Walter G. Wasser

Why the Jewish Exile Lasts So Long

In light of the current events that have intensified the challenges faced by Jews in both the United States and Israel, I chose to highlight a summary of a recent lecture given by Rabbi Mendel Kessin, a rabbi based in Lakewood, New Jersey and noted Jewish philosopher on the prolonged Galut (exile) and its significance. The rising tide of anti-Semitism in American academia and the political betrayals of Israel by supposed allies underscore the urgent need to understand our present plight through the lens of Jewish scholarly tradition.

Rabbi Kessin’s lecture provides a deeply insightful perspective, rooted in centuries of Jewish thought, that sheds light on why the redemption process (Geulah) has taken so long and how it relates to our current circumstances. By delving into the theological and historical reasons for the extended Galut, Rabbi Kessin offers a framework for understanding the trials faced by Jews today. His discussion emphasizes the enduring importance of faith, loyalty, and divine justice, elements that are crucial for navigating the turbulent times we are experiencing.

This essay, therefore, not only addresses the timeless question of why the Jewish exile persists but also connects these ancient teachings to the contemporary challenges confronting Jews worldwide. Through Rabbi Kessin’s insights, we can find a sense of purpose and hope, knowing that our struggles are part of a larger divine plan aimed at achieving ultimate redemption and inclusion in the future world.


Why This Galut is So Long

Rabbi Mendel Kessin’s lecture delves into the prolonged exile of the Jewish people, addressing why the process of redemption, or Geulah, takes so long despite the immense suffering endured by the Jews over nearly 2,000 years. Here are the key points of his lecture:

Introduction and Context

  • Historical Context: The destruction of the Second Temple (Bais Hamikdash) in 70 CE marked the beginning of a long exile for the Jewish people. The question arises: Why does the redemption take so long despite the extensive suffering?
  • Current Events: Kessin touches on contemporary anti-Semitism in America and the political challenges in Israel, emphasizing the simultaneous difficulties faced by Jews in both regions.

The Two Unprecedented Events

  • Anti-Semitism in America: Kessin notes the rising anti-Semitism, especially in academia, and warns of its potential to influence future leaders of America, which could have severe implications for Jews.
  • Political Betrayal of Israel: He expresses concern over America’s current administration betraying Israel, especially during existential threats like those from Hamas, suggesting a broader wake-up call for Jews who rely on American support.

The Concept of Geulah (Redemption)

  • Length of Exile: Kessin explains that the prolonged exile is necessary for a complete and inclusive redemption process. God’s plan is to ensure that every Jew is included in the ultimate redemption and future world (Olam HaBa), but this requires extensive suffering and trials.
  • Loyalty and Trial: He highlights the importance of loyalty to God and Judaism, even under dire circumstances, as seen in historical events like the Holocaust and the Akeidah (Binding of Isaac).

Responsibility and Suffering

  • Messiah’s Role: Kessin delves into the concept of the Messiah taking on the suffering of the Jewish people. The Messiah’s willingness to endure suffering on behalf of all Jews is seen as a crucial element in ensuring their inclusion in the future world (Olam HaBa). This shared suffering by righteous figures helps atone for the sins of the Jewish people.
  • Lowering the Bar: God’s mercy is evident in the way He lowers the requirements for entry into the future world. Kessin explains that even minimal expressions of loyalty to Judaism, such as cultural pride or support for Israel, are significant in God’s eyes and can help ensure a person’s place in the future world.

The Importance of Justice

  • Mockery of Justice: Kessin critiques contemporary judicial systems, particularly focusing on the legal cases against figures like Donald Trump. He argues that these cases, which he sees as politically motivated and lacking true substance, undermine the very concept of justice. The erosion of justice is a dangerous trend that threatens the stability of society.
  • Divine Justice: He underscores the importance of true justice as a foundation for civilization. Kessin draws parallels to historical examples, such as the destruction of Sodom and the Flood, where societies that perverted justice were ultimately destroyed by God.

The Nature of Jewish Suffering

  • Historical Persecutions: Kessin provides a detailed recounting of the various forms of persecution endured by Jews throughout history, including expulsions, pogroms, the Inquisition, and the Crusades. He emphasizes the incredible resilience and survival of the Jewish people despite these relentless attacks.
  • Spiritual Poverty: Beyond physical suffering, Kessin highlights the spiritual and material poverty faced by Jews, particularly in Europe. The daily struggles and hardships are part of the exile experience, hindering Jews from reaching their full potential in righteousness.

