What’s does exile mean? Being unwillingly absent from a home country, or being forced to or choosing to live in another country.
The Jerusalem Talmud says, “There was no more tragic a time than when G-d told Moses, ‘I will hide My face on that day’ [in response to Israel’s wayward behavior]” (Sanhedrin 51a).
Rabbi Moshe Silberstein in his book Days Are Coming, page 72 writes: “Human suffering and exile from the Land of Israel are certainly travesties, but the tragedy of being distanced from G-d is unparalleled.” The Talmud says, “From the day the Holy Temple was destroyed, there has been no day without its curse” (Sotah 48a)
Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai says that night represents exile – the banishment of the Jewish nation from its land” (Zohar 1:23b). Exile typifies departure from one’s natural place (Maharal, Netzach Yisrael 1). Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen says: “Any exile which the Jewish nation suffers is only temporary and has no ultimate reality”. Exile is not a home. Exile is not redemption, no matter how sweet it is (Rabbi Pinchas Winston).
G-d is with us in Exile
G-d says to Moses, “…the Tent of Meeting that dwells with them in the midst of their impurities” (Leviticus 16:16). The Talmud teaches that even in a time that they are impure, the Divine Presence rests among them (Yoma 57a). The Maharsha states that even while the Jews are in exile, the Divine Presence remains with them. Although the years of exile mean we are distant from G-d, He still has not forsaken His people (ArtScroll Yoma 57a, note 3). The Medrash states that even when [Israel] was exiled to Egypt, the Divine Presence was with them (Numbers Rabbah 7:10).
What’s so terrible about being in exile?
There is no greater disturbance to Torah study than being in exile, (Talmud, Chagigah 5b) When the Jews were exiled to Babylonia, not one of them was able to explain the Torah he had just learned. The true splendor of Zion, the Torah was lost (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 12:7). Whether you’re in Babylonia or America it’s no different. But 200 years ago, Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin prophetically said the following: “…You should know that the day will come when the pillars of European Jewry will topple, when the Yeshivot will be destroyed and uprooted. However, they will be reborn in the exile of America, the final stop of the Jewish people before the arrival of Messiah. The American exile will be the tenth and final exile of Torah, following those of Babylon, North Africa, Egypt, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Poland and Lithuania” (Daring to Dream by Agudath Israel of America, page 128).
Once the Holy Temple was destroyed, genuine Torah knowledge became inaccessible. The two go hand in hand. Without the Holy Temple, there cannot be true Torah knowledge. Without the Holy Temple, G-d’s Influence is more distant and it is impossible to connect as deeply with Him through Torah as before. This is the reason that in the Yehi Ratzon prayer at the end of Amidah we pray for both the Holy Temple to be rebuilt and for G-d to grant us our portion in Torah. The Holy Temple brings G-d’s Influence into this world, while the proper study of Torah infuses the scholar with G-d’s Influence (Ascent to Greatness, page 9, note 26).
Exile in America is so sweet; how do I know it’s an exile?
Rashi says, “In exile Jews will not be sure of safety from violence. As to their livelihood, they will depend on what they can buy day by day, never being sure that the markets will not be shut down, in general or specifically to Jews” (Deuteronomy 28:66).
How many people does it take to bring the Final Redemption?
G-d Himself answers this question (Days Are Coming, page 80): “I searched for someone who would stand before Me and pray on behalf of Israel, that I should not destroy them, but I did not find anyone, so therefore I will pour out My wrath against them and consume them with the flame of My fury” (Metzudot Dovid to Ezekiel 22:30-31).
One person could have saved all of Israel – one person could have prevented the destruction. If even one person would have stood up and prayed on behalf of Israel, G-d would have rescinded His decree. This is one of G-d’s messages repeated by another prophet as well: “Go in the streets of Jerusalem… and seek in its plazas if you will find a just man, if there is one who dispenses justice and seeks faith if you find even a lone man like this then I will forgive the whole city” (Metzudot Dovid to Jeremiah 5:1).
If there would have been even one just person in all of Jerusalem G-d would have forgiven the entire city.
After the Jews left Egypt, the Egyptians pursued them until they came to the Red Sea. The Jews were stuck and couldn’t continue. G-d told Moshe: “Speak to the Children of Israel and let them journey forth! (Exodus 14:15) They need do nothing but go forward and the sea will not stand in their way. This was sufficient for those whose trust in G-d ran deep. Consequently, the tribes vied with each other as to who would be the first to go into the water and thereby increase the honor of Heaven. Yet, Nachshon the son Aminadav, the prince of the tribe of Judah, leaped forward and descended into the sea first… Why? He had faith in the Holy One, Blessed is He…” (Sotah 37a) In the end, the sea split because of him – one person, one lone individual – took action, thereby sanctifying G-d’s Name! (Numbers Rabbah 13:4)
G-d wants YOU to bring the redemption, yes YOU!
There’s a poster which has a picture of Uncle Sam pointing his finger at you, saying, “I want YOU for U.S. army.” Similarly, our Creator says to each and every one of us, “I want YOU to have a part in hastening the redemption.” As Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz said, “Every person can change the course of history; every individual has the power to shorten the exile” (Four Hasidic Masters and Their Struggle against Melancholy by Elie Wiesel, page 19). If you think Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz is exaggerating, here are the words of the Rambam (Maimonides):
“A person should view his life all year long as if his merits [for his mitzvoth] and his guilt [for his sins] are exactly balanced, and that a single mitzvah could tilt the scales in his favor. Likewise, he should view the entire world as if it is exactly balanced in this way and that his mitzvah could tilt the entire world toward favorable judgment” (Talmud Kiddushin 40b). Now, if a person should say, “Who am I? What is my importance that I should pray about the end of the exile of Israel and about the rebuilding of Jerusalem, etc.? Will my prayer bring the ingathering of the exiles and the redemption to sprout forth?” The Talmud responds to a person with such a mindset: Man was created as an individual: so that each person should say to himself, “For my sake, the world was created” (Sanhedrin 37a). The Talmud is teaching us that it was worthwhile for G-d to create the world for the sake of a single person! Thus, each individual is of inestimable importance and his prayers may indeed have a powerful impact (Tzidkat HaTzadik 154)
Pray for the redemption: Your prayer may tip the scales or at least bring G-d great pleasure
Moreover, G-d blessed be He, is very happy when His children request and pray for this. Even if their requests are not fulfilled as G-d deems the time not yet appropriate for the Redemption or for whatever other reason, those who pray for the redemption have done their part by praying for it and the Holy One, blessed be He, rejoices over their concern for His honor.
When the service of the Holy Temple took place, there was blessing in the world, there were low prices, there was abundant grain, there was abundant wine, people ate and were satiated, and animals ate and were satiated… Once the Holy Temple was destroyed, blessing was removed from the world… When the Holy Temple existed, that sacred abode was a place primed to receive the flow of prophecy and wisdom, and through the temple it would flow to all of the Children of Israel (Dorash Dovid Holidays p.18)