This article is the next installment of The Jerusalem Herald's ongoing series excerpted from the author’s book, Go Up Like a Wall, which discusses the Ingathering of the Exiles and the Redemption. To read other selections from the series, click here.
Kfir Infantry Brigade in Northern Israel by Matan Portnoy, Israel Defense Forces [CC BY-NC 2.0] via Flickr
The Book of Yehoshua (Joshua) records the initial conquest and settlement of the Land of Israel. Although the Jews received miraculous protection during their battles, and the occupying nations posed them no threat, they failed to conquer and settle the entire land. Those “Palestinians” who were allowed to remain became thorns in the sides of the Jews — just as the Torah warned would happen (Num 33:55-56) — and constantly terrorized future generations.
There is a startling section of three verses toward the end of Yehoshua, after the land is mostly conquered and divided among the tribes:
“And G-d gave to Israel all the land that He swore to give to their fathers, and they conquered it and settled in it. And G-d gave them respite from all who surrounded them as He swore to their fathers. No man stood before them; G-d gave all their enemies in their hands. Nothing was lacking from all the good things that G-d spoke to the House of Israel; everything was fulfilled.” (Josh. 21: 41-43)
The problem with these verses — that the job remained far from finished — is obvious, yet almost none of the commentators bother to raise it. This is because the answer is also obvious. Ralbag spells it out for us:
“Even though many [of the enemies] remained in [the land], as was mentioned previously, this does not contradict what is written in this place, for all the nations that fought against them fell into their hands. Indeed, some remained due to the laziness of Yehoshua and the Jews, not due to a removal of G-d's providence from them.”
These verses express that, as far as G-d is concerned, He gave the Jews the entire land as He promised them. The fact that they neglected to take it in no way detracts from Him having fulfilled His word.
It is easy to blame G-d for the situation in Israel not being more favorable. It takes more courage to examine whether He has offered us far more than what we have, and the real problem is that we have failed to take it.
How badly does G-d want the Jews to return to Israel? “When Israel would go out to war, G-d would go out with them. When they angered Him, He did not go out with them. When the Jews were no longer in the land, He said, 'If only the Jews were with me, even if they were to anger Me.'” (Eicha Rabba 3:7)
Our ancestors at the time of the return from Babylonian exile were given a partial redemption, though they were offered a complete redemption. They did not seize the opportunity.
After thousands of years of exile, we have once again been blessed with a partial redemption, with the same offer of a complete redemption very much on the table. The creation of modern Israel is very much a fulfillment of G-d’s will, in spite of the ignorance and wickedness of many of Israel's leaders. It is also G-d’s will for the Jews around the world to embrace this opportunity and return to Israel “like a wall,” to settle in the land, to build the land, to fight for the land.
The period of exile is over — if we truly want it to be. The prophets speak to us loud and clear, urging us to shake off the shackles of servitude and not look back. If enough of us heed their words, we will merit the restoration of proper Jewish leadership, the true fulfillment of the many semi-fulfilled prophecies, and the ultimate redemption.
May it be soon in our days.
Rabbi Chananya Weissman is the founder of EndTheMadness and the author of seven books, including “Go Up Like a Wall” and "How to Not Get Married: Break These Rules and You Have a Chance," an illustrated book that is humorous yet serious in its examination of the issues facing singles. Many of his writings are available here. He is also the director and producer of a documentary on the shidduch world, “Single Jewish Male,” and “The Shidduch Chronicles” available on YouTube by clicking here. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org To read other selections from this series, please click here.