Many do not really understand the term, “Galut”. We translate the word to mean, “exile”, but its significance is far greater than we realize. During the period of the “three weeks”, we are supposed to reflect on the curse or punishment known as Galut.

The Jewish people had a very special role that we were meant to fulfill in an ideal society. All of the Jewish people were meant to live in the Land of Israel. Each Jew was connected to his particular tribe, and each tribe was allocated their own parcel of land to settle.

The law of the land was the Torah and its implementation was left to the holy scholars of the Sanhedrin. The priests and Levites had their specific task in serving as the spiritual leaders of the people. Tithes were given by the nation to support these spiritual leaders as well as the poor.

The Temple in Jerusalem was a source of pride to the entire nation. The temples of Solomon and Herod were visited and admired by the nations of the world. There truly was a time when the prophecy of Ezekiel was fulfilled: “You will be My people and I will be your G-d.

The tragedy that led to our banishment from the land, was due to our turning away and violating G-d’s covenant to strictly adhere to the commandments. A people who were well versed in the Torah, began to be ignorant and apathetic of the sacred laws and tradition given from G-d to Moses.

Our Galut has lasted nearly 2000 years. Jews were scattered among the nations where they were usually unwelcome. Most of the years of our Galut involved suffering and persecution in every way imaginable.

The countries that welcomed us and treated us kindly, brought a different curse. This was the plague of assimilation and intermarriage that runs rampant in the world today.

The only good that could be said of our Galut is that individual Jews made their mark in setting a great example of exemplary morality and scholarship. Despite the hardships and challenges, we miraculously survived. This was only due to the meticulousness of each generation to remain steadfast in transmitting the Torah and its laws to children and grandchildren.

Today we see another fulfillment of prophecy when we were warned: “Behold a famine is coming to the Land. It is not a famine of bread and water. It is a famine of listening to the word of G-d.”

The ignorance of the majority of the Jews of the world is astounding. When once every Jew knew the Five Books of Moses by heart, even the most basic concepts allude most Jews.

In the long run, the affluence that Jews have known, does not spell Jewish survival. The rebuilding of the House of Israel with a return of over six and a half million Jews, is certainly a reason for hope and optimism.

However, until all Jews return to their roots and realize how precious our religion is, there is the necessity to pause and reflect on this very painful and bitter Galut. We must learn its lessons and pray that G-d returns the glory we once had with the rebuilding of the third Temple speedily in our days.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for nearly twenty years. He has been teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach, Old Katamon, Jerusalem, for the past twelve years. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles.