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In a Vayoel Moshe shiur on Youtube, recently I was introduced to the notion that the ingathering of the Jews will not initially be to the land of Israel but to "the desert of the nations".

I have been trying to figure out what this desert could be. The first thing that came to mind was the Sahara desert. Being a desert that straddles many African nations it seemed like an interesting candidate. The idea that the whole world could witness the miracles that the land of Israel would return to being a desolate desert when we abandon its territory and that fact that we will turn the desert into a fertile land which is not only able to sustain us but provide surplus food to other nations in the world would be indisputable signs that there is a Creator who is blessing and protecting the Jewish people.

Then after some searching I found that Antarctica (the South Pole) is considered to be the largest desert in the world. Also interesting is the fact that there are international agreements regarding Antarctica that could qualify it as being the "desert of the nations". Antarctica has abundant supplies of fresh water. There are many unexplored natural resources under the ground which is under the ice. Could it be that Antarctica is the desert of the nations that Israelis would be advised to retreat to when Iran successfully invades Israel as per Sanhedrin 98?

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  • For other members: The desert is referred to in Yechezkel 20:35.
    – Harel13
    Oct 25, 2023 at 11:05
  • Do you have a source for it? Oct 25, 2023 at 11:05
  • "In a vayoel moshe shiur on Youtube recently I was introduced to the notion that the in gathering of the Jews will not initially be to the land of Israel but to 'the desert of the nations'." Did they say in that Youtube video that it was a literal desert/place? In the verse @Harel13 brings, it seems [to me] to be meant figuratively.
    – Tamir Evan
    Oct 25, 2023 at 15:28

2 Answers 2

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The original idea from the Satmar Rav comes from Siman 22 in his Vayoel Moshe. There, the Rebbe writes that, and quotes the Raavad, that the initial gathering will be "to a wilderness". See here.

The Raavad on Mishnah Eduyos 2:9 writes that in every exile, there are two times of a redemption: 1) number of time, 2) number of generations. This is why the generation of the Exodus needed to wait for 40 years in the desert, before they could enter the Land. Similar, after the Jewish people were being freed from Bavel, after 70 years, Yerushalayim wasn't rebuild for the next 30 years. So to with the generation in which Moshiach comes.

In the future as well, we will be gathered from all the lands of our exile to an intermediate place called “the wilderness of the nations,” and when the right generation arrives we will go from there to Eretz Yisroel. This intermediate place is described by Yechezkel: “And I will take you out from the nations, and I will gather you from the lands where you were dispersed, with a strong hand and an outstretched arm and poured out wrath. And I will bring you to the wilderness of the nations, and I will contend with you there face to face. As I contended with your ancestors in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will contend with you, said Hashem G-d. And I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into My covenant. And I will filter out from you the rebellious and the sinners against Me; from the land of their sojourn I will remove them, but to the Land of Israel they will not come, and you shall know that I am Hashem.” (Yechezkel 20:34-38) (see the Parsha Pears for Parshas Parah)

You ask "where is this desert". Well, the Satmar Rav in his Vayoel Moshe, explains that the deeper meaning behind this wording is that we must understand the message that we will not be allowed, according to the three oaths, to return to Eretz Yisrael en masse, with force.

My own thought is: a desert connotes wandering, wandering around until G-d provides us with permission to return to the Land, after Moshiach comes. We are not meant to nestle ourselves in the Land, but we must wander around in the desert of the nations until Moshiach comes and brings us back (see: Efes Biltecha Goaleinu, p. 179).

  • Please note: of course there will be people that don't comply with the teachings of the Satmar Rav, but that is not the point of this answer.
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  • truetorahjews.org/siman1 the page you linked to says "But the first stage of the ingathering will not be to Eretz Yisroel, but to the wilderness of the nations.". This would seem to contradict your final thought at the end of your answer. Thanks for the link. I've been looking for an English translation of Vayoel Moshe.
    – James Read
    Oct 25, 2023 at 17:02
  • To be honest, I don't see why it contradicts.
    – Shmuel
    Oct 25, 2023 at 17:09
  • If I'm understanding you correctly by being in exile we are already in the desert of the nations. So the implication is then that we were gathered to the desert of the nations two thousand years ago. I guess the problem I would have with that is that we are gathered together but dispersed throughout the world.
    – James Read
    Oct 25, 2023 at 17:27
  • But did our galus ended? I would recommend contacting the people over at Natruna (TrueTorahJews, that's just their brandname) and ask them this question. I have had contact with them, and they provide a lot of food for thought.
    – Shmuel
    Oct 25, 2023 at 18:02
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In context I would not take the phrase literally as a barrens/desert/wilderness of the nations (as some Rishonim do), but rather as an epithet for the lands of exile (as I recall the Rambam understands it - I'll try to update later with a source).

That said, is also of note that traditionally we have homiletical readings of the phrase. R. Yisakhar Shelomo Teichtal, who was raised as a staunch anti-Zionist Hasid of the Munkatscher Rebbe but later enthusiastically supported Jewish settlement of the Land of Israel, wrote in his Eim ha-Banim Semeikhah (Ch. 3, sec. 19):

וזה שאמר הכתוב [יחזקאל כ, לה] "והבאתי אתכם אל מדבר העמים", 'מדבר' הוא לשון דיבור, כדאיתא בשמות רבה [ב, ד] אין 'מדבר' אלא דיבור, שנאמר [שה"ש ד, ג] "ומדברך נאוה", ר"ל אביא אתכם אל דיבור העמים, שיהיו נידונים ומדברים ביניהם על אורך גלותנו. כאשר שמעתי אומרים שהכהן הגדול במדינת הונגארן, הנקרא בלשונם פרימאס ירום הודו, פיו פתח בחכמה לפני מלך ושרים ואמר: לא שמענו ולא ראינו שיהיה חבוש בבית האסורים שמונה עשר מאות שנה, כאשר היהודים האומללים האלה דוויים וסחופים תחת יד מלך ושרים, ואעפ"י כן הם מתנהגים כהוגן וכשורה.

This is the meaning of the verse "And I will bring you to the wilderness (מדבר) of the nations" (Ezekiel 20:35). The Midrash states (Shemoth Rabbah 2:4): "מדבר (wilderness) connotes speech (דיבור), as it says, "And your speech (ומדברך) is comely" (Song of Songs 4:3)." Thus, our verse means, I will bring you to the "speech" of the nations, for they will consider and discuss the lengthiness of our exile. For instance, I have heard that the archbishop of Hungary (called, his majesty "Primas" in their language) pronounced sagaciously before the king and his officers, "We have never heard of or seen a people imprisoned for 1,800 years like these unfortunate Jews. They are mournful and oppressed by kings and officers, but they act properly."

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