“So said the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exile which I have exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and well, and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and beget sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to men, and they shall bear sons and daughters, and multiply there and be not diminished (Jeremiah 29:4-6).”
This says a lot about the attitude that the Jewish people are supposed to have in exile, and what we’re charged with doing while we’re outside of the land. The people aren’t told to sit around and mourn, or pray, or put their lives on hold until they’re able to return. They’re charged with action, with continuing with their lives and establishing themselves in the lands that they wind up in. It’s not like when they were wandering in the desert, when a nomadic lifestyle and stopped rituals like circumcision for that period of time. The people are supposed to live full lives, building and planting and mating and putting down roots. To me, this is representative of an attitude that has prevailed throughout Jewish history. During the generations outside of Israel, life went on. I’ve heard it said, and it’s really resonated with me to hear, that the core of what modern Judaism is was formed outside of the land of Israel. Our traditions, our history, our culture, was all created because of this directive to be fulfilled in our adoptive lands. We aren’t meant to be a people in mourning, living in the past. We’re supposed to be active, alive, engaged, wherever and whenever we are.