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Maybe G-d regrets exile because its purpose was not fulfilled.

Dec. 20, 2007

Dear Rabbi,

Here is something for your consideration. I realize this is not an halachic proof, but yet it is food for thought in the entire spectrum of discussing these issues. Chazal in Sukah say, "There are four things that the Kadosh Baruch Hu created that He "regrets" having created..." One of the four things is Golus. This seems puzzling, even contradictory. How can G-d regret having created the Golus if the whole point of it was to cause us to suffer under the nations and then to do teshuva? Isn't that a positive form of suffering, and if so why would He regret having created such a situation? Perhaps one can say that the desired teshuva has not only not arrived, but that the Jewish people as a whole have gone the opposite direction and gotten spiritually worse because of the Golus. We can also say as a possible answer that the nations whom G-d meant to chastise Israel in Golus went too far. See Tanchuma, Tazria, 11 that expresses the latter idea. Furthermore, another reason why G-d created the Golus is to bring in converts (i.e. that the only way that individual Gentiles can possibly recognize the G-d of Israel, is by way of seeing the Jewish people in action, on a close up basis, and that was only possible by them living in their countries; the Ohr Hachayim and others express this idea of the Jews bringing up the fallen sparks of the nations as a reason why G-d sent the Jews into Golus). However, the Gentiles, having had that opportunity, not only by and large did not convert (or at least become B'nei Noach), instead they chose to mock and humiliate the Jewish people throughout history, the Jewish people who are a manifestation of G-d in their eyes (that is, even the worst of Jews is still a Jew in the eyes of the Gentiles, and as such their ability to dominate and abuse the Jew no matter what kind of Jew is seen by them as the lack of the Jew's G-d's power to save them). As such, G-d now regrets having created the Golus as the Golus’ positive purposes not only were not accomplished, but quite the opposite evolved. Since He now regrets having created the Golus, might it not be said that He now regrets having made us take oaths concerning the Golus? And might it not be said that His regret is our regret as well, since the Golus has been a physical and spiritual detriment to our service of Him much more so than any positive outcomes throughout history? If not, we would need to come up with some other meaning behind His "regret." There is more to say about this, including the fact that even certain aspects of Torah understanding have been negatively affected precisely because of the Golus. The latter requires a separate lengthy shiur to go into.

Again, this is merely an insight. I think it is an insight that can still be coalesced with the idea that we should not want a government over Israel, unless it is led by a potential Moshiach who begins the process by doing the things that are relevant to him.

By the way, I'm just curious where the poskim derive the idea that even if the nations grant us the right to go up as a wall to conquer the land, it is forbidden? Just curious of the source for their p'sak. That issue doesn't change my overall perspective. Sorry if I'm overburdening you with questions and comments. This will be my last for now.

Meir Braun

Dear Mr. Braun,

You quote Succah 52b that Hashem regrets the exile. Listen to Rabbi Avigdor Miller, tape 179, where he talks about the benefits of exile and explains how they were in fact fulfilled. Among those benefits are: filtering out the bad elements of the Jewish people through assimilation and intermarriage, filtering in the good elements of the gentiles, and teaching the Jews that their ownership of the land is temporary and that G-d is the real Owner. As to the Gemora in Succah, I think that regret cannot be understood literally, anymore than the words vayinachem Hashem ("and Hashem regretted creating man") in Genesis 6:6 are literal. See Rashi there. The Gemora in Succah also says that Hashem regrets creating the yetzer hara but of course the yetzer hara serves a good purpose.

Sources that aliyah bechomah is forbidden even with reshus (besides the Maharal) see Maharash Yafeh on the Midrash, Chasam Sofer on haftorah parshas Shoftim, Ahavas Yonasan on haftorah parshas vaeschanan. See also Vayoel Moshe simanim 10-20 where he brings 11 proofs to this.

