In that day the LORD will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, Israel, will be gathered up one by one. Isaiah 27:12
This Torah portion for this week is Shemot, which means "names," from Exodus 1:1-6:1, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 27:6-28:13; 29:22-23.
In 1939, at the dawn of World War II, there were almost 17 million Jews in the world. In 1945, that number had shrunk to 11 million. Today, the Jewish people have rebuilt and grown, yet the number of Jews worldwide stands between 13 million and 14 million, not even close to the Jewish population before its decimation at the hands of the Nazis.
However, not all the news is bleak. In the 1920s, less than 100,000 Jews lived in Israel, then called Palestine. The Jewish state was not yet recognized, and the Jews who lived there were subject to oppression. Today, there are almost six million Jews living and thriving in Israel, where they are free to worship as they please and are defended by one of the world's greatest armies.
The fact that there are so many Jews living in Israel today is the fulfillment of ancient biblical prophecies. God promised that the day would come when His people would return home. However, this is only the beginning. Most Jews, more than seven million of them, still live outside of Israel. Many live in places like the former Soviet Union, where they live in poverty, or in Middle Eastern countries, where they live under oppression.
God gives us the opportunity to play a role in fulfilling His purposes, and today we are able to help bring His people home.
This reminds me of the story about a young starfish-thrower. One day, a man was walking along a beach at dawn when he noticed a boy picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. "Why are you doing this?" he asked. "Because if they aren't back in the sea when the sun comes up, they'll die," the boy answered. "Don't you realize that the beach goes on for miles?" the man said. "How will your efforts make any difference?" The boy looked at the starfish in his hand and threw it into the sea. Then he said, "It made a difference to that one."
In this week's Haftorah reading, we come across one of the many prophecies about the Jews returning to their homeland. This time, the prophet Isaiah emphasized that they will come back "one by one." This teaches us that we don't have to throw our hands up in despair when we take on the giant task of helping allthe Jewish people return home. We just need to help them one by one, until everyone is home.
We invite you to join us at The Fellowship where we help fulfill God's purposes through our program, On Wings of Eagles, which helps bring needy and oppressed Jews from around the world home to Israel. Together, we can make a difference and bring God's people home, one person at a time.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President