[This siman is a continuation of the previous one, in which the Rebbe quoted the Raavad who says that even after moshiach comes, the Jews will be led through the “wilderness of the nations” before entering Eretz Yisroel.]
According to the above, we can resolve a difficulty in the order of the blessings of the Shmoneh Esrei prayer, as they are explained in the Gemara Megillah 17b:
After the prayer to restore our judges, we pray for the fall of the informers, because through the judges the sinners disappear. Afterwards, the pride of the righteous is uplifted, and then Jerusalem is built.
So the building of Jerusalem is late in the order of events. But before all these blessings, we say, “Sound the great shofar for our freedom…Blessed are You, Hashem, who gathers the scattered of His people Israel.” If Jerusalem will not be built till a later stage, to where will they be gathered? But according to the Raavad, who says that the first stage of the ingathering will be to a wilderness, this question is resolved.
[Many Zionists have tried to prove from the order of the blessings of Shmoneh Esrei that the ingathering of the exiles will happen before moshiach comes – see for example Eim Habonim Smeicha, p. 174. The Rebbe has just refuted this proof. Still the question remains that the blessing “who builds Jerusalem” comes before the blessing “who makes the pride of salvation sprout” which is about moshiach. The Rebbe takes this up in Siman 57, where he says that for a while after moshiach comes, his status as moshiach won’t be recognized by all, until he brings the entire Jewish people back in teshuva. The blessing “who makes the pride of salvation sprout” is about moshiach’s achieving universal recognition. However, he may be here for while before that and during that time, he might gather in the exiles and build Jerusalem and the Temple. Thus the Rebbe’s answer in 57 takes care of the blessing “who gather in the exiles” as well. One could understand it not as the Raavad says, but simply that moshiach, with his status still unproven, will gather the Jews to Eretz Yisroel.]
Now let’s analyze the blessing itself and see if it refers to gathering us to Eretz Yisroel or to another place. It begins “Sound the great shofar for our freedom and lift up a banner to gather our exiles” – no reference to Eretz Yisroel. The end of the blessing is “who gathers the scattered of His people Israel” – also not specifying to where. Regarding the middle, where [those who pray Nusach Sefard] say, “And gather us quickly from the four corners of the earth to our land,” we would have to say that this refers to the end-purpose of the ingathering, which is to bring us later into our land. But the first stage of the ingathering will not be to Eretz Yisroel, but to the wilderness of the nations.
There are many versions of the prayer book that do not have the words “to our land” at all. The Likutei Mahariach (a work on the daily mitzvos and prayers by Rabbi Yisroel Chaim Friedman of Rachov (1852-1922), printed in Satmar in 1932), who collected all the various versions of the prayers, writes that the Ashkenaz siddurim do not have the words “to our land.” And it would appear that the Tur (end of Orach Chaim Siman 117) and the Arizal agree to this, for they write that this blessing has 20 words, and with the words “to our land” it would be more than 20 words. And similarly, my father’s custom was not to say it.
In any case, the beginning and end of the blessing, according to all versions, do not specify to where the ingathering will be.
Now, one might ask: the ingathering to the wilderness is certainly not the final goal, and it only serves the purpose of purify us and filtering out the bad elements, so that we should be ready to be gathered to our holy land, which is our whole hope, which we look forward to so fervently. If so, why does the blessing speak of this first stage and not the more important second stage of gathering us to Eretz Yisroel?
The answer is that the blessings of Shmoneh Esrei are in chronological order, as the Gemara says, and this blessing belongs in the time period before the restoration of the judges and the destruction of the heretics. At that period, there will not yet be any ingathering to Eretz Yisroel. Therefore, we don’t mention it at the beginning or end, which are the essential parts of a blessing. And whether we mention it in the middle as a reference to the final goal of coming to Eretz Yisroel depends on the different versions of the Siddur. There are different opinions on this, and I do not wish to write at length.
In any case, one thing is clear: if even after the redemption Hashem will not bring all Jews to Eretz Yisroel right away, then it is abundantly clear that He does not want to bring them all there before the redemption. There are many other clear proofs to this, but what I have mentioned is enough, and there is no need to write at greater length about it.