Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Religious Zionism in Crisis (Part 1)

The hot topic in town is the religious crisis that the retreat rom Gaza is causing within the Religious Zionist Community. The buzz, which only confirmed what many had already known, was prompted by a conference under the auspices of Tzohar (itself one of the more positive developments in the Orthodox World in Israel).

Basically, our community is reaping the results of three generations of one-issue Judaism; i.e, settling Judea, Samaria and Gaza. This settlement activity was, in turn, predicated upon a clear messianic vision propagated by the Rabbis Kook (pere et fils). Generations of NR Jews have lived and/or been raised that the State of Israel is the first shoot of our redemption (a sentiment that I fully share), and is part of an irreversible process (a sentiment that I always found somewhat presumptuous. Be-hade Kavshe de-Rahmana lama li!). Now that it looks like Gush Qatif and (afterwards) much of Yesha is on Sharon's chopping block, this has (understandably) thrown large swaths of the community into crisis. The crisis is not religious (so far as I can see), but Zionist. Voices are being heard to stop the prayer for the State, to cancel the celebration of Independence Day etc. In addition, the recent governmental and judiciary blows against Judaism are leading to a growing sentiment that the State of Israel should be denied religious significance and that the classic Haredi response to the state was the proper one.

With all due respect, and despite my support of the settlement of Jews in our ancestral heartland, the crisis was very much foreseeable. Messianic expectation is a very powerful force, as is messianic disappointment. In addition, as I alluded before, no one ever had the right to assume that God would bring the redemption unconditionally. Eretz Yisrael has to be earned, and not just through settling there. Life here must conform to the Torah's moral, as well as its ritual, prescriptions. All you have to do is read the Book of VaYiqra from Ahare Mot on in order to know that. Indeed, I find the fact that there is a direct correlation between the transgressions mentioned in the Torah and events reported in the news media on a daily basis, very frightening. The religious community needs to start exerting greater social and moral leadership if it would see the redemption come.

What is more, why was it necessary to put all of our ideological eggs in one basket? Rav Kook was a Gadol Ba-Torah and a man of sublime vision. He does not, however, represent the sum total of Religious Zionist thought. One can thank God every day for the precious gift called Medinat Yisrael. One can regard it is the expression of Providence intervening in history. It does not have to be the Final Redemption (which, in any case, depends upon Teshuvah). That's what Rav Soloveitchik taught us. [I might add, this point of view does not require one to abdicate one's adament belief in the right to settle Yesha. The Rov never said there was a mitzva to give up territory. He said it was a theoretical possibility. In the present political, cultural and religious constellation in the Middle East I have no doubt that that posssibility remains theoretical.]

So, it's time not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Medinat Yisrael still has achieved much. The Religious Zionist community has its work cut out for it to assert religious leadership on pressing social issues, to re-judaize the Jewish population, to resolve the conversion crisis, to develop a real Israeli form of Modeern Orthodoxy and to simultaneously try to save what we can of the settlement of our country. It is a time of Heshbon ha-Nefesh, not a time for despair.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

So why even use the expression reshit tzemichat geulatenu? What can this possibly mean? The Rav certainly didn' thold of this.


By the way, Shapiro is not spelled Schapiro (I am referring to the link for your review)

Jeffrey said...

I agree that the Rov didn't hold of RTG. I, personally, use it as a middle ground between him and Rav Kook. There is something definitely super-natural in the founding and continued existence of Medinat Yisrael. Could it be the start of something bigger? I believe so. Is it inevitable, absolutely not.

Jewish Exile said...

rav kook's point in calling it the beginning of the geula was twofold. 1) presumably he beleived that this third commonwealth would not be destroyed, and there would not be another galut. this forces the conclusion (i think) that this shivat tzion is reishit tzmichat geulateinu, however far in the future that geula is.
2) aside from the "factual" side of saying that this *will* lead to geula, there is the more subtle point that kibutz galuyot and the return of jewish sovereignty is *itself* a part of the ultimate geula, and it is so even if we entertained the possibility of a third galut. In other words, having jewish sovereignty in israel is a fuller realization of judaism than was the galut, and that partial geula is also very important. It is this point, I think, that people miss when they try to reject rav kook, because I think this point number two is more general. I personally have a hard time disbeleiving number one, but as you said, we don't know God's plans. (At the same time, zechor yemot olam would have not meaning if the messages God sent us were not somewhat intelligible.)