I was reading over some of your responses to my comments on your website. One of which I will comment on here: You had stated that when the Gemara says that G-d regrets having created Golus, the word "regret" is not to be taken literally any more than with regard to His having regretted creating the yetzer hara, which obviously does serve a good purpose. I would say the correct understanding is a bit different than yours, however. I would say that it is more accurate to say that originally those four things that are mentioned that G-d now "regrets" having created were indeed intended for a positive purpose. However, unfortunately, as G-d sees how things turned out, He now realizes that the positive purposes of those things have largely been perverted, and thus He now regrets having created them. Taking our example, Golus was created for several reasons: 1) as a punishment to the Jewish people. But not merely as punishment, but as a punishment for the purpose of the Jewish people doing teshuva. One way that this is a mida k'negged mida punishment is that due to the fact that the Jewish people's sin was that they wanted to be like the nations of the world, G-d punished us by putting us under their control and in their countries to realize and see first hand just how much fun it is to be living among them, bombarded by their gentile ideas and gentile behaviors. The intent was that, hopefully, after living among them for so long we would realize how bad that situation is and never wish to be like them nor assimilate with them again. However, not only have we as a nation not fulfilled this goal of Golus, but it has gone the opposite way. Jews have become even more assimilated than before, with a huge percentage of Jews in Golus becoming totally assimilated and having nothing to do with Torah, including intermarrying at very high percentages. And while there are ba'al teshuva's and more yeshivos built, and kosher supermarkets galore, still the vast majority of our people have cut off completely from Torah, a result that was directly caused by the assimilationist ideas of the gentile majority culture. One such idea is the ever prevalent idea of democracy being a "holy grail" in the western world. At its very basic core, democracy professes the idea that everyone is equal, regardless of religion. By democracy, there is no concept of holiness, choseness, specialness, or spiritual superiority of one people versus another. Democracy flattens all values and all peoples as being equal. With such an idea being pervasive in the gentile world today, many Jews also have grown to believe in it, nay worship it, to the extent that they too consider it racism for a Jew not to want to marry a Gentile. I know this first hand as I grew up with such assimilated Jews and heard the way they spoke of such matters. Thus, due to this perversion of the positive intent of Golus, even considering the positive exceptions like the ba'al teshuvas that have evolved, G-d still regrets having created the Golus.

Another reason for His "regret" is due to the extreme physical oppression of the Jewish people throughout the history of Golus at the hands of the nations. For G-d never intended that the Gentile nations oppress the Jewish people "too much" as they surely have. This idea is born out via the third oath in Kesubos 111a. Certainly, as long as the gentiles did not oppress Israel too much throughout history, the intent of G-d having created Golus was intact. For we had to witness first hand the folly of the Gentiles in Golus so that we would hopefully do teshuva. However, after the Gentile world went beyond the pale, by making our blood run like water, that too was cause for G-d to "regret" having created Golus. It's true that after-the-fact we say that one who is murdered by gentiles dies al kiddush Hashem and he merits great rewards. Still, this overburdening was not G-d’s desire, and thus He regrets Golus for this reason too.

A third reason that G-d "regrets" Golus is, I believe, due to the fact that the Torah itself in certain ways has become watered down precisely because of the Golus-Gentile influence. What I mean is that when it comes to performing the external mitzvah-rituals, it may be that religious Jews have done reasonably well at that in Golus. However, when it comes to properly understanding the inner ideas underlying the rituals, that is where the Golus ideologies have infiltrated the Torah camp, at least in certain Torah areas. That is precisely what the Ibn Ezra is talking about when he comments on the passuk, "You were slaves in Egypt, etc." Says the Ibn Ezra: “G-d knew that the Jewish people could not serve G-d PROPERLY in countries ruling over them, so He brought them into the land where they could serve Him properly." Also the Sforno, "Because in foreign lands we could not serve G-d with shelemus, G-d brought us into the land where we could serve Him with sheleimus." Serve Him in Golus? Yes. Study and do mitzvah rituals? Yes. Properly and with completeness? Often no. Because when one lives in a Gentile country, one is influenced by that Gentile country; sometimes in obvious ways, and other times in more subtle ways. It would take me quite a while to go into specific examples of how Torah ideology, the inner ideas behind the mitzvos, has been largely ignored and perverted via Golus influence, even while many meticulously observe the ritual-mitzvos. Thus, due to the Torah itself in certain respects being negatively influenced by the Golus ideologies, G-d regrets having created Golus.

