One of the reasons why Diaspora Jews don’t come home to Israel is because they become trapped in the land where they live. We learn this from last week's Torah portion of Vayigash.
At the very end of the portion (Bereshit, 47:27), the Torah tells us: “And Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the region of Goshen, and they had possessions therein (ואחזו בה)….”.
The literal reading of the Hebrew is written in the passive form, meaning, “and they were possessed by it.” According to the Midrash, the expression indicates that the land took possession of them, causing them to want to live there.
The Torah commentator, the Kli Yakar, states that this verse is a condemnation of the Children of Israel. They sought to be permanent settlers and property holders in Egypt when they were only supposed to be temporary strangers there. Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch writes: “They let themselves be gripped by the land, and herein lies an indication of the beginning of that sin, the facts of which Ezekiel has recorded for us.”
Rabbi Hirsch is referring to Chapter Twenty of the Book of Ezekiel which describes the terrible desecration of Hashem caused by the Jewish presence in the Diaspora:
"Thus says the L-rd G-d: In the day that I chose Israel and lifted up My hand to the offspring of the House of Yaacov, and made myself known to them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up My hand to them saying, I am the L-rd your G-d; in the day that I lifted up My hand to them to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had mapped out for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the crown of all of the lands; then I said to them, Cast away every man the abominations of his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt, I am the L-rd your G-d. But they rebelled against me and would not hearken to me; they did not cast away every man the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour out My fury upon them, to inflict My anger upon them in the land of Egypt” (Ezekiel, 20:5-8).
Because the Jews had become so possessed by the foreign land and its culture, Hashem had no choice but to remove them by force.
The prophecy continues: “I acted for My Name’s sake that it not be profaned in the sight of the nations, among whom they were.”
When a Jew remains in a foreign land instead of returning home to the Land of Israel, clinging to the foreign land and its culture, this is a desecration of G-d. In order that the non-Jew didn’t have an opportunity to mockingly say, “This is G-d’s people, and see how they prefer our land to the land that G-d gave them,” in order to prevent this great shame, G-d uprooted them with anger and brought them out of Egypt by force.
This Wednesday is the Tenth of Tevet, a fast day marking the beginning of the siege on Yerushalayim, which led to the destruction of the First Temple, may it be built again soon. In Israel, special prayers are said for the martyrs of the Holocaust whose dates of death are unknown. One cannot help but shudder when reading the continuation of Ezekiel’s prophecy how vividly it speaks of the Holocaust and the violent uprooting of the Jews of Europe:
“And that which comes into your mind shall never come about, in that you say, We will be like the nations, like the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone. As I live, says the L-rd G-d, surely with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with anger poured out, will I be king over you: and I will bring you out from the peoples and will gather you out of the countries in which you are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with anger poured out” (Ezekiel, 20:33-34).
In the Divine plan of history, the time came for the Jews of Europe to return home to Israel. When they refused, the Almighty had to extract them with terrible anger and force.
The point is tht the L-rd G-d of Israel does not want His people living in Egypt, nor in Poland and Germany, nor in Monsey or Toronto or LA. The L-rd G-d of Israel is not happy when the nations of the world have an opportunity to say, “See how the Jews rebel against their Master and prefer to dwell with us in foreign lands.”
Dear brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, it is time to realize that you are possessed. In addition to all of your reasons for not coming to Israel, whether they be justified reasons or not, you are possessed by the lands where you live. You are possessed by their cultures, by their customs and dress, by their languages, by their foods, by their politics, by their unholy aspirations and values. If you identify yourselves as being Americans or Frenchmen or Englishmen or Canadians or Australians or South Africans or Mexicans, then your brains are embalmed in the quicksand of the lands where you live.
The choice is yours. You can stay possessed where you are and sink into the oblivion of your foreign existence, waiting to be pulled out by force; or you can come home to Israel on your own free will and merit the unparalleled blessing of fulfilling the commandment of the King.
Stand in front of a mirror and snap your fingers in front of your face. WAKE UP, SLEEPING BEAUTY! WAKE UP!
"Wake up, Sleeping Beauty, Wake up!"