Israel versus Judaism



Religious Zionism

After reading all this, many will certainly ask: How can we regard Zionism and the State as diametrically opposed to Torah, while "religious Zionism" exists and while there certainly are many pious and observant Jews who adhere to Zionism and the State, which some even regard as “the dawn of redemption”?

We have now reached one of the most delicate and complicated aspects of this entire subject, the discussion of which is all the more difficult because particularly in this area there is only a very narrow and sometimes hardly visible boundary between polemics which we should like to avoid, and ideological clarification which constitutes our purpose. The difficulty is increased by the atmosphere of intolerance now prevailing among the Jewish Public. Yet, the question cannot be evaded; for, without such discussion, we should be leaving too much unsaid.

In view of the delicacy of the subject and the heated atmosphere that now prevails, it may be as well to make an introductory remark which should normally have been self-evident, and which, of course, applies throughout our discussion, but which must be emphasized all the more in this connection. All that is being said here, both the words of praise and (particularly) those of criticism, is aimed solely and exclusively at ideas and views and by no means at those adhering to them. For, as has repeatedly been pointed out, our object here is clarification and not polemics. We are therefore dealing with ideas, not personalities. To quote a slogan taken from those very same quarters of religious Zionism ("Ayin be-Ayin") : "we are not for SOMEONE or against SOMEONE, but we are for SOMETHING and against SOMETHING" . . . .

The question posed at the beginning of this chapter, though frequently heard, is, in fact, not a question at all. On analysis, it turns out to be an expression of surprise that two logically opposed views can be held on any one subject? It would appear to be based on the assumption that the subject under discussion is governed purely by logic, an assumption for which there is no evidence. Not all the events and trends we witness in our lives are to be explained by logic or even by common sense. The Sages of Kabbalah and Chassidism (see "Torah Or" on the portion of Vayera) have aptly compared the days of exile to a dream quoting "we were like unto those who dream" (Ps. 139) : "Now, a dream unites two contradictory items in one subject and blends two opposites as if they were one" (ibid.) During the days of exile when, to use Biblical language, the Divine Face is 'concealed', two opposites can occur in relation to one subject; and the rules of logic do not prevent the emergence of contradiction, particularly nowadays. In the life of American Jewry, for example, and not only in America, one can witness contradictions at every corner that are of such an illogical nature that they border on the grotesque. We have referred above to the habit of "kosher" C ristmas parties which are, regrettably enough, in no manner confined only to the realm of humour but constitute, to a larger or smaller degree, part of the tragic reality of present-day Jewish America. American (and not only American . . .) "orthodox" Congregations hold mixed balls and dance-parties, a matter which has already become part of the routine of the "orthodox" American way of life, to such a degree that nobody pays any more attention to it. There you have the same paradox, with the same logical contradiction relating to one and the same subject. To return to our own topic, the fact that a "religious Zionism" exists in no way proves that it has any logical basis. Earlier we referred to the example of the dream. Let us continue to apply it. The vision of the dream itself is not a true vision; it is not the result of physical sight but of a sort of imagination. Moreover, the Biblical verse on which this saying is built "we were like unto those who dream" provides only a comparison, i.e. like dreamers not real dreamers. That is to say, this union of contradictory elements is not much more than imaginary and superficial. A more thorough look will show us that they cannot really be united even though they might appear to relate to the same subject. The "kosher Xmas Party" will always fail either to be really kosher or really a “Xmas Party”. The same holds good of “religious Zionism”.

We have mentioned above the principle that we are not concerned with the wicked and the fools. “We are not concerned” means that we cannot draw conclusions from or use as evidence the deeds done by those who fall under these categories. On the other hand, it is an undeniable fact that such people exist in considerable quantity and that the world is full of both types. It may perhaps be said that the various trends within “Religious Zionism” can be classified under one or other of these two categories. For, as has just been pointed out, a union of two contradictory elements can only be superficial. Essentially, such a union is illusory, and one part or the other is in fact defective or non-existent. Either the “Torah” element is feeble or falsified, and then it will be classifiable under the category of the "wicked", or that element is not really affected and, then, the union occurs only as a result of a simple (let us call the child by its true name) weakness of the mind, which can justifiably be classified as “folly”.

