There is a famous story about Rav Yitzchak Herzog, the Chief Rabbi of Israel at the time of the Second World War, who refused to listen to even the most influential of personalities, who feared and pleaded with him not to return to "Palestine". Despite the fact that German Field-Marshall Erwin Rommel, had already succeeded in conquering most of North Africa, Rav Herzog countered assuredly that his troops will be stopped before reaching the Holy Land. He explained with confidence that we have a Jewish tradition that there will never be another destruction of the Jewish settlement in Israel. We are now witness to the final redemption, and there simply cannot be another exile. 1
This story is often quoted by various rabbis, all of them citing Rav Herzog as the source of this Jewish tradition. Moreover, I have heard several of them say that they did not know his source in the writings of chazal. Needless to say, a "tradition" quoted in the name of a rabbi from the previous generation which does not appear in the ancient sources, is problematic, to say the least. Moreover, attributing this tradition to one particular rabbi infers that other great rabbanim of his generation were not as convinced, as he. Accordingly, identifying Rav Herzog as the source of this tradition cheapens it, almost to the point of contradiction.
Especially today, in the aftermath of the crisis of Gush Katif and the Second War in Lebanon, when even some religious–Zionists have joined the "redemption-deniers", some even joining the ranks of the post-Zionists, it is important to remember that these setbacks were to be expected. "'My Beloved is like a deer'- just as the deer is visible, then disappears, then is seen once again, so too is the mashiach". 2
Rav Hai Gaon 3
and the Vilna Gaon 4
cite a tradition that even when the mashiach comes, many will not believe him! 5
Occasional setbacks do not change chazal’s (!) decision that the return to Zion in our time is the beginning of our redemption and that, indeed, there will not be another exile. 1. The Certainty that we are in the Beginning of Redemption
In wake of both internal and external hardships, many people forget the formidable list of great leaders who unabashedly declared that the present return to Zion is indeed the beginning of redemption, including the Chafetz Chayim, 6
the Netziv, 7
the Yeshu’ot Malko, 8
the Malbim, 9
R. Baruch Epstein (author of the Torah Temima), 10
Rav Kook, 11
Rav Yitzchak Isaac Herzog, Rav Ben-Zion Uziel, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rav Yehoshua Landau (Rabbi of Bnei Brak), Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, 12
Rav Y.M Tikochinski, Rav Zalman Sorotzkin (famed head of Va'ad Hayeshivot), Rav Yechezkel Sarna (Rosh Yeshiva of Chevron), Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin, Rav Hillel Posek, Rav Unterman, R. Ovadia Hadaya (author of Resp. Yaskil Avdi), 13
the Husiaton Rebbe, 14
and Rav Y. S. Kahanaman (Rosh Yeshivat Ponevitz). 15
The skeptics may not be familiar with the decisiveness of R. Yechiel Ya’akov Weinberg, author of Resp. Sridei Eish, who wrote that he believes with complete faith that the State of Israel is Hashem’s answer to the six million souls who gathered around His throne after the Holocaust and requested a clear sign of His love and protection for His children, and of the beginning of redemption. 16
It is important to note that these rabbanim declared so, despite
the fact that they had already seen the catastrophes wrought by the revelation of Shabtai Tzvi as a false messiah. 17
If they had even the slightest doubt, they would surely have been more cautious in their declaration.
The question is: how were these great rabbanim so certain that we are, in fact, witness to the final return?
If we search for their source, it is hard to base it upon most of the signs of redemption which appear in the Tanach and chazal. Even if there will be a world war, an earthquake, poverty, holocaust, rudeness, or any of the other signs mentioned, it can always be claimed that perhaps, in the future, the same occurence may be repeated yet on an even larger scale. Historically, most of the false messiahs appeared in the wake of a wave of anti-Semitism, expulsion, pogroms and the like, when their main argument was "this must be the advent of redemption, for it can not get any worse". Unfortunately, in the course of Jewish history we have discovered time and again, that it can always get worse.
