The question of when exactly does “Kibbutz Galuyos”, “The Ingathering of the Exiles” occur?, has been a matter of discussion among Torah sages throughout the generations. This is because there are conflicting sources, some suggesting that the Ingathering of the Exiles will occur before the coming of Mashiach & the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash (see Megillah 17b + Rashi there); and yet other sources suggest that the Ingathering occurs after Mashiach’s coming and the rebuilding of Yerushalayim & the Beis HaMikdash (see Berachos 49a + Rashi there, Zohar: Parshas Toldos 139a & Parshas Chayei Sarah 134a).

Although many have taken sides in the argument throughout the generations, there are those who have explained that both approaches are true, and in fact there are two stages of Kibbutz Galuyos: One before Mashiach ben David comes, through what we’ll call the spiritual efforts of Mashiach ben Yosef; and then the final ingathering of the exiles, which will occur in the time of Mashiach ben David and the Beis HaMikdash. This approach is adopted by the Ramban (commentary to Shir HaShirim 8:13), the RaMCHaL (mamer hegeulah), the Vilna Gaon (Kol HaTor) and others, and is also implicit in the gemara (Succah 52b + see Rashi there) which describes the two Mashiachs, ben David and ben Yosef, as being involved in returning the Jewish People to Eretz Yisrael, which can be seen as two separate stages, each under the spiritual influence of one respective Mashiach.

Therefore, each Jew has a choice, whether to be a part of the first stage of Kibbutz Galuyos, before Mashiach ben David comes, or to be a part of the second stage, in the time of Mashiach ben David and the Beis HaMikdash.

Being what I’d call an “Eretz Yisrael Jew” now myself, who grew up in Canada, but was very motivated to make Eretz Yisrael my home some 10 years ago, I’ve always felt very passionate and zealous about Jews coming and living in Eretz Yisrael and sometimes can’t help but look down upon Jews who decide to wait it out in America. But one must keep an open mind and avoid thinking negatively of other Jews, and I’ve always tried to justify those who choose to live in Chutz L’Aretz by telling myself that even though people have all kinds of reasons and motivations for living in Chutz L’Aretz, some alright, some poor, clearly, if so many Jews are still out there, it must mean that, internally, their souls know that there are still spiritual rectifications to be done abroad, holy sparks to redeem, and the like, and in the big picture of the world’s spiritual rectification, there is still important work to be done outside of Eretz Yisrael, and that’s G-d’s will too. I’ve told myself this many times and I’ve never felt fully satisfied with it, but it helps give me perspective.

Recently, I saw a Zohar which gave me a greater perspective on the matter and inspired me to share it and the connections it made for me, because I feel that it sheds so much light on the issue of Kibbutz Galuyos, the need for two stages at all, and what’s been happening in the world around us as more and more Jews take the initiative to be part of the first stage and less and less remain behind for stage two, may it be soon.
The Zohar I speak of is on Parshas Vayechi (244a) and in the context of discussing the importance of the korbanos and how they are necessary to bring divine blessing to the world, and how prayer now serves in the place of korbanos because we don’t have a Beis HaMikdash, the Zohar says: “R’ Chizkiyah says: G-d placed the Jewish People in exile among the nations in order that the other nations would be blessed through Yisrael, for they draw down blessing from above to below every day” .

In the commentary called “Matoke MiDvash” he explains (I’ve added on my own insights a bit) that the question is: if G-d wanted to punish the Jewish people for their sins, He could’ve afflicted them any number of ways; why did He send them into exile among all the nations? and why not just one nation, why are there Jews scattered everywhere in the world? The answer is that when there was a Beis HaMikdash, the korbanos and avodah there brought down divine blessing to the whole world, and even the nations benefitted from it, and developed as a result. Ultimately, G-d cares for the nations too and wants them to grow and advance toward spiritual and material perfection. When our sins destroyed the Beis HaMikdash, besides for our loss as a nation, all the nations no longer had the proper means of receiving the divine blessing that we would bring down for them to support them and help them continue to grow. (our sages say: Had the nations known what the Beis HaMikdash did for them, they never would have destroyed it but would have placed guards to protect it).
Therefore, until the Beis HaMikdash would be rebuilt, the nations couldn’t be left high and dry, so to speak, so G-d had a way of having us cleanse in suffering for our sins while at the same time not abandoning our responsibility to spiritually support the nations. This is essentially what G-d told Avraham from the beginning: (Bereishis 12:2-3) “...you will be a blessing... and all the families of the earth shall be blessed through you.
Why is it that the sages say that “one who lives in Chutz L’Aretz it is as if he serves the heavenly bodies” (Kesubos 110b)? This is because when Jews living in foreign countries bring down divine blessing through their prayers and mitzvos, the heavenly angel (sar) of that nation takes a portion of that spiritual energy and with it, the nation thrives and advances. Thus, the Jews under that nation strengthen and serve it through its heavenly angel (see Rif & Etz Yosef to Kesubos 110b). In Eretz Yisrael, this is not the case, as we’ll see.
Thus, through our prayers, which now serve to bring down divine blessing in place of the korbanos, the Jews living under a particular nation grant them the spiritual energy they need to thrive and advance, for “G-d did not create the world to remain desolate”. This is the necessity for Jews to remain in Chutz L’Aretz until the Beis HaMikdash can be built and there will be the central place where we bring down divine blessing for our development towards spiritual and material perfection, and from where the nations can take their portion as well (“For My house will be called a house of prayer (in bringing down blessing!) for all nations” –Yeshayah 56:7).

