By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget [its skill]. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. Psalm 137:1-6
diaspora~ scattering of a people from their national homeland.
Diaspora~ for Jewish people, anyplace outside Israel.
For various reasons at various times, we were scattered, pushed out, expelled from the Land. In dispersion to Babylon the thoughts of the exiles is voiced well in the verses above. Heartbroken, no reason to sing joyful praises to HaShem, we hung up our harps and mourned. Our hearts pined away over the Glory of Jerusalem and all that we had lost.
And yet, when the 70 year exile was over, many did not return to Jerusalem. They had forgotten the former Glory. They had enjoyed the exile and would not go up to the Land. They had gained wealth and position and were not willing to leave and be reunited with the true reason for their existence~ to worship G-d and be a Light to the Nations.
In the Book of Ezra, there is a list, by name, of those who did return to Jerusalem. A detailed telling of the faithful ones who had the joy and privilege to go up to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.
Our question today is, which list would you be on? The ones who stayed back, or the ones who returned? Oh that your hearts would grasp the depth of the Creator's great love for you to call you His People and give you His best. Israel.
We will end today with this poem written by a Jewish physican, poet and philosopher ~ Yehudah ha-Levi. He lived in Spain and felt deeply the bonds of diaspora living and the strong passions for Jerusalem. He died just after arriving in Jerusalem in 1141.
A Longing to Return to the Land of Israel
A poem by Yehudah ha-Levi
My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west.
How can I find savor in food? How shall it be sweet to me?
How shall I render my vows and my bonds, while yet
Zion lieth beneath the fetter of Edom, and I in Arab chains?
A light thing would it seem to me
to leave all the good things of Spain -
Seeing how precious in mine eyes
to behold the dust of the desolate sanctuary.