Apparently, this problem in identifying the majority of the signs of redemption, is what brings R. Abba and his colleagues to search for the "÷õ äîâåìä", the " revealed
end" - that is, as opposed to all of the other signs which are unclear or unrevealed. "There is no more 'revealed sign' than that which is written, 'And you, mountains of Israel, give forth your branches, and carry forth your fruit, for My Nation of Israel is coming soon'. 18
Rashi explains that when the Land of Israel (barren for so long) will return to produce fruit abundantly, that is the clearest sign that the "end of days" is near. 19
In order to appreciate this point, it must be remembered that until recently, the fruitful Israel that we are familiar with from the Tanach and today, was deserted. The famous American author Mark Twain, visited Israel in 1867, and reported as follows:
"We traversed some miles of desolate country whose soil is rich enough but is given wholly to weeds- a silent, mournful expanse… A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. We reached Tabor safely… We never saw a human being on the whole route. We pressed on toward the goal of our crusade, renowned Jerusalem. The further we went the hotter the sun got and the more rocky and bare, repulsive and dreary the landscape became… There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country. No landscape exists that is more tiresome to the eye than that which bounds the approaches to Jerusalem…
Jerusalem is mournful, dreary and lifeless. I would not desire to live here. It is a hopeless, dreary, heartbroken land… Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies… Palestine is desolate and unlovely. And why should it be otherwise? Can the curse of the Deity beautify a land? Palestine is no more of this work-day world. It is sacred to poetry and tradition- it is a dreamland." 20
This testimony to the fulfillment of the Biblical curse upon the Land, 21
as long as the people of Israel are exiled from her, shows the fidelity and loyalty of the land towards her lover, Am Yisrael. 22
From Twain's description, it's hard to believe that this land was formerly so fruitful that is was part of the famous "fertile crescent" of the ancient world. The area referred to as "The Land which lacks nothing", 23
"A Land of wheat, and barley, vineyards and figs, and pomegranates, a Land of olives and dates". 24
It is similarly hard to believe that this description was written about the Israel we know, one of the world-leaders in modern agriculture. It should be noted that the central location of Israel, at the international junction of the ancient world, uniting Europe, Africa and Asia, made it a most popular place to try settling throughout the generations, yet all nations failed in these many similar attempts. 25
All of the above make the desolation during the exile, and the subsequent sudden fruition upon the Jewish return, that much more remarkable. 26
Nevertheless, even in the "revealed" sign- that the Land of Israel grows fruit abundantly, - it is possible to claim that perhaps this refers to an even more amazing fruitfulness than the present one. Or maybe it refers to a supernatural miracle, as the Satmar Rebbe claims, based upon a literal understanding of another g’mara that in the future, trees will produce fruit on a daily basis. 27
We have to admit that even religious-Zionists do not attribute importance to the rest of the signs mentioned there in the g'mara for the "revealed end" (financial difficulties and lack of peace), for the same reason, 28
that it is hard to say that there will not be even worse financial or security problems in the future. 2. The source of the Tradition that there won’t be another exile
If so, in my opinion, it seems that the tradition that we mentioned, that there won’t be another exile, is what convinced all of those Rabbanim that this is indeed the beginning of redemption. After all:
a. A sign phrased in the negative (after the return there will not
be another exile) is more definite and can not be explained any other way.
b. All of the great rabbanim above, cited proof from the ingathering of exiles but not all of them mentioned the revealed end of the flourishing of the Land of Israel. 29
c. The ingathering of exiles is the opposite of exile. Gathering and unity instead of scattering and distance. 30
Although the ingathering is self-apparent, sometimes, especially for the young who may take this for granted as a natural phenomena, it’s best to let the statistics speak for themselves. Throughout history the few attempted "mass" aliyot were relatively rare, small and unsuccessful. They amount to 300 tosafists attempting aliya in the year 4971/1211, several hundred expelled from Spain (5252/1492), and 1,500 with R. Yehuda Chasid in 5461/1700, most of whom soon returned to their countries of origin!
It’s ludicrous to compare these to the aliya of 40,000 Jews in the 17 years between the first Zionist Congress and WWI, the 3rd and 4th aliyot (between ’19 and ’29- an additional 122,000) , and the "fifth" aliya of 200,000 before the Holocaust. The Jewish population in Israel more than doubled in the four years following the declaration of independence: from 665,000 in 5/48, to 1,330,000 in 6/51 to over 1,425,000 by 5/52, "closing up" most of the Jewish communities in Europe, Africa, and Asia! The recent stream of more than 1,200,000 olim (80% halachically Jewish) after the fall of the Soviet Union in 5749/1989, another 70,000 from Ethiopia, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria in (especially in ’91), over 100,000 from North America (almost all since the Six Day War), and large aliyot today from South Africa, Argentina and France, make the present 5,390,400 in Israel, the largest Jewish population in the world today, for the first time since the exile of the 10 tribes 2,700 years ago.
