a theme exploring the history of archaeology.

Simon Plosker of the HonestReporting media watchdog group wrote in his blog that the BBC may have been “more concerned at upsetting anti-Israel elements by showing a film with such a heavy concentration on Jewish history in the Land of Israel.”

Below are two videos. The first is a trailer of the film from the Canadian National Film Board, and the second is a report form JN1 on the BBC‘s action.

Exile – A Myth Unearthed by Ilan Ziv, National Film Board of Canada


Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Get Out While You Can!

Monday, December 31st, 2012

The reason for America’s precarious economic situation is clear. At the beginning of our history, God informs Abraham that he will be a blessing to the world. The nations that are good to Abraham’s offspring will be blessed, and the nations that suppress Israel will be cursed.

In the past, the United States helped the State of Israel in many ways, but now, instead of helping Israelis settle all of the Land that God gave to the Jews, America has the gall to tell us where we can live in Jerusalem and our Biblical homeland, and where we cannot. That certainly is not blessing the Jewish People. So it isn’t surprising that America is being threatened with economic collapse – along with Europe and the rest of the countries that are against our free and unlimited settlement in the Land of our Forefathers.

The first plague in Egypt turned the Nile River to blood. Rashi explains that when God punishes a nation, He begins by punishing their gods. The Egyptians worshipped the Nile, just as America worships money. That’s why America’s economy has been taking a beating.

The only solution is to stop pressuring Israel not to build in Jerusalem and the rest of Biblical Israel. If America hopes to escape the financial collapse that is coming, the United States must support Israel’s settlement in every way it can. As God told Abraham – whoever blesses the Children of Abraham will be blessed, and whoever curses them will be cursed in return.

In the meantime, it’s time for the Jews of America to get out of the country with their money while they can. All of a sudden, all the money in America will be frozen by the US Treasury in order to bail out the government dept, just like the Pharaoh did in Egypt during the famine. So, brothers and sisters, don’t wait. Get out while you can.

Tzvi Fishman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/get-out-while-you-can/2012/12/31/

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