The Jewish people are living in the second stage of redemption, the period of the ingathering of the exiles, believes Jewish historian Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf.
“Kibbutz galuyot (ingathering of exiles) is a stage in the life of the Jewish people and we are deeply immersed in that stage,” he told Breaking Israel News.
Speaking about his new Yeshiva for the Nations course, “The Role of the Land of Israel Throughout Jewish History,” Rabbi Apisdorf said, “The class focuses on how, in every stage of Jewish history, starting from the matriarchs and the patriarchs through contemporary times, the land of Israel has played a critical role, whether the Jewish people were living in the land or not. The course reviews each important stage of Jewish history and its connection to Israel.
“It is unfolding, in our midst and underway right now,” he said.
Many people think of history as what took place in the past, Rabbi Apisdorf explained. In contrast, the Jewish people look at history as active and unfolding, based on an ongoing relationship with God. For example, when God introduces Himself to the Jewish people and gives them the Torah, He references recent history – that He rescued the Jewish people from slavery in the land of Egypt.
I Hashem am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage. Exodus 20: 2.
“He doesn’t say, ‘I am Hashem, your God, who created the heavens and the earth’ or ‘Father of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,’” pointed out Rabbi Apisdorf. “Jewish history is not something that happened once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away. It is happening now in our ongoing, living relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu (The Holy Blessed One).”
According to the rabbi, this is learned from the very first words that were said to a Jew: “Lech lecha,” the words God spoke to Abraham.
Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. Genesis 12:1
From that moment in the Bible, the text focuses on the story of the Jewish people going to the land of Israel, which is where the story ends – with Moses at the border, giving his farewell speech as the people prepare to enter the Holy Land.
The story in the Five Books of Moses repeats itself in modern day, from the Jewish exile from Jerusalem until the founding of the state of Israel in 1948 and Jerusalem’s reunification in 1967. For thousands of years, Jews wandered the earth unable to fulfil their holy obligation to the world: to be spiritual, moral guides for the rest of the world, Rabbi Apisdorf explained.
“The majority of Jews live in the Land of Israel today,” said Rabbi Apisdorf. “If one would have said 150 years ago that most Jews would be living in their land, and that in the land there would be a fully functioning and developed society, it would have seemed science fiction.
“But today, you look out your window and you see that the ingathering of the exiles and the redemption are here.”
Rabbi Apisdorf cautioned that the Jewish redemption is incomplete. Rather, this stage of Jewish history, as explained in classical Jewish sources beginning with the Book of Ezekiel, has three stages. The first stage is the building of the infrastructure of the Jewish people as a nation.
“My perception is we are there. We have medical, transportation, and physical infrastructure all in place,” said Rabbi Apisdorf.
The Role of the Land of Israel Throughout Jewish History
Now, the Jewish people are in the transition period – the most difficult of the three stages, with all the growing pains of adolescence, he continued. Rabbi Apisdorf said it is impossible to know how long the Jews will be in transition, but that this stage is the final prerequisite to the End of Days.
“The Jewish people have a responsibility to be a light unto the nations, to play a role in the advancement and refinement and elevation of mankind,” he said. “We are becoming more and more positioned to fulfil our role. History is unfolding before our eyes.”
Do you want to learn more? Shimon Apisdorf’s new course, The Role of the Land of Israel Throughout Jewish History, is available through Israel365’s Yeshiva for the Nations. For more information or to watch the online course, visit yeshivaforthenations.com.