This is a cross-post by Avraham Reiss of Jerusalem. It originally appeared at http://jcwatch.wordpress.com/the-jewish-thought-series/the-secret-of-israels-eternity/
- Ludwig Borne (1786-1837), as quoted from the historian Heinrich Graetz in his monumental History of the Jews (Volume 5, Chapter XIV, pages 539-540).
(View at: http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/heinrich-graetz/history-of-the-jews-volume-5-ear/page-44-history-of-the-jews-volume-5-ear.shtml)
Graetz says of Borne: "…Borne despised the Jews of his time, and spoke of them as if he were their arch-enemy" – but despite this, Borne (pictured, who was Jewish) seems to have captured the secret of the Eternity of Israel.
However, to delve more deeply into such a cosmic subject, we need to view authentic Toranic sources. And to define our targets of interest. What exactly are we looking for?
[Note: where we give years in BCE or CE terms, the absolute Jewish year follows in brackets.]
(1) This was the longest period of its existence, and
(2) Survival in exile requires much more effort than survival in one’s own land, owing to all the external forces acting against it - both hostile and friendly – antisemitism and assimilation.
What was the reason for, and the purpose of the exile?
A number of reasons and purposes have been given.
(1) Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael, in his book Orot (“Lights”) that has become the “flagship” of his modern Zionistic philosophy, contradicts the generally assumed understanding that the two Temples were destroyed because Am Yisrael sinned twice.
However, it would have been impossible to send Am Yisrael into a 2000-year exile starting from the year 423 BCE (3338) – at that time the nation did not possess the tools, properties and capabilities that would ensure its long-term survival as a nation-in-exile. The Second Temple was thus built and served as a preparation for the long exile. It was at the time of the Second Temple that the Oral Law was written; this was the Mishna, which would be followed by the Gemara (Talmud), and would later – in exile – evolve through the Gaonim, Rishonim, Achronim and Poskim. Thus intense Judaic legal activity and creativity would accompany Am Yisrael through its long exile, its foundations having been laid during the period of the preparatory Second Temple.
We will return further on for additional commentary by HaRav Kook.
(2) From Orot (“Lights”) we now move to Or (Light”): The Or HaChayim (“The Light of Life”).
From Wikipedia – Chaim ibn Attar:
"Chaim ben Moses ibn Attar, also known as the Ohr ha-Chaim after his popular commentary on the Pentateuch, was a Talmudist and kabbalist; born at Mequenez, Morocco, in 1696. He was one of the most prominent rabbis in Morocco. In 1733 he decided to leave his native country and settle in the Land of Israel; died in Jerusalem July 7, 1743."(BelowI have translated his words freely, and not literally, so that they will be more understandable. The same will be true for other translations in this post.)
Numbers Chapter 24, verse 23:
“He took up his parable and said, Alas! Who can survive these things from God?”On this verse the Or HaChayim comments as follows:
“The reasons for Israel’s exiles is to identify and gather the sparks of holiness that are to be found amongst the dwellers of the lands of exiles. And this is hinted at in Ecclesiastes 8,9 where it is written:'All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt.'”“To his own hurt”, says the Or HaChayim,
“refers to the idol-worshipping oppressor who is ruling over another man, for the good part of the oppressor is taken by the oppressed, and the bad part of the opressed is transfered to the oppressor; and we have already said many times that absence of the good part of a person is his death, for it is the good part that maintains him in life, and the bad part is called 'death'”.
For wherever G-d places Israel, there they will remove from the residents all the sparks of holiness which are keeping them alive.”[End of Or HaChayim's commentary.]
We emphasize here that the above refers specifically to oppressors of Israel.
(3) The same idea is expressed in the book Zidkat HaZadik by Rabbi Zadokof Lublin.
From Wikipedia: Zadok HaKohen:
“He was born into a Lithuanian Rabbinic family and then became a follower of the Hasidic Rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbica … He is a classic example of a Litvish Jew turned Chasidic … In 1888, Zadok Hakohen agreed to take over the leadership of the Hasidim … Rabbi Zadok was a prolific writer in all areas of Judaism, halakhah, Hasidut, Kabbalah, angelology, ethics; he also wrote scholarly essays on astronomy, geometry, and algebra."In article 256 of his book, pages 220-221, he says:
“Just as every nation has its own specific evil, so also does it possess a spark of holiness which is its force of life. And the exile (of Am Yisrael) is about this – to absorb the goodness (the sparks of holiness) for Israel, as it is written [in the wisdom of mysticism] that when (Am Yisrael is) in exile abundance goes to the nations of the world, and (from them) Israel absorbs the essence.”[End of Rabbi Zadokof Lublin's commentary]
I add here a commentary I read many years ago and unfortunately cannot now find the source.
Exodus 12, 41:
”And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.”The commentary said that “all the hosts of the Lord” (which would have been better translated as “all the armies of the Lord”) refers to all the camps of holiness that existed in Egypt. And with the exit of all the “sparks of holiness”, what we have above termed “the good part”, Egypt collapsed.
(4) Returning to HaRav Kook, we now hear an explanation of our survival in exile that is based on a physical example.
“Perpetual Motion could only become possible if all matters opposing the motion (such as friction with the air) that tend naturally to slow down the motion, could be ‘harnessed’ in such a manner as to add strength to the motion.
The qualities and character traits found amongst the nations, which have subdued and oppressed Israel, have been impressed upon Israel by them; these qualities and traits must serve holiness and perfection, such as bravery and revenge in the right places, and are extracted by Israel from the nations around it, thus honing Israel to general perfection.
Thus Israel achieves eternity by drawing strength from that which will oppose it, (enabling it to survive Babylon and other oppressing nations).”
Israel amongst the nations thus absorbs these qualities whilst exiled amongst them, and will eventually become a nation possessing all the qualities that are spread around the world. (Elsewhere, Rabbi Kook says that G-d did a kindness with the world, by not concentrating all the national qualities and characteristics, as well as geological and geographic richness, all in one nation and in one land).