Why are Jews in America?

Over the last two weeks, and for another week or so, I am visiting the United States for a family Simcha. I have not really had much of a chance until now to write any serious posts, but my thoughts have been rolling as always with ideas that beg expression. So, here I begin.

Before we left Israel for this visit to the US, my son, who is six years old, said that he does not want to go to America. When questioned as to why, he explained that his rebbe told him that one who lives in Eretz Yisrael is constantly getting mitzvos, and therefore, he does not want to go to a place where he is missing that.

On a different occasion, my son asked me, with incredulity, Why would anyone want to live in America?

I thought I would share some of the thoughts I shared with him.

This question really goes deeper, and the question really becomes, Why are Jews outside of Israel at all? What is the purpose of Jews being dispersed all over the world? How does this help accomplish Hashem’s materplan? How do Jews in America, Europe, Asia, Africa, etc. help bring Moshiach?

The answer is that in order for Moshiach to come it is essential that Jews be in these countries! What? Essential? Don’t we all need to be back in Israel?

Rav Kessin explains, based on the Ramchal, that the reason the Jew enters another nation is in order to draw out the sparks of holiness that are entrapped in that nation. There are two entities that vie for the sparks – the Jewish people and the Satan. If the Jewish people sin, the sparks are given to the Satan, and he in turn gives them to the nations of the world. Then the job of the Jewish people is to release those sparks of holiness and bring them back to the side of Good. This can only be accomoplished in three ways. One, is by keeping mitzvos despite being embedded in the host nation. The second way of releasing the sparks is by doing teshuva for the aveiros. The third way is through yisurin, difficulties.

When all the sparks have been completely redeemed, we reach the days of Moshiach.

This is precisely what occurred in Egypt. The job of the Jewish people was to stay strong in their mitzvah observance. As they lost their Jewish identity, they began to be enslaved and experience hardships. The greatest hardships came at the very end as the geulah fast approached. But who was exempt from the slavery? The Leviim who kept on learning the Torah! They were able to remove the sparks that way, while their brethren unfortunately had to remove the sparks through hardships.

Thus, the purpose of the Jewish people being spread throughout the world is to redeem the sparks that are entrapped in these far-flung places.

As the sparks are redeemed, the Jewish people can return more and more to Israel. It is extremely interesting that there is a tremendous amount of Aliyah (courtesy of Nefesh b’Nefesh) from the US, Britain, etc. This would seem to indicate that Esav is getting sucked out of the sparks, allowing for the sparks to be returned to the Jewish people, and allowing them to be rejoined with their Holy Land.

So what do the Jews in Israel do then? The answer is that they are pulling the sparks out of the Erev Rav, which is the last place the sparks will reside. As the sparks are sucked out of Esav, they end up trapped in the Erev Rav.

Both of these jobs are necessary and essential in order to bring Moshiach.

It is interesting to think about which job is greater. On one hand, removing the sparks from Edom is the first stage, one we have been ‘working on’ for close to 2000 years, or more. On the other hand, pulling out the sparks from the Erev Rav is the final stage before Geulah. Each of these entails difficulty and challenge.

Something interesting that bothered me was that we know that one of Moshiach ben Yosef’s jobs is to destroy Edom – to completely remove the sparks from the Western world and return them to the Jewish people. It seems on the surface, however, that the Arabs are doing this job. They are slowly taking over the Western world as they have more and more children.

I was thinking that the fact that they are able to do this is actually a clear sign that we, the Jewish people, are successfully completing our job of removing the sparks from Esav. As long as Esav has the sparks, he is dominant and powerful, and Yishmael can not take over. As we suck out the power from Esav, however, Yishmael can easily come in and take over, because Esav is powerless to stop them.

The bottom line of it all is that no matter where we are, we have an important job to do in order to bring Moshiach closer. My instinct is that the greater feat is to be in Eretz Yisrael, finishing off the job, but this does not take away from the importance of those outside of Israel who are helping as well.

Our job is accomplished as we dedicate ourselves to Torah, striving to come close to Hashem and be in sync with who we really are. As we do that, we give new strength to the Jewish people. Our job is to do teshuva and repent the sins we have done, thereby further bringing back the sparks to our people. And finally, if Hashem must bring us difficulties, we can accept them with love, knowing that ultimately He is giving us the opportunity to take part in the Moshiach process, hastening the day that all will be able to intimately experience Hashem’s closeness.

One final thought I had is that Elul is a tremendous time for releasing the sparks from Esav. This is the month that we rededicate ourselves to our Avodas Hashem, really being strong in learning, studying mussar, and thinking about Teshuva. I think it was not a coincidence that it was in Elul last year that the Economic downturn began. As we draw the sparks out, all the false ideals of Esav come crashing down. This is the greatest sign that we are indeed succeeding in our efforts to bring the downfall of spiritual blindness, and raising the banner of Moshiach.

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