Sunday, December 20, 2015

French Jews, American Jews--and Redemption

A Jewish ingathering into Israel from exile is a hallmark of the Jewish Redemption. It’s the ultimate Return to the Jewish Holy Land that was Promised more than 3,300 years ago. It was a Promise made by HaShem, the G-d of Israel.

This Promise was serious. It wasn’t a one-time-offer in our Tanach (the ‘Jewish canon’). It wasn’t mentioned once and then forgotten.

It appears repeatedly. It appears so often, you can’t miss it.

It’s in our Torah (D’varim 30:3-5). It’s repeated at least three times in Yishaiyahu. It’s repeated at least four times in Yirmiyahu—and three more times in Yechzkeil. It appears repeatedly in what’s called, the Trei Assor, a collection of writings of twelve ‘minor’ Prophets.

It’s ubiquitous. It’s in our Tanach. It’s in our daily prayers. We mention our Return every day, three times a day. It’s a Promise that’s with us constantly.

Jews have lived with this Promise since our current exile began in 70 CE. Now, since 1900 CE, this Promise has become reality. 

Look at the numbers. Over the last 115 years, the number of Jews in Israel has jumped dramatically. While it’s difficult to get accurate population numbers for Jews in Israel in 1900, it seems reasonable to say there were perhaps 60,000-70,000 Jews in Israel in 1900 (this figure seems a fair compromise taken from available data; most data do not report 1900 population figures; most report 1915 when, most say, there were some 83,000-85,000 Jews in Israel).

Today, there are more than 6.3 million Jews in Israel. That’s close to a 7000 per cent increase.

One might argue that no other country has experienced that kind of growth for the same time period (this excludes growth-through-conquest). Israel’s Jewish growth is a miracle, especially when you consider Arab progroms, wars, suicide bombings and intifadas against Jewish Israel.

Within our Jewish Heritage, there is a concept called, HaShem’s Shechinah (G-d’s ‘presence’). Originally, that Shechinah dwelled on the Temple Mount, our Har HaBayit, the Home of the Holy Temple. When the Second Temple was destroyed (70 CE), the Shechinah left the Temple Mount.

It followed the Jews into exile. Wherever it rested, Jews were protected. When it ‘removed’, HaShem’s Protection no longer covered the Jewish people. The result was Jewish suffering.

Today, many say that HaShem’s Shechinah is withdrawing from exile. As that happens, exile becomes increasingly dangerous for Jews.

They say the Shechinah returns to Israel. Perhaps that’s why we’ve seen so many miracles surrounding the creation and survival of the State of Israel. Perhaps that’s why Arabs cannot drive us away. Perhaps that’s why we’ve seen such an ingathering since 1900.

Here are some numbers. In an 1897 Russian census, there were perhaps 5,100,000 Jews in Russia (“Population—Jewish over the centuries”,, no date). Today, there are perhaps 186,000 Jews in Russia. The Shechinah withdraws from Russia.

In 1900 Europe, the total European Jewish population appears to have been 8,977,581 (Joseph Jacobs, “Statistics,” Jewishencyclopedia: The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, 2011). Today, it’s closer to 1,400,000 (“Vital Statistics: Jewish Population of the World”, JewishVirtualLibrary, ‘Europe’, 2014). The Shechinah withdraws from Europe.

This precipitous drop in Europe’s Jewish population, 1900-2014 is not simply due to the Holocaust, 1940-1945. In 1950, the earliest post-war census available, there were 3,500,000 Jews (9,500,000 before Hitler) remaining in Europe (“Jewish population of Europe in 1945”, Holocaust Enclyopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, August 18, 2015). This represented a 60 per cent drop in the Jewish population, due to the Holocaust. But since that census, the Jewish population has dropped another 60 per cent, to 1,400,000. The Shechinah withdraws from Europe.

That withdrawal continues in France. It leaves French Jews vulnerable.

France is home to Europe’s largest Jewish community, 450,000+ Jews. But anti-Semitism in France has reached such a level that a super-majority of these French Jews now considers aliyah to Israel (Shimon Cohen, “80% of French Jews considering aliyah”, Arutz Sheva, November 16, 2015). Today, French Jews ‘get it’. The Shechinah no longer protects them.

French Jews feel the ‘vacuum of hate’ that spills onto them as the Shechinah withdraws. They know the time has come to Return.

Through this awakening of the Jews of France, the Promised Ingathering accelerates. Because of the Jews of France, Redemption draws closer.

Few think about France. Most think about America. They talk primarily about America’s Jews.

But with French Jewry starting to commit to Israel, it’s beginning to look like our focus on America’s Jews could be misplaced. America’s Jews don't come to Israel. They back away from Israel.

Instead of talking about those who back away from us, we should be talking about the Jewish community of France. We should be marveling at how these French Jews could create the ‘critical mass’ needed to trigger the Jewish Redemption. We should look at these brave Jews and ask, can the French ingathering trigger the Redemption? 

Stay tuned. This movie has just begun.

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