Dear Readers,

The Hebrew language is rich with meaning; even the slightest variation in a word can carry profound significance. Such is the case with the Hebrew words for exile and redemption. The Hebrew word for exile is golah, while redemption is geulah. What is striking about these words is that their Hebrew letters are identical, with just one exception: the absence of the letter aleph in golah. The aleph has a numeric value of one and refers to Alufo shel olam, the “Master of the world” (G‑d). The disparity between living a life of spiritual and psychological exile, and a redeemed life lies in our ability to perceive and feel G‑d’s Oneness in our lives.

In exploring the significance of these words, we can turn to a pivotal event in Jewish history. When the spies returned from their reconnaissance mission in the Land of Israel, they shared a negative report, emphasizing the stature and power of the people dwelling there. This account instilled fear in the hearts of the Jewish people, leaving them feeling small and utterly powerless. The consequence of their despair was a torrent of bitter tears shed on the 9th of Av—a date that has since become the saddest day on our calendar, commemorating the destruction of both Holy Temples and the multitude of tragedies that have befallen our people throughout history.

The people cried because they believed that they would not be victorious in their mission of conquering the Land. They felt small and devoid of power. This sense of helplessness and powerlessness is precisely what defines exile.

Exile isn’t just a physical displacement, but a spiritual state of being distant from G‑d. Galut is a time when G‑d’s presence is concealed, when we don’t feel or see G‑d’s love, or His relationship with us. But by inserting the aleph into golah, we transform exile into geulah. By uncovering and embracing G‑d’s presence in our lives, we live a redeemed, empowered and G‑dly life.

This week, we enter the three-week mourning period when we collectively mourn the destruction of the Temples and our continued life in exile. This period begins on the 17th of Tammuz, a solemn fast day that marks the breach of Jerusalem’s walls by the Romans in 69 C.E., and ends on the 9th of Av, the day when both Holy Temples were consumed by fire.

Our sages taught that those who mourn the destruction of Jerusalem will ultimately witness its rebuilding with the arrival of Moshiach. Through our mourning, we remind ourselves that exile is not how life should be. When the Jewish people cried on the 9th of Av, they epitomized the feeling of powerlessness and separation from G‑d that characterizes exile. By revealing G‑d’s presence and connection in our lives, through the mitzvot we do and our connection to G‑d, we transform exile into redemption.

May it be already!

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW