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Intellectually I know that we're supposed to yearn for the coming of the mashiach and the in-gathering in Eretz Yisrael. I know that one of the Rambam's 13 principles calls for this. We pray for this multiple times per day.

In my head I know all that, but not what to do if I'm not feeling it. (Never have; this isn't a regression.) I'm actually pretty comfortable here in the American diaspora, and a part of me wonders if, had I lived then, I would have returned from Babylon -- not because I want to be "bad" but because inertia plus lack of yearning tends to mean you stay put.

I can't be the first person who's struggled with this, saying the prayers but doubting them as they pass my lips, trying to align head and heart in the correct direction. Has anyone who struggled with this and conquered it written about it -- what did he do that worked, what new perspective helped him, etc?

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Answerers, please note the way the question is phrased at the end of this post. Please do not respond with something like your own arguments about why OP shouldn't feel comfortable in the diaspora. –  Isaac Moses Mar 7 '13 at 18:06
    
are you asking for personal, anecdotal methods or for a lit review of what other more official voices have said, or both? –  Danno Mar 7 '13 at 18:17
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@Dan, either or both. And I endorse Isaac's comment. –  Monica Cellio Mar 7 '13 at 18:21
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How can a person who has a brand new Ford Focus with leather interior get themselves to yearn for a Lamborghini? –  Seth J Mar 7 '13 at 18:47
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You are most definitely not the first person: shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/kahn/archives/devarim69.htm I especially remember the story of the Farmer. –  Ariel Mar 7 '13 at 21:24
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8 Answers

I will tell you something that has completely changed my avodas Hashem. You have to stop focusing on yourself and start focusing on God. This sounds very simple but in practice is very hard to do. That means coming to terms with the fact that, in whatever way we can understand this, God is (k'vayachol) pained or unhappy that his children are in exile and that his house is gone.

In practical terms, for me, I have found that means talking to God, as often as possible. I get an email "please daven for so and so" besides sitting at my desk and saying a quick chapter of tehillim I try to also verbalize aloud my own prayer in English. Something like, "Please God, one of your children is sick which I'm sure pains you. Please heal this person quickly."

That is an example, but the idea is to "interact" with God in a real and meaningful way as often as possible and to verbally call attention to it when you do it. For example I walk past a delicious smelling treif pizza place and say, "God, that food smells delicious but you commanded me not to eat it, so I want you to know the reason I'm not going inside there right now is because I value your will and want to keep your commandments"

Overtime I have found that this has made God a lot more "real" to me, which I know sounds weird, but I don't know how else to describe it. Then you get to Tisha B'Av and it really starts to hit you. Or you see things like what happened to the Fogel family and it really hits you. This is not how things are meant to be. But now you see those things and it prompts you to dialogue with God. "Please God end the suffering of your people."

Suddenly there is a new perspective. Sure life is good for many Jews in the diaspora (Baruch Hashem) but when that happiness comes at the expense of another who is so saddened by the situation that is exactly what the gemarah (Gittin 58a) describes as the source for the exile in the first place. How petty have our lives become that having a nice house and physical comforts makes us forget that God Almighty has no home. Then it becomes much easier to relate to really wanting Moshiach


Please note I don't know you at all and nothing in this answer should be taken as a personal criticism. It is a general statement about the attitude of some Jews in Diaspora

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Thank you for this helpful answer (and no, no criticism taken). I do care about God but had not made the connection to caring about God's caring about the diaspora (if you followed that). Much to think on here. –  Monica Cellio Mar 17 '13 at 2:50
    
FYI, this work was featured in: meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/1568/hagada-mi-yodeya –  Isaac Moses Mar 22 '13 at 3:55
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Not a complete answer, but the first step is to truly learn about Moshiach and the Messianic era. Understanding the fundamentals about why Judaism necessitates a belief in Moshiach in the first place.

