AROUND THE WORLD IN 500 YEARS: FROM SPAIN TO ISRAEL VIA THE U.S.A. (1492-1992)
Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin
It all happened five hundred years ago. An arrogant monarch by the name of Ferdinand, egged on by his soul-mate Isabella, played to the tune of their piedpiper: Torquemada the Inquisitor.
The usual stuff: "Something's wrong around here,so let's blame it on the Jews" (who else?). And so, either they accepted the "salvation" of the cross or they salvaged their "shield" and marched out- men, women, children, and sages.
It came to be that the day that the expulsion order from Spain went into effect on Tisha B'Av 500 years ago, three little ships set out to sail around the world. Like three blind mice (with a supposedly Marrano cartographer, mind you), they set out in search of their slice of cheese...a new world order.
No one has yet conclusively proven that Columbus himself was a Jew. That's an enigma as tantalizing as the Mona Lisa's smile. But one thing is for sure: good ol' Columbus saved the day for us "little guys" warding off yet another Evil Empire-Columbus opened up a new world for Jewish resettlement.
And as Ms. Lazarus would have us rhyme, all the "poor and wretched" who could sail around the world came in droves. First came the Spanish and Portugese Jews, then the German followed by the Russian, Polish, Lithuanian, Hungarian, added to in our times by Israeli, Iranian, Soviet, and Syrian Jews (with a sprinkling of some South African brethren) finding a haven in this baffling New World.
At this point we should ask what is the traditional Torah perspective on all these comings and goings? So here goes:
First of all, a fundamental principle in Torah thought is that G-d introduces the cure before the onset of the affliction (makdim refuah kodem lemakah). This means that before G-d chose to destroy for whatever inscrutable reason, the Old World "safe havens" of the Jews, He first, quite fairly, made sure to create a haven for them, yes folks, right here in the U.S.A.!
Secondly, the sacred texts teach that the Jewish people is destined to be exiled through ten exiles, meaning ten different empires, during its history before it will return to the starting point-Israel. The final point of departure will be from, you guessed it, the U.S.A!
Thirdly, and somewhat esoterically, the purpose of the Jews coming to the New World is to bring spiritual life to a dimension called the "lower sphere" of the world. The "upper sphere" has at its center Jerusalem, also called the "Eye of the Universe." The purpose of coming to these United States is somehow to unite both the upper and lower hemispheres, creating a sort of "Heaven on Earth" harmony. It seems that the final messianic redemption will come from both "outside" and "inside" Israel. Only in America!
Finally, America and its concomitant New World Order is truly a topsy-turvy unpredictable place where anything is possible. Consider this, whereas in Europe, Jews started out being very religious and then became "Enlightened" and secular: in America. it's the other way around: first there is assimilation and then there is a religious revival called a Baal Teshuvah movement (Returnees to Jerusalem). Or, in Europe, Jews awaited Emancipation to escape the Ghetto Walls, in America the religious community uses freedom to build artificial "Ghetto Walls" of protection from outside influences. And so it goes on.
So here we are at NYU in Greenwich Village, being taken along for the ride of our lives as G-d moves this world around and around and around; And then as sure as the sun set on the Spanish Empire and rose up to shine on this present land of opportunity, we shall just as suddenly find ourselves in Jerusalem this year. Pray for it!