Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch
As the most renowned German Jewish leader of the nineteenth century, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote:
"We mourn over the sin which brought about that downfall (the Temple destruction -- author), we take to heart the harshness which we have encountered in our years of wandering as the chastisement of a father, imposed on us for our improvement, and we mourn the lack of observance of the Torah which that ruin has brought about. Not in order to shine as a nation among nations do we raise our prayers and hopes for a reunion in our land, but in order to find a soil for the better fulfillment of our spiritual vocation in that reunion and in that land which was promised, and given, and again promised for our observance of the Torah. But this very vocation obliges us, until G-d shall call us back to the Holy Land, to live and to work as patriots wherever He has placed us, to collect all the physical, material and spiritual forces and all that is noble in Israel to further the weal of the nations which have given us shelter. It obliges us, further, to allow our longing for the far-off land to express itself only in mourning, in wishing and hoping; and only through the honest fulfillment of all Jewish duties to await the realization of this hope. But it forbids us to strive for the reunion or possession of the land by any but spiritual means. Our Sages say G-d imposed three vows when he sent Israel into the wilderness: (1) that the children of Israel shall never seek to reestablish their nation by themselves; (2) that they never be disloyal to the nations which have given them shelter; (3) that these nations shall not oppress them excessively (Kesubos 111a)."
Find this book and others on Rabbi Hirsch at our online bookstore. The purpose of our exile, in addition to that of punishment, is to test us. Nachmanides (1194-1278) writes that the ultimate redemption depends on the Jewish people remaining faithful and preserving their identity in all the lands of their exile. This is a difficult task. The forces of persecution and the enticements of assimilation have often proved all too powerful. Yet, despite all, a remnant of Jewry has always remained faithful and continues so, praise be to G-d, until this very day.
Thus, Jews are enjoined to perform a most precarious balancing act. On the one hand there is the obligation to act in an honest, empathetic, loyal and patriotic manner towards the nation in which they dwell. This obligation extends to Jewish relations with all peoples living within the nation. On the other hand, there is a need for spiritual and to some extent social isolation in order to practice the Torah and preserve Jewish survival. Inclining too far to either side of this dichotomy can result in much evil and confusion. In the proper balance, though, lies the fulfillment of Jewish destiny. And, combined with the yearning for the Messiah, it is the only recipe for the world's salvation.
And, again, in his commentary on the prayer book, Rabbi Hirsch writes:
"During the reign of Hadrian when the uprising led by Bar Kochba proved a disastrous error, it became essential that the Jewish people be reminded for all times of an important, essential fact, namely that (the people of) Israel must never again attempt to restore its national independence by its own power; it was to entrust its future as a nation solely to Divine Providence." The contradiction between loyalty to the lands in which the Jewish people dwell in their exile and Zionism, was also explained by Rabbi Hirsch:
"This close connection with states everywhere is not at all in contradiction to the spirit of Judaism, for the independent national life of Israel was never the essence or purpose of our existence as a nation but a means of fulfilling our spiritual mission." "Land and soil were never Israel's bond of union..."
"For this (Messianic -- author) future which is promised to us in the glorious predictions of the inspired prophets as a goal of the Galus (exile -- author), we hope and pray, but actively to accelerate its coming is prohibited to us."