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The Basics

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What is galut?

Galut means exile. Nearly 2,000 years ago the Jewish nation was driven out of its homeland and sent off into a tear-soaked galut that lasts to this very day. We wait and yearn for the day when our galut and suffering come to an end, when we will be returned to the Holy Land, with the coming of our redeemer, the Moshiach.

Why are we in galut?

Galut is often described as a punishment for our own failings. But this is only part of the story. At the "Covenant Between the Parts" between G‑d and Abraham, at which it was first established that there was going to be a Jewish people, G‑d informed Abraham that his descendents will be strangers in a land that is not theirs. The galut of the Jewish people was ordained before there was a Jewish people.

Galut is often described as a punishment. But this is only part of the storySimilarly, it is a common conception that the Messianic Era is primarily intended as an opportunity for G‑d to reward His people for the millennia of galut when they loyally struggled and toiled in His service. While this is certainly one of the reasons for the Redemption, it is not its ultimate objective.

The second verse of Genesis tells us that "the earth was astonishingly empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the spirit of G‑d was hovering over the face of the water." On this the Midrash comments, "'The spirit of G‑d'—this is the spirit of Moshiach." In other words, G‑d created light and dark—both physical light and dark as well as their metaphoric counterparts: Redemption and galut. And even before that time, He envisioned a time when the light will banish the dark. He envisioned the spirit of Moshiach.

The Messianic Era was actually G‑d's prime motivation in creating worlds, in the words of the Midrash: "G‑d desired a dwelling place on the lowest realms." The divine source of our physical world is so concealed that we feel ourselves to be completely independent beings; we don't sense or feel G‑d, in fact, we even have the logic-defying ability to deny our very fountain of existence which we are dependent upon every moment of our existence.

And G‑d desired to "dwell" – to be sensed and acknowledged – in this "low" and hostile climate.

This wish will be realized with the coming of Moshiach. And in order to reach that goal, we need first to undergo galut.

How's that?

Every one of G‑d's creations is imbued with a soul, a spiritual essence. But this core is hidden. Instead of objects proclaiming that they are G‑d's creations, granted existence only in order to increase His glory, they proclaim – verbally or otherwise – that they are independent beings.

It is our task to rip off this façade, to destroy the concealment. This is accomplished every time we utilize an object in the service of G‑d. Such an act reveals the ultimate purpose of this particular creation. When we use a table to study Torah, when we use wax to light Shabbat candles, when we use money for charity, when we use our feet to walk to the synagogue—all these acts serve a singular purpose, revealing the divine essence of another component of creation.

This is what the Redemption is all about—not some radical change in creation, but the uncovering of nature's truest selfThis is the underlying reason why over the course of the centuries our nation has been scattered to the four corners of the earth. The "sparks" of holiness embedded in creation were dispersed throughout the globe, necessitating a Jew to make a blessing over a cup of water in Shanghai, to put up a mezuzah in Uzbekistan, and use waters in Johannesburg as a mikvah. Today, with the globalization of the markets, this is even simpler: we can sit in the United States and light menorahs that are "Made in China"...

This is what the Redemption is all about—not some radical change in creation, but the uncovering of nature's truest self, accomplished though our sojourn in galut.

As of now, the effect we have on the objects that we elevate is concealed. When the Moshiach comes, our eyes will be opened and we will see the fruit of our millennia-long labor.

This is why, interestingly, the Hebrew word for Redemption, geulah, is constituted of the very same letters as the word for exile, golah, with only the added letter of aleph transforming the word from "exile" to "redemption." The aleph, which has a numerical value of one, represents the One Creator, whom we insert – reveal – in every component of creation, thus consequentially bringing the object to a state of redemption. With the cumulative revelation of the alephs within every component of creation, we bring the world as a whole to a redemptive state. A world wherein G‑d is revealed.


On a deeper level, the tragedy of galut isn't limited to physical displacement, and is not necessarily defined by persecution and suffering. Galut is a time when G‑d's presence is concealed, when nearly all perceptible traces of the relationship we share with Him have vanished. We don't feel or see G‑d's love for us, and we don't really feel like His children. We may study His Torah and follow His commandments – and we are told that by doing so we connect with Him – but we don't feel it.

Which is why even a Jew who lives in Jerusalem today says in his prayers, "Because of our sins we were exiled from our Land." For even one who is physically in the Land of Israel, is still in galut.

