We are not what we once were. Once we were members of a religio-nation -- Am Yisrael (the People of Israel) observing Torat Yisrael (the Torah of Israel) in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) -- which accepted the yoke of the national, as well as the personal, Mitzvot (Commandments). But alas, after 2000 years of Exile, we look in the mirror and see, not a nation anymore, but only a religion. All of the national Mitzvot have been forgotten (or, worse, banished), and only the personal Mitzvot remain in our consciousness. Unlike the national Mitzvot, which are tethered to, and can only be performed in, the Land of Israel under Jewish sovereignty, most of the personal Mitzvot are portable. We have deceived ourselves into believing that, precisely because these Mitzvot are portable, their performance outside Eretz Yisrael pleases God. We have learned to accept this truncated form of Yahadut (Judaism), and we are content.

We are not what we once were. Once we possessed the Aron Brit HaShem (the Ark of the Covenant), our holiest relic, which rested on Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount), our holiest spot, in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), our holiest city. Sometime during the First Temple period, the Aron Brit HaShem disappeared. When we returned to Yerushalayim after the Babylonian Exile to rebuild the Temple upon Har HaBayit, we accepted without anguish that the Aron was no longer among us. We have learned to live without it, and we are content.

We are not what we once were. Once we possessed Har HaBayit, our holiest spot. When the Romans destroyed the Second Temple they left a portion of its western retaining wall intact. In the millennia that followed, one empire after another took possession of Jerusalem and Har HaBayit. Although we finally have the power to regain possession of Har HaBayit, we have long since transferred our allegiance and our prayers to that retaining wall -- the Kotel HaMa'aravi (the Western Wall). A gentile people, who hates us and denies the primacy of the God of Israel, now controls Har HaBayit, and we have accepted this without tearing our garments and without putting ash and sackcloth upon ourselves. We have learned to live without it, and we are content.

Those of us who stubbornly remain in the Diaspora have learned to live out our lives and to practice our "Yahadut" without Eretz Yisrael, and we are content.

No Aron Brit HaShem, no Har HaBayit, and no Eretz Yisrael.

Sadly, we are not what we once were.

But what, pray tell, are we becoming?

Mark Rosenblit


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