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.
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