Ingathering of the Exiles

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INGATHERING OF THE EXILES (Heb. קִבּוּץ גָּלֻיּוֹת kibbutz galuyyot). In biblical Hebrew galut serves as the abstract "exile," as in the phrase "in the 37th year of Jehoiachin's exile" (le-galut Yehoyakhin; Jer. 52:31), or the concrete "exiles," as in the clause "he will release my exiles" (galuti; Isa. 45:13). The verb kibbez ("gathers") is frequently used of God's ingathering of Israel's dispersion (e.g., Jer. 29:14; Ezek. 11:17; Isa. 56:8; Ps. 106:47); yet the phrase kibbutz galuyyot is first found only in rabbinic literature (e.g., Pes. 88a). The belief, however, in the ingathering of the exiled communities is nevertheless repeated time and again, especially in the prophecies of Isaiah (11:12; 27:13; 56:8; 66:20), Jeremiah (16:15; 23:3, 8; 29:14; 31:8; 33:7), and Ezekiel (20:34, 41; 37:21). It is first mentioned in Deuteronomy 30:3–5. After the details of the destruction and exile are described (Deut. 28:63–64; 30:1), the promise is given that "the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the peoples, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine that are dispersed be in the uttermost parts of the heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and… bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed."

That, substantially, is the whole doctrine of the Ingathering of the Exiles, although its form varied according to the circumstances. The first part of Isaiah is primarily concerned with the exile of the Northern Kingdom, but in his time there apparently was already a considerable dispersion in Egypt, and he therefore prophesies: "a great shofar shall be blown and they shall come that are lost in the land of Assyria and they that are dispersed in the Land of Egypt" (27:13). After Jeremiah prophesies the exile of Judah, he prophesies the return of "the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries whither He had driven them" (16:15, c.f. 23:8), and after the partial exile of Jehoiachin takes place in 597 b.c.e., he repeats "I will turn your captivity and gather you from all the nations and from all the places whither I have driven you… and I will bring you back" (29:14). Ezekiel (20:34 and 41) similarly foretells: "I will bring you out from the peoples and will gather you out of the countries wherein you are scattered," but the 37th chapter already belongs to the period following the complete exile of Judah, and he specifically refers to the Ingathering of the Exiles of the two kingdoms (19–22, 25). Finally the last chapter of Isaiah, reflecting the wide dispersion of the Jews, makes the Ingathering apply to "Tarshish, Pul, Lud, Tubal, and Javan" (66:19).


The ingathering of the exiled communities, consisting as it does of the complete return of all the exiles, is regarded as belonging to the messianic age, and the Talmud does not therefore regard the return following the proclamation of Cyrus as the Ingathering of the Exiles. Naḥman b. Ḥisda interprets Isaiah 45:1 as meaning, "God said to His anointed concerning Cyrus," and explains, "the Holy One, blessed be He, said to the Messiah, 'I have a complaint on thy behalf against Cyrus. I said "He shall build my city and gather my exiles" (Isa. 45:13), and he merely said (ii Chron. 36:23, Ezra 1:3) "whoever there is among you of all his people, let him go up" (Meg. 12a) and the Talmud states that "the day of the Ingathering of the Exiles is as great as the day on which heaven and earth were created" (Pes. 88a, cf. Rashi to Deut. 30:3, "Great is the day of the In-gathering of the Exiles and it will come about with difficulty as though God Himself will be obliged to grasp each one actually in his hand, each one from his place").


In the above two passages the actual phrase kibbutz galuyyot occurs, and it is the official name given to the tenth blessing of the daily Amidah. "Why is kibbutz galuyyot mentioned after the blessing of the years" – and the messianic aspect is reflected in the passage which follows, "When the Ingathering of the Exiles takes place judgment will be visited on the wicked." Basing itself on Isaiah 27:13 (see above) the formula is: "Sound the great shofar for our freedom, and raise the ensign to gather our exiles and gather us from the four corners of the earth" (the Sephardi rite adds "to our land"), and concludes, "Blessed art thou, O Lord, who gatherest the dispersed of Thy people Israel." It is already mentioned in Ben Sira 36:11, "Gather all the tribes of Jacob together," and the theme is repeated both in the prayer for the New Moon and in the Musaf Amidah for the festivals.

Apocalyptic Writings

The theme of the Ingathering of the Exiles naturally figures largely in the medieval Jewish apocalyptic literature. The Pirkei de-R. Eliezer explains Isaiah 27:3 to the effect that "the right horn is greater than that on the left, and with it the Holy One, blessed be He, is destined to sound in the future for the Ingathering of the Exiles" (chap. 3-end). The Sefer Eliyahu gives the details that on the 22nd of Tishri will take place the first Ingathering of the Exiles, from Babylon, on the 25th the second, from beyond the River *Sambatyon, and on the 25th of the eighth month the third Ingathering, from the other lands (cf. Ibn-Shmuel, Midreshei Ge'ullah (19542), 43; Perek Eliyahu, ibid., 52). In his Hope of Israel, *Manasseh Ben Israel interpreted Deuteronomy 30:4, "If any of thine that are dispersed be in the uttermost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee," to mean that the literal dispersion of the Jews in every part of the world was the essential preliminary to the Ingathering of the Exiles, and he took advantage of the messianic speculations then rife in England to urge that the readmission of the Jews to England would bring about this preliminary (reproduced in L. Wolf, Menasseh Ben Israel's Mission to Oliver Cromwell (1901), especially sect. 25, p. 32f.).


In modern times, since the establishment of the State of Israel, the conception of the Ingathering of the Exiles has been divested of its messianic character and has been applied to the phenomenon of the immigration of over one million Jews from over 100 countries to the State of Israel. Kibbutz galuyyot is regarded as the first stage, to be followed by mizzug galuyyot, the Merging of the Exiles.

[Louis Isaac Rabinowitz]