Not only the number but the "spread" of 2,112,269 olim from Europe, 478,668 from Asia, 514,126 from Africa, and 211,329 from the Americas also are significant. 31
Anyone who doesn’t call the above "ingathering of the exiles" is denying reality!
Nevertheless, a skeptic could seemingly say that despite these undeniable facts, especially with the nuclear threat from Iran who knows what the future holds?
However, as we have said above, the certainty is based on the fact that chazal state that there will not be another exile after the third return to Zion.
Below is a list of sources affirming the ancient tradition on which Rav Herzog based his words:
1. Midrash Tanchuma (Warsaw) Parshat Shoftim Siman 9; Yalkut Shimoni Zechariya remez 581: "’and he will yield on the third’ 32
that they will only settle in their land in the third redemption, the first redemption is the redemption from Egypt, the second redemption is the redemption of Ezra, the third has no end". Note that as we mentioned above, the negative language used here, both at the beginning "will only
settle in their land in the third redemption" and at the end "has no
end" is much more definite than most other signs of redemption.
2. Sifrei Devarim 1:8: "’to give it to them’ this refers to those who came to Israel (from Egypt), ‘and to their children’ those who came back from Babylon, ‘after them’ these are the days of the Mashiach". 33
3. Eicha 4:22: "your sin has ended daughter of Zion, He won’t continue to exile you, your sin has been remembered daughter of Edom, your sin has been revealed".
Rashi there: ‘you won’t continue to be exiled’ - "from the exile of Edom and onwards". 34
4. Rav Yosef Albo, Sefer HaIkarim, 4:42: "and what Yirmeyahu wrote in the book of Eicha, ‘your sin has ended daughter of Zion, He won’t continue to exile you’, 35
can only be explained as referring to this, the final
exile, which is the exile of the second Temple". He is writing in the 15th century.
5. Hoshea 6:2: "He will make us live from two days, on the third day he bring us up and we will live before Him".
Radak there: "and the explanation of ‘He will make us live from two days’ this is about the future and ‘from two days’ is a parable for the two exiles - the exile of Egypt and Babylon, ‘on the third day’: a parable for this
third exile from which we will rise up and live before Him, that we won’t be exiled again and we will live constantly before Him always until we won’t sin again".
The same appears in Metzudat David, there.
6. Radak, Yeshayahu 34:1: "and so Yirmeyahu wrote in Megillat Eicha ‘your sin has ended daughter of Zion, He won’t continue to exile you, your sin has been remembered daughter of Edom, your sin has been revealed’ when the land of the Kutim (Edom/Christian, A.S.) will be destroyed, the Jewish people will go out of this
exile, for He won’t continue to exile them..."
7. Ramban, Vayikra 26:6 and 42; Devarim 28:42; Sefer HaGeula 36
: In these sources the Ramban explains at length about the two rebukes that appear in the Torah - the one in Bechukotai describes the exile of Babylon, and the one in Ki Tavo describes the exile of Rome 37
, from which we will be redeemed and there won’t be another exile. 38
8. All who are waiting for the redemption to arrive every day, as well as those who calculated that it will come (in just about all cases) in or near to their time, did this on the basis of this tradition that after the return to Zion (which will happen in their opinion, in their time) there will not be another exile, amongst them are the Rambam, 39
the Ramban, 40
the Malbim, 41
and many others.
Nevertheless, the skeptic can still argue: even if we have seen that after the ingathering of exiles there won’t be another exile, how do we know that what is happening today is the ingathering of exiles? The majority of world Jewry still lives outside of Israel! 42
Therefore, in order to complete the picture, we need another tradition that we received from chazal, that the number that is fixed for the ingathering of the exiles is 600, 000 Jews in Israel. When we arrive at this number it is unreasonable that Hashem will "send them back" to chutz la’aretz just in order to bring them back to Israel.
9. Yalkut Shimoni, Hoshea remez 518: "It is written ‘and I answered her there like in the days of her youth and like the day that she went up from the land of Egypt’ 43
, just as 600, 000 left Egypt and 600, 000 entered the Land of Israel, also in the days of Mashiach it will be with 600, 000."
