The Israeli government recently announced that the largest community of Jews in the world is in Israel. This demographic fact has far-reaching Messianic ramifications in Jewish Law, requiring the Jews to reinstate Biblical commandments that have not been seen in two millennia and bringing redemption one, rather significant step closer.
Last week, Immigration Minister Sofa Landver reported to the Knesset’s Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs that Israel had taken America’s place as home to the world’s largest Jewish population.
It is difficult to definitively quantify the Jewish population since the definition of who is a Jew varies widely between the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform movements. But the United States has been host of the largest Jewish population since WWII, with just over four million Jew in 1945. That number grew to 5.4 million in the 1970’s, although the previously rapid growth slowed due to assimilation, intermarriage, and low birth rates. Landver reported that 5.7 million Jews currently live in the US.
The Jewish population in Israel at the state’s inception in 1948 was approximately 650,000, less than six percent of the global Jewish population, and grew over the next ten years to 1.8 million. By 1980, there were 3.2 million Jews living in Israel, rising to 5.8 million by 2010. Landver reported that there are currently 6.6 million Jews in Israel.
“Having a majority of Jews in Israel creates a different halachic (Torah law) reality, requiring Jews to perform certain mitzvoth (Torah commandments) they have not had to perform in 2,000 years,” Rabbi Hillel Weiss, spokesman for the nascent Sanhedrin, said to Breaking Israel News. Rabbi Weiss explained that this condition of a majority of Jews in Israel was anticipated in prophecy as the final return of the Jews to Israel. It is referred to as the third inheritance of the land, the first being by Joshua, the second after the Babylonian exile.
The third inheritance refers to Jews’ prophesied return from the exile that followed the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. Jewish tradition holds that this return will usher in the building of the Third Temple, the return of the Davidic Dynasty, and the messianic era.
“But this is not something that will just happen,” Rabbi Weiss said. “The Jews returned to Israel in order to pave the way for the moshiach.”
When a majority of Jews live in Israel, Jews are required to count the 50-year Jubilee cycle, a mitzvah (Torah commandment) the Sanhedrin reinstituted almost two years ago.
“And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a Jubilee unto you.” Leviticus 25:10
The Jubilee (Hayovel in Hebrew) is a Biblical commandment that is observed exclusively in the land of Israel. It is the fiftieth year that comes after a period seven sabbaticals. The year triggers a number of Biblical commandments concerning property rights and returning the land to its original inheritors, the Jews who were allocated the land by lottery. Debts were forgiven and slaves who sold themselves due to debt were set free.
Having a majority of the Jews in Israel will also require the distribution of land and the return of Jewish tribal identity as described by the Prophet Ezekiel.
And it shall come to pass that ye shall divide it by lot for an inheritance unto you and to the strangers that sojourn among you Ezekiel 47:21-22
The Sanhedrin has made an official ruling on how this should be done and is prepared to do so now that the requirement of the majority of Jews live in Israel and the current situation requires it to be done according to Torah law.
“We are required to have twelve tribes,” Rabbi Weiss said. “The land will be divided according to the Biblical territories. Every Jew living in that territory will receive an inheritance and be considered as if he is from that tribe.”
But when the Sanhedrin declared the beginning of the Jubilee cycle in 2016, they did so on the basis of their ruling that the majority of Jews already lived in Israel.
“We based our decision on the opinion that the Jubilee begins when there are 600,000 Jews in Israel, like the number that returned to Israel from Egypt under Joshua,” Rabbi Weiss said. “When those conditions have been met, as they clearly have, then the conditions for counting the Jubilee has also been met.”
Rabbi Weiss explained the Sanhedrin’s decision to rely upon the number rather than the majority of the total number of Jews.
“The number of Jews outside of Israel is a statistic that cannot be easily established and it is too easily manipulated,” he said. “It involves defining who is a Jew, a point that is a source of fierce debate. There are untold millions of people in countries around the world who are just now discovering their Jewish roots and that will change the numbers as well.”
“Most of the Jews who do not deny their Jewish identity are living in Israel today, effectively creating the condition in which there is no Jewish nation outside of the Land of Israel,” he said. “The decision not to accept Israel, not to do mitzvoth, not to move towards establishing the Temple, these are conscious decisions to reject the clear reality that we have returned as a nation, which requires Israel to act in a different manner than they have for the last 2,000 years.”
Rabbi David Katz, author of Laws of Ger Toshav: Pious of the Nations, is working towards reinstating a classification of non-Jews that is also dependent on this change in demographics: ger toshav (a resident alien).
“Ger toshav is explicitly described in the Torah,” Rabbi Katz said to Breaking Israel News, citing the one of the many verses.
If a resident alien among you has prospered, and your kinsman being in straits, comes under his authority and gives himself over to the resident alien among you, or to an offshoot of an alien’s family. Leviticus 25:47
“It is clearly true that Israel is required to recognize the ger toshav but this will not happen as long as the rabbinate refuses to acknowledge the new reality and continues to enforce the exile paradigm,” Rabbi Katz said. “There are different levels of this classification, including outside of Israel, but the highest level of fulfillment of the ger toshav comes when the Jubilee is declared.”
Rabbi Katz noted an increase in recent years from non-Jews who are interested in being ger toshav. He suggested that this interest seems to be spontaneously generated, as if the sudden change in demographics requiring the return of that Biblical status automatically reestablished it in the hearts and minds of people for whom it is relevant. Though this spiritual cause of the reemergence of ger toshav is appealing, the rabbi prefers a more practical cause.
“The demographics have tilted the scales and made Israel prominent in the world in so many ways,” Rabbi Katz said. “Because the non-Jews are more aware of Israel in a positive way more than ever before. This leads them to want to connect to Israel in a deeper manner, which is ger toshav.”
Rabbi Katz believes that the establishment of Israel was undeniably a part of the geula (redemption) process but he feels that the process has become “stuck” in recent years.
“Everyone agrees that Moshiach ben Yosef is here,” Rabbi Katz said, referring to the first stage in the messiah that Judaism believes pave the way in practical means for the second, more transcendent stage, referred to as Moshiach ben David. “We need to break through this klippah (barrier, literally shell) of exile mentality in order to go to the next level.”
“The statistics will not make these changes,” Rabbi Katz said. “Any change in this approach would have to come from the Temple Mount, not from the exile and not from the political framework which includes the Chief Rabbinate.”