The establishment of the State removed the disgrace of exile from the Jewish people. Generation after generation, we wandered in exile, suffering dreadful humiliation, pillage, and bloodshed. We were an object of scorn and derision among the nations; we were regarded as sheep led to the slaughter, to be killed, destroyed, beaten, and humiliated. Strangers said to us, “There is no more hope or expectation for you.” That situation was a terrible Chillul HaShem (desecration of God’s Name), because HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s Name is associated with us, and when we are degraded, His name is desecrated among the nations (see Yechezkel, 36).
The prophets of Israel prophesied, in God’s name, that the exile will eventually end: “I will take you from among the nations and gather you from all the lands, and I will bring you to your own soil”(Yechezkel, 36:24). “They will build houses and inhabit them; they will plant vineyards and eat the fruit thereof” (Yeshayah, 65:21). “You will yet plant vineyards upon the mountains of Samaria; the planters with plant and eat of the fruit”(Yirmiyah, 31:4). “The desolate Land will be tilled, instead of having been desolate in the eyes of all passersby. They will say, ‘This Land which was desolate has become like the Garden of Eden and the cities which were ruined, desolate, and destroyed, have been fortified and inhabited”(Yechezkel, 36:34-35). “I will return the captivity of My people Israel, and they will rebuild the destroyed cities and inhabit them; they will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruits. I will plant them upon their Land and they will never again be uprooted from their Land that I have given them, says the Lord, your God”(Amos, 9:14-15).
However, when so many years passed without God’s word coming to fruition, Hashem’s Name became increasingly desecrated in the world, and the enemies of Israel proclaimed that there was no chance that the Jews would ever return to their Land. Even Chazal spoke exaggeratingly about the miracle of the ingathering of the exiles, to the point that they said, “The ingathering of the exiles is as great as the day upon which the heaven and earth were created” (Pesachim 88a). And behold, the miracle occurred! Hashem fulfilled His promise, causing an enormous and awesome Kiddush HaShem (sanctification of God’s Name), which gained even more strength during the Six Day War, when we liberated Jerusalem and the holy cities of Judea and Samaria.
This process – the ingathering of the exiles and the blooming of the wasteland – which gained tremendous momentum when the State was established, is the beginning of the redemption, as Rabbi Abba says (Sanhedrin 98a), “There is no clearer [sign of the] End [of the exile] than this [verse]: “But you, O mountains of Israel, will give forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are soon to come”(Yechezkel, 36:8). Rashi comments, “When Eretz Yisrael gives forth its fruit in abundance, the End will be near, and there is no clearer [sign of the] End [of the exile].”
True, many things still need fixing – unfortunately, we have not yet repented fully from our sins, and many Jews have not yet immigrated to Eretz Yisrael – but our Sages have taught that [redemption can come in one of two ways]: if we achieve complete repentance, God will hasten the redemption, and if not, it will come “in its time,” through natural processes (Sanhedrin 98a). That is, when the predetermined time for redemption arrives – even if Israel fails to repent – natural historical processes, loaded with complications and severe hardships will come to pass (such aswars, persecutions, political movements, and international treaties), causing the Jewish people to return to their Land and rebuild it. We will proceed from stage to stage in this manner, until the ultimate redemption materializes. These hardships, which stimulate the redemptive process, are called the birth pangs of Mashiach. The more we strengthen ourselves in the areas of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael and penitence, the more pleasant and less bitter these birth pangs will become (based on the Gra in Kol HaTor). Concerning this type of redemption, Chazal say, “Such is the redemption of Israel: at first little by little, but as it progresses it grows greater and greater” (Yerushalmi, Berachot 1:1).
Explicit verses in the Torah and the Prophets indicate that the order of redemption is as follows: first, there will be a small degree of repentance, and the Jewish people will gather in their Land, which will begin to yield its fruit. Afterwards, Hashem will bestow upon us a spirit from on high, until we return to Him completely2.
> My teacher and Rosh Yeshiva , HaRav. Tzvi Yehuda-h HaKohen Kook, explains in detail – in an essay entitled “HaMedinah KeHitkymut Chazon HaGeulah,” LeNetivot Yisrael, vol. 1, pp. 261-72 – that this is the order of redemption: first there will be a small degree of repentance, with a return to the Land and a national revival; then, with the passage of time, a complete return to God will ensue. Many sources confirm this; we will mention but a few. In the section dealing with repentance in the Book of Devarim (chap. 30), the Torah states that there will first be a return “unto (עד) God,” which refers to a minor repentance stemming from fear and harsh decrees. Afterwards, the exiles will gather in the Land, and then a complete return “to (אל) God” will take place. Rav Tzvi Yehuda explains, based on his father’s teachings, our master, HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, that the minor repentance will manifest itself in a return to the Land. This return began with a holy awakening of love, when the Chassidim and the students of the Gra immigrated to the Land in the 1800s). The book of Yechezkel (Chap. 36) also describes the redemption in this order, as does the Talmud (Sanhedrin 97b). There, Rabbi Yehoshua opines that redemption does not depend on repentance; rather, God will give power to a king as cruel as Haman, and this will cause the Jews to repent – partially. Rabbi Eliezer, who argues with him, remains silent at the end of the debate, implying that he concedes to Rabbi Yehoshua. Other sources that indicate that redemption is independent of repentance are: Shemot Rabbah 25; Tikkunei Zohar Chadash; Ramban,Parashat Ha’azinu; Or HaChayim HaKadosh, VaYikra 25:28; Rav Elyashuv’s Hakdamot VeSha’arim 6:9. Elsewhere in Rav Elyashuv’s book (pp. 273-76), he quotes some of the greatest Acharonim who viewed the modern-day ingathering of exiles as the beginning of redemption. Our teacher and master, Rav Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook adds, in vol. 2, p. 365, that one who fails to recognize these acts of kindness on Hashem’s part lacks faith. This lack of faith sometimes wraps itself in a garb of ultra-Orthodoxy and righteousness, but it is actually a denial of the [Divine nature of] the Written Law, the words of our Prophets, and the Oral Law. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (98b) quotes [several] Amora’im who were so afraid of the terrible suffering that would occur during the era of the birth pangs of Mashiach that they said, “Let him [Mashiach] come, but let me not see him.” See other sources in Eim HaBanim Semeichah [by Rabbi Y. S. Teichtal]; HaTekufah HaGedolah by Rabbi M. M. Kasher; and Kol HaTor – reprinted at the end of Rabbi Kasher’s book – which contains many deep ideas which the Gra revealed to his students on the topic of redemption. See also Ayelet HaShachar by Rabbi Yaacov Filber, the section entitled Shivat Tziyon HaShelishit.