Godol Hador said...

Great post. I have relatives in the Shomron and frankly their attitudes really disturb me. Religiously, they are the equivalent of modern orthodoxy, however politically, they are extremist as can be. Losing the Shomron to them seems like the biggest disaster that could possibly befall Judaism. I can't figure out if I am the one who is out of touch with reality, by being comfortably esconced in chu"l, or if they are the ones out of touch, through being in the thick of it all.

settler@zion.org said...

The phrase Reishit Tzmichat Geulateinu did not come from the Rav Kook world. The prayer for the state was composed by the establishment Mizrachi Chief Rabbinate. Rav Kook (I and II) were definitely NOT part of this establishment. The whole idea of present Religious Zionism as one-sided is preposterous. There is much else "happening" in the settlemets aside from settlement activity. Advances in Chnich, social programs, higher education, etc.

The state is not above all. Worshipping the state is Avoda Zara - not worshipping the land (with all due respect to Norman Lamm). During the Syrian-Greek period of rule, the Tzohar rabbis would have been the hellenizing religious Jews - not the ones who have thrown in their lot with the Maccabees. The Tzohar rabbis have given up spiritually and thrown in their lot with the ruling Bolshevik oligarchy. Aside from the plain old mean simchat laid in what they are doing, they have weakened Torah - not strengthened it. B/c of their actions, many religious zionists will drift into the Charedi world. I have no problem with a Modern Orthodoxy or even a Religious Zionism that "abandons" the state. It is the drifting into the religious Charedi realm that will be most tragic for Religious Zionism, and it is the spiritual weakening of the Tzohar rabbis that will push many youth into the Charedi world. The Charedi world admirably fended off the Bolshevik influences of the State (albeit at a heavy price - probably not entirely worth paying) and we would have much to learn from them and much to get by distancing ourselves from the Medina at this point in time.

bar_kochba132 said...

I can never understand why some Jews enjoy seeing other Jews fail in their endeavours. Radical anti-Zionist Haredim enjoy pointing out the failings of the state (crime, secularization, etc) to claim that "Zionism has failed", although it has become a big success. Similarly, the religious "moderates" keep praying for setbacks for the settlement movement, which has also been a big success, not just in settling the land, but in educating a highly idealist young generation that is interested in things other than "just making a buck". The fact that the settlement of YESHA is "controversial" does not make it illegitimate. The big myth these opponents of YESHA push is that the "people have turned their back on the settlement movement", even thought Labor's loss in 2003 and the failure of Sharon to win the plebiscite in the Likud in favor of his destructive plans proves the opposite.
Rav Kook's philosophy and the settlement movement are alive and well. And regarding the "Messianism" charge, well why are the YESHA people "unrealistic dreamers" whereas the atheistic Ben-Gurion who came to Israel when there were only 50,000 Jews and they were less than 10% of the population and talked about building a state a "realistic pragmatist"? It is always the dreamers who get things done, not the critics.

Anonymous said...

Rav Herzog, who was not a Kookian, is usually the main source given for the claim that there can not be a third churban. Further, as mentioned above, it was he who was the main composer of the prayer for the state of Israel with its claim of "reishit zmichat geulateinu". I don't believe Rav Kook pere could have used that phrase vis-vis the state, due to certain chronological difficulties arising from the fact that he passed on in the 1930's, while Israel was established in 1948.

Certain "moderate RZ rabbis" have made statements implying that the state is some kind of supreme value irregardless of or even in spite of halacha. I think that that is more "dangerous", more messianic and more early 20th century, as they are elevating the state to some kind of crazy pedestal, while in the more Kookian camp, at least allegiance to the state is moored within the general religious value system. What is better from a religious Jewish perspective - or even a contemporary humanistic perspective - blind allegiance to halacha or blind allegiance to the state, which is what the Left and some "moderate" rabbis seem to be preaching now?

micha said...

FWIW, not only wasn't R' Soloveitchik's Zionism based on messianistic aspirations, neither was R' Reines's (founder of Mizrachi).

