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Next Year in Jerusalem

By Tzvi Fishman
9/27/2009, 12:00 AM

“Next year in Jerusalem” is the proclamation that concludes our Yom Kippur prayers. Year after year, the cry echoes out in synagogues from Brooklyn to Toronto to Paris to Manchester to Moscow, Melbourne, and Mexico City. This is because the tshuva of the Jewish People can only be complete when we return to Jerusalem.

Please note the wording that our Sages prescribed for us. We don’t say “Next year in Jerusalem if the government is to my liking.” We don’t say “Next year in Jerusalem if I don’t have to serve in the army.” We don’t say “Next year in Jerusalem if the Mashiach comes and brings me there.” We say “Next year in Jerusalem” without any pre-conditions.  

The longing of every Jew should be that, the minute he can, he should want to pack up his belongings and come to Jerusalem. Returning to Jerusalem is what our Yom Kippur tshuva is all about. Returning to Jerusalem is what Judaism is all about. According to the Torah and the Prophets of Israel, the Jewish People are to return to Jerusalem. Nothing could be clearer. We do this by saying goodbye to foreign lands and coming home to Eretz Yisrael.

Today, thank G-d, after 2000 years of exile, we have a Jewish airline to take us home. Today, thank G-d, most Jews have the money to buy a ticket. Today, thank G-d, there are agencies that help with plane fare, housing, job placement, learning Hebrew, tax breaks, and other benefits. Today, thank G-d, there are beautiful apartments and houses in the Land of Israel. There are synagogues on almost every street. There are more Torah learning, shuls, yeshivot, heders, and Torah giants in Israel than anywhere else in the world. Today, thank G-d, Jerusalem is a modern, rebuilt city. And the State of Israel is one of the superpowers of the world.

There’s no reason to wait for Mashiach’s arrival. G-d has made our return to Israel possible for everyone who wants to come. Already, G-d has returned millions of Jews to Israel without Mashiach. Of course, we all hope and pray that Mashiach will come any moment now, but his coming is like icing on the cake. G-d has already worked things out so that we can come home to Israel even before Mashiach comes. This is a clear discernible reality. It is obvious for anyone who wants to open his eyes and see it.

It’s like the old joke about the guy who climbs onto the roof of his house to escape the waters of the flood, and cries out for G-d to save him. When a boat comes along to rescue, he refuses, saying that he is waiting for G-d to save him. When a helicopter hovers overhead and lowers a rescue basket, he refuses to climb in, saying he is waiting for G-d to save him. After he drowns and is brought up to Heaven for Judgment, he complains that G-d didn’t save him. “Who do you think sent the rescue boat and the helicopter?” G-d asks.

"Who do you think sent the helicopter?"

G-d has rebuilt the Land of Israel in a miraculous fashion. G-d has built modern cities, suburbs, highways, industry, technology, agriculture, tennis courts, swimming pools, movie theaters, and everything else that a person could want. G-d has given us the ability to but plane tickets, and He has set up all kinds of organizations to help with the move. All He wants us to do is come. Not by waiting for Mashiach to fly down from Heaven in a winged chariot and wave a magic wand that will morph us to Israel with a fairytale poof! G-d wants us to act, on our own, to make the proclamation “Next year in Jerusalem” real.

G-d has made it as easy as He can. Now it is up to us. 

We realize that because living a Torah life in Israel is the greatest mitzvah, it is also the most difficult. Not everyone has the means, circumstances, and ability to carry it out. But the message of "Next year in Jerusalem" should be in everyone's hearts, and we all must do everything in our power to help restore, return, and rebuild the Jewish Nation in Eretz Yisrael now.    

May the Almighty inscribe all of His People in the Book of Life, and may the cry, “Next year in Jerusalem,” fill all of our hearts with true longing to return home to the place we all belong.