Four major trends may perhaps be discerned within the sphere which we have called "Religious Zionism" for the sake of brevity and convenience, but which actually extends far more widely than the “religious” parties that admit their affiliation with, and membership of, the Zionist Organization. Among all these four trends, there is really only one that clearly knows its own views. Although this is not always the case, some of its spokesmen do not hesitate at times to admit them openly though, perhaps, in circumspect language and in a tone of moderation. This one trend fully subscribes, admittedly or not, to the aim of Zionism and the State to transform the identity of the Jewish People into that of “a nation among nations” with the Torah as its “religion” on a voluntary basis. Unlike other Zionists, however, the “personal view” of this particular group favours this “religion” but likewise considers, again regardless of whether or not this is openly admitted, the Torah as a “religion”. To quote again a phrase of Dr. Breuer, it agrees that the Almighty should be awarded one room in the huge building of paganism, but it would like that room to be attractively situated within the building. When all is said and done, this trend agrees, one way or the other, that “religion”, is, after all, only "one room" in the great “National Home”. Faithful to this view, this trend can regard the State as the "dawn of redemption", and the Galuth as either already or shortly to be a thing of the past; hence, it advocates the necessity for “new forms of religious expression”, that are no longer handicapped by the Shulchan Aruch of the Galuth, and the restoration of the Synhedrion for that and other purposes.

Without going into any soul-searching, let alone questioning the personal integrity of the adherents of this trend, they will themselves admit that, from the point of view of "Shulchan Aruch-Judaism", their view constitutes a very considerable deviation. The request for "new forms of religious expression" and the negation of "Galuthism" both contradict the basic principles of "Shulchan Aruch-Judaism", according to which the State of Israel "also" belongs to the Galuth with doubled intensity, constituting as it does an exile within an exile; and the real "dawn of redemption" followed by the ultimate redemption, will come only through Elijah and the Messiah. Hence, the demand for “new forms” of religion inspired by the alleged “dawn of redemption” conflicts with the Shulchan Aruch no less radically than was the case with the demand for such “new forms” based on the “modern way of life” of the 19th century when it had been voiced by the various schools of Reform. It is not for us to pronounce judgment on the adherents of this view, but the view itself would certainly bring them within the category of the “wicked” from the standpoint of the Shulchan Aruch. In their case, therefore, it is the Zionist element that remains intact, while the Torah element is defective.

However, not all sections of “Religious Zionism” possess the courage and the clarity of mind that distinguishes this trend. There are many who combine the hope, certainly honest and pure, for the welfare and safety of Jews, embodied in their minds with a State that heralds the "dawn of redemption", with attachment to the Shulchan Aruch, which is so deeply engraved in their hearts that they cannot bring themselves to renounce it. In those hearts, there have arisen many doubts concerning the "dawn on redemption" in particular and Zionism in general, but they cannot or prefer not to pursue their doubts to their logical conclusion. Therefore, they remain stranded somewhere half-way, repelling all logical and factual arguments by a multitude of phrases and quotations from Talmudical or Biblical sources in praise of the Land of Israel, the Holy Tongue and the Jewish People, “the solitary sheep among seventy wolves” etc. All these quotations, in the view of Shulchan Aruch Judaism, are, of course absolutely genuine. As we have tried to explain earlier, the Land of Israel, the People of Israel and the Holy Language are not merely spiritual concepts but elements in the original and ultimate purpose of Creation. Yet in this context all those quotations are entirely beside the point. Nobody denies the sanctity of the Land, certainly not the "ultra orthodox", as they are so often labelled. "Neturei Karta", the most extremely anti-Zionist group, consists almost exclusively of people who have been deeply rooted in the Holy Land for generations. The persistent attempts of "Religious Zionists" to confuse the issue reminds one of the story told about a certain Rabbi, very far removed from the affairs of this world, to whom a question, a "shaalo", about the kashrus of a certain part of an animal just slaughtered was once put. "If this is a lung", was the answers, " it is kosher" but it turned out to be the liver . . .