10. Vilna Gaon, Introduction to Kol HaTor 44
: "This number of 600, 000 has great power to defeat the powers of evil at the gates of Yerushalayim, and then the complete redemption will arrive in a miraculous form on heavenly clouds". 45
Thank G-d, today 5,390,400 Jews live in Israel, 46
so even if we calculate (as they did at the exodus from Egypt), only the number of men who are eligible to serve in the army, without the tribe of Levi, we have already passed the required number a long time ago.
In summary of the two traditions that we have seen: as soon as there are 600, 000 Jews in Israel there will not be another exile.
Accordingly, we can explain why the Rambam emphasizes the Torah’s association of redemption with the ingathering of exiles more than any of the other signs: "and anyone who does not believe in him (Mashiach) and does not wait for his arrival, does not just deny the truth of the rest of the prophets, but of the Torah and Moshe Rabbeinu, for the Torah testifies about him (the Mashiach), as it says ‘and Hashem your G-d will return you, and will have mercy on you, and He will return and gather you... if you have been cast away to the ends of the Heavens... and Hashem will bring you...’ 47
and these words which are written explicitly in the Torah include all that was said by the prophets". 48
As soon as the ingathering of exiles takes place there is no way back!3. Documentation of the Story of Rav Herzog
However, we are left with the question: if we indeed received the tradition that there won’t be another exile from the prophets, and surely from the time of Chazal onwards, why is it quoted in the name of Rav Herzog?
When examining this story I found several different versions of what happened in the year 5701/1941. Ya’akov Herzog, who was also his father’s personal secretary, tells that this conversation was with no other than the President of America, Franklin D. Roosevelt. 49
In contrast, Geula Bat-Yehuda presents Lord Halifax, the British consul in Washington, as Rav Herzog’s partner in discussion. According to the account of Rav Y. Goldman, who was the Rav’s personal secretary, Lord Halifax sent a messenger to inform Rav Herzog that, due to the advancement of the German army, the British are considering evacuating their citizens from the Middle East. He suggested that the Rav, as a British citizen, should remain in America. Rav Herzog replied to the messenger, "inform them in London of my firm opinion that there is no reason to be afraid, because a Nazi victory in the Middle East would mean a third destruction of the Jewish settlement in our Holy Land, and our prophets did not prophesize about a third destruction. 50
If we had to choose between these two versions, it is logical to accept the second one, as Lord Halifax was not such a famous figure that a story would be told about him that really happened to the President of America, but the opposite is a logical "embellishing".
I have also heard rabbanical contemporaries of Rav Herzog tell a similar story of a conversation between the Rav and the Jewish (from his mother’s side) mayor of New York, Fiorella La-Guardia.
So far we have discussed private conversations, but there are similar stories from public gatherings where rabbanim also tried to persuade Rav Herzog from returning to Israel. In a meeting with some of the leading rabbis under the leadership of Rabbi Eliezer Silver, 51
and another summit with tens of rabbanim from all over America, 52
Rav Herzog replied to their pressure and "halachic decisions" that he is obligated to return, despite the danger, in order to prove his faith in the tradition that there won’t be another exile. He added that by staying in chutz la’aretz he is likely to cause a significant desecration of Hashem’s name, as if he himself is scared and unsure of his own declaration.
In the meantime, the German forces continued to overpower the Allies in the deserts of North Africa. They even began planning their conquest that was to include the entire Mediterranean basin. The threat caused great anxiety to the Jewish community in Israel. The Chief Rabbinate declared a fast day and special prayers, while kabbalists convened special ceremonies by the graves of tzadikim. The Settlement’s leaders even planned an escape plan, to prepare for the expected invasion, including the possibility of turning Mt. Carmel into "Massadah" as the last fortress of the Jews in Israel. 53
In the gloomy atmosphere that he found upon returning to Israel, Rav Herzog amazed the entire Yishuv when he publicized the following proclamation:
"I establish, with all the power of authority that rests with me at this time, and declare publicly that no enemy will enter the gates of Israel. We have a tradition that after the 2 destructions - the destruction of the first and second temples, there will not be a third destruction. This is clear to me and I say so with perfect faith." 54
Similarly, the Rav declared his faith in a public speech in the city of Rechovot in the year 5703/1942:
"Gentlemen, do no be afraid. No enemy will come into Israel, my heart tells me that this is true, and I can assure you as it says ‘and I will protect this city for My sake and for the sake of David My servant’ 55
... two destructions were prophesied, they both already happened. There will not be a third destruction. Divine providence helped us build the Land, and I guarantee you that the Land will remain safe. 56
From the above quote, it can be suggested that the emphasis on Rav Herzog's personal guarantee ("my heart tells me, and I can guarantee... and I guarantee to you..." [and similarly, his phrasing in the proclamation that we mentioned: "I establish ... this is clear to me and I say so with perfect faith..."]...) probably done for rhetorical purposes, provides an explanation why this tradition is identified with him, and not with the prophets or Chazal.
