Can Living in the Zionist State Be Considered Exile?
And if his hand was not able to produce enough [money] to return to him, then his field will be in the buyer’s hand until the Yovel year. (25:28)
The word “matz’ah” – meaning found, or was able – occurs only a few times in Tanach. The Bobover Rebbe, Rabbi Ben Zion Halberstam (1874-1940) explains a hidden level of meaning in our verse, based on a comparison with one of the other places where the word occurs: “Also the bird found a house, and the wild bird a nest for itself” (Tehillim 84:4). The bird is a metaphor for the Jewish people, as Rashi explains there. When the time of redemption arrives, the Jewish people will go up to Jerusalem and find a house, a Beis Hamikdash already built by Hashem and brought down from Heaven. But the wild bird will make a nest for itself. The wild bird is a metaphor for the wicked Jews who want to be wild and free from the mitzvos. They force the end and wish to build a nest, a sovereign state, on their own, pretending that this is the ultimate redemption. But it is obvious and known that they speak falsely, and that their way is the complete antithesis of the Torah. See the Targum on Shir Hashirim 8:4: “The king Moshiach will say, I adjure you, my people, house of Israel, why do you fight with the people of the land, to leave the exile? Wait a little more until the nations who ascended to war in Jerusalem are destroyed, and after that the Master of the World will recall the love of the righteous ones and it will be His will to redeem you.” And this is based on the Gemora in Kesubos (111a), that Hakadosh Baruch Hu made the Jewish people swear not to force the end.
The Torah needed to warn the Jews not to follow these people, not to be influenced by their false beliefs. Therefore it says, “And if his hand was not able” – if the Jewish people did not yet merit the complete and true redemption, then they should not think of doing as the wild bird does, building a nest for themselves, but rather “it is enough to return to him” – it is enough that they do complete teshuva. For the redemption is only dependent on teshuva (Sanhedrin 97b), and if they will only do teshuva then “also the bird will find a house,” for Hashem will redeem us and reveal the Beis Hamikdash from Heaven. (Kedushas Tzion on Tanach, p. 92)
And if your brother becomes poor and is sold to you, you shall not make him do slave labor. Like a worker and like a resident he will be with you; until the jubilee year he will work with you. And then he will go out from you, he and his sons with him, and he will return to his family, and to his ancestors’ land he will return.” (25:39-41)
The Ohr Hachaim explains this as a metaphor for the Jews in exile. G-d is addressing Esav and commanding him not to treat his brother Jacob badly in exile. He will only be in exile until the jubilee – the final redemption – when he, together with his sons, will return to his ancestors’ land. The sons symbolize the sparks of holiness that are scattered around the world. In every place where Jews live, the sparks are sorted out through the Jews’ suffering, Torah, and mitzvos. And this is one of the reasons for the exile – for if the reason were only for punishment, G-d could have punished the Jews while still in their land.
And what if the Jewish people had never sinned and never gone into exile? Who would have sorted out the sparks in all the lands of the Jewish exile? The Ohr Hachaim answers that if the Jewish people had not sinned, they would have had the power to sort out the holy sparks from afar, without ever leaving the Holy Land.
Rabbi Menachem Azariah of Fano writes that the purpose of every exile, beginning with Adam’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, is to purify the places to which the exiled are sent. This explains why the Jews of Samaria were exiled only to one place, whereas the exiles of Judea were scattered in all directions. The Jews of Samaria were not Torah scholars, and therefore they could only sanctify one corner of the world; but the Jews of Jerusalem were sent everywhere, so that their wellsprings could benefit all of mankind. (Asarah Maamaros 4:13)
The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 10b) relates that there was once a king who hated the Jews. He said to his ministers, “If a man has a painful scab on his foot, should he cut it off and heal, or leave it and suffer?” They said, “Cut it off and heal.” But one minister, named Ketia bar Shalom, spoke up and said: “First of all, you will not be able to kill them all, for they are scattered all over the world, as it says, “For like the four directions of the world I have scattered you” (Zechariah 2:10). Secondly, those Jews who remain will call you a murderous kingdom.
The Gemara later comments on the wording of the verse in Zechariah: seemingly, it should read “to the four directions of the earth I have scattered you” and not “like the four directions”. The Gemara explains that the word “direction” can also mean “wind” and the prophet was comparing the Jewish people to the wind: just as the world cannot exist without wind, so too it cannot exist without the Jewish people.
But according to this, why does the prophet mention scattering at all? The Maharsha answers that the world exists not just because the Jewish people are in the world somewhere, but because they are scattered around the world, making known the existence of G-d and His Torah.
With all of the above in mind, one cannot say that Jews gathered together in their own country in Eretz Yisroel are truly in exile, fulfilling the purpose of exile.
Furthermore, Rabbi Yosef Yabetz (d. 1507) in his work Chasdei Hashem explains the words of Yishaya 53:8, “He was removed from power and judgment” as a reply to the nations who question the greatness of Israel for suffering their exile. “After all,” argued these nations, “Israel is not the only nation in exile. Many Muslims live under Christian governments and many Christians live under Muslim governments.” The prophet replies that the non-Jews, even when they live in exile, do not suffer true exile since they know that they have a government of their own people in another part of the world to whom they can turn in time of need. For example, when King Manuel of Portugal decreed in 1496 that no Jews or Muslims could remain in his country, he did not actually enforce the decree against the Muslims, for fear of reprisals against Christians living in Muslim countries. Thus the Muslims in Portugal were saved by their own governments in other places. By contrast, the Jews are removed from power completely, not relying on any government somewhere else. According to this, if Jews have their own country, even those Jews living under other governments, if they rely on the Jewish country for help in times of need, are not truly living in exile.
