Israel versus Judaism




This re-definition of “Israel” or “the Jewish People” introduced by Zionism, automatically involved other redefinitions along the same pattern. Thus, as has been already explained, the Holy Land was turned into a “national home” (patria-Vaterland), the Holy Tongue (Leshon Hakodesh) into a “national language” (see the chapter on “the Holy Tongue”) and the Torah degraded to the level of a “religion”. The very idea of “religion” is foreign to the Jewish world of thought, even to the Hebrew Language.

No word in Hebrew serves as a common denominator for the Torah of Israel and the worship of other nations. In both Bible and Talmud, mention is always made only of “the Law of G-d”, The Teaching (Oraytha), The Merciful (Rachmono as an epithet for G-d, the Giver of Torah) on the one side, and, “Lehavdil”, of “the gods of the nations”, “the idols” and “foreign worship” (Avodah Zarah), etc., on the other.

The entire concept of “religion” is therefore taken from non-Jewish ways of thinking. According to those ideas, religion, particularly in the modern world, constitutes a personal or group-concern, but certainly a concept quite distinct from “nationality” and absolutely independent of it. There are many nations, sometimes enemies, who belong to the same religion. France and Austria-Hungary, for example, fought against one another during World War I; yet both had Catholic majorities. Germany and England were enemies during both World Wars, although both are predominantly Protestant. Again, there are nations adhering to more than one religion. Some of the Arab leaders and spokesmen, for instance, are Christians. Lebanon, a genuine Arab State and member of the Arab League, is composed of Christians, Moslems and Druzes living side by side. Even a Lord, a member of the House of Lords, was, of all things, a Moslem. Similarly, in Poland, there were Moslems headed by a “Mufti” of their own. In Yugoslavia, there are Moslems, Greek-Orthodox and Catholics, yet nobody will cast any doubt at the “Englishness” of Mr. Philby, or, for the sake of argument, at the Yugoslav identity of the Moslems of Saraievo. History also knows of nations who collectively changed their religion, as was indeed the case with most present-day European nations at an earlier or later date. Those changes may have had certain influences over their cultures, but they certainly did not change their national identities. The Turks have remained Turks throughout the centuries, despite their conversion to Islam with its religious emphasis on Arabic as the language of the Koran, and despite the fact that, until 1928, they used the Arabic alphabet for their language.

With the transformation of Yisroel into “a nation among the nations”, Torah necessarily had to assume under the influence of Zionist ideology, its place as a “religion” which is a private matter for individuals or groups to “take or leave” with its jurisdiction confined to worship and ceremonies. According to Zionist ideology, whether a Jew maintains an affirmative attitude towards that “religion”, rejects or even fights against it, or remains indifferent to it, none of these attitudes could add to or subtract anything from his “Jewishness”. This attitude was clearly and unmistakably defined by the Zionist ideologist, Achad Haam, who said:

I can judge as I please the beliefs and principles which I have inherited from my ancestors, without any fear that thereby my attachment to my people would be severed ('Crossroads' Vol. 1, page 136).

Quite logically and reasonably, other Zionist ideologists went as far as to say that since the criterion for being a good son to one's people was whether one helped to further the interests of the people, and since national interests now require “emancipation from Judaism” (shichrur min Hayahadut-Berdiczewski), hence a Jew who remains faithful to his religion is “a bad Jew” since by pursuing his private beliefs he harms the interests of the people, while only the non-religious Jew can really be considered “a good Jew”. Quite logically again, another Zionist ideologist, J. Ch. Brenner, added that seeing that there was nothing wrong, “Jewishly” speaking, in a Jew adhering to C ristian beliefs, a Torah-observant Jew was a “bad Jew” in that his belief was contrary to “national interests” while a Jew who believed in C ristianity, could be a “good Jew”. Here are his own words (Hapoel Hatzair, Jaffa, Vol. 25) 'A person can be a good Jew and at the same time maintain an attitude of religious awe towards the C ristian legend of the son of - who was sent to the sons of men, and who, by his blood, atoned for the sin of the generations . . . . , since his views, which are his private affair, do no harm to the “national interest”. This, mind you, was over half a century ago, when none of these men dreamt that their extremist view would so soon become reality . . . .