In a completely different context, Rav Herschel Schechter mentions Rav Herzog’s words when he tried to use this tradition to persuade Rav Y. Z. Soloveitchik not to flee Yerushalayim for Switzerland during the War of Independence. 57
Due to the many different versions of this story, his speech in Rechovot and the peculiar identification of an ancient tradition with a specific modern rabbi, there is no choice but to conclude that this is a classic example of the expression îøâìà áôåîéä". " In other words, this was not a one-time event that was repeated in different versions, rather Rav Herzog regularly mentioned and publicized this tradition in many conversations and occasions, both public and private.
Accordingly, we can understand why Prime Minister Levi Eshkol mentioned these words of Rav Herzog, both privately to Ya’acov Herzog 58
and in a public speech following the 6 Day War. 59
It is unlikely that Levi Eshkol was present at the speech in Rechovot, or that he saw the minutes of one of the aforementioned conversations. Rather, as we have said, this was a known îøâìà áôåîéä of Rav Herzog.
Similarly, chazal attribute the biblical verse "don’t rejoice at the fall of your enemy" 60
to the Mishnaic sage Shmuel HaKatan 61
because he quoted the verse and the idea regularly. 62
It seems that this is what happened here as well, that an ancient tradition which is mentioned and agreed upon by chazal, rishonim and achronim, is attributed to Rav Herzog purely because it was îøâìà áôåîéä on many occasions.
Accordingly, even though many other rabbanim of that period declared similarly (for example Rav Y.M. Charlap: "It’s as clear as the afternoon sun that there will never be a third destruction and that the State of Israel will never fall"), 63
the fact that Rav Herzog mentioned this tradition so regularly caused it to be associated with his name. Unfortunately, this attribution caused many people not to know that this tradition is indeed explicitly mentioned in numerous sources.4. Operational Conclusions on the Basis of this Tradition
In addition, the strong impression left by the words of Rav Herzog and his personal association with the tradition under discussion, may stem from the fact that despite his usual rationale approach, 64
he was prepared to take a practical
decision on the basis of the belief that there won’t be another exile.
Just as today, also in Rav Herzog’s time there were two ways to see the situation, one optimistic, the other pessimistic. It seems that it was important to Rav Herzog to publicize that we should rely on this tradition in order to rule on the side of trusting in Hashem and against defeatism. Believing in this prophecy and tradition is so reliable that it is not considered contradicting the rule: "don’t rely on miracles"! 65
As opposed to the extremists who cynically ask, "Do you have a direct link with Heaven that you know what is going to happen?", the answer is, yes, we do have a direct connection with Heaven, namely chazal, and in this case we do know what will not be. There will not be another destruction of the Jewish settlement in Israel.
If this is definite enough for the Chafetz Chayim, Rav Kook, Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, the Sridei Eish, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and the other aforementioned giants, then yes, it is enough for me.
Similarly, just as Rav Herzog felt the need in his generation to repeat this guarantee and to emphasize that it is possible to "bank" on it and even to act accordingly, it is also important to do so today. At this time of national crisis, with the understandable fall in morale in wake of the fiascos in Gush Katif, the Second Lebanon War, the pitifully immoral and "galuti" national leadership, the shelling in Sderot, the nuclear threat from Iran, it is particularly important to strengthen the moral of the people, to look at the events with a wise eye - realistic and believing at the same time - and not with a pessimistic and unbelieving eye. 66 These words of chazal were meant davka for our generation
, and we would be wrong to ignore them.
If we hear particular rabbanim among the leaders of religious-Zionism who are in a such despair, that they compare today’s situation to the defeatism of Rav Yochanan ben Zakai on the eve of the destruction of the second Temple 67
it seems that not only are they forgetting to look at the sources that we have brought here, but, mainly, forgetting to look at reality. It is brought in the name of Rav Kook that when we come across difficulties, we must remember that there is no comparison between birth pangs (of redemption) and death pains (of exile).
