How do I get myself to yearn for moshiach if I'm comfortable in the diaspora?
Monica Cellio asked: Intellectually I know that we're supposed to yearn for the coming of the moshiach and the in-gathering in Eretz Yisrael. I know that one of the Rambam's 13 principles calls for this. We pray for this multiple times per day.
In my head I know all that, but not what to do if I'm not feeling it. (Never have; this isn't a regression.) I'm actually pretty comfortable here in the American diaspora, and a part of me wonders if, had I lived then, I would have returned from Babylon -- not because I want to be "bad" but because inertia plus lack of yearning tends to mean you stay put.
I can't be the first person who's struggled with this, saying the prayers but doubting them as they pass my lips, trying to align head and heart in the correct direction. Has anyone who struggled with this and conquered it written about it -- what did he do that worked, what new perspective helped him, etc?
nikmasi said: I will tell you something that has completely changed my avodas Hashem. You have to stop focusing on yourself and start focusing on God. This sounds very simple but in practice is very hard to do. That means coming to terms with the fact that, in whatever way we can understand this, God is (k'vayachol) pained or unhappy that his children are in exile and that his house is gone.
In practical terms, for me, I have found that means talking to God, as often as possible. The idea is to "interact" with God in a real and meaningful way as often as possible and to verbally call attention to it when you do it. For example I walk past a delicious smelling treif pizza place and say, "God, that food smells delicious but you commanded me not to eat it, so I want you to know the reason I'm not going inside there right now is because I value your will and want to keep your commandments".
Over time I have found that this has made God a lot more "real" to me. Then you get to Tisha B'Av and it really starts to hit you, or you see tragedy in today's world and it hits you. This is not how things are meant to be. But now you see those things and it prompts you to dialogue with God. "Please God end the suffering of your people."
Suddenly there is a new perspective. Sure life is good for many Jews in the diaspora (Baruch Hashem) but when that happiness comes at the expense of another who is so saddened by the situation that is exactly what the gemarah (Gittin 58a) describes as the source for the exile in the first place. How petty have our lives become that having a nice house and physical comforts makes us forget that God Almighty has no home. Then it becomes much easier to relate to really wanting Moshiach.
(Please note I don't know you at all and nothing in this answer should be taken as a personal criticism. It is a general statement about the attitude of some Jews in Diaspora.)
Isaac Moses said: R' Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz poses a very similar question and quotes the following answer from Mesillat Yesharim, Chapter 7. (The translation is the one quoted by R' Yaklowitz)
ואולם האדם אשר אין החמדה הזאת לוהטת בו כראוי, עצה טובה היא לו שיזדרז ברצונו, כדי שימשך מזה שתולד בו החמדה בטבע, כי התנועה החיצונה מעוררת הפנימית, ובודאי שיותר מסורה בידו היא החיצונה מהפנימית.
The best advice for the person in whom this desire does not burn is that he consciously enthuse himself so that enthusiasm might eventually become second nature to him. External movement arouses the internal, and you certainly have more of a command over the external than the internal.
R' Yanklowitz goes on to interpret these instructions as a call to "take on spiritual practices which help to cultivate the internal desire for an ideal world and external practices that help to be makriv the geulah (bring near an ideal human society)."
He doesn't specify what these practices may be, but there are any number of suggestions out there. (As a seasonal starting point, R' Daniel Z. Feldman suggests selling your chametz! His books may provide even more to-the-point ideas.) If you do things that are prescribed for hastening the Redemption with that purpose in mind, it will help bring your emotions toward that purpose as well.
Kordovero said: When we return to Israel, it won't just be a matter of speaking a different language or living in a different house. Our entire existence of Jews will be completely different, and immeasurably better. All the infighting and divisions among the Jewish people will be gone. Achdut (unity) and brotherly love (ahavat Israel) will be complete. Our avodat Hashem, individually and communally, will be on an infinitely higher level in every way under Moshiach's leadership.
More generally, in the Messianic era all the unnecessary suffering in the world will end. The many millions of people who are killed or live miserable lives because of war, crime, oppression, (often preventable or treatable) illness, or unjust or incompetent governments will live lives of peace, happiness and spirituality. (The ones who were killed with have to wait until the Resurrection, of course.)
In sum, I relate more to the various Messianic era-related brachot in the Amidah by thinking of them as ways of imploring Hashem to bring about the completion and perfection of the world for the benefit of all people.
Dan added: This place is great. We are lucky to have it. But the presence of the shechina is mighty tempting and when I daven, I think about what I can do to get to that even better situation.
Original question: How do I get myself to yearn for moshiach if I'm comfortable in the diaspora?