Thursday, June 22, 2006

Chabad, the Rebbe, my Grandmother, and the False Exile.

Every week, my e-mail inbox is bombarded with Torah thoughts and Parsha lessons from every place, school, or philosophy I have ever been somewhat connected with. There's too many to read, and the fact that I don't relate to – or even know – the sender is not motivating. However, since I feel a sense of guilt in canceling subscriptions to Torah-inspired e-mails…I just delete most of them.

Usually, that is.

Three Torah portions ago was Parshas Nasso, one of the portions that falls out differently then it does in Israel. I happened to open up an e-mail from an old teacher and started to read. It only took two lines for something she said to make my insides jump.

It was what she wrote in passing, in one short sentence that went as follows:

"The Parsha this week (for those of us out in Galus) discusses two major topics…"

Oh, the parentheses. Always subtle, but so present - so thought out. Referring to her fellow Americans, she said, "for those of us out in Galus." Her skewed message was so confident and natural. It not only wore the signs of something that's never been argued before, but something which she has reason to assume will be agreed upon by her many e-mail recipients.

Her passing and almost joke-like (but totally unfunny) message was: People who live in Israel are released from the bounds of Galus, while America is in a state of Exile.

The attitude is not new to me. It's been expressed to my squirming intuition many times before. But here it was – in writing.

The attitude that America means Exile (and Israel means Moshiach) is destructive at best.

This attitude is why seminary girls come home and get depressed and hate their families and struggle and struggle with their "post-sem"Yiddishkeit; because some respectable teacher told them they were leaving Moshiach and going back to Galus. This attitude is why many Jewish Americans turn down the need for expansion and action; because some "kiruv organization", "gadol", or "religious Jew" told them that they, their efforts and deeds, are only useful, whole, and holy in Israel. This attitude is why some people are afraid or don't care to go to Israel; because they see people come back with a cynical, warped, and ugly eye towards the rest of G-d's world.


Although I can't say that my love for Israel is always outward or totally consistent, I most certainly try, and I definitely value the connection.

But, to me, the unholy and broken in Israel is a huge violation – it hits hard. The slightest betrayal and violation of her inherit sanctity is so poignant, so huge, so corrupt.

American is no competition, even if it seems to try. It's never going to, in its ideal, be as holy as Israel. So, we don't expect as much.

So where is the Exile bigger? Where is there more being buried, trapped and unexpressed?

I can tell you for sure. It's not America.

It's Israel that needs our tears, our firm fist. Not our comfort or our holy high seat.

People continue to insult Israel by insisting that she is at her prime. I spent two school years in Israel - living, learning, and loving every moment. To write any additional words on Israel's potential for holiness would be foolish. We all feel it when we're there. And yet, I really hope that the reality in Israel today is in no way a paradigm for Moshiach.

When contemplating on a time when true and full holiness is restored to our land, we shouldn't even be able to imagine. We should only be forced into action. We should not be fooled. We should not be blind.

Ironically, it's mostly the Lubavitchers – who are known to "obsess" over Moshiach - that I have seen working tirelessly in Israel to educate, connect, and fix a broken existence in Israel. They have not been disenchanted into believing they are enjoying the benefits of a redeemed Israel. For the most part, they don't live or stay in closed-in communities that allow for that.

Calling everywhere but Israel "out in Galus" does not make Israel less exiled. The holier than thou mindset is not doing anything to bring Moshiach.

It's exactly the opposite.

So, come on. Just stop it already.


When I first called my Grandmother upon returning to America, she proclaimed, "My Mimi! You're back in G-d's country!"

Just days after leaving Israel, her words hit me like a brick, and turned my insides to soft mush. "Mimi," she was telling me, "G-d is where you are."

Only Chabad, the Rebbe - and my Grandmother - are teaching a huge lesson that should never have become surprising or controversial.

G-d is where you find him

A connection is where you make it

Exile is where you feed it

Moshiach is where you bring it


FrumGirl said...