The State of Israel is stronger today than ever before. The pessimistic and frightened atmosphere, emanating from the Israeli political pygmies and press, as if we are not able to protect our Land and citizens, is a psychological problem, a mindset of exile, and far from the truth. If Rav Herzog declared that there is no need to retreat, or to be afraid of the forces of the super-power German army storming towards Israel, how much more so it is a lack of trust in Hashem (as well as illogical) to run away from a few missiles from a group of pathetic unprofessional and undisciplined Palestinian terrorists which we ourselves established and armed!
Despite the weakness, the exilic mindset, the lack of trust, lack of responsibility and lack of vision in the decision of the Israeli government to give over parts of Israel to an enemy (and even more so, with no reason, in exchange for nothing, and unnecessarily!), we have no right and no reason to abandon all of the aforementioned rabbinic sources. There is no reason whatsoever to start doubting our age-old traditions, especially after they’ve proven true time and again, before our very eyes in this very century!
The time has come to review (and for the youth, to learn for the first time) the classic books: "Eim HaBanim Semeicha", "HaTekufa HaGedolah" and "Ayelet HaShachar" and maybe even to write some new ones in the same genre. To revive the eternal sources and remember the prophecy,
"Who heard of this and who saw such things? Can a land be inherited in one day, can a nation be born at one time, that Zion can inherit and also give birth to her children? Will I begin labor and not give birth?!’ says Hashem, ‘will I give birth and stop in the middle?!’ says the L-rd. 68
Rashi explains: "Will I bring a woman to the birth-stool and not open her womb to take out the fetus?! In other words, would I start something (the redemption) and not be able to complete it?! Am I not the one who enables all births and now I have stopped myself?!"
"'My Beloved is like a deer'- just as the deer is visible, then disappears, then is seen once again, so too is the mashiach". 69
Practically, it is important to remember that the youth of today do not remember the Six Day War. They did not see when the "deer was revealed". They don’t remember the successful revolution and the public affection that was once felt for "Gush Emunim" and only tasted the animosity against religious -Zionists after the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin and Amona. They just saw the army ordered not to defeat Nasralla, to uproot yishuvim, retreat from Lebanon and Shchem, and run away from the stones of Arab children. They serve with unbelievable self sacrifice in the glorified but shackled and disgraced Israel Defense Force. They have only seen "Operation Entebbe" in movies! Despite the fact that they have merited to see the largest wave of aliyah since the exodus from Egypt (mainly from the Soviet Union and Ethiopia) and the expansion of the population of Yehuda and Shomron from thousands to hundreds of thousands, all of this happened gradually, without any one, big, glorious victory.
So ironic that it can only be G-dly, the world is progressing more and more in the direction of instant gratification, and the great and glittering excitement, but in contrast, the process of redemption is going slower and slower!
Precisely because of this, it is important to focus and identify the challenge in understanding the situation. To go back and publicize the absolute proofs that we brought. As our teacher Rav Tzvi Yehuda repeatedly said "äååãàé ùîå, ëï úäìúå", "His name is certain, so is His praise".5. The State of Israel
The Maharal explains that it is possible to know how the redemption will be by looking at it’s opposite, the exile. Exile is characterized by three aspects, exile from our natural place; being scattered; 70
and servitude to another nation. Conversely, explains the Maharal, the signs of redemption are: the return to Israel; the gathering and unification of the nation; and independence
In fact, the gmara 72
and the Rambam 73
simplify the issue even more, "There is no difference between today (literally: this world) and the days of mashiach except that (then) we will not be subject to the nations of the world
". In other words, independence.