It is true that Achad Haam rebuked those extremists, but once the basic nationalist principle is accepted, their attitude is quite logical. Basically, little more than perhaps the language has changed in Zionist ideology from those days of over half a century ago until our own era. Berdiczevski and Brenner were the forerunners of today's “Canaanites” (who sometimes literally repeat their views) only in respect of their frankness. Substantially, they were also the forerunners of the accepted Israeli or Zionist ideology of our own day, as we shall later explain.

Furthermore, “religion” among the non-Jewish nations, particularly in the modern era, is a matter confined to a certain area within life and unconnected with the other areas of life and society. Torah, on the other hand, is a “Law of Life” governing all phases of the life of the individual and the group alike. The laws pertaining to, say, partnership or mortgage are an integral and inseparable part of Torah no less than (for instance) the laws of Tephillin.

Those parts of the Torah that correspond to what is known as “religion” among gentile nations, constitute but a minute part, and by no means the most important one, of Torah. The Church, for example, constitutes such an essential part of Christianity that the word “church” is sometimes used as a synonym for the Christian religion. In Judaism, the Synagogue, important as it may be in the life of the people where it certainly occupies a central place, is by no means the essence of Torah. Prayers may also be said at home, and even communal prayers may be held at any place where ten Jewish adults gather. “Services” may be conducted by any Jew, etc. The Rabbi, in the Jewish concept, is merely a person with an ample knowledge of the laws of Torah who can therefore be relied upon to decide dubious cases. He possesses no personal status of “priesthood” as in gentile religions. Even matters like the solemnization of marriages, which require the participation of the clergy in Christianity, are not essentially and basically connected with the participation of the Rabbi. In Jewish marriage, the Rabbi acts only as representative and legal adviser of the parties, for it is fundamentally the bridegroom himself who “betrothes” (mekaddesh) his bride; he does not answer “I do” to questions put to him but actually performs the act of marriage by saying “Harei At” etc. (Hereby art thou betrothed to me etc.). Even the blessings are said by the Rabbi only in his capacity of representative of the parties. Basically, therefore, the person of the Rabbi plays no role in the solemnization of marriages. Halachic regulations require that the man “officiating” at a marriage be “well versed in matters of marriage and divorce” in order to be able to give a decision if any question should arise, and the entire institution of an “officiating minister” at marriages was introduced only in order to ensure that the requirements of the law of the Torah be met. The same, of course, applies to all other matters of this kind.

Thus, we see that even externally there is no “common denominator” covering both Torah and the non-Jewish religions. The entire idea of “religion” originates from non-Jewish concepts, according to which, as we have earlier explained, “religion”, particularly nowadays, is a private matter for individuals or groups and one quite independent of “nationalism”.

This latter view is, of course, the worst heresy in terms of Torah. It constitutes an eradication of Torah in the fullest sense of the word and, in this respect, THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE WHATSOEVER WHETHER THE INDIVIDUAL OR GROUP ATTITUDE TOWARDS “RELIGION” IS AFFIRMATIVE OR NEGATIVE. (It is obvious, particularly according to the Halachic opinion according to which: מצוות ×�ין צריכות כוונה

that it is always better if Divine commandments are actually performed than if they are not, yet, in judging the principle, this makes no difference, and it is the principle, of course, with which we are concerned here). He who considers the Torah as a “religion” according to the non-Jewish concept, he who admits that this “religion” is purely a voluntary matter, that it constitutes only part of “Jewishness”, and that there can be “Jewishness” without “religion” in the same way as there is an Englishness without Protestantism, even if he personally approves of that “religion” and observes its commandments and rites, thereby asserts his fundamental opposition to Torah Judaism. Compared with this fundamental the individual balance of "Mitzvos" and "Averos" might seem a secondary matter.

Let us illustrate this by means of an up-to-date example from the "Jewish" life of our day, an example which, regrettably enough, is not merely hypothetical nowadays. In the United States (and not only there), certain Jewish quarters celebrate C ristmas with parties at which kosher or even "strictly kosher" food is served in honor of the occasion. It is, of course, always desirable for a Jew,from the Halachic viewpoint, to partake of kosher food, wash his hands, pronounce the blessing, eat with his head covered, say grace after meals etc. Yet the whole idea of a "kosher C ristmas-party" is none the less outrageous; the party itself constitutes at least �ביזרייהו דעבודה זרה*, and the "kosher" ingredients of the meal add little but bitter irony and mockery. We shall have an opportunity to go further into this matter in our chapter on "Religious Zionism".

* (An accessory of strange worship)

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