When you come to the land that I give you, the land shall rest a Sabbath to Hashem. (25:2)
The Kli Yakar quotes some of the reasons given by the commentators for the mitzvah of Shmittah, rejects them, and then gives what he holds is the real reason. The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim says that the purpose of Shmittah is to let the earth rest, so that it will produce more in the working years. The Kli Yakar argues: 1) If so, why did the Jewish people deserve exile for not keeping Shmittah? The punishment should have been the simple result of their actions: that the land would grow tired and stop producing. 2) Why is this called a “Sabbath to Hashem,” if it is for the sake of the land? 3) Why does the Torah say (26:34) that during exile the land will rest and make up its missed Sabbaths? When the gentiles take over Eretz Yisroel, they will certainly not keep Shmittah, and it will not rest at all.
The Akeidah says that Shmittah is a reminder of the creation of the world. The Kli Yakar argues: For that we already have Shabbos. If a reminder every week won’t help, how will a reminder once every seven years be any better?
But the true reason for Shmittah, he says, is to teach the Jewish people emunah and bitachon in Hashem. Hashem feared that upon coming into the land, working it and reaping its fruits, the Jews would begin to feel that everything was natural and they need not rely on Him. They would feel that they were the owners and masters of the land. Therefore He commanded that they work six years straight, not letting the land rest every three years, as farmers usually do, and promised that not only would the land not tire – it would produce extra in the sixth year, enough to last until the ninth year. They would rest in the seventh year, rely on miracles and know that the entire land belonged to Hashem. They would depend only on Him for their food, just as the Jews in the desert depended on Him for the manna.
The Kli Yakar’s reason is really explicit in the Gemara, Sanhedrin 39a: “A student asked Rabbi Avahu: What is the reason for Shmittah? He said: The Holy One, blessed is He, said to Israel: Plant for six years and let the land rest in the seventh, so that you may know that the land is Mine.”
Their failure to keep Shmittah showed that they lacked faith and felt the land was theirs, continues the Kli Yakar, and for that they were exiled. Furthermore, the Holy Land was angry at them: it had hoped to be used as a vehicle to teach the Jewish people trust in Hashem, that all Jews should know that Hashem is the true Owner of the Land, and they are mere sharecroppers. The Land, wanting to be under the ownership of Hashem alone, threw them out. During exile, the Land does not mind when gentiles live on it and farm it naturally, for the gentiles are not expected to live lives based on faith. The Land prefers this situation to the Jewish people living on it and not learning the proper lessons in emunah.
All the more so that the Holy Land prefers to be under gentile rule than to be a vehicle to actively uproot emunah from the Jewish people. Our gedolim always viewed a Jewish state before the coming of moshiach, even a religious state, as an inherent contradiction to our emunah in Hashem’s redemption through moshiach. In 1937, the Knessiah Gedolah of Agudath Israel first placed the question of a Jewish state before the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah. The periodical Hapardes describes the reaction of the members of the Moetzes: “Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, Rabbi Aharon Kotler, Rabbi Mordechai Rottenberg of Antwerp, and the Hungarian and Czech rabbis opposed the proposal for a Jewish state, no matter what the borders would be and even if it would be religious, because it would be like a denial of the coming of moshiach.”
And the Brisker Rav said on another occasion: “The Rambam (Melachim 12:2 and Teshuva 9:2) says that moshiach will redeem the Jewish people from their subjugation to the nations. Anyone who believes that it is possible to be redeemed from subjugation to the nations without moshiach is lacking in full belief in moshiach.”
The movement to bring Eretz Yisroel under Jewish rule before the coming of moshiach was named Zionism, after the word Zion, which is used throughout Tanach as a synonym for Jerusalem and as symbolic of all of the Holy Land. But according to the above, their movement is an affront to Zion and its purpose. Those who advocate waiting passively for the redemption of Zion should really be called Zionists, while those who use the land of Zion to uproot emunah should be called anti-Zionists.
“And of Zion it will be said: every man is born in it” (Tehillim 87:5). The Gemara (Kesubos 75a) explains that even those Jews who are not born in Zion are considered its children if they looked forward to seeing it.
On Hoshana Rabba, we say, “Hoshana Tzion Hametzuyenes” – save Zion, the designated one. The Bobover Rebbe, Rabbi Ben Zion Halberstam (1874-1940), asks: What is the meaning of this extra word “hametzuyenes” – the designated one? What is this designation or indication that Zion must have? He answers that the author of the Hoshanos saw with holy inspiration that there would come a time when wicked Jews would take the name Zion for themselves, to use for their movement to conquer Eretz Yisroel by force before the proper time. Then, whenever the simple Jewish masses would see the word “Zion” mentioned in the prayerbook, for example, “May you cause a new light to shine on Zion,” they would think that it refers to this new movement, G-d forbid. Therefore he wrote in the Hoshanos, “The designated Zion” – the Zion that has the mark and indication that it is the right one. What is that mark and indication? The Hoshanos continues, “Hoshana kodesh hakadashim” – it must be a Zion that is holy of holies, with the holiness of Eretz Yisroel – not, G-d forbid, the movement of these wicked men who call themselves Zionists. They have no connection to holiness. (Kedushas Tzion, Moadim, Hoshana Rabba p. 45).