Will and Application, Exile and Redemption

Hello Times of Israel! This being my first blog post, I just want to say how happy I am to be on this thing. While I love the chess game that is international politics, I also plan on writing a fair amount about who we as Jews are and our place in this world, as well as how we are effecting it. Hopefully this will be the first of many more blog posts!

This being my first post, I wanted to write about who we are as Jews, and talk a little bit about tapping into our purpose–particularly our connection with Israel.

When I was a teenager, I took a soft style martial art called Shinwa Taido. The martial art involved a lot of precision–how to shift your weight properly, where to place one’s feet at the right time, what to do with the hands while placing the feet, how to do the move against the attacker. I remember so many times, seeing it in a student or in myself, that it was clear of what to do in the mind, but oh so often, how to get the body to do what you wanted it to do was always the challenge.

Usually the learning was slow, but over time, the moves of the martial art eventually turned into muscle memory for the students who applied themselves. And yet, nearly one hundred percent of the time, it started off with knowing the moves in the mind, but struggling to make the body work with the will. Bringing the will to it’s proper application.

In many ways, when I see these days of Jewish exile slowly coming to an end and our being on our way to ultimate redemption, it reminds me of learning those martial art moves–learning the proper application of what we know. In many ways, the distance between exile and redemption is the same distance between the will and it’s proper application. We study what the proper Halacha was back in the day. When we look at Tanach, though often times we are looking at flawed human characters, we are looking at a physical, political, yet spiritual nation making an impact on the world.

When we look in the face of exile, whether on the individual or collective level, when we see a nation without a country, a person not living up to his/her true purpose, or even a soul without a body… we are looking at exile. Ghosts who haunt the world. A ghost can cause a tremor, can make itself known very well often times, but ultimately, it is of little consequence–it has no body.

As Jews, this is our situation–trying to come back to life. To put our national soul back into a body that is the land of Israel. Despite the many impacts that Jews in exile have had on the world, our ultimate purpose is to be a nation again–no longer the wandering Jew whose innovative energy is sucked out of him by the country of his exile to do with it as it pleases, whether for good or evil.

What the nation of Israel is, as a modern entity, is a memory jolt for us to remember who we as Jews truly are. Even while we dwell in the land, we essentially have two thousand years of exile to our past–that doesn’t just go away. But  to live in the modern political entity that is the state of Israel, we begin to remember what it truly is to be Jewish, ever so gradually.

That as Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Our fathers were money lenders, but our grandfathers were prophets.” I would also add that we were warriors, farmers, priests, shepherds, as well as scholars. Living in the real of our heritage, far from the exile of the hypothetical.

To live in Israel–despite the constant change and transition and tests along the way–is to begin to make a journey back to a fuller, more beautiful Jewish life. We connect our national will with our national body. We combine our will and it’s application.

To live in Israel is to live a Jewish life at it’s truest form.

About the Author
Yehonatan was born in Dover, Tennessee, US. After converting to Judaism under the conservative movement, he made Aliyah, and converted again in Jerusalem under the Rabbanut at Machon Meir. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and daughter.