Imagine this for a moment:
A woman finds her married life frustrating. Her husband is good to her, if a little too jealous for her taste. He doesn’t like when his wife flirts with other men and spends a bit too much time chatting with them – not that any husband would be okay with that in a healthy marriage. But he’s patient. He loves his wife and provides everything for her. He remembers how their love was at the beginning, and he’s patient as she works her way through her seven-year itch, or whatever it is. It happens. He’s understanding.
One day, he comes home. She’s brought another man into their house. She is committing adultery before his eyes. In a rage, he kicks her out. How could she insult him in the home they’ve built together?
She leaves and proceeds through a series of abusive relationships with other men.
They all follow the same pattern. Everything seems fine at first. Then, he starts to beat her. Not all the time – just when he’s drunk, or in a bad mood, or had a bad day. Otherwise, he’s pretty tolerable; he lets her live in a nice house, he takes care of her basic needs.
He’s a little insecure, though. A bit mentally unstable. And it starts to spiral downward.
So he comes home when he’s had a bad day at work, when he feels threatened in some way or another – and he beats his wife until her nose is bleeding, her eyes are swollen, and she is begging for mercy. He beats her within an inch of her life. It gets worse and worse every single day.
Each relationship she jumps into is the same the story. How do these men find her? Why is she so attracted to them? How do they manipulate her so easily?
She goes from one man’s house to another; every time she leaves, she is on the verge of death. Her bones are broken, her spirit shattered. She is abused beyond reason. The men she encounters almost kill her in the end. And yet she does not return to her husband’s house. She is stuck in this cycle, addicted to these relationships.
Would you tell this woman to stay in these abusive relationships?
Absolutely not. You would tell this woman to run for her life and never look back. There is no chance a happy marriage can develop from any of these relationships. You might advise her to work on understanding why her trauma is causing her to become entangled with these men. You would probably encourage her to work on loving and respecting herself, because it’s clear she doesn’t as long as she continues accepting this kind of treatment.
Meanwhile, her husband has already forgiven her. He opens his house to her and tells her to come home. She refuses, and continues to seek refuge in her abusive relationships, like the addict that she is.
We Jews are that woman. While in the midst of an abusive relationship with Exile, we constantly make excuses. It’s only after we finally escape one house of Exile that we fully realize how insane we are for trying to make it work with someone who is not, and never was, our Beloved.
Truly, as a woman betrays her beloved, so have you betrayed Me, O house of Israel, says the Lord.Jeremiah 3:20
Inevitably, as long as we do not face ourselves, we fall back into the same pattern of abusive relationships. We are attracted to them, and they feed on our attraction.
The woman in the abusive relationship is caught in a vicious cycle. She knows, deep down, it’s abusive. She knows it’s bad for her. And yet she keeps accepting this treatment because she can’t seem to really face herself. She cannot accept, let alone love or embrace, the truest parts of herself and her purpose.
Like the woman in an abusive relationship, there is a complex psychological process happening within the Jewish people. The truth is too much for us. We’d prefer to keep telling ourselves a lie and stay in this relationship with Exile. It is familiar, a type of relationship we are used to. To break out of this pattern, we must rid ourselves of the psychological shackles that hinder us. We must relinquish the addicted slave mindset and finally embrace our true selves and our purpose as a nation.
In that day—declares the LORD of Hosts—I will break the yoke from off your neck and I will rip off your shackles, and strangers shall no longer enslave them.Jeremiah 30:8
Despite our attempts to reconcile with Exile, our pain will deepen the longer we continue to engage in these relationships. Reminding our various lovers of the “good times” we’ve had with them is futile. They have forgotten.
For so said the Lord: Your injury is painful, your wound grievous.
No one deems your wound to be healed, you have no healing medicines.
All your lovers have forgotten you, they do not seek you, for I have smitten you with the wound of an enemy, cruel chastisement, for the greatness of your iniquity; your sins are many.Jeremiah 30:13-15
In the meantime, our true husband, God, is calling us to our true home, the one we’ve shared with Him; the Land of Israel. Despite whatever troubles may be at home – and every home has some conflict – it is our home and our responsibility to deal with it.
And I will give you and your seed after you the land of your sojournings, the entire land of Canaan for an everlasting possession, and I will be to them for a God.Genesis 17:8
I the LORD am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God.Leviticus 25:38
And you shall be My people, and I will be your God.Jeremiah 30:23
Unless we fully grasp that there is absolutely no hope for our abusive, adulterous relationship with Exile, Jews aren’t going anywhere. We will continue to accept poor treatment from the nations, because like a woman in an abusive relationship, we are incapable of facing reality and making the difficult decisions until we are within an inch of our lives, and sometimes not even then.
Now, some of us have matured and figured out that this is not a real relationship in the first place, this adultery of ours. Our adulterous relationships with the various houses of Exile are taking us away from our husband, God. But some of us are still lingering in Exile, insisting somehow that we just belong here (we don’t) and hoping all of the nastiness will blow over (it won’t).
He who lives outside the Land is like one who has no God.Ketubot 110b
We act as if we have no God, no husband. And the longer we delude ourselves into thinking we can continue to engage in these adulterous, abusive relationships, the more the abusers will surface, and the more our souls will cry out for genuine connection. Invariably, the abuse culminates in a choice: death – or return. Ultimately, there will be no other options.
[I have] to say; If a man sends away his wife, and she goes away from him, and marries another man, may he return to her again? Will not the land become defiled? But you have played the harlot [with] many lovers, yet return to Me, says the Lord.Jeremiah 3:1
Our return to our Beloved must be a physical and spiritual return. An individual and collective teshuvah.
Cover photo from https://archives.jdc.org/our-stories/1920s/
Kiev, Soviet Ukraine, 1920 – Torah scrolls in Demiev Synagogue in Kiev, Soviet Ukraine, vandalized during one of the many pogroms that brought death and destruction to the city’s Jews.