Through fire and water we've proved our fidelity beyond the shadow of any doubtIn the early years of our nationhood, G‑d's presence was felt. He frequently and very openly interfered in the happenings of this world, and specifically on behalf of His chosen nation. This motivated us to want to connect to Him; the love we were shown elicited a reciprocal feeling on our part; it was G‑d who fueled the relationship.

The Messianic Era is the consummation of our relationship with G‑d, and to earn this privilege we have to prove that the relationship is real to us, part and parcel of who we are, so much so that we steadfastly maintain this relationship even in the absence of any revealed reciprocation from G‑d. Even when remaining loyal to him costs us dearly.

Two thousand years of spiritual blackness have not deterred us. Through fire and water we've proved our fidelity beyond the shadow of any doubt. Galut has outlived its usefulness—it's time for the Redemption!

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Sarah K. January 9, 2017

Very nice page ! The chabad text is wonderfull, congratulations ! So true ! However the whole planet has to evolve for redemption to happen (?) So there is lots of work for everyone to do. Keep up the good work ! Reply

Anonymous Seattle July 21, 2016

To answer Paul's question pertaining to the suffering of the Jews refer to the lofty mechanics of G_d's creation; measure for measure. It is said that before creation that Moshiach agreed to take the responsibility not to leave one Jew behind; hence the characteristic of Jacob, Moshe and David (who did not leave one sheep to wander or be eaten in the wilderness). What you see here is the future ruler of Israel (Moshiach) who is connected to all the souls of G_d's chosen.

There are several forms of suffering: suffering for one's own actions and willfully taking on the suffering of others to give them more time to turn from their froward ways to G_d; this is also an aspect of Hashem. When a person breaks one of Hashem's laws an evil spirit is sent forth (created) to testify against said person (the opposite is true for good deeds as well); Hashem either bears the burden of that spirit (until said person rectifies the action via testing) or sends the spirit to exact measure for measure. Reply

Anonymous Albany, NY April 26, 2016

I'm confused ... If "the spirit of Mashiach" = "the spirit of God," then why isn't that like saying "Mashiach = God," which is of course totally confusing and unbelievable? Reply

Michael Petek Brighton, England April 12, 2016

Why the Babylonian Galut? A hundred years before the word of G-d came to Jeremiah, that the nations were to bend their necks and serve the King of Babylon, the King of Judah completed the extermination of the last of the Amalekites within Israel. Why did G-d want the Jews dispersed outside the Land? We read (only) in the book of Esther that she and Mordecai were descended from someone who had been deported in the time of King Jeconiah. It was thanks to that deportation that they were in the right place at the right time to ensure that Haman didn't go unopposed. Reply

Rafael Earth November 17, 2015

Logic is good because it's a common ground for understanding "we have a logic defying ability" that inhibits us fro knowing G-d.
We must be very very careful not to down play logic . Even the Rabbis that put together the Talmud wrestled with the meaning of Torah and use many layers of
Interpretation to create a logical conclusion . Logic demands that we agree 2+2 equals 4 so that we may communicate with each other and achieve an understanding . You are welcome to say 2+2=5 however you open the door for someone else to say
2+2= 6 . To defy logic we could say when youre happy you are really sad and we enter the realm of the rediculous with everyone entitled to say stupid things !
These Islamic Terrorist are killing in the name of Allah . Maybe it's me who doesn't understand in what dimension they are rejoicing in ? To the benefit of all who read this ...my logic does not allow me to understand .



Reply

Juergen Friedrich Germany November 16, 2015

This is a very interesting discussion to me. To take part is not at all easy. I should like to give my remarks to many points. But I'm a newcomer and so I beg your pardon at first, in case my choice and restriction on two quoted sentence alone should upset you respectively my comment to that.
Art first the quotation --
We don't feel or see G‑d's love for us, and we don't really feel like His children. We may study His Torah and follow His commandments – and we are told that by doing so we connect with Him – but we don'nt feel it. -- unquote

Now my personal remark. I'm very sure that I feel it. Reply

Rafael October 22, 2015

"Been dazed and confused for so long" - led Zeppelin Jewish historians from Tel Aviv university never claim that all Jews were exiled from Judea . The revolt was crushed and the rebels were executed or fled.
Jewish sages like Akiva and 24000 of his Yeshiva students were executed for participating in the revolt .
Most certainly the rebels were forced out however the Romans needed the work force to remain in Judea to continue the flow of taxes for Rome . There was great division amongst Judeans about revolting against the Romans . Jewish leaders opposed to the revolt were assassinated by Jewish guerrilla fighters seeking autonomy .
Diaspora mentality was adopted by European converts who gave root to the Zionist movement which flourished in the 1890's .The Zionist surveyed land to annex in Niagara NY , Africa , Australia and Russian before Palestine became a target .
The majority of the Judean population remained under Roman domination and then the Caliphate . Many Jews converted to Muslims to receive tax breaks . Reply

Paul James Hayesville, North Carolina September 18, 2015

suffer I do not understand the suffering that God put the Jews through. What did they do to have to suffer for it? They knew and saw God, I am beside my self. Adan and Eve knew and understood what God Said in the garden,yet they sinned anyway. Only after they sinned they knew and understood why they sinned.