The Divine Plan and the Jewish Essence

  • Understanding the Jewish People: To fully grasp the reason for the prolonged exile, Kessin suggests that one must understand the essence of the Jewish people. Jews are seen as having a unique role and mission in the world, which necessitates a comprehensive process of refinement and preparation for their ultimate purpose.
  • God’s Accounting: Kessin introduces the concept of God’s precise accounting (Cheshbon) of each Jew’s actions and their impact on the collective redemption process. This meticulous divine reckoning ensures that every aspect of a Jew’s life contributes to the grand plan of Geulah.

The Messiah’s Dialogue

  • Moshiach and God’s Dialogue: Kessin shares a midrashic story where God informs the Messiah about the fate of the Jewish people and the necessity for some to suffer in order to atone for their sins. The Messiah accepts this responsibility, highlighting the profound sense of duty and sacrifice inherent in the role.
  • Intergenerational Responsibility: The Messiah’s willingness to suffer for the Jews of all generations underscores the intergenerational responsibility and the interconnectedness of Jewish souls. This concept reinforces the idea that the actions and sufferings of one generation impact the entire collective.

Contemporary Implications and Actions

  • Political Realities: Kessin addresses the current political landscape, particularly in the United States, where he sees the Democratic Party and its leaders as pursuing policies that are detrimental to America and the Jewish people. He warns that supporting such policies aligns one with forces that undermine divine justice and the welfare of Jews.
  • Wake-up Call for Jews: He urges Jews to recognize the precariousness of their situation and the importance of aligning themselves with divine values and justice. The contemporary challenges are seen as opportunities for Jews to reaffirm their loyalty to God and to each other.

The Concept of Divine Healing and Rehabilitation

  • God as a Healer: Kessin emphasizes that God’s role as a healer (Rofeh) extends to the spiritual and moral rehabilitation of the Jewish people. The prolonged exile is a testament to God’s mercy and commitment to ensuring that every Jew has the opportunity to achieve spiritual rectification and enter the future world.
  • Rehabilitation vs. Justice: He explains that God’s approach goes beyond strict justice, incorporating elements of mercy and kindness to rehabilitate souls. This divine rehabilitation process is a key factor in the extended duration of the exile.

The Final Redemption and Current Signs

  • End of Exile: Kessin expresses hope that the exile is nearing its end, citing contemporary signs of the decline of evil influences and the resurgence of divine justice. He believes that the current political and social upheavals are part of the process leading to the ultimate redemption.
  • Role of Righteous Individuals: He acknowledges the role of righteous individuals (Tzaddikim) throughout history who have taken on the suffering of the Jewish people to help atone for their sins. These individuals play a crucial role in the divine plan, facilitating the eventual redemption.

The Story of Rav Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev

  • Advocating for the Jewish People: Kessin recounts the story of Rav Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, known for his passionate advocacy on behalf of the Jewish people. Rav Levi Yitzhak, often referred to as the “defender of Israel,” would frequently storm the heavens with his prayers and demands for divine mercy on behalf of the Jews.
  • A Bold Request: The story goes that Rav Levi Yitzhak declared that upon his arrival in heaven, he would not rest until he demanded the arrival of the Messiah. He was determined to hold God accountable for the suffering of the Jewish people and to plead for their redemption.
  • A Divine Response: According to the story, after his passing, Rav Levi Yitzhak did indeed approach the heavenly court and demanded the coming of the Messiah. However, he was told to speak directly to the Messiah himself. When he did, the Messiah explained that the timing of his arrival was intricately tied to the spiritual readiness of the Jewish people and that a premature arrival would result in many Jews being unprepared and thus excluded from the future world.
  • Ensuring Complete Redemption: The Messiah explained that the continued exile and suffering were necessary to ensure that all Jews would be spiritually prepared for redemption. Hearing this, Rav Levi Yitzhak, understanding the profound implications, ultimately agreed that it was better to wait until the Jewish people were fully ready, even if it meant prolonged suffering.


  • Mercy in Lengthening Exile: The prolonged exile, despite its hardships, is seen as a manifestation of God’s mercy. It allows for the comprehensive inclusion of all Jews in the future world, ensuring that no one is left behind.
  • Hope for Redemption: Kessin concludes with a hopeful message, urging Jews to remain steadfast in their faith and loyalty to God. He believes that the end of exile is imminent and that the Jewish people will soon witness the fulfillment of divine promises and the establishment of a righteous world order.

Rabbi Kessin’s lecture offers a profound and nuanced understanding of the prolonged exile and the divine processes at work. His insights provide both a historical perspective and contemporary relevance, urging Jews to recognize the significance of their trials and to maintain hope and faith in the ultimate redemption.




Rabbi Mendel Kessin. Torah Thinking: Why this Galus is So Long. May 17, 2024.




About the Author
The author is a specialist in nephrology and internal medicine and lives with his wife and family in Jerusalem.