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
    Commented Mar 7, 2013 at 18:06
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    @Dan, either or both. And I endorse Isaac's comment. Commented Mar 7, 2013 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
    Commented Mar 7, 2013 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
    Commented Mar 7, 2013 at 21:24
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    @SethJ, good question. I have never yearned for a Lamborghini (et al), nor for a mansion, nor a big fancy entertainment system, nor... you get the idea. Perhaps part of the problem is that while a Lambgorghini or a 100" TV or a lake-front mansion is an unnecessary luxury, mashiach is supposed to be qualitatively different and indisputably better. But I'm having trouble seeing that. Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 20:03

12 Answers 12


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. Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 2:50
  • FYI, this work was featured in: meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/1568/hagada-mi-yodeya
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 3:55
  • there are quite a few sources that state that God gets absolutely nothing from our service. nor does he have any emotions. The entire creation was an act of pure altruism, i.e. it is all only for us.
    – ray
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 18:37

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
    Commented Mar 7, 2013 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? Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 22:34
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    @AdamMosheh: It might be Machashevet HaChassidut volume 2: heichal.co.il/products/…
    – Menachem
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 0:48

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
    Commented Mar 7, 2013 at 20:46

All of these things can help.

Most week days, you can/should say Psalm 137, (as opposed to Psalm 126), before Grace After Meals. Many booklets that contain Grace After Maals have this in them already. It is a very sad lament and it certainly gives one pause if one take a few seconds to contemplate the words.

Baal Halachot Gedolot brings down a series of fasts, one of which is on every Monday and Thursday, for the destruction, (see the last few lines on the third page). Bear in mind why you are fasting.

When you are overcome with laughter, remember the verse in Psalm 126 that says "then the laughter of our mouths will be filled". Realize that the notion of carefree, full on laughter without the Temple is strange, and discouraged, (see here, I believe this is based on the Talmud in Brachot, 31a)

Find two small pebbles. Put them in your socks. they should not be so large or jagged as to be painful, just something that you notice as you walk. One for the First Temple, one for the Second.

You can purchase scratchy burlap fabric very cheaply at any fabric store, and make a tunic to wear under your clothing. It is very irritating at first, but once you get used to it, it is another reminder.

Learn how to sing Lamentations with Cantillation. Wake your self up in the middle of the night, sit on the ground uncomfortably in the dark with a small candle, and sing a chapter of it, trying to think of How Jeremiah must have felt writing it.

Learn Laws of Sacrifices and Temple service. A good start is found in most prayer books. It is a section right after morning blessings, titled "Korbanot, Sacrifices". Realize that what you can only learn about was something we were once able to actively do. Think about how you would feel if you suddenly could only hear descriptions of the commandments of Matza, or the Four species, or Sabbath and could no longer active perform them! Realize that the only reason you don't 'get it', as far as sacrifices and Temple service goes, is because you never knew from them when they were a physical reality, and neither did your parents, or your great-great-grandparents. Realize how long it's been. Realize how sad that is! ):

Take a few minutes aday to think of human trafficking, institutionalized sex slavery. Think of all the young girls who are treated like things and abused casually by animals of men. If human trafficking doesn't make you exceptionally sick, try to find a pervading problem that does. Realize that, even with the amount of money and man power that is exerted world wide, these travesties endure. Realize that the Messiah will end these things forever. Realize that he can come today! ... if you obey God's will, (Sanhedrin 98a). Realize that we can bring the Messiah any day. We can stop these atrocities any day. It depends on us! By extension, everyday we fail to bring the Messiah, we perpetuate these terrible crimes.

Hope some of these are found to be useful. The fact that one recognizes that one doesn't care, and that it bothers one is commendable.


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
    Commented Mar 7, 2013 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". Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 2:49

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.


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 z"l moved to Israel in 1971 where he lived until his death.


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.


I recommend getting into stories set in a Temple-centered Israel and designed to convey the value of Temple-centric life. I have read five novels along these lines, and they've each helped me envision what the Divine Service is supposed to feel like, and what we're missing, not having it.

  • The "Naftoli in the Mikdash" series, by Yaakov Meir Strauss (published by Feldheim), consists of four young adult novels that follow Naftoli, a Second-Temple-Era boy, as he studies and then observes various Temple services and related observances (such as those related to various forms of ritual impurity). These books are heavy on technical details, so the reader learns a great deal about the relevant laws.

    To the present point, the books dwell a great deal on the emotions (devotion to God, gratitude, sorrow for having sinned) that the Temple services evoke in Naftoli and the people around him. Each book ends with Naftoli experiencing an emotional high point and with the author's explicit prayer for the Temple service to return. I read these aloud to my kids, and I found myself tearing up when reaching these endings.