And this is why the Jewish people can’t go up in one shot to Eretz Yisrael, before Mashiach ben David will come and allow for the building of the Beis HaMikdash, and why there has to be slow transition, so that the nations won’t be suddenly cut off completely; for R’ Ovadiah of Bartenura explains (in his commentary to Ruth 4:6-14, based on the gemara in Sanhedrin 98a) that once we have been collectively cleansed of our sins through the sufferings of the long exile and the difficulties of living in the land of Eretz Yisrael during kibbutz galuyos stage one, and we do teshuvah, our sins will no longer give strength to the power of tumah, which the nations are under, and additionally, when most of the Jews have left the dominion of the nations and now live Eretz Yisrael, their prayers and mitzvos no longer bring divine energy down to support the nations as before when they lived under them; then what follows is that the blessings and vitality given to the wicked nations as a result of the sins of Yisrael will be cut off from them and no longer usurped by the nations, which the verse in Yechezkel (32:14) ‘Then I will make their waters settle and cause their rivers to flow like oil’ refers analogously to as “waters” and “rivers” that have until now been drawn to the nations will be removed from the wicked; which is why the verse is brought: ‘Then I will make their waters settle and cause their rivers to flow like oil’, in order to hint at the fact that just like oil, which when removed from the wick, causes the flame to go out, so too when the blessing is removed from the wicked nations they will lose their power and sovereignty, and wars and disasters will increase in the world as a result. And then Mashiach ben David will arrive, as the above teaching ends with the verse: “On that day I will cause power to sprout for the House of Yisrael’ (Ibid. 29:21)’.

This seems to describe exactly what is happening today. In summary: There are two main ways that the nations receive vitality and power from Hashem: (1) Our sins give strength to the power of tumah in the world, which is the source of the wicked dominating elements among the nations. (2) When we live among the nations, our prayers and mitzvos bring down divine blessing upon them as well and sustains and strengthens them, which we are ultimately responsible for. Because of the large teshuvah movement in the Jewish world, and the continually increasing Jewish numbers in Eretz Yisrael and the cleansing processess we experience there, the nations are losing their strength which they derive from the Jewish people! That’s why regimes are falling with no one to replace them, and economies around the world are in decline. Something else seems to be happening in Eretz Yisrael though, quite the opposite. “On that day I will cause power to sprout for the House of Yisrael’ (Ibid. 29:21)’. The Jewish people’s power is returning, with all the problems we still have, anyone living here can see it. Slowly the power is shifting in the world, and it’s moving together with the teshuvah and aliyah of the Jews, diminishing the nations’ stability and strengthening the messianic future for the Jewish People. Geulah is sprouting! This is not to say that we’re done, nor to say how close we are, just that things are clearly moving forward.

Who is it that seems to thrive on the down fall other nations and regimes? Yishmael. It’s all connected. The Torah hinted to us long ago about Yishmael: “I will make him a great nation...he dwelt in the desert...” (Bereishis 21:18, 20). When a nation’s spiritual strength has dried up and created “a desert”, desolate of heavenly blessing, because the Jews no longer bring it down for them (for the reasons we’ve stated above) who “dwells” there and sets up shop? Yishmael, whom Avraham prayed for to remain connected to G-d, unlike the other nations who receive it through us: “And Abraham said to G-d, "If only Yishmael will live before You!" (Bereishis 17:18) And Yishmael’s strength has always been drawn from his prayer: “you shall call his name Yishmael for Hashem has heard your prayer...G-d heard the voice of the youth.. then G-d opened her eyes and she perceived a well of water...and gave the youth to drink...G-d was with the youth and he grew up” (ibid.16:11, 21:17-20). Yishmael has his own individual connection to Hashem (G-d’s Name “Kel” is only attached to two nations, Yisrael and Yishmael), and his connection is mainly through prayer, and unlike the other nations, about which it says: “all the families of the earth shall be blessed through you”, Yishmael doesn’t need us for divine blessing to come to him. That’s why he can adapt and thrive where other nations dry up, and why the sages placed Yishmael as our final rival before Mashiach ben David is manifest. On the very dry spot where we bring desolation to the land because of our sins-Yishmael is trying to set up shop! It all seems too real, and too true, today. Hashem will help us though, of that I believe with complete faith! So let’s put Yishmael aside for now.

Now, perhaps, we can see through the penetrating words of the Zohar why kibbutz galuyos is unfolding the way it is, two stages, one leading into the other, and perhaps why the world is in the state it is in at this particular time. It is also 30 days before Succos, where the light of Succos begins to shine, and Succos really expresses the dependence of the nations upon us for divine blessing and guidance toward spiritual and material perfection, connected to Succos. And we offer korbanos for the nations on Succos to give them their portion of divine blessing (see Zohar Parshas Noach 64b), and Zechariah the prophet described the future, after Gog and Magog, where the nations come to Yerushalayim and the Beis HaMikdash, each year on Succos to connect to G-d, and receive their blessing from Him (see Zechariah 14:16-17). May we merit the full Redemption speedily in our days and amidst Kindness and Mercy, Amen!