Yoel Kahan wrote a Sefer (book) explaining why Moshiach and the Resurrection of the Dead are two of the Rambam's 13 principles of faith. Why does he consider them so central to Jewish Belief? Shmuly Boteach translated the Sefer into English in a book entitled "The Wolf Shall Lie With the Lamb: The Messiah in Hasidic Thought".

Also, learn Chabad Chassidic Philosophy. From the beginning, Chabad Chassidus has explained and emphasized why and how Moshiach is the completion of our service in this world (see for example Chapter 36 of Tanya).

The truth is that Exile is darkness, and the reason you're so comfortable in the darkness is that you've never seen the light (don't worry, none of us have). The seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe would call this "a doubled and re-doubled darkness", a darkness that is itself concealed, until you don't even realize it is dark. The more you learn about what the world should be, and how you can bring it to that state, the more you'll start feeling it.

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+1. I've heard a story about a beggar who would say if only he became rich he would make a law that buildings could not have more then one story, so that he would not have to shlep himself up the stairs on his begging rounds! Because we have no clue what Moshaich is going to be like, it's hard to yearn for. Studying whatever we can will give us an inkling of what will be then. –  Michoel Mar 7 '13 at 23:30
    
Could you please give us a link to somewhere that points me in the direction of the Hebrew version of that sefer? –  Adam Mosheh Mar 12 '13 at 22:34
    
@AdamMosheh: It might be Machashevet HaChassidut volume 2: heichal.co.il/products/… –  Menachem Mar 13 '13 at 0:48
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R' Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz poses a very similar question and quotes the following answer from Mesillat Yesharim, Chapter 7. (I got the Hebrew here. The translation is the one quoted by R' Yaklowitz)

ואולם האדם אשר אין החמדה הזאת לוהטת בו כראוי, עצה טובה היא לו שיזדרז ברצונו, כדי שימשך מזה שתולד בו החמדה בטבע, כי התנועה החיצונה מעוררת הפנימית, ובודאי שיותר מסורה בידו היא החיצונה מהפנימית.‏

The best advice for the person in whom this desire does not burn is that he consciously enthuse himself so that enthusiasm might eventually become second nature to him. External movement arouses the internal, and you certainly have more of a command over the external than the internal.

R' Yanklowitz goes on to interpret these instructions as a call to "take on spiritual practices which help to cultivate the internal desire for an ideal world and external practices that help to be makriv the geulah (bring near an ideal human society)."

He doesn't specify what these practices may be, but there are any number of suggestions out there. (As a seasonal starting point, R' Daniel Z. Feldman suggests selling your chametz! His books may provide even more to-the-point ideas.) If you do things that are prescribed for hastening the Redemption with that purpose in mind, it will help bring your emotions toward that purpose as well.

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R' Feldman is one of the most brilliant (and funny) rabbis I've had the pleasure of meeting in person, and he has a following of people who are similarly moved by his insights, though I remain surprised at how little notoriety he has outside of this bubble. –  Seth J Mar 7 '13 at 22:31
    
Thanks for that. I hadn't thought of moving beyond "because we're commanded" (e.g. selling chametz) to "because we're commanded and it brings about this outcome". –  Monica Cellio Mar 17 '13 at 2:49
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I'll be honest. I'm a lazy, pampered and comfortable American Jew. As much as I'd like to make aliyah or somehow be part of shivat tziyon, I like the creature comforts of the ol' US of A (things like tuna fish, alumionum foil and English). It would be nice if I could stir my soul to want to move and maybe I should be praying to change my own attitude but that rarely works.

So I don't. I pray for moshiach. The way I see it, ymot hamashiach are going to be the uber-America. A kosher pizza place on every corner, a shul where I actually feel comfortable, and an outlawing of calculus and to a lesser degree, word problems.

As much as I am happy here, I also recognize that (as tough as it sounds) ymot hamashiach are going to be better. Answers to all the annoying questions I have which are left unresolved. An understanding and a way of dealing with people that will make sense. A sense of safety and security which transcends the ADT sign on my front law. And maybe Sally Forth will finally make me laugh.

