In last week’s paper I discussed the need for your Jewish soul to light on fire! This year needs to see every Yid’s neshama excited and full of energy and even though the new year just began, I hope your neshama is already working overtime and pumping enthusiasm, happiness and Kedusha into every vein in your body!
This week’s focus will be on something far different. It has nothing to do with going to Shul, singing at the Shabbos table or learning Hashem’s holy Torah. As a matter of fact, it is something Jews have not done for 2,000 years!! It is called National Judaism – a concept that was the central part of our existence from the day we left Egypt until the destruction of the Second Temple. Allow me to explain.
Yiddishkeit is not just a collection of 613 laws plus safeguards added by the Rabbis. Yes, these are vital to our lives and we must carefully follow each and every one to the most minute detail. We study those laws and they direct our every action. We teach them to our children and observe them at home, in business and on vacation. However, there’s more to being Jewish than just the 613. There’s the concept of being a nation… and not just any nation… the special and unique nation that was chosen by Hashem to spread his Kingship throughout the world.
When our father Yaakov went down to Egypt, he was accompanied by 70 people. They were a family, the descendants of Avraham and Yitzchak, but just a family. After 210 years in slavery, the grandchildren of those 70 people left Egypt – this time NOT as a family but as the NATION of Israel – Am Yisrael! It was the nation of Israel that left Egypt on Pesach and the nation of Israel that received the Torah on Shavuos. It was the nation of Israel that wandered the desert for 40 years and the nation of Israel that entered the Land of Israel – given specifically to that nation – on the 10th of Nissan 2488 (3,288 years ago). This nation was given the Land chosen by Hashem as an eternal inheritance and it was divided among the entire nation. At this point, the Torah was much more than 613 laws. It was the glue that bound that nation. It was the instructions for living life as “A kingdom of priests and a holy nation”. It shaped our society, our system of justice and even our economic and taxation system. In short, it was much more – and in many ways, much DIFFERENT – than the Torah you observe today.
This year; you need to connect to that Torah, the Torah of national Judaism. Unfortunately, due to our 2,000 year galus, this Torah has been virtually forgotten. Ever since going into exile, we lost our status as a nation and turned our focus instead to communal life. On one hand, this was a very smart thing to do. Jewish communal life kept us together and kept us strong. Jewish communities thrived across the world which gave birth to Ashkenazim and Sefardim. It also created different sects of Chassidim, Litvaks and many diverse groups of Yidden, all serving Hashem with their special flavor. However, on the other hand, these communities – each with their own customs and ideology – broke us apart. We went from one people, in one land, with one set of rules to a Jewish “United Nations” where many of us feel very uncomfortable in another’s Shul. To me, that was the worst part of our 2,000 year exile. Not only were we exiled from our land but we were exiled from ourselves! When the Bet Ha’Mikdash was destroyed, our unity as one people was destroyed as well. We went from all coming together in Jerusalem on Pesach – as a single nation – to each running in different directions, observing his own customs and keeping Pesach in unique ways. You think THAT is Judaism?
We need to get back to what life was before the exile… and I have great news for you… this can be done in our day! Thanks to the wonderful mercy of Hashem, the exile is over! For the first time in 2,000 years, Jews control Israel. We have a Jewish government, a Jewish army and we just finished the most amazing year of Shmittah in 2,000 years! Are things perfect? Far from it but we are moving in the right direction. Today, there are more Jews living inside Israel that outside, which is something that hasn’t happened since the destruction of the Second Temple! You MUST recognize these miracles! Why have we merited for these things to happen in our generation when the Rambam and Vilna Gaon didn’t? I don’t know… but it HAS! The bitter, blood-soaked Jewish exile is over which means the focus can now return to life as a nation and not just a community.
This must be your focus in 5776. Pray for Hashem to open your eyes and connect you to your nation. Stop living small in the Jewish community of Queens, Teaneck or Skokie. We are far greater than that! We are Am Yisrael and I urge each and every one of you to raise the banner of our nation and take the next step to rejoining the nation that was almost lost. Start making the plans to come home. Hashem has done His part. The exile is over. The excuses are over. The prince has returned to the palace and the king is excited. Join with us and help build the great nation of Israel. This is your job in the new year! We are waiting for you!