“The meaning of the word exile is not limited to a physical definition.
As with slavery, the meaning and full significance of the word lies in the spiritual realm.
To be in exile means that one has surrendered oneself to a set of values, relationships, and a way of life that are foreign to the individual or collective ego.
When the persecuted Jewish people went into exile, they had to change their mode of living and the ways in which they sustained themselves.
Once an agricultural people, they now turned to trade and commerce;
once free and independent, they were now subject to various lords;
once masters of their own way of life, they now had to sway with every passing wind.
As long as they retained their independent spiritual character, their religious principles, their internal leadership, and their distinctive way of live, the Jewish people were never truly enslaved—at least not in the spiritual dimension of their existence.”
From “On Being Free” p. 21, from On Being Free by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz