The Jewish story is one of exile and redemption. At times we live inside our land, and at times we live outside our land. While these two concepts appear to be polar opposites, the same root is found in both words; galut, exile, and geulah, redemption, both meaning “to reveal.”
We read in Parshat Vayigash of our initial descent into Egypt. What is unique about that journey is that there was not a specific sin leading to the action. The Rabbis give us reasons why the first and second Temples were destroyed—sinat chinam, senseless hatred. We had a recipe of return: Simply turn senseless hatred into love. We can search far and wide for a cause an effect relationship, but Rav Kook writes, “Exile is integral to the Jewish collective experience.” Instead of searching for a cause, Rav Kook discovers meaning in the event. Exile spreads a divine message around the world.
I have been blessed with living in unique communities throughout my life: East coast and west coast, small cities and major metropolitan areas, Israel and the Unites States. In each situation, Jewish life looked different. In some locales, wearing a kippah publicly was easy, in others, a baseball hat was a preferred mode of dress. In some places, Shabbat Shalom was a common greeting on the street; in others, a nod of the head was enough.
And yet, in each of these places, the same words of the Shema were recited, the same Torah was read, and the same challah was eaten.
We are a people spread around the world with a fortunate connection to a land. Exile and redemption-at the root is revelation. Wherever you find yourself this Shabbat, reveal to yourself the deeper meaning of what it means to be a Jew, connected to our initial descent to Egypt, with the promise of one day being redeemed into the promised land of Israel.