As another more typical illustration, I would refer to the prayer-book recently published in Moscow which contains in the introduction a huge assembly of Talmudical quotations in praise of the virtue of Peace. This is intended to support communist-sponsored "peace"-propaganda. It is undoubtedly true that "Peace is great", that " G-d has found no better vessel for blessings than Peace"; and all the other praises of Peace voiced by our Sages are no less true. Yet they do not constitute an argument in favour of the Communist "Peace" campaign; for the Peace lauded by our Sages and the "Peace" preached by Khrushtchev are two entirely different things. Similarly, opposition to Zionism on the part of devout Jews did not emanate from opposition to the Holy Land or to the Mitzvah of "Yishuv Eretz Yisroel" (even according to those Poskim who decreed that it does not apply in our days and did not include it among the 613 Mitzoth), and certainly not from hatred toward the Jewish People, G-d forbid, but quite the contrary: it emanates from an ardent desire to save and protect the Holiness of these concepts, which Zionism seeks to divest of their original meaning and to transform into something else! All the quotations from Talmudical and Biblical sources in praise of Eretz Israel etc., provide the real reason for the opposition to Zionism. Thus, if, despite all this, there exists a trend that professes to base its enthusiastic support of Zionism and the State, under whatever name, on the "Shulchan Aruch", its existence points to a lack of intellectual maturity on the part of its adherents who deserve to be classified within the category of "fools". (Again, it is the trend we are discussing and not the personalities of its adherents). In their case, what is missing is the clarity of the capacity for logical reasoning.

This trend of thought, which attempts to squeeze Zionist ideology into the mould of the “Shulchan Aruch” sometimes leads to the grotesque, e.g. deliberations in typical Rabbinic style on problems such as "What should be done if Israeli Independence Day falls on "Taanith Sheni Bathra"? a question that sounds almost as if it had been formulated for entertainment purposes, but which happens to have actually been discussed. This question serves as additional proof of the validity of the classification of that trend. The third trend consists of the bulk of the adherents of "Religious Zionism". Basically, this trend is identical with the second trend, but is distinguished from it by its more primitive level as well as by its greater degree of innocence and naiveté. This trend follows “religious Zionism”, because that is by far the more convenient course for both body and soul. There is really no room for discussion with this trend, for it has no ideology. As long as the two former trends continue to exist, there will also be groups following them.

The fourth trend is formed of entirely different clay. These people are perfectly well acquainted with the nature of Zionism and the State, and their diametrical opposition to Torah. Moreover, even as far as the most innocent part of Zionism goes, the practical building of the country, they have done practically nothing or next to nothing. When the need presents itself, they do not hesitate to voice their non-Zionist attitude quite openly. However, they soon realized that one does not have to do anything for the State, or even the country, in order to become well-to-do, and they therefore "jumped on the bandwagon". Out of purely political motives of "give and take", a new "ideology" was born overnight, a "'revised edition" of the second trend (with which it would not merge, again for business-reasons), with the fundamental difference that while, in the second trend, this ideology is the result of a certain degree of naiveté and illogical thinking, it here results from shrewd calculation. To provide an "ideological" guise for those calculations, the slogans “Zionism-no, State-yes” and “pro-State, anti- Government” were invented.

There is, of course no room for ideological discussion with this trend either, as apart from party-political discussion and polemics, since the main part of its “ideology” is built around practical considerations and should be sought in their sphere. Nor is this the proper place for it. The answers to all questions directed against this particular "ideology" are well known to these people no less than to others, and, what is more, when these very same political calculations so necessitate, the very same trend likes to present itself in the most brilliant colours of “extremism” and anti-Zionism.

Seeing that every Jew certainly desires in his heart of hearts to be faithful to the Torah-view, may it therefore be permitted to this writer to offer his humble advice to all who come in contact with the latter trend. When they get into one of those "Zionist" moods and boast of their "patriotism," just don't believe them !

To summarize: Religious Zionism is a paradox. Zionism and the State are opposed to the view of Torah. All the multitude of Talmudical quotations in praise of Eretz Israel cannot alter the basic fact discussed in detail above, namely, that the State is the crown and the realization of Zionism, and the main instrument in its hands towards its one central goal, which is to transform the identity of the Jewish People into "a nation like all nations." This basic idea of the State and Zionism is what renders it “wrong” from the Torah-viewpoint. The fact that its practical realization, from the earliest days of Zionism until the present-day reality of the State of Israel, presents an uninterrupted chain of practical violations of Torah-laws certainly adds the bitterness, but it does not affect the root of the problem. Zionism is "wrong' from the Torah viewpoint, not because many of its adherents are lax in practice or even anti-religious, but because its fundamental principle conflicts with the Torah. The violation of Torah-laws, the sometimes brutal onslaughts against Torah in and by the State of Israel, are certainly deplorable from the Torah-viewpoint, but they are not the real reasons for the negative attitude towards the State. The reason for this attitude is the fact that the State is Zionism, as explained at the beginning.

Thus, Zionism, any blend of Zionism, would not become more “kosher” in the Torah-view if more of its adherents were to become observant Jews. Their observance certainly would be welcomed and would certainly add to their personal merit but it would not change the fact of their fundamental error.

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