The entire Jewish world is uneasy. Jewish hearts and souls are distraught that Israel’s efforts to protect her citizens have become controversial, misunderstood, and even condemned.
Some say we are being punished for our sins. Nonsense! After 3000 years of devotion, this charge is unacceptable.
Then what is happening? What does G-d want from us?
The Torah tells of Moses encountering an Egyptian who is beating a Jew. Believing that no one is watching, Moses kills and buries the Egyptian. The following day, Moses sees two Jews fighting. He says to “the wicked one,” whose hand is raised to strike, “Why do you strike your fellow?” The Jew replies, “Who made you lord and judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Moses is frightened by this and says, “The matter has become known!”
The simple meaning of this phrase is that the matter of Moses killing the Egyptian has become known. But on a deeper level Moses is saying: Now I know why G-d is not fulfilling his promise of taking the Jewish people out of Egypt and bringing them to the Promised Land. He is not redeeming them now, because of the way they treat one another.
In the Bible, G-d promises to take the Jewish people out of Egypt and bring them to the Promised Land. The above story suggests that, at that time in Egypt, we were not yet a people; we were more like a dysfunctional family. Since there was no “Jewish people,” the promise waited to be fulfilled.
Similarly, G-d promised an end to our exile and the coming of Moshiach. When Moshiach comes there will be a perfect world, but we have to be ready.
In what way are we not ready? We resist redemption by being stuck in an exile mentality.
A classic example of “exile mentality” is Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s oft-repeated statement that he will root out terror because “we have a right to protect our citizens.”
Is that what we have – “a right”? How sad! As Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon has a moral obligation to ensure the security of his citizens. It’s not a right – it’s a commandment.
Here in the USA we suffer from a similar lack of moral clarity. On April 15, 2002, more than 120,000 Americans rallied in Washington in support of Israel. It was a magnificent event, but it took a representative of the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel to say, “G-d has not revoked G-d’s covenant with Jews. G-d has never revoked G-d’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and I add, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.” These words are from our Torah. Aren’t we supposed to quote it?
The world does not accept Jews who don’t act the way the Bible says Jews should act. When we say, “We live by Torah-by the Bible,” that gains us respect. But we don’t do this. We don’t allow G-d to take us out of exile because we insist on acting exiled.
Jewish writings discuss the nature and characteristics of Moshiach, the one who will lead us out of exile. Many of his qualities are listed: his scholarship, piety, etc. But the first quality attributed to Moshiach is that he stands up straight. That he has good posture.
Why is good posture mentioned first?
Because the first step out of exile is to stop acting like victims. We have to stand up straight and proud. If someone asks why a Jew would live in Israel today, we should stand up straight and say, “What kind of question is that? Jews are the people of Israel. Don’t you read the Bible?”
Were Israel to infuse its policies with a healthy dose of faith and spirituality, it would take us out of exile a tiny drop. At the least, it would give us good posture. And then G-d would do the rest.