The period of exile is nothing but a long nightmare in which the Jewish People “dreams” that its unnatural existence is possible and tolerable, that it is somehow comprehensible.
“When God returned the captivity of Zion, we were like dreamers” – when we examine the period of exile in retrospect, we will understand that throughout that period, we lived as if in a dream.
In spite of its unfeasibility as true existence, however, the dream affords profound possibilities.
It enables life to carry on, even under the worst of conditions.
Were it not for the dream’s ability to contain within it irreconcilable contrasts, the soul’s existence in exile would be impossible.
A dream-like quality is added to the pain of exile – the ability to integrate, in spite of everything, the true inner will of the soul with the strange reality, which the soul can neither accept nor tolerate.
Such is Israel’s exile among the nations, and such is the soul’s descent into the body.
Moreover, the creation of the world in general is entirely a process of exile.
The Jewish People’s exile among the nations is an expression, an end point of a process that includes all of existence.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz