This is some of the same stuff I wrote a few weeks ago, but with a couple of new thoughts. The impetus was a post on Pesach Sheni. This was a comment that I left there.
I got an emotional shot in the arm from my recent trip to Israel. But I have become fond of saying lately that I am a religious Jew, but a Secular Zionist. I'm not sure if I believe in the classic idea of Mashiach and the Geulah, an idea which, frankly, has undergone many iterations and has evolved considerably.
But I can still espouse a Zionism that is proud of what our people have accomplished. That just in time for the bloody 20th century (but unfortunately not even earlier) we made a place for ourselves in a legendary ancestral land, a place where our people could regroup from genocide and persecution. That we revived a language that was used only for ritual purposes and made it come alive again as a spoken language. That the pattern of the Jewish calendar is the pattern of the entire country.
What is the geulah anyway? Is it really rebuilding an Ancient Near East style temple and bringing sacrifices again? Is it fracturing our unity into tribes again?
Or is it this? Building a homeland where to which we gradually return. Hopefully eventually maturing enough that we are really Or LaGoyim. Becoming a home for Jews of all sorts who understand and learn and keep Torah in myriad different ways.
When I was a kid growing up Orthodox in Brooklyn, I assumed that the geulah meant going back to what we once were. That the prior 19 centuries would have been just an interlude.
But those 19 centuries created Judaism. And Zionism. It was a maturing process. If we hadn't been exiled, and if the chachamim had not made Torah central to our lives, Judaism would have disappeared, just another ancient civilization with quaint practices for a museum. Instead, we are vibrant and with a state of our own.