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Who's in a Zoo?

By Tzvi Fishman
9/26/2010, 12:00 AM

In addition to our exalted Ushpizin: Avraham, Yitzhak, Yaacov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef, and King David, we have so far had the pleasure to host in our humble succah Jews from Mexico, Yemen, England, and New York. How wonderful to see the ingathering of the exiles taking place in one’s one yard! The guest from New York was especially interesting. During the ten years he spent in prison for alleged involvement in a serious crime, he became a baal t’shuva. What was especially amazing is that when his sentence was over, he actually left the penitentiary! Unlike so many of our brothers and sisters in the prison of exile in Diasporas around the world, this brave individual had the courage to pack up his few belongings and walk out the prison door to freedom the moment he had the chance! What a hero!

Make no mistake, my friends – the exile is a prison! In the holiday Musaf prayer, we say, “Because of our sins, we were exiled from our Land and were cast far away from our soil.”

Exile is a punishment. Whether it’s the most kosher ghetto in Brooklyn, Miami Beach, Toronto, Manchester, Melbourne, or Johannesburg, it’s exile all the same.

That’s why we pray. “Bring back our outcast exiles from amidst the gentiles, and our scattered ones gather together from the corners of the globe, and bring us to Zion, Your city in joy!”

Can anything be clearer than this? Our Sages fixed the wording of our prayers to teach us what our proper aspirations should be. Judaism, and being a Jew, means having a constant burning desire to return home to Zion. For nearly 2000 years, the gates of the prison were closed. But now they are open.

Hope to see you here soon!

What's he talking about? I'm not in a zoo!"