Every day we say the T’ka B’Shofar prayer in the Shmoneh Esrei about the Ingatheing of the Exiles:
Sound the great shofar for our freedom, raise the banner to gather our exiles and gather us together from the four corners of the earth. Blessed are you God who gathers in the dispersed of His people Israel.
During the Musaf service of Rosh HaShana, we read a section called “Shofarot” which includes prayers and scriptural readings associated with the shofar.
One of the quotes from the prophets comes from Yishayahu 27:13: “And it will be on that day, that a great shofar will be sounded, and they will come- those who were lost in the land of Ashur, and those who were outcasts in the land of Mitzrayim, and they will prostrate themselves to God, on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.”
Rabbi Eliezer Eliner (1904-1980, Latvia-Jerusalem) explains that this pasuk teaches that God has to gather the Jewish people from two types of exiles:
One type of exile is called “Mitzrayim”, where the Jews are troubled (same root as the word tzarot) and outcasts.
The other type of exile is called “Ashur”, where the Jews are happy (same root as osher) yet they are called lost since they are slowly losing their Judaism .
Rabbi Eliner understood the impact of these two exiles as he himself made aliya in 1927 from after studying at the University of Riga and at the Beit Midrash for Rabbis in Berlin. He later worked at the Jewish Agency and among his many accomplishments worked on putting together the Rinat Yisrael Siddur and Daat Mikra’s Shmuel.
Today, as well we see Jews returning to the State of Israel from both types of exile. This past week we saw Jews making Aliya from the Ukraine, a country where the Jews are in danger as well as from The United States, a country where Jews are for the most part very happy.
As we listen to the shofar this Rosh HaShana let’s think of how we can help the Jews who have just arrived in Israel, both those who are fleeing as well as those who are making aliya by choice.
As we enter Rosh HaShana and the year 5775, a Shmita (Sabbatical) year, we must keep in mind that the laws of Shmita remain Rabbinic as long as less than half of the Jewish population is living in Israel. As we recite the words about the ingathering of the exiles let us reflect on how we can increase the amount of Jews who are making aliya and turn the Shmita year back into a Biblical commandment.