Lastly, the Gemara in Pesachim 87b states that G-d created Golus "only" to bring in converts. The idea not being one of proselytizing, but of setting an example. In other words, the only way in which Gentiles can have a good chance to recognize the truth and goodness of a Torah life is by way of living in close proximity to Jews. If all the Jewish people were living in Israel, the Gentile world would not have such an opportunity (Noam Elimelech, among others, has written essays on this subject as brought in R. Aryeh Kaplan’s works). As long as the Gentile world had no awareness of the Jewish people, which for many centuries was indeed the case, much of the Gentile world could not have been blamed for either not converting or at least accepting the seven laws of Noach in the truest sense. However, Jews have now been spread throughout the world. There is no place that I know of where there is ignorance of the existence of the Jewish people and their Torah. Modern technology and communications have also contributed to this awareness, as have the mass publishing of Jewish books. This fact is one reason why some hold that we are in the Messianic Era---i.e. since the purpose of the Messianic Redemption is that the world recognize the G-d of Israel as the true one and only G-d, and that this can only prevail via them recognizing His people as the chosen people, and that at this point in history there is no place where the Gentile world has not been given the opportunity to recognize the truth of this concept, we are now in the final period of the "End Times." (There are other reasons aside from this that some hold that we are in that era, but I won't get into it right now). But G-d regrets having created the Golus for this reason too - i.e. the intent of Golus was that the Gentile world would ultimately either convert or at least become Noachides in the truest sense; but in reality, the opposite has occurred. For the overwhelming majority of the Gentile world not only has not converted, but they scoff at any mention of the idea that the Jewish people (and the Torah they were chosen to represent) are G-d’s chosen. Instead, the nations chose to oppress us. Indeed, until recently, the Christian Church's view was that the reason the Jewish people had no sovereign homeland was because they had rejected the true messiah and were being punished for this.

In any case, that is my understanding of G-d’s "regret." The intent was originally for a positive purpose, that is true. But because that purpose has been perverted, by and large, G-d now "regrets" it.

Dear Mr. Braun,

I agree with all your statements about Golus, but at the same time I disagree. We can't be so quick to say that the purposes of Golus were not fulfilled, because only G-d can decide that. Maybe to Him it was worth it if a small number Jews learned the lesson that the Gentile ways are bad, even if the majority of them didn't. Maybe to Him the small number of Gentiles who converted or became good because of us makes it worth it. Maybe the amount of oppression the Gentiles have oppressed us is still not too much. Who are we to decide when it goes over the limit? Of course from their point of view it's a sin and a violation of their oath. But from G-d's point of view, we have no way of knowing what the limit is.

See also the Ohr Hachaim on Vayikra 26:40 who says that there are some Jews who incorrectly question the need for exile altogether, saying that G-d should have instead punished us in our land, and that exile is counter-productive because it leads to assimilation, not teshuva. The Ohr Hachaim says that the Jews will have to repent for asking this question, and this is part of the viduy mentioned in that verse: Vehisvadu...

Of course in our tefilos we adopt your philosophy that the exile does more bad than good and we want G-d to end it: "Avinu Malkeinu, n'kom nikmas dam avadecha hashafuch!" "Ad masai uzcha bashvi ve'sifartcha beyad tzar." "Lama yomru vagoyim ayei Elokeihem." And especially in the Selichos, we speak of ourselves as worse than the previous generations, implying that we have not gained from being in exile. But these are prayers: Jews talking to G-d, not G-d talking to Jews. They do not necessarily reflect what is really on G-d's mind. And when we ask G-d to end the exile, we are clearly saying that He has to be the one to end it, not us on our own initiative.