  • Murderer in the Mikdash is a mystery novel by R' Gidon Rothstein, set in a near-future (speedily, in our days!), still-developing Third Temple period. (I see that there is also a Teaching and Study Guide by the author available online. I haven't read it yet.) The main character is a not-terribly-religious journalist who learns a great deal about what goes on in the Temple-centered theocracy that R' Rothstein envisions. It's not as heavy as the Naftoli books are on technical details, but it's stronger as a novel, painting a more vivid picture of society and characters' thoughts.

    Like the Naftoli books, Murderer helps the reader feel ways in which such a theocracy affects the people living in it for the better. I was particularly moved by the teshuva-oriented justice system and by the egla 'arufa ceremony that pushes entire municipalities to introspection and policy reform.

Reading these stories helped me develop a sense of what we're missing, in terms of the salutary influence on us as people and as a society, of the Temple service and all that goes with it.


Personally one thing that makes me yearn for redemption in spite of physical affluence, is the increasingly religiously sterile environment in which western Jewry finds itself. (Described for example in Rupture and Reconstruction). Another thing we lack outside of our sphere of physical comfort is stability within the ranks of the religious. We find such increasing dissent and fictionalization to the point that whichever sub-group one thinks is the most correct constitutes a mere minority of the religious. Furthermore, there seems to be increasing dogmatic adherence to bundles of beliefs, such that rather than fostering open dialogue and genuine quest for truth, one instead aligns oneself with a particular group and the adopts all of their beliefs as unrelated as they may be. (If memory serves this is quite akin to Mark Twain's Corn-Pone Opinions). This sad state of affairs, shows little sign of reversing itself and in addition to the particular groups which follow such methodologies personally helps me yearn for the Messiah.

That is all within the realm of Orthodoxy. I am less familiar with other movements within Judaism, but from my rudimentary knowledge of their more flexible approach to halakha they are a tragic product of the Exile from an orthodox perspective. This is to speak nothing of the large numbers of assimilated, intermarried, and completely unaffiliated Jews.

That all regards the spiritual and social realm, but the physical realm as well can stir us towards yearning for redemption. Although in America we (or at least I personally) face relatively little antisemitism, and even less institutionalized discrimination, the situation on other parts of the world is far from rosy. Besides for difficulty for the Jews remaining in Arab countries, Jews in Europe face the highest levels of antisemitism since the Holocaust. Even in Israel, our homeland, terrorist attacks continue Thus, a healthy dose of empathy for our embittered brethren can trigger our desire for redemption.

Lastly, however comfortable anyone's situation is, in any respect, it is never protected from the winds of social change that can bring misery in the face of comfort. (There is ample precedent for this such as The End of the Golden Age of Judaism in Spain, The Holocaust, and the Expulsions from Europe, and the well-known spiritual desolation of Jews in America in late 19th and early 20th centuries.)

All that only concerns the Jews, but the rest of the world could also use a tune up. War alone is an unfathomable tragedy, (especially the possibility of Nuclear War) and whatever degree we have been exposed to it can arouse us to pray for them to "Beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Isaiah 2:4)

All these factors help me see past the physical comfort of America to yearn for the redemption.

  • That last quote from Isaiah is wonderful. It's encouraging to know that the Lubavitcher Rebbe said we had merited to see its literal fulfillment when the Russian government ordered its military to weld harvesting equipment to their tanks in order to bring the wheat crop in and avoid a famine during the impending winter back in the late 80s or early 90s. The Rebbe said that was also manifest in the first Gulf War by using the military equipment for supplying humanitarian aid. Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 20:38

Take a trip sometime and visit Eretz Yisrael, and instead of focusing on the tourist attractions around Jerusalem, take the time to visit the Temple Mount and the Kotel, and the graves of the tzaddikim. Visit the graves of the Tannaim and Amoraim which can be found around Israel. This may give you a hands-on experience and when you return to the U.S (or whatever country you live in), you might just find yourself longing to "go home" again.

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    That's a good point. One of the most powerful moments I had on my first trip to Eretz Yisrael was in the Kotel plaza, when a man who appeared to be Chareidi approached me and said "welcome home". Note that I'm an American woman who was modestly dressed but wearing pants and my long hair was visible hanging out from my cap. I'd been conditioned to expect people who looked like him to dismiss people who looked like me -- and yet not only did he acknowledge me but he greeted me, warmly. Against the backdrop of strife we sometimes have within klal yisrael, it blew my mind. Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 20:23
  • @MonicaCellio Such is the beauty of mastering ahavas Yisrael. Your story put a smile on my face. When my mother visited Israel for the first time, she had a hard time adjusting when she came back to our humble home in Texas.
    – ezra
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 20:27

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)

  • 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. Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 20:05

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