“How can we sing the song of G‑d on foreign soil?”1

I have said these words hundreds of times since I was a kid. Perhaps words strike us in new ways at different stages of life, because that’s what happened as I was sitting next to my husband at my kitchen table the other day reciting this Psalm. I found myself overcome with emotion as the meaning of the words hit me.

“Envision for a moment,” I said to my husband, I have said these words hundreds of times“our Jewish ancestors sitting by the rivers of Babylon, exiled and broken to the core as they mourn the Temple and Jerusalem which lie in ruins. Nebuchadnezzar, evil king of Babylon, instructs the Levites to sing in captivity, as they had once done in the Temple. Through their tears and broken hearts, they cry out in pain. How can they sing the song of G‑d on foreign soil?”

But sing, we did! We, the strong, resilient and faithful nation that we are, rose from the ashes and sang the song of G‑d. We took Jewish life as we knew it and rebuilt it. We built synagogues, mikvahs, schools and yeshivahs. We married, built families and raised generations of precious Jewish souls. With joy and determination, we ensured that the Jewish nation and its connection to Torah would live on forever.

But we sing on foreign soil. We must never forget it.

We are proud of and patriotic towards the countries that house us. We are deeply grateful for the kindness they have shown and the freedoms they have granted. (The Rebbe would refer to America as “Medinah Shel Chessed”—a country of kindness and benevolence).

And yet, we, the Jewish nation, must remember that we sit on foreign soil. Even those of us presently living in the Land of Israel, our holy land, are still in exile.

Exile is not just a physical displacement from our land; it is a spiritual displacement. Exile inhibits us from experiencing the true essence of our soul, when we don’t openly feel or see G‑d’s presence in our world. When we don’t always openly feel or see G‑d’s love for us. When the Divine source of our physical world is so concealed.

We cannot forget that. We must yearn and work to restore the manifest Divine presence to our world.

You see, our ancestors could not fathom how they would ever be able to sing the song of G‑d again while on foreign soil. Ironically, we, their children, find ourselves singing the song of G‑d as we work to build and grow Jewish life in the Diaspora, but may find that we often forget that we sit on “foreign” soil. So while we must continue to sing, to dance and to build, simultaneously, let us remember that we have a land that awaits our complete return. She weeps daily for her children to return fully, with the coming of Moshiach.

Israel is the only land that was created with a neshamah, a “soul.” A neshamah that is intrinsically bound to each and every one of our souls. She weeps together with the Shechinah, the Divine presence, for the end of our exile.

During what isIsrael is the only land created with a soul traditionally known as the “Nine Days” on the Jewish calendar—the nine days of mourning leading up to the destruction of the Temple on Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av—we are charged with the dual mission contained within this powerful passage of Psalms.

“How can we sing the song of G‑d on foreign soil?”

We have to keep singing the song of G‑d, while never forgetting what our true home will be.

It is actually customary to clean and prepare one’s home during the afternoon hours of Tisha B’Av in anticipation of Moshiach’s arrival.

Today, I sing in Cary, N.C. Very soon, however, you and I will sing the song of G‑d in the rebuilt Jerusalem with the coming of the ultimate redemption.