This approach to Religious Zionism is distinctly Rav Kook's. However, the current crisis is not caused by the acceptance of R' AY Kook's messianic Zionism, but of his son's notion that the ge'ulah will be like a sunrise, implying a progression with no setbacks. Therefore, a decrease in land area creates a religious crisis.

As for the origin of "Reishit Tzemichat Geulateinu": the prayer for Medinat Yisrael was written by SY Agnon, by the request of his friend R' Herzog. R' Herzog then cleaned it up to bring it within liturgical norms.

Because he feels there is questionable intent behind the composition of the prayer, my rabbi has our shul using the prayer composed by R' de Sola Pool (found in the old RCA siddur edited by the same de Sola Pool).

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a total misunderstanding of the position that decisions affecting the entire community need to be made by a government. This does not reflect any absolute trust in the government but a restatement of the mishna in Avot that only by having a government is anarchy prevented. The consequences of a mass disobeyal of orders by soldiers on the morale of the army should not be ignored.
The position that maintaining territory is an absolute is clearly not the majority view of the major poskim who have functioned since the start of the state of Israel, so that the issue is not placing adherence to the state over halakha.
This is not a statement as to the wisdom of the Sharon disengagement plan but a recognition that in a democratic society, no matter how manipulative the head of government, the votes in the knesset set policy.
With respect to raishit tzmichat geulatenu, which I say, my sense of the Rav's opposition to the phrase was that he saw it as halakhically meaningless.
Yosef Blau
P.S. Please do not take the caricture of the program of the Israel club's event at Yeshiva which appeared in Arutz Sheva as an accurate description of the positions of Rabbis Charlop, Lamm and myself. Rabbi Charlop, who strongly opposed disengagement and any other proposal that included giving over of land, was totally misrepresented .
Yosef Blau

settler@zion.org said...

I couldn't agree more with Bar Kochba and with Anonymous. Rabbi Norman Lamm's Dina D'Malchuta Dina as applied to immoral and irreligius law of expulsion is the true idol worship - not mitzvat Yishuv Haaretz (see http://www.yucommentator.com/news/2005/03/29/News/Disengagement.And.Halacha-900453.shtml). Blind allegiance to a state that one doesn't even see fit to move to is Avoda Zara - not fullfilling the mitzva of Yishuv Haaretz. Rabbi Blau always couches his position in terms of Messianists vs. Realists, but his blind allegiance to territorial compomise and the benefits of peace, is the true messianism, not pragmataic security concerns suggested by most of the "right wing".

The whole idea of suggesting that b/c RZ is the only group against disengagement, thus rendering opposition wrong, is a fallacy. This has been a long time position of Rabbis Lichtenstein, Blau, Lamm, et. al for years - i.e. need to show a moderate face to Orthodoxy so purposely take left wing positions. Even if this is a legitimate concern (which it isn't - it's totally irrational), at a certain point you have to stop.

According to Lamm & co. only the Hasmonean family was anti-hellenist and were the against the law of the land (dina d'malchuta) so therefore they were idol worshippers - not the hellenist jew who sacrificed a pig on the altar of the Mikdash. Only Mordechai and small minority chose not to bow down to Haman - the law of the land (inluding E"Y). So Mordechai was the idol worshipper by elevating his principles. Time to ban Chanuka and Purim at YU. Double the budget for the YU Yom Haatzmaut chagiga b/c they can take the funds from the cancelled Purim party and Chanuka concert.

settler@zion.org said...

Forcing drafted soldiers to participate in the expulsion will destroy the fabric and morale of the army - not disobeying orders. Going ahead with the disengagement as currently presented will weaken the state of Israel and ultimately destroy it - and the army - not disobeying orders. Weakening the army by disobeying orders is a moot argument against refusal b/c the disengagement plan will weaken the army.

The next generation of what is currently producing the most motivated soldiers will not let themselves be drafted. The entire doctrine of the IDF as we know it will be destroyed by the disengagement and expulsion. I don't think that anyone can conclusively determine which will weaken the army more, so it's a moot argument.

Anonymous said...

Is the YU Commentator article inaccurate as well?

Anonymous said...

(I am anonymous from 3:52 pm)

Rabbi Blau,

My comment about moderate RZ rabbis was not directed at the position held by you and Rabbis Lamm and Charlop. Although I certainly disagree with your position, from what I've read it seems to be a principled center-left one.

