Arie E. Pelta

Most Jews did not return to Israel with Zerubavel and again did not return with Ezra when the Temple was rebuilt

Part 3 of 4

If the Jews returned to Eretz Yisrael with Zerubavel then there would never have been a Purim miracle story.  If the Jews had listened to Ezra and returned en-mass to the Land of Israel, there probably would not have been the need for the Chanukah miracle.

The Ramban (Shir haShirim chapt. 8), comments that Moshiach will come after permission is given by the nations of the world for the Jews to return to Eretz Yisrael/Israel.  This is derived from previous events.  The Exodus from Egypt occurred after permission was granted by Paroh to leave.  Similarly, the shivat tzion (return to Zion) with Zerubavel returned after they were granted permission by Koresh.  The current State of Israel was founded with the consent and vote of the United Nations.  Since then, many Jews have returned to Eretz Yisrael and currently more Jews live in Israel compared to the Jewish population during the era of the second Beis Hamikdash.

The very beginning of the Torah teaches us that G-d created the world and decided to give the Land of Israel to the Jews (Rashi).  In addition, we also learn about the exiles that the Jewish people will endure.

בראשית א:ב

והארץ היתה תהו ובהו וחשך על פני תהום, ורוח אלקים מרחפת על פני המים.

When the earth was bewilderment and void, with  darkness over the surface of the deep, and the breath of G-d was hovering upon the surface of the waters. (Bereishis  1:2)

The Bereishis Rabbah (2:4) explains the above passuk:

  • (והארץ היתה) תהו – this represents galus Bavel
  • ובהו – this is galus Madai
  • וחשך – galus Yavan (Greece)
  • פני תהום – galus Edom ( Esav, Christianity)
  • על פני, is gematria equal to 240, which equals, עמלק (This may be a hint to the Holocaust.)
  • תהום, is gematria equal to 451, which equals, ישמעאל )Arab oppression).

Galus Bavel was a tikun for avoda zara.  The Anshe Kenes Hagedolah removed the desire for avoda zara with the second return to Eretz Yisrael with the shivat Zion.  If all the Jews had returned, at that time with Ezra, then the final redemption with Moshiach would have materialized.

In sefer Yishaya, there is a statement about Egypt, Assyria and Israel.  This is a prophesy that the Jews would influence the people of Yishmael and Esav.  This hints to the creation of the religions of Islam and Christianity.  It also predicts a future time when Egypt (Christianity) and Assyria (Islam) will recognize the One and True G-d and follow the Jewish People in learning how to serve Him.

ישיעה יט: כג-כה

ביום ההוא תהיה מסלה ממצרים אשורה ובא אשור במצרים ומצרים באשור, ועבדו מצרים את אשור.  ביום ההוא יהיה ישראל שלישיה למצרים ולאשור ברכה בקרב הארץ.  אשר ברכו ה צבקות לאמור, ברוך עמי מצרים ומעשה ידי אשור ונחלתי ישראל.

On that day there will be a road from Egypt to Assyria; Assyrian will come into Egypt and Egyptian into Assyria, and Egypt will serve [Hashem] with Assyria. On that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and with Assyria, a blessing          in the midst of the land.  For Hashem, Master of Legions, will bless them saying, “Blessed is My people, Egypt; and the work of My hand, Assyria; and My heritage Israel.” (Yishaya 19:23-25)

If all the Jews had returned to Eretz Yisrael with Zerubavel or Ezra, there would never have been Islam or Christianity in the world.  Christianity spread to world via Alexandria Egypt.  Whereas, Islam which spread via Bavel and Ashur.

Many prominent Rabbis today still think Lakewood, New Jersey (USA) is the equivalent to Israel and there is not spiritual benefit or mitzvah to live in Israel.  However, Rav Chaim Kanievsky has of recent told some prominent Rabbis visiting him from the USA that there is an obligation currently for Torah observant Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael; and that now is the time for them to return.

