|THE INGATHERING OF THE EXILES
The Lord your God will return (ve’shav) your captivity and have mercy on you, and He will return (ve’shav) and gather you from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you. If your dispersed will be at the ends of the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and from there He will take you. And the Lord your God will bring you to the Land… (30:3-5)
These verses constitute the Torah’s clearest reference to the long-awaited ingathering of the exiles. It therefore behooves us, the generation that has been privileged to see at least a partial fulfillment of this promise, to study these verses in depth.
Two major questions arise from a careful reading of the opening verse. First of all, the verb ושב (He will return) seems grammatically incorrect, for it implies that God Himself will return from exile. The Torah should have used the hif’il form of the verb – והשיב (He will cause to return, or bring back). Secondly, why is this word (ושב) mentioned twice in the verse?
Rashi gives two answers to the first question. 1) When the Jewish people go into exile, God accompanies them and “suffers” with them (as if to say). Therefore, when they return to their Land, God returns as well. 2) “Another possible answer is: The day of the ingathering of the exiles is so awesome and difficult that God Himself (as it were), with His own hands, must actually [go down to exile and] seize each man from his place, as it says, – And you will be gathered up one by one, O Children of Israel (Yeshayah 27:12).”
The first answer adds a new dimension to our obligation to live in Eretz Yisrael. Aliyah is not only good for us (on both a personal and national level), it is also good for God (so to say). When a Jew returns to his Homeland, he helps bring the Shechinah back home, as well. This is an awesome responsibility and zechut (privilege), which no Jew should pass up. (Regarding the second answer, see Eim HaBanim Semeichah, pp. 101-104.)
R. Meir Simchah HaKohen of Dvinsk discusses the second question in his commentary on the Chumash called Meshech Chochmah. He provides two answers, of which the second is most applicable to our day and age:
God will first return and have mercy on the Jews who are in captivity, those who yearn for Eretz Yisrael and want to flee Chutz LaAretz as [a prisoner wants to flee] from prison. [The second part of the verse], And He will gather you from all the nations… refers to the Jews who have found contentment in foreign lands, those who have lost any desire for the Land of the Deer. HaShem will gather them, too, and He will return them afterwards [i.e., after the first group].
That is to say, there are two types of exile: oppressive and comfortable. Jews who live in the first type will be redeemed first; perhaps because this is an easier task, seeing that they still yearn for God’s Chosen Land. Or perhaps it is because they deserve to be redeemed first due to their desire to return. On the other hand, Jews who live comfortably in exile and have lost their desire for the Desirable Land, will be redeemed last.
It is astounding how consistent this “prophecy” is with recent world events. For all intents and purposes, there are no longer any Jews living in the first type of exile; they have already returned (or, more accurately, they have been brought back). The question is, when will the other Jews return? Will they wait for Mashiach to swoop down and bring them back to Eretz Yisrael on the wings of eagles? Who says they will want to go along with him then? Perhaps they will be like the four-fifths of Israel who did not want to leave Egypt, because they became so comfortable there. (Yes, despite all the hardships, there were Jews who lived honorably and comfortably in Egypt. See Midrash Tanchuma, VaEira 14 [end].) Or worse yet, who says these Jews will be brought on the wings of eagles? Perhaps the lands in which they live will turn oppressive, and they will be forced to flee to Eretz Yisrael, leaving all of their wealth behind. If I am not mistaken, there are examples of this in Jewish history.
Finally, call it coincidence, call it inconsequential, but the second verse quoted above (If your dispersed will be at the ends of the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you…) is the 5,708th verse in the Torah. This number corresponds to the year (1948 in the secular calendar) in which God restored sovereignty to the Jewish people in the Land of Israel, allowing for the ingathering of the exiles after 2,000 years of persecution in foreign lands. How much longer will it take for world Jewry to wake up and seize this historic opportunity?