Here in Israel, there are those rabbis who do hold a right-wing Kookian or quasi-Kookian ideology, yet release statements anti-seiruv pekuda and anti-demonstrating too much against the disengagement and such because they see the state as some kind of supreme value which cannot be touched and which cannot be harmed in the slightest. If the state orders it - we must follow. (This is distinct from Rav Aviner's position, which gives the state religious significance as malchut within a Kookian framework, and is therefore against seiruv pekuda, at least on a mass scale.)

While I identify with the statement in avot - hevei mitpalel l'shloma shel malchot she'ilmalei mora'a ish et rei'eiyu chaim bala'u - the libertarian in me would respond with another statement in avot, which unfortunately I can't quote off-hand, about the dangers of depending on the authorities since they pretend to be your friend when they need you when , yet throw you to the dogs when they don't. There definitely has to be a limit to what one is obligated or willing to do at the behest of the state, and I view removing Jews from their homes in eretz yisrael as over the line. Instead of focusing on the damage caused to the cohesiveness of the government if soldiers disobey orders, why not focus on the ireeperable damage to klal yisrael resulting from the performance of the disengagement plan?

J.I.

settler@zion.org said...

On rational arguments FOR refusal see:
http://he.manhigut.org/content/view/1165/119/

I'm not a big Feiglin fan - I think he's somewhat self-delusional and has some fascist tendencies. He also made a big mistake in joining the Likud. But very often he just "gets it". This is one case where he does.

On not worshipping the state and the limits to the knesset's authority, see http://www.makorrishon.co.il/article.php?id=3501

Prof Hillel Weiss has academic credentials with the best of any modern orthodox forum. He is far from being a "kookian messianist", and certainly his faith in malchut yisrael can be considered within the norms of reasonable Jewish belief in the coming of a Messiah and the restoration of the Davidic kingdom.

settler@zion.org said...

On rational arguments FOR refusal see:
http://he.manhigut.org/content/view/1165/119/

I'm not a big Feiglin fan - I think he's somewhat self-delusional and has some fascist tendencies. He also made a big mistake in joining the Likud. But very often he just "gets it". This is one case where he does.

On not worshipping the state and the limits to the knesset's authority, see http://www.makorrishon.co.il/article.php?id=3501

Prof Hillel Weiss has academic credentials with the best of any modern orthodox forum. He is far from being a "kookian messianist", and certainly his faith in malchut yisrael can be considered within the norms of reasonable Jewish belief in the coming of a Messiah and the restoration of the Davidic kingdom.

settler@zion.org said...

A soldier is REQUIRED by law to disobey a blatantly illegal order. Even the IDF Chief of Staff has recognized that some degree of moral consciousness has to be ascribed to each and every individual soldier called upon to follow orders.

A soldier will not do a mechanical calculation of how many poskim rule one way and how many the other before deciding whether or not the expulsion order violates Halacha or not. The allegiance to State vs. allegiance to Religion/Morals is beyond a simple formulaic round-up of the poskim.

I'm not sure who Rabbi Blau considers "poskim" in order to determine the "majority". Nor can we be certain that this method is in itself is an unquestionable method of determing the halacha. The major criticism against Rav Yosef Karo in compiling the Shulchan Aruch was his reliance upon a mathematical calculation of "rov poskim" (most of whom lived in different eras and regions) in order to determine the codification of the halacha. It created inconsistencies within the system of those whose decisions he accepted. It was (and is) a serious criticism of the methodology. I wouldn't apply it to the issue of territorial concessions, and certainly not to the issue of a solider confornting his own morals and/or religious value system - and who may depend upon a specific Rabbi for guidance. Even Rabbi Lamm said "It is true that certain rabbis have said differently. So what? That does not mean that all of us are bound by that" (from commentator, not Arutz-7). So the issue of majority of poskim or not is moot.

settler@zion.org said...

more on messianism and territorial concessions:

http://www.jewishmediaresources.org/article/76/

Again, not someone whose views I usually ascribe too. Rosenblum has a very sanguine, skewed view of the charedi world - natural for a BT who voluntarily joined that world - but every so often he also hits the nail on the head when he analyzes issues not directly related to the charedi world (e.g. Israeli Supreme Court, Peace Process, certain other issues of religion and state in Israel). His views on the false messianism of the Oslo and "peace" process have been consistent throughout the years.

