(Photo: Howie Mischel)
How We Know
BY RABBI REUVEN TARAGIN
Many non-observant Jews celebrate Israel from a secular perspective, much like citizens of other nations celebrate their own states. At the same time, many religious Jews consider the State to be religiously insignificant, or only important because it enables Jews to live in the Land. But as Religious Zionists, we have a very different perspective. We view our return to Eretz Yisrael and the existence of the State of Israel as critical elements of the redemptive process.
Still, life in the Jewish state is complex. Though Jews throughout the generations would certainly have considered an independent State of Israel with over 7 million Jews as the manifestation of ge’ula, they did not envision a ge’ula that includes a majority non-observant population, a government that does not function according to Jewish law, and a mosque on the Har HaBayit. How are we meant to understand our situation when we live in such a complex reality?
Though the redemption is not yet complete, there are four central components of the State of Israel that reflect its religious significance and support the view that we are currently at the beginning of the redemption process.
Kibbutz Galuyot (ingathering of the exiles)
“Even if your dispersed are at the ends of the world, from there Hashem your G-d will gather you, from there He will fetch you. And Hashem your G-d will bring you to the Land that your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will make you more prosperous and more numerous than your fathers” (Devarim 30:4–5).
Yishayahu vividly describes the future ingathering from all four corners of the world (43:5–6), a prophecy we pray for three times a day (“raise a banner to gather our exiles, and bring us together from the four corners of the earth into our Land”) and which has been fulfilled in our times, with Jews returning home from over 100 different countries!
The geonim and rishonim wrote extensively about the ingathering as a critical part of the redemptive process. In fact, a student of the Ramban argued that the Mashiach can only come once Jews have returned to Israel and to Yerushalayim. If we only merited to see the ingathering, dayeinu!
Jewish life in Israel
“There shall yet be old men and women in the squares of Yerushalayim… And the squares of the city shall be crowded with boys and girls playing in the squares” (Zechariah 8:4–5). “Again there shall be heard in this place… the sound of mirth and gladness, the voice of bridegroom and bride” (Yirmiyahu 33:10–11).
Children playing and the elderly sitting in the streets of Yerushalayim may not seem extraordinary, but these mundane moments – now a daily reality in the State of Israel – were mere dreams for generations of Jews exiled and often barred from entering the city.
The midrash emphasizes the significance of these “mundane” moments, stating emphatically that the Jewish people will not resettle in their land until the time of the eventual ge’ula (Tanchuma Shoftim 9). If we only merited to see the return of normal daily Jewish life in the Land of Israel, dayeinu!
The flowering of the land
Parashat Bechukotai describes how the Land will lie desolate while we are in exile, while Parashat Nitzavim predicts visitors will be shocked by its absolute desolation. Throughout the millennia of our exile, visitors were aghast at the devastation.
“He has made her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the Garden of Hashem…” (Yishayahu 51:3). The nevi’im repeatedly prophesied that when the Jewish people return home, the Land would once again flower. Later, Rebbe Abba would point to the flowering of the land the clearest sign of the end of days (Sanhedrin 98a). Seeing this firsthand, Rav Kook concluded the ge’ula had already begun 100 years ago (Iggrot HaRa’aya 3:155), and the extraordinary development of the Land since then only strengthens his argument.
If we only merited to see the flowering of the Land, dayeinu!
Living in an age of democracy, we may not fully appreciate the significance of self-rule. The amora Shmuel felt that our freedom from foreign monarchs would be the definitive change heralding the times of the Mashiach. The Rambam adopts Shmuel’s position, using it to explain the significance of the Hasmonean dynasty and the Chanukah miracle. Setting aside the three aforementioned blessings facilitated by the State, Israel is intrinsically significant as an expression of Jewish sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael.
The realization of these four components identified over thousands of years by the Torah, nevi’im, amora’im, geonim, and rishonim as signs of the ge’ula are reason enough to celebrate the State of Israel as the beginning of ge’ula.
Let us celebrate and reflect on how we can help facilitate the completion of the ge’ula sheleimah!
Rabbi Reuven Taragin is Educational Director of Mizrachi and Dean of the Yeshivat Hakotel Overseas Program.