We are living in a period of darkness, but soon after will come the light.  The 25th letter of the Torah is “Ohr”; this represents the Holiday of Chanukah celebrated on the twenty-fifth day of Kislev.  The following passuk states that the light is good. The Ben Ish Chai teaches that there must be darkness before the light.  From this we learn, גם זה לטובה, all events ultimately turn out for the good.

בראשית א:ג-ד

ויאמר אלקים יהי אור, ויהי אור: וירא אלקים את האור כי טוב, ויבדיל אלקים בין האור ובין החשך:

G-d said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. G-d saw that the light was good and G-d separated between the light and the darkness. (Bereishis 1:3-4)

Jewish Communities Ignored Ezra’s Pleas To Return

Ezra Hasofer tried to hasten the arrival of the Moshiach by getting the Jewish people from the Diaspora to return to Eretz Yisrael.  He travelled all over the world for this purpose and he failed.  Ezra traveled in person to Yemen and appealed to them to return to Eretz Yisrael, but they refused.  Ezra cursed them and they cursed Ezra (Rabbi Shlomo Adenia, Melechet Shlomo).

Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Toledano (Ner Hamaarav) writes about the Jews of the town of Ifran in Morocco. These Jews had their own kingdom and the first king was named Avraham Efrati of the tribe of Ephraim.  Ezra called upon them to go up to Yerushalyim, however, they did not listen to him. Their power deteriorated and they were defeated by their enemies. Later on their enemies changed the royal family name to Afariat.

Rabbi Don Yitzchak Abarbanel, in his commentary on Sefer Melachim, relates that members of the tribes of Yehuda, Benyamin, Shimon, and Levi/Kohen, settled in parts of Spain after the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash.  Moshe Makir (Seder Hayom), relates that Ezra sent for the Jews of Toledo, but they did not want to go back to Eretz Yisrael.  In order to convince Ezra that they were not evildoers and not lacking in faith to G-d, they composed and sent him the prayer emes veyaziv, אמת ויציב .

Yusfa Shamash (Maase Nissim) writes that in the time of Ezra, the Jews of Yerushalayim sent to the Jews of Worms a request for them to be עולה לרגל three times a year as commanded by the Torah. They replied that they had established for themselves a new Yerushalayim on the banks of the Rhine and were not interested in the second Beis Hamikdash.  They did not move to or visit Israel as requested.  The SMA (Sefer Meiras Eynayim) explained that this is the reason that the Jewish community of Worms suffered far more persecution, pogroms, and evil decrees than other congregations. The success of Worms and other communities was its undoing.  The prosperity of the Jew in exile is a Divine test to see whether it will cause the Jew to forget his homeland and his heritage.

There is a community of Kohanim in Djerba, an island off the Tunisian coast. Ezra called on the Kohanim of Djerba to return and serve G-d in Yerushalayim.  They refused, because they did not believe that the building of the second Beis Hamikdash was ordained by G-d. Ezra cursed them and their children that: they would not serve as Kohanim in the second Beis Hamikdash and that no Levi would ever come to the Island to be of service to them.  There is an ancient tradition in Djerba that any Levi who settled in Djerba would not survive more than a year.

Rabbi Gershon Henoch Lainer, The Radziner Rebbe , traveled to the Island of Corfu in order to examine the Corfu esrogim.  He learned that the Jews of Corfu had an ancient tradition that when Ezra Hasofer asked them to return to Eretz Yisrael, they refused.

We are to remember all of this when we sing about Zerubavel on Chanukah.  What would the Jews in the USA respond today, if someone of the stature of Ezra asked them to make Aliyah?


About the Author
Arie E. Pelta, M.D., a Board Certified General and Colorectal Surgeon from the USA, made Aliyah with his wife and 7 children in 2013. He received his Rabbinical ordination in 1997. He is also an active Medical Corps Officer holding the rank of Captain in the IDF Reserves. Dr. Pelta is currently a full time Senior Surgeon practicing in Laniado Hospital (Netanya); specializing in the surgical care of all colorectal diseases.
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