It is easy to construe our national exile as a Divine rejection, that G-d has removed His Holy Temple from our midst and sent us into dispersion amongst the world’s nations as an indication of severed ties, a revocation of the covenant. The Torah tells us otherwise.
The Egyptian exile of Yaakov (Jacob) and his progeny serves as a model for all Jewish exiles through the millennia. With this exile, G-d comforts Yaakov, “I shall descend with you to Egypt and I shall also surely bring you up…” (Beraishis/Genesis 46:4) The Talmud (Megilah 29a) expounds that every time the Jewish Nation goes into exile, the Divine Presence goes into exile with them: when they went to Egypt, G-d was with them; when they went to Babylonia, G-d was with them; and at every time Israel suffers adversity, even an individual Jew, G-d is with him in his hardship, as it states in Psalms (91:15) “I am with him in distress.” And when G-d looks and sees with His supervising eye that Israel is no longer able to withstand their troubles or when they have returned to Him completely, He then commands immediately that the adversity cease.
Shlomo HaMelech (King Solomon) alludes to the same phenomenon in a prayer to G-d: “When they sin against You – for there is no man who never sins – and you become angry with them and deliver them to an enemy…and they take it to heart in the land where they were taken captive and they repent and supplicate to You in the land of their captors saying, ‘We have sinned, we have been iniquitous, we have been wicked,’ and they shall return to you with all their heart and all their soul in the land of the enemies who captured them…May you hear their prayer…and forgive your people who sinned against you and all their transgression that they transgressed against you…” (I Kings 8:46-50)
The Chofetz Chaim (1) concludes that it is clear that even if one is in a remote land, spiritually bankrupt and physically oppressed he must not concede defeat; he must remember that if he returns to G-d that G-d will compassionately respond in kind and save him from his persecution. In fact, it is during the times of maltreatment that G-d is more attentive to his situation than He is during tranquil, peaceful times; it is in those moments of great challenge that G-d stands at the ready to intervene, if only the oppressed call to Him sincerely, as the Psalmist taught (34:19) “G-d is close to the brokenhearted, and those crushed in spirit He saves.” Therefore, one must not falter at that moment; rather, proceed confident that G-d will protect and save him.
These are very challenging times. Our Nation is the subject of unabashed anti-Semitism in venues around the world, on the street, in foreign legislatures, by foreign leaders and in foreign courts. Jews fear for their safety in our homeland and in countries around the globe. G-d is waiting for us to turn to Him; what are we waiting for?
Have a Good Shabbos!
(1) Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen Kagan of Radin; 1838 -1933; author of basic works in Jewish law, philosophy and ethics and renowned for his saintly qualities
Kol HaKollel is a publication of The Milwaukee Kollel Center for Jewish Studies · 5007 West Keefe Avenue · Milwaukee, Wisconsin · 414-447-7999