Imagine if Moses were to come to America today with the mission of bringing the Jews to Israel. Chances are that his call would be met by deaf ears. Let’s face it - outside of a few weirdoes, who would listen? It would be interfering with their plans, their schooling, their careers, their businesses, their golf games and tennis lessons.
Some would question his authority. Others would doubt that G-d had really sent him. Liberal and Reconstructionist Jews would answer, like Pharoah, “Who’s Hashem that I should listen to him?” Others would laugh at Moses’s Biblical garments and staff. Probably most of them would tell him to get lost.
“Aliyah is suicide,” some would tell him, like the Spies and followers of Korach of old.
Not that it would ruffle Moses. After all, he had witnessed the very same scenario before, when he came to take the Jews out of Egypt. Back then, only a fifth of the Jews agreed to follow him to the Land of Israel. Four-fifths of the Egypt-loving Jews died in the plague of darkness.
The Torah describes it as darkness that could be felt (Shemot, 10:21). The darkness was so thick, you could literally reach out your hand and feel it. Rashi says that Hashem brought the plague of darkness upon Egypt “because there were Jews in that generation who were wicked and they did not want to come out of Egypt, and they died in the three days of darkness, in order that the Egyptians should not see their fall and say, ‘They too are smitten as we are’” (Shemot, 10: 22). To avoid the great embarrassment that His people, the Children of Israel, did not want to go home to the Land of Israel, G-d brought a thick, tangible darkness over Egypt so that the goyim wouldn’t see this terrible disgrace.
Unfortunately this same dense darkness has enveloped Diaspora Jews today. It is a darkness so thick, you can actual feel it. Olim, Jews who have made aliyah, and who go back to America or France or England to visit relatives, know what I mean. After speaking with fellow Jews there for a few minutes, you get the creepy feeling that they are totally out of touch with reality. They think they know what’s going on, but they don’t know what’s going on at all. You can talk about aliyah until you are blue in the face and they don’t understand a thing. Their darkness is so dense, they can’t grasp what you are saying. What is really important to the Jewish People, they don’t think is important at all. And what’s not important at all, like the new President, or the new Clint Eastwood movie, or their new car, they talk about like it was the only thing that mattered.
Whenever I have to go there, I get the feeling that I am in a gigantic Alzheimer’s ward, where the patients have forgotten who they are.
I’m not talking about devoted INN addicts, who click on every day to see what’s happening “b’Aretz.” I am talking about your average assimilated, Haredi, or Modern Orthodox Jew. They’ve forgotten Jerusalem. Washington D.C. is their capital. America is their homeland. Judaism is their religion, not their nationality. They are Americans first. The proof is that hearing the “Star Spangled Banner” at baseball games gives them goose bumps. Their children pledge allegiance to the American flag. Their forefathers are Betsy Ross and George Washington. If Moses himself came and tried to persuade them that the Land of Israel was their home, and not America, or Australia, or Mexico, they’d look at him like he was nuts.
That’s the meaning of darkness that you can feel.
I am not blaming them. The darkness of materialism is so great, who can fight against it? And there is nobody there to teach them about true Judaism and the centrality of Eretz Yisrael. At best, Jewish life there revolves around the annual Federation dinner, or the shul, not around rebuilding our nation in Israel. Instead of working to bring an end to the exile, they endeavor to lengthen it by strengthening their communities there. That’s darkness “mamash.”