Did they repent after they knew they sinned? Paul Reply

Paul James Hayesville,N.C. September 11, 2015

I am totally bewildered why God puts us through all these problems. Why can't he just talk to us from his throne. I was touched by God years ago and (never) got over it. I am aware of sin and it's problems. Nobody likes to be in these problems, no one, but the voice of God alone will take care of any doubt! Paul Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for Chabad.org July 27, 2015

To Leo It is a question we all have. No one can truly understand how evil is given such prominence in this world. Yet at the same time our faith in G-d never waivers; we believe that it is in His ability to change things overnight. But we need to do our part in bringing as much goodness and kindness in this world. Reply

Leo July 23, 2015

I understand, yet am confused. I know my heart's feelings but can't express. How can one demented person assert his will and harm innocent people? It appears that evil will is greater than The Almighty's love.. Reply

Chana London May 3, 2012

What a beautiful article! Thank you for presenting the idea of Moshiach so articulately! Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma October 11, 2011

in the image of You are right, G_d is not a man that He should lie, nor son of man that He should repent. G_d is also not a woman that she should lie, nor daughter of woman, that She should repent.

We are talking about what's ineffable, something we cannot reach with words, and yet, in so reaching, bring G_d down to earth, so that we might apprehend who S/HE is.

Since we do this, and since we have Biblical phrases about being made in the image of what is Divine, to divine this is to know we are allowed to speak in metaphor, about G_d and that our comprehension comes emergent out of dialogue. I can say, G_d lies, because I do believe it, and I believe in White Lies, and that there are reasons that might one day be apprehended. As to repenting, I believe G_d as prime mover, in the ultimate story of our lives, as G_d knows everything, does accept the notion of forgiveness as being part of the Divine picture, as I am saying this is a world of mirrors, or MIRAR meaning Wonder, and the Echoic: ONE. Reply

Mr. Nobody every city USA, ca October 11, 2011

Brit Hadashah says "everything works together for those who love Adonai and are called according to His purpose. " If G-d would not have allowed the exile then He could not fulfill His word in the Tanakh which says " i will bring my people back to their land from the four corners of the eath and settle them back in their land. " G-d is not a man that He should lie nor the son of man that He should repent. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma July 24, 2011

insight on this, site I came to this beautiful description again, this writing, in the early morning hours and it seems I am meant to be here, to re read this, at this time. I see as did the authors and others, the depth of the word, galut and its meaning, and I wonder why, on line, I have just been "slammed" by a reader, who wrote ironically about what I am doing with words, in English, and in moving across languages, a different kind of trip through Babel but same.

I saw the word exile in this beautiful piece and when one goes backward on the word exile, I see the almost word, elixir as an aural connect. It's not about the spelling, it's about the sound of words.

I am saying we're all doing it, and the analysis of Hebrew and its hidden secrets is a deep part of a story that is Divine in all aspects.

I am saying the keys are in the words. Those who can do this so beautifully and so constantly with words have a gift and that gift is meant to be shared.

Text can be imbibed as PARDES on many levels. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, MA April 14, 2010

metaphoric truth in language Since Sinai, God has been remarkably silent, and yet in this day and age there are many people who write books and who say they have heard Divine words. Apart from this, every sunset, a child's laughter, the sun, moon and this firmament of stars, surely affirms the miracle and there are many ways of speaking, look to the poetry of being, and how we, speak, from the divine within.

We redeem our bottles for small change. And this is deeply a story about vessels, a Kabbalist notion. As clay as that eternal Potter's wheel we are shaped, and as such we have the ability, given consciousness of this truth, to transform our stories into choosing positivity, compassion, love.

We can help turn the world on its axis. This is not just about us, being Jews but about a different kind of arms around the world. It's deeply about the humility and miracle of breath, of ruah, and for this we must sanctify ALL creation. Rabbis, talk about environmental action. Yes, it's about Change and Redemption. Reply

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