I chose this particular article in response to Rabbi Blau's quote: "Those who are so adamantly opposed to it [disengagement] should come up with an alternate policy with a long range approach." from http://www.yucommentator.com/news/2005/03/29/News/Disengagement.And.Halacha-900453.shtml?page=2 - NOT Arutz-7.

From the Rosenblum article:

"Messianic stirrings are often prompted by despair and hopelessness.

Thus those who challenge the underlying assumptions of Oslo are rarely answered with facts or a conflicting analysis of agreed upon facts, but with a plaintive, 'What's the alternative?' "

It is very clear that the secular peace-niks and the religious leftists that have surrendered their spirituality to the ruling Bolshevik oligarchy are the true messianists when it comes to the State of Israel and to the "Peace Process" - messianistic overtones in the settlement movement non-withstanding. The whole State of Israel was founded by a secular messianic movement - called Zionism. These people believe the State to be above all and will see the destruction of the State as a great tragedy that can't be overcome. They are collapsing under the weight of the failed territorial compromise paradigm.

A tragedy yes - but it is the Kookian RZ elemnt that will pick up the pieces the day after, and still value the Mitzva of Yishuv Haaretz (even under foreign rule) and still seek some type of Jewish commonwealth and return to the land, while the religious modern-orthodx left (those who stay religious) will retreat back to literature and philosophy and justify their existence in Chu"l as their beloved State has been destroyed with peace unobtainable.

Nachum said...

I think unless the State is destroyed, God forbid, you're left with saying that "RTG" is going to apply no matter what way Mashiach "comes." For example, even a government of the Messianic Era will have to pick up the trash. Is the Israeli sanitation department going to be completely dismantled, its trucks destroyed, its employees' minds wiped of all training, its dumps shut down and started new elsewhere? Certainly not. So the Messiah's job becomes that much easier, especially when you expand this to the fire department, police, army, roads, water, electricity, religous affairs (all those batei knesset and yeshivot funded by the State; all those people who learned Torah thanks to it) and even courts and parliament. True, these may seem like minor matters when dealing with a grand Messianic future, but to quote Sherlock Holmes, "there is nothing so important as trifles."

As to the phrase, I dimly recall a shiur in which it was shown that Rav Kook used it, if not in quite the same way we do.

Anonymous said...

Rav Kook obviously believed in the concept of reishit zmichat geulateinu. He applied this description, however, to the awakening among klal yisrael, even among the most secular among them, of the desire for "great ideals", to return to eretz yisrael and to establish a normal Jewish life (all life in exile being abnormal), and not to a specific political entity, which in any event did not yet exist.

J.I.

Oysvurf said...

Rav Kook used the phrase ראשית התנוצצות אור גאולתנו. see http://www.hazofe.co.il/web/katava6.asp?Modul=24&id=32509&Word=חגי%20בן-ארצי&gilayon=2353&mador=

for a fascinating read on the issue of kitniyot based oils nearly 100 years ago, and how the Badatz basically admitted they can be used, but would forbid them b/c of their fears of Reform Jewry. Rav Kook used this phrase in one of his letters to the Badatz. Of course 100 years later, he may view where we are at as more than a spark or perhaps a spark that has gone out..............

settler@zion.org said...

Presumably everyone has moved on, so I will just make two quick points:

1) Rav Yehuda Henkin has an interesting take on R. Zec. B' Avqulos in his book. He considers it a failure of rabbinic leadership, a mis-reading of history, and a mistaken application of earlier halachic precedents. Certainly, Rabbi Norman Lamm's comparison of the Gush Katif withdrawal to King Shlomo giving cities to Chiram ( a position then quoted by President Moshe Katzav) is a perfect example of this. If there is any biblical precedent to compare the expulsion too it would be King Achav and Nabot's vineyard, not Solomon's presents in Lebanon. Furthermore, acc. to R. Henkin, true leadership requires that we recognize the possibility of A COMPLETELY NEW SITUATION and for which we can't directly apply past precedents.

2) see http://www.yutorah.org/showShiur.cfm?shiurID=710777

for more on the issue