Parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei (Hachodesh) 5773
This Shabbos in synagogues all around the world, we will be announcing the coming of the new month of Nissan. This is really exciting, since we have a tradition that the final Geulah (redemption) of the Jewish people with the coming of the Messiah will parallel the very first redemption from Egypt. Just as all Jews left the Egyptian exile on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan with not one Jew left behind, so, too, will all Jews leave the present exile for Israel in the final redemption in the same month, as our Sages have said, In Nissan our fathers were redeemed, and in Nissan they are destined to be redeemed”.
Now you’re probably wondering, “Can this really happen”? Is it really possible that the entire Jewish nation – every single Jew – will gather together and head over to the Land of Israel to live as one under the leadership of the Messiah??
This seems especially unlikely since our Sages teach us that during the Messianic Era the Jewish people will observe all the mitzvos (commandments) just as we did when we left Egypt. And if you observe what’s going on in Jewish communities all around the world today – with the alarmingly high rates of assimilation and intermarriage, not to mention the general apathy or even disdain that many Jews have towards their own religion and to Israel – it becomes hard to picture a time when all the Jewish people will unite as one in Israel observing all the laws of the Torah.
The truth is that it is more likely than you think.
Let me share with you some surprising information. A recent survey, conducted in 2009 by the Israel Democracy Institute's Guttman Center for Surveys and the Avi Chai Foundation, tracked the “Beliefs, Observance and Values among Israeli Jews". It found that some 80 percent of respondents believe that G-d exists, 70 percent believe the Jews are the "Chosen People," 65 percent believe the Torah and mitzvos are G-d-given, and 56 percent believe in life after death.
It also found that only 46 percent of Israeli Jews now define themselves as secular, down from 52 percent in 1999, while 22 percent define themselves as either Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox, up from 16 percent in 1999. The remaining 32 percent term themselves traditional, virtually unchanged from 1999.
This change in self-identification was also reflected in the proportion of those subscribing to traditional Jewish beliefs. For instance, 55 percent said they believe in the coming of the Messiah, up from 45 percent in 1999 but similar to 53 percent in 1991, while 37 percent said that "a Jew who does not observe the religious precepts endangers the entire Jewish people," up from 30 percent in 1999 but again similar to the 1991 figure of 35 percent.
The study also found an upswing in religious practice. For instance, 85 percent of respondents said that "celebrating the Jewish holidays as prescribed by religious tradition" was "important" or "very important," up from 63 percent in 1999, while 70 percent said they "always" or "frequently" refrained from eating chametz (leavened bread) on Passover, up from 67 percent in 1999. And fully 61 percent of respondents said the state should "ensure that public life is conducted according to Jewish religious tradition," up dramatically from 44 percent in 1991. Wow! Would you believe that? Did you know that religion and Jewish ritual was this popular in Israel? And the demographers tell us that it will only grow over the coming years.
Now of course this is the Holy Land we are talking about, which may account for the high percentage of Jews living there who subscribe to traditional beliefs and values (maybe it’s something in the water!) and which we don’t find anywhere else on the planet. But that’s changing too.
You see, at this point in time, most of the world's Jews do not live in Israel. There are currently 13.3 million Jews living in 100 countries all over the world, 41% of which have made Israel their home. A similar number, 40%, live in the US. However, experts have predicted that the tables are set to turn, and that within 20 years most Jews will be living in Israel.
Which means that in a few short years from now, the majority of Jews will be living in Israel and the majority of those Jews will believe in G-d and Torah and all that other good stuff.
So this whole “Messianic Era thing” where the entire Jewish people are all united as one nation, living in the Land of Israel, and following G-d and His commandments, is not as far off as we think.
It is for this reason that I am so excited about the upcoming month of Nissan (it also happens to be my birthday – the 4th day of Nissan) … and why I have Geulah on my mind!