This place is great. We are lucky to have it. But the presence of the shechina is mighty tempting and when I daven, I think about what I can do to get to that even better situation.

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+1 for an interesting approach and being honest :) This is hard... –  gt6989b Mar 7 '13 at 20:46
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Few Jews appreciate what we lost when the Temple was destroyed. We can't really understand how much better things could get since we are so comfortable.

What opened my eyes was going through the Midrash Rabbah on Eicha (Lamentations). For a number of years I would read further in it each Tisha B'Av and I began to wonder why there were so many stories about how large, wise and splendid the population of Jerusalem was.

We tend to think of modern society as the pinnacle of civilisation. Take a look through our Sage's description of how it used to be before we were exiled and see what we have lost. With a more concrete understanding of how we have fallen our yearning to rise up will increase.

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For me it helps to think about Messianic era and the in-gathering of the exiles in this way: when we return to Israel, it won't just be a matter of speaking a different language or living in a different house. Our entire existence of Jews will be completely different, and immeasurably better. All the infighting and divisions among the Jewish people will be gone. Achdut (unity) and brotherly love (ahavat Israel) will be complete. Our avodat Hashem, individually an communally, will be on an infinitely higher level in every way under Moshiach's leadership.

More generally, in the Messianic era all the unnecessary suffering in the world will end. The many millions of people who are killed or live miserable lives because of war, crime, oppression, (often preventable or treatable) illness, or unjust or incompetent governments will live lives of peace, happiness and spirituality. (The ones who were killed with have to wait until the Resurrection, of course.)

In sum, I relate more to the various Messianic era-related brachot in the Amidah by thinking of them as ways of imploring Hashem to bring about the completion and perfection of the world for the benefit of all people.

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Regarding being drawn to the Land of Israel:

Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein was born in France and grew up in the United States. He writes about his first trip to Israel:

I myself underwent this experience upon my first visit to Eretz Yisrael in the summer of 1962, and it left an indelible imprint on me. I made it my business to get to know as much of the country as I could. One day, I went to see mori ve-rabbi Rav Hutner zt”l, who used to spend summers in Eretz Yisrael. He had an attachment to Eretz Yisrael – he had studied in Yeshivat Chevron when it was still in Chevron. He began to ask me what are my impressions, what do I see here, what do I feel. I discussed with him the vitality of Jewish life and the sense of total community, as opposed to the Diaspora, where one’s life is more fragmented. He felt that you could have felt that wholeness and vitality in Eastern Europe as well. Then I said that I think there is a broader range of application of Halakha in Israel. In America, rabbinical courts handled only ritual law, and here they dealt with dinei mamonot (commercial and financial cases) as well, so here you feel the resonance of Halakha in more areas of life. He said that you could have seen that in Eastern Europe or in North Africa also.

I tried to get him to elaborate, and finally he exclaimed, “Why don’t you mention the uniqueness of being in Eretz Yisrael? Chazal (Ketubot 112a) speak of Eretz Yisrael as a country that Moshe and Aharon didn’t merit to enter, and we are there!” It was stunning to him to meet a ben Torah on an airplane flying to Israel, whose attitude was the same as if he were going to California. I walked out of there like a beaten dog. This thought, this feeling, is what I want to share with you as well.

(You can (and should) read more of his insightful discussion about that feeling here.)

Rabbi Lichtenstein moved to Israel in 1971 where he has lived to this day.

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I would suggest crying on yourself for not caring so much about feeling far from God. this is the unfortunate matzav of most of our generation. we have become numb and stuffed up, comfortable living with our material lifestyle. not caring about striving for higher spiritual levels nor for the greater good (i'm talking to myself also)

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What if I don't feel far from God now? I'm not ignoring God from the comfort of the diaspora; I think I already have His attention and He mine, so to speak. –  Monica Cellio Mar 10 '13 at 20:05
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