Shayna Abramson

Is This the Beginning of the Messianic Era?

For these things I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water; because the comforter is far from me, even he that should refresh my soul; my children are desolate, because the enemy hath prevailed.” (Eichah 1:16)

My eyes cannot stop watering at the thought of the tragedies that have occurred this week:

Two Palestinian terror attacks against Jews. Three innocent young men killed. Parents burying their children.

An attack by Jews against the Palestinian village of Huwara, in which one innocent Palestinian was killed.

I keep on feeling like we are living in the times of the prophets -but not in a good way.

How many times have I walked down the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, and heard children laughing, only to think of the verses in Zecharia, promising that children would once more play in the streets of Jerusalem?

Yet often now, I feel more like I am living in the times of Yeshayahu or even (God forbid) Yirmiyahu: Foreign enemies from without, and internal discord from within.

It is part of the Jewish rabbinic tradition, that the Jews were exiled from Israel twice, for two different sins: The destruction of the First Temple was due to idol worship, while the destruction of the Second Temple was due to sinat chinam, hatred between Jews.

This frames the first exile as a result of a theological sin, and the second exile as a result of a moral sin.

But, according to the midrash, the reason that the Jewish people chose to worship idols was in order to justify sexual immorality and murder.

Together, these three sins – idolatry, sexual immorality, and murder – are considered the unholy trifecta of sins that a Jew should die rather than commit. The midrash sees these three sins as related, in that the first -idol worship -provides a theological-religious system that justifies the other two. Once a person buys into that theological-religious system, sexual immorality and murder are sure to follow.

In Biblical times, people needed a theological system that would provide justification for murder, and chose idol worship because it satisfied that need. Today, there is a new theological system that can be used to justify murder: Messianic Religious Zionism. This system, too, is treated like an idol, as an absolute end that justifies all means, as was well argued by Yeshayahu Leibowitz.

If we assume it was the moral, not the theological component, of idol worship, that got the Jews exiled, then in fact, both the First and Second Temple exiles were for moral, not theological reasons. This message is emphasized over and over in the prophets who foresee Israel’s destruction -it is the moral sins that will result in Exile, and the moral sins that Israel must repent from.

As Yeshayahu says (Chapter 1):

11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me? saith the LORD; I am full of the burnt-offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats. 12 When ye come to appear before Me, who hath required this at your hand, to trample My courts? 13 Bring no more vain oblations; it is an offering of abomination unto Me; new moon and sabbath, the holding of convocations–I cannot endure iniquity along with the solemn assembly. 14 Your new moons and your appointed seasons My soul hateth; they are a burden unto Me; I am weary to bear them. 15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes, cease to do evil; 17 Learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow….21 How is the faithful city become a harlot! She that was full of justice, righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers…23 Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves; every one loveth bribes, and followeth after rewards; they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them. 24 Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: Ah, I will ease Me of Mine adversaries, and avenge Me of Mine enemies; 25 And I will turn My hand upon thee…” 

This is but one example of the exhortations by numerous prophets to turn away from injustice and to stop oppressing the vulnerable members of our society -the Other -because if not, God would exile the Jewish people from their land.

The purpose of having our own territory is to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation – a nation that worships God. Self-determination and having sovereignty over a piece of territory are prerequisites for having the power to pass and enforce our own laws, and to shape the type of society we wish to be. A Jewish state in the land of Israel is not an end in and of itself, but rather, a means to an end. It allows us the freedom we need to be a Godly society. To do so, we must build a moral society that recognizes the importance of each person as worthy of dignity because they are God’s creation -regardless of religion or nationality.

As it says in Devarim (Chapter 10):

2 And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul; 13 to keep for thy good the commandments of the LORD, and His statutes, which I command thee this day?… 19 Love ye therefore the stranger; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch, commenting on these verses, says:

Be similar to God in your love of the stranger…equality before the law and the love that Israel has towards the stranger characterize the nation and the land as the nation of God and the land of God.

As a religious person, I believe that there is a historic connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. I believe that this land was promised by God to Avraham, Yitzhak, Yaakov and their descendants. But I do not have the theological arrogance to assume that I know what that promise means, in practical, geo-political terms in today’s current reality.

I also do not assume that this promise means we can never be exiled, since we were exiled twice before. In fact, in the Torah, God literally promised us that we would get kicked out of the land of Israel for certain types of sins. That promise is part of the covenant of God giving the land to the Jewish people-the part that nobody likes to talk about, because it frames the promise as one that places obligations on us. It frames the land of Israel as something we have to work for, rather than as a right that can never be taken away.

So many are repeating the words of the false prophets from Yirmiyahu’s time:

Heichal Hashem, Heichal Hashem, Heichal Hashem hema! It is the Temple of the Lord! It is the Temple of the Lord! It is the Temple of the Lord! (Yermeyahu 7:4)

God would never destroy His sanctuary. He would never let the Jewish state fall, because we are His special people. This is the beginning of the Messianic Era.

But that is theological arrogance. None of us know what God’s plans are. We are God’s nation – but that is not just a privilege, it is a responsibility. It is an obligation to act ethically. It is a duty to spread light to the nations: “From Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of God from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:3)

This week was a week of darkness. But there is so much light that we can spread. There is so much good in the universe. There is so much kindness in our nation.

We must wake up now before it’s too late.

About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el.