I too love Israel and yearn for its holiness, but agree that it is not yet the Geula there. Golus is everywhere right now and you are right on the money with your last paragraph! Yep, like you said, definately alternate realities!!!

Great post, I love your writing which you already know cuz I rave about it each and every time...!

Also, I really like that new art you use as your pic... very appropo, fits you to a T!

Nemo said...

I speak to a lot of MO people who spend their entire lives living with this guilt that they must make Aliyah and that is the ultimate Mesirus Nefesh/purpose in life. There is so much else that must be done!

Israel today is a disaster and one has to realize that the alleged Itchalta D'geulah which happened on Hey Iyar was really just a fanciful dream.

Anonymous said...

I think you may be exaggerating the implications of the parenthetical statement to which you took such offense. The way my teachers put it is that in Israel we are no longer in physical galus, but we are certainly still in spiritual galus. With your former teacher’s comment I don’t think she intended to imply that Israel today exists in the ideal status of geulah, nor is her statement necessarily an indication of the “attitude” which you claim harms so many post-sem girls. You are stretching her comment to encompass a belief that you seem very eager to attack. I also don’t think that the attitude that you vilify with such venom is as prevalent as you make it out to be; not as commonly held and propagated within the more conventional “institutions” of Judaism (that you so scorn) as you claim. There are very few people (in fact I have never met anyone) who believe that they are “enjoying the benefits of a redeemed Israel.” There are Zionists who will say that the modern state of Israel is “reishit tzmichat geulateinu,” but they tend not to be members of the yeshivish or chareidi community, and even those Zionists would admit that the actual messianic era is not yet upon us, merely that it is coming soon (which is something that we all believe and hope, right?). I think we all realize that, sadly, Moshiach has not yet arrived, and that we all have a lot of work to do to get him here. [Side note: I hate using all these labels, but for convenience sake I’m forced to use them…but no, generally I do not break down Jews by category.]

All that being said, there should be a recognition that yes, Israel is different than the U.S., and that it is the physical site of our geulah, and that we are beyond privileged to have the unique opportunity to visit freely and live there if we choose to. I am a big fan of you and your blog, but I think that on this issue you are being overly negative.

Dov said...

I dig the last little limerick.

I think Mimi's point is solid on its own, albeit somewhat disconnected from the sentence that sparked it. Sure, it is said that Israel will be the physical site of our redemption, though (and I could be wrong) there are numerous interpretations of what exactly that means (maybe the whole world becomes Israel). But this whole reference to "out there" gives the impression that we're lost souls scattered throughout the world, when really where you are, there you are -- we all have a mission, strengths to utilize, and in fact it's all interwoven, and even practically strengthening Israel as we know it. That was her point, and I think it's a valid one.

I started an organization dedicated to enabling people to work together regardless of where they are in the world (Woven. Interesting, I got a Jerusalem Post e-mail the other day, with the Ministry of Exports in Israel asking people in America and elsewhere to outsource their projects to the skilled labor force in Israel. And America is Israel's best friend. It takes all of us.


nahama said...

Absolutely love it!

"Exile is where you feed it".

Chabad's universal outlook and it's incorporation of all spirit and matter helps people realize that which I hear so often: "Chabad is so...normal."

So Amen to normalicy.

::HUGE sigh of relief::

See you soon in the Holiest of Lands....

Yossi's blog said...


Love reading youre posts, keep it up!
And about the geulah thing you should check out ginsbrgs new book "rectifing the state of israel" explaining that

-The medina is not kadosh
-The army is not kadosh

And the whole land needs rectification.

avital said...

mimi - can't agree with you more.
we were discussing the same idea in regard to melbourne. everyone talks about it being a ghetto, and we realised - you're only living in a ghetto if you see yourself living in one. same deal. living in geula is a challenge but it's true to say it can be done anywhere.
someone once asked, do they say leshana haba beyerushalaim in jerusalem?
yes they do.
which teaches us that you can be somewhere but not really be there at all.
that's what it's all about.

mimi - can you email me? my address is and i have no idea how to contact you. and please ask haddassa to too.

great blog.

miss you sister

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