The original destination of the Israelites when they escaped their slave masters in Egypt was the Promised Land. The funny thing, though, is that when they were about to get there, they started to have second thoughts. They sent in a group of spies to check it out. This group returned after a quick look and told the people that the Promised Land consumes its inhabitants. In other words, it was a place that demands a lot of work. The people wondered, “Why should we leave the comfortable womb of the desert where G-d showers us with daily blessings? Why leave this miraculous desert and go to a land that demands so much human effort and hard work? What is so promising about the Promise Land?
Unlike the spies, however, we Jews stand before G-d yearning our return home to the Promised Land. Eagerly anticipating the end of our exile we offer this daily prayer three times a day:
“Blast the great shofar for our freedom, lift up a banner and gather in our exiles. And gather us in from the four corners of the earth. Blessed be You, G-d, who gathers in the dispersed of His nation Israel.” — From the daily Jewish prayer called the Amidah
By reciting this daily prayer, we little by little, fix the sin of the spies; expressing our burning desire for the Promised Land. After thousands of years living outside our land, we yearn for our homecoming and we pray that it be in a spirit of pride and celebration. Because coming home to Israel is a dream come true.
As long as Jews are in exile, we represent just a religion, but not the priestly nation we were meant to be. Only in Israel, our homeland, can our people fulfill our national destiny. Just as an individual cannot exist in this world without a body, so too, a nation cannot exist without its own land. As the body is to the soul, the Land of Israel is to the collective national soul of the Jewish people.
Among the early Zionists, there was an ideological dispute. Some Zionists felt that the return to Zion was an “ideal,” an opportunity to actualize our unique national identity, to take our rightful place among the nations and fulfill our national mission. There, in our homeland, we would finally be free to be who we are and develop our unique Jewish culture. There were other Zionists, however, who believed that the Jewish people needed an asylum in times of danger. To them, the Land of Israel was important only as a place where Jews could flee for refuge from countries that sought to oppress them. But in countries where Jews were treated as equals, there was no need to leave.
Neither of these approaches is the Torah approach. The Land of Israel, according to the Torah, is not a place to run away to and not a place to merely create and establish a unique culture of Jewish art, literature, music, etc.. If either of these were the case, then the geographical location of the land would not matter.
When Britain offered the famous Zionist leader, Theodore Herzl, land in the largely undeveloped area in Uganda as a Jewish homeland, he was ready to take it as a temporary solution to the plight of the Jews. To his chagrin many of the delegates at the 1903 Zionist congress rejected the proposal. But even after a raging debate the congress voted to check out the option. World Jewry, however, opposed the plan, fearing it would turn into their permanent residence. Herzl, the plan’s leading proponent, died of heart failure within less than a year and so did the Uganda proposal.
The Jewish dream could have never been fulfilled in Uganda because we were not simply looking for a place to run or a place where we could create the ideal Jewish political or cultural society. The Jewish dream and destiny can only be fulfilled in the land of Israel because, metaphysically, this is our home, and no other place is our home. This land is the body of our national soul.
Returning to our land is a great celebration of self-actualization for the Jewish people. In our daily prayer, we are not asking G-d to return us because the other nations of the world do not like us and we need to run for our lives. Just the opposite. Living in the Land of Israel would not only be the best thing for the Jewish people, it would benefit the entire world, as the verse states, “From Zion will go out Torah and the word of G-d from Jerusalem.” We inspire and impact the world the most when we broadcast the prophet message the Holy Land.
BLAST THE GREAT SHOFAR FOR OUR FREEDOM; awaken us to our national identity and purpose. As long as we are in exile, we are a religion, but not the priestly nation we were meant to be. Only in Israel, our homeland, are we free to fulfill our national destiny. LIFT UP A BANNER AND GATHER IN OUR EXILES; Not as unwanted fugitives but as proud Jews leaving in a joyous parade and great fanfare; celebrating our long awaited return to our home where we can finally actualize our national dream. AND GATHER US IN FROM THE FOUR CORNERS OF THE EARTH/ TO FINALLY TAKE OUR RIGHTFUL PLACE ON EARTH TO BECOME A LIGHT UNTO THE NATIONS; A MODEL STATE INSPIRING GLOBAL CHANGE. BLESSED BE YOU, G-D, WHO GATHERS IN THE DISPERSED OF HIS NATION ISRAEL.