We are at the threshold of the time of redemption. It was during the month of Nissan that the Jewish people, after two hundred and ten years of slavery, left Egypt, the land of their persecution to begin their dramatic of the formation of the Jews as nation. This journey has lasted until the present, as even today we are found in different stages of our redemption and are asked to react to as well as overcome daily challenges that we face as a people. The strange thing about our leaving Egypt was that though we all left as one people, we comprised of twelve unique and different tribes, each with their own flag as well as no doubt their own customs and views.
The Midrash relates that when the Jews crossed the sea, it split into twelve parts, giving each of the tribes its own path to follow. One would expect that G-d would have preferred all of the tribes to proceed in unison, that there would be only one lane for everyone, as a sign of harmony and agreement, “achdut,” as Rashi states when the Jews received the Torah “keish echad b’lev echad,” as one person with one heart. Yet each tribe, according to this Midrash, was provided with its own path. Perhaps the message was that the Jewish people needn’t be all alike. We can be different! The most important characteristic, however, is that we are all pointing and going in the same direction. How we get there is of little concern, what’s important is that we all have our sights on the same goal.
A remarkable occurrence is happening in the State of Israel today. The vast majority of the people living there, whether observant or non-observant, ultra-religious or not, observe the holidays as national or religious events in their lives. Well into the eighty or ninety percent of Israeli citizens celebrate Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Purim, Sukkot, Tisha B’Av and Pesach. Whether their reasoning is based on Torah law, or on nationalistic pride doesn’t matter, the bottom line is that these holidays are being observed! I see this as a sign that we are experiencing the Messianic era. There is no doubt in my mind that over the ensuing years, those who observe these holidays due to nationalistic pride will come to understand the religious aspect of these holidays as well.
The difference between living in Israel verses outside of Israel is that in Israel, Judaism is the basis of the country’s daily operations. On the radio on Friday, they will wish you a Shabbat Shalom. On Pesach, they will wish you Chag Kasher V’sameach before informing you that all the supermarkets only sell products that are kosher for Pesach. On Purim, nearly everyone dresses in a costume, and on Sukkot, all the stores sell Succah decorations and people wish each other a Chag Sameach. The entire nation is moving in one direction, which is heartwarming.
For the first time in two thousand years, Jews are returning to Israel. Russian, French, English, and German can be heard in the streets of Israel. The prophecy that G-d promised the Jewish people, “And I will bring you from the four corners of the earth…to your land,” which we recite daily in our prayers, is coming into play. It’s such an exciting time for the Jewish people.
Outside of Israel, our Jewish lives are very often in direct conflict to our daily and business lives, creating a palpable tension. One often must make an effort often to swim against the tide, to retain one’s Judaism, it is in this environment that some of us lose direction, mixing-up goals and getting lost in this society.Rabbi Mordechai Weiss