Today is part of the week long holiday of Sukkot (Festival of Booths). While Pesach (Passover) celebrates the Exodus from Egypt and Shavuot, the giving of the Torah, Sukkot does not seem to correspond to an historical even… at least not yet. At least one rabbi I know suggests that Sukkot actually celebrates the coming of Mashiach. As proof, I’d suggest looking at the haftarot (readings from the prophetic books of the Bible) for the seven-day holiday, which almost exclusively discuss the Messianic Era.
In chutz la’aretz (outside of Israel), where I became observant, the general opinion is that there will be a Magical Mashiach. In the blink of an eye, Jews will be teleported to the Land of Israel, to furnished eight-bedroom mansions, where we’ll never have to work again. We’ll learn Torah all day, while any physical need will be provided for, for free. It’s unclear whether we’d even have to acquiesce to this transportation. There is a legend that the Chafetz Chaim always had a bag packed so he could go meet Mashiach at the drop of a hat – which does imply you at least need luggage.
But let’s think about this. Demographically, about half the Jews in the world live here in Israel. Based on the Pew study which shows a decrease in Jewish self-identification for American Jews, and the antisemitism in Europe, it’s a safe assumption that the ratio will continue to grow in favor of Israel. But let’s assume – and pray – that nothing really turns bad. So Mashiach comes when, let’s say, 20% of Jews are left outside of Israel, not because any foreign power has said they can’t leave (for the first time in history, there is no country where Jews are categorically not allowed to leave), but because they chose not to. Is G-d really going to create a miracle to take them from their nice houses to even nicer places here? These houses will themselves be miraculously constructed. And what about those of us who spent our life savings to buy a place over here? Freierim (Suckers), I guess.
I think Jewish history would beg to differ with this view. Look at how we entered this land the first time. We went through a sea which miraculously split, but there was an east wind which blew all night. We had “cisterns which we did not hew”, as the Torah puts it, but that’s because we had to fight our way across the country. Even when the tribes of Reuven and Gad are given the land on the other side of the Jordan, they say “We will build sheepfolds for our livestock here and cities for our children.” There was no free lunch, because Judaism teaches that G-d always does the smallest miracle possible to achieve His goal. It should look as natural as possible, so we can maintain free will.
There’s another view about Mashiach, which is quoted in the Talmud and, most famously, is the view of the Rambam (Maimonides). It says that the only difference between today and the Messianic Era is subjugation to other nations. While having the EU, UN and the Arab states off our back would be no small feat, it means there won’t be any magical mansions. Those who’ve stayed behind will have to come here and find a place to live. They’ll have to learn the language and get a job. And they’ll have to do this in the middle of an immigration boom – remember, they’re all coming at once. The immigrants from the end of the 40’s and early 50’s wound up in tent cities called “ma’abarot” for years. There’s no reason it couldn’t happen again.
In the Jewish liturgy, we pray that G-d will lead us “upright” to our land. This means making aliyah on our terms — being able to sell our property, bring our wealth, and decide where we want to live. Plan accordingly.