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The Exile and the Redemption
By Menachem Levison
From golah to geulah
Each year during the Jewish months of Tamuz and Av, we try our utmost to relate to the destruction of the holy Temple that once stood in Jerusalem. In most synagogues there are services that try to instill in us a feeling and understanding of our national loss.
Two thousand years is really a long time to mourn over any loss, even something as catastrophic as the destruction of the Temple coupled with the exile from our land. When a loss is fresh in mind then mourning is meaningful. When we barely realize the importance of the Temple, then our services for the tragedies that have long passed become more of a meaningless ritual tied together with the unpleasantness of fasting than an actual lesson and instruction for our personal beings.
When we had the Temple, we had a constant connection to G-d. We lived autonomous in our land and had a secure feeling about life that today is impossible to describe. We had lived centuries in our own land and we were totally connected to it. Our faith was not one that was based on stories, intellectual understandings or pseudo-happenings of what faith should be, but was imbued in our very flesh, fabric, and daily being. It encompassed our lives in all manner of life and was fueled by the event that three times each year we would go up to the holy Temple and pay our deepest respects to our Master and Father in Heaven. We lived with true love and fear of G-d. The concept of religion as we know it today did not exist for us then, rather we lived a live based on the firm belief which was rooted deep in our national consciousness that indeed G-d ruled the universe and oversaw our every day lives.
If we sinned, we knew and felt instinctively that we had to bring an atonement for our transgression. It was an expensive and major ordeal to come from where we lived in the various parts of the Land of Israel, far from Jerusalem to the Temple. There were no buses or taxi, no private cars; we walked or sat on slow moving donkeys. In Jerusalem, we presented our offering to the priest in the Temple who offered it up to the Master of the Universe. Our prayers were true expressions deep feelings of conviction through which we beseeched G-d in all manner of forthrightness that he forgive our sins.
Today, we hardly can realize what a grievous matter it is to sin. We are so far removed from G-d and yet we think we are only a step below the angels. We do not know what is a sin and we hardly know what is a mitzvah.
Fortunately, we have several relics of the past that help us. One of them is the Hebrew language. Hebrew is the language used by G-d in creating the universe. He gave Hebrew to the world as a language and it was used for a thousand years until the world became corrupted. At the Tower of Babel, he caused seventy languages to descend into the world and mankind lost the use of Hebrew, with the exception of His chosen people, Israel.
The Hebrew word for exile, golah, is amazingly related to the word for redemption, geulah. The total difference between the two words is that redemption, geulah, which has the very same letters as golah, exile, and in the same order, with the one difference: there is an aleph inserted after the first letter, the gimmel.
The rabbis have told us that the aleph, which is the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet, represents G-d, the First of the universe. Exile, it turns out is living without the constancy of G-d. In order to go from exile to redemption, we must insert G-d into the very midst of our lives.
It is not enough to become a religious robot, but rather it is necessary that we feel His presence every day and at all times. When we lost the Temple and were exiled from our lands, we lost the feeling of the presence of G-d from our immediate beings. It is imperative that we return Him back unto our lives.
Perhaps few today can actually mourn over the loss of the Temple and the exile from our lands, after all, we Jews are living well, and the State of Israel has been resurrected. But yet, there is more that needs to be done, we must re-inject that original desire to cling to our Father in Heaven, the Master of the Universe. Without this, our beings are still in exile.
We must re-inject the desire to feel G-d's presence in our every day life. The is the secret that Hebrew teaches us. We must put the aleph in our lives in order to take ourselves out from the spiritual exile that we presently exist.
from the July 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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