The role of independence in the process of redemption is not just a philosophical idea, rather it is also well-based with practical halachic ramifications. The Shulchan Aruch rules: "one who sees the cities of Judea in their destruction must say: ‘your holy cites have become a desert’, 74
and tear his clothes" as a sign of mourning. 75
What is the halachic definition of "destruction" which obligates this tearing of one’s clothes? The g'mara learns from the story of the people who came to Gedalia and tore their clothes on the "destruction" of Mitzpeh, 76
despite the fact that many Jewish residents remained there. 77
From here the achronim learn that "even if Jews live there, they are considered to be in their destruction, because Arabs rule over them". 78
Clearly, independence is seen as the opposite of ,"çåøáï" "destruction", and consequently, with today's independent State of Israel, we no longer need to tear our garments. 79
Thus, rules Rav Moshe Feinstein that "even though, through our many sins, we still have yet to be redeemed, one should not tear his clothes when he sees Yerushalayim, because, in Hashem's kindness, it has been gloriously built up, and is not under the rule of non-Jewish nations". 80
Can the end of the churban, independence, occur, before the arrival of the mashiach? This is also answered explicitly by the Maharal:
"And in the future, the messianic kingdom which will be re-established, will be a new kingdom, which will come out of the previous kingdom that preceded it. This is because the holy kingdom of Israel, which has an inherently G-dly level, will grow from within an unholy kingdom
350 years before the declaration of independence of an irreligious state, the Maharal already writes about the possibility of the appearance of "an unholy kingdom"! How did he know?
His source is apparently the words of the prophet Micha who prophesies: "And you, barn of the flock, fortress of the daughter of Zion, your flock will return to you, and the first
kingdom will arrive, the kingdom of the daughter of Yerushalayim". 82
The Malbim, in his commentary on this verse explains that the redemption will come in three stages, symbolized by the transition from a small and smelly "barn" to a majestic "fortress", as follows:
a. In the beginning "daughter of Zion your flock will return to you" - that the exiles will begin to be gathered. Afterwards:
b. "and the first
kingdom will arrive" - a small government
will be set up, which has a small amount of rule and leadership, just as the Jews had in the early days before they had a king
, when they had judges leading them. After that:
c. there will be a "kingdom of the daughter of Yerushalayim" - they will have an eternal kingdom, that of the house of David, the king of mashiach will rule over this permanent kingdom. 83
Interestingly, the Ramban 84
and Radak 85
wrote 700 years ago that the government which will rise will come to be with the permission of the nations of the world. At the time of their writing, the idea that those gentile Jew-haters would be sympathetic towards our needs was definitely understood in a miraculous fashion. Only today, in light of WWI and the subsequent Balfour declaration, and WWII which enabled international support for the UN Partition Plan, we can understand how Hashem facilitated this miracle, as always, through natural means and political processes.
In short, one of the stages of the ge’ula process is that in the advent of the ingathering of the exiles, the gentile nations will permit the founding of a small, secular, democratic Jewish state. Sound familiar? Anyone who isn’t shaken by the fulfillment of these sources either needs his faith checked out, is making a concerted conscious effort to deny reality, or simply hasn’t learned them!6. Summary
1. The tradition that after the aliyah of 600, 000 Jews to Israel there will not be another exile is not the innovation of Rav Herzog. It is based on an accepted idea in chazal and the rishonim, and was agreed cited by many other modern day rabbanim.
2. The attribution of this tradition to Rav Herzog can be explained in any or all of the following ways:
a. We proved that this was aîøâìà áôåîéä , a common saying he repeated often in both public and private conversations.
b. Rav Herzog emphasized that he personally ensures and guarantees this tradition.
c. Together with his clearly rational approach, Rav Herzog emphasized that it is not only possible but even obligatory to arrive at practical conclusions on the basis of our faith on the aforementioned tradition that there won’t be another exile. He did not consider this to be "relying on a miracle" but an undisputed historic fact.
If so, we too should draw practical conclusions from this tradition. Even if, G-d forbid, our leadership is tired, post-Zionist and has an exilic mindset, and even if it is possible that there will be retreats here and there in the process of redemption, it is forbidden to despair and there is no room for a crisis of faith. On the contrary, like Rav Herzog in his time, especially in times of difficulty, it is important to repeat, affirm, and stress our faith in the above tradition. To strengthen ourselves and continue building the Land, serving in the army, and, in particular to educate the youth with belief and confidence that our way is correct. Just because we encounter difficulties on the way, doesn’t mean we should throw out the map- especially when the map told us that’s what’s to be expected! We should not be amongst those who deny the redemption. Not only is there no doubt but there is no choice but to declare that there won’t be another exile. Despite the hardships in our times we are seeing the fulfillment of:
"And I will return the exiled of my people Israel, and they will rebuild and settle desolate cities, and they will plant vineyards and drink their wine, plant gardens and eat their fruit. And I will plant them on their Land, and they will not be removed again from the Land that I have given to them, says Hashem your G-d." 86