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Question - - 02/28/2013
Why are we called "Wandering Jews"?
Answer by Arachim
The Jewish people became wanderers who went into exile after the destruction of the Holy Temples. For seventy years, after the first Temple was destroyed in 586 B.C.E., the main center of Jewish population was in Babylonia. With the destruction of the Second Temple, about 70 C.E., we again went into exile, this time for nearly two thousand years. Over one half of the Jewish nation still lives in the Diaspora to this day.
The Bible clearly warns us that we will be expelled from our land as a consequence of failing to obey G-d's commandments. Even the land itself suffered as a result of our misdeeds. The Holy Land was bountiful and its inhabitants flourished while the Jews lived there. With the exile, the Land of Israel became a desolate wasteland.
All this was predicted in advance:
And I will bring the land into desolation; and your enemies that dwell therein shall be astonished at it. And you, will I scatter among the nations, and I will draw out the sword after you; and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.
Leviticus 26:32-33
This prophecy was fulfilled in its entirety. Israel was densely populated in ancient times, and was famous for its fertility, so much so, that it was termed "a land flowing with milk and honey." Even so, after the Second Temple was destroyed, the country was unexpectedly transformed into a desolate wilderness. In this, the Land of Israel stands unique. No other location on the face of the globe has such a history of rich fertility in ancient times, followed by barren desolation.
True, there were other nations ravaged by war, but no other country changed so drastically. This fact was known to all the gentile neighbors of Israel, so much so, that they expressed their wonder:
Even all the nations shall say "Wherefore has the L-rd done thus unto this land? What is the heat of this great anger?"
Deuteronomy 29:23
The contrast was so striking that even the gentiles recognized the Hand of G-d, as the prophet states:
Then shall they know that I am the L-rd, when I have made the land most desolate, because of all their abominations which they have committed.
Ezekiel 33:29
It was obvious to one and all that the tragic transformation had been brought about by divine intervention. There was no explanation in the realm of nature that could account for the striking changes in the country.
The gentiles asked: Where will the Jews go, now that their land is destroyed? Will they establish themselves as a nation in some other part of the globe? Will they be swallowed up by another nation?
The Torah answered their question, even before they asked it:
"And G-d will scatter you among all the nations, from one end of the earth to the other."
Deuteronomy 28:30
Even though they were destined to wander from one country to the other, the Jews would never become completely assimilated into their host nation. In the Book of Esther, we find Haman's description of the nation that refused to blend in with all the others:
And Haman said unto King Ahasuerus: 'There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from those of every people; neither keep they the king's laws; therefore it does not profit the king to tolerate them.
Esther 3:8
Other nations have been uprooted and displaced, but they then settled permanently in a new location. In contrast, the Jew has been tossed from one spot on the globe to another, over a period of nearly two thousand years. History has no parallel to the repeated upheavals and migrations which have been the lot of the Jewish People. This fate is the direct result of G-d's plan to rectify their shortcomings by letting them experience a period of exile.
The image of the itinerant Jew, constantly roaming to escape the wrath of the gentiles and their merciless schemes to deprive him of his hard earned property, if not his life, became firmly engrained in the mind of the gentile.
The desolation of the former Jewish homeland was also noted by the gentiles. It appeared that just as the nomadic Jew longed for his homeland, so, too, did the devastated mountains and valleys mourn for the sons and daughters who had been banished into exile.
Over the generations, the Jewish people continued to dream of the day when they would again tread the soil of their beloved Holy Land, and its rich, precious soil would again yield its fruits to its returning sons.
This process of return and the restoration of the land to its former level of fertility and productiveness, testifies to G-d's supervision of the life of the Jewish people, as a loving father who watches continually over his beloved children.
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