Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Religious Zionism in Crisis (Part 2)

I am really gratified by the intelligent, respectful, and passionate responses to my posting on this subject. I would like to take the opportunity to comment on some of the observations made directly about my remarks (as the comments took on a life of their own).

1) There is serious difference between pegging the significance of the state to an imminent, unstoppable redemption and responding to a desire to advance the redemption. I was referring to the former, not the latter. Both can accomodate saying 'Reshit Tzmihat Ge'ulatenu.'

2) I am well aware that it was Agnon who coined this phrase, and that he did so in consultation with Rav Herzog. The issue is the valence that one attributes to the words, and it is here that I suggest that the crisis of faith faced by many members of our community may be found. By attributing absolute value (and not utilitarian value) to the government (as cogently pointed out by Rabbi Yosef Blau-whose participation I gratefully acknowledge) many of us have maneuvered ourself into a potentially tragic 'make or break' situation from a faith point of view.

3) Attributing absolute redemptive value to the State and acting based on deep Emunah and vision are not the same. Obviously, those who came here from the time of the Gra's disciples on were driven by an exalted vision. The Rov zt"l , whose Zionism was deeply religious and non-messianic, discusses exactly this dimension of the Jewish national revival in Fir Droshes (aka Hamesh Drashot and The Rav Speaks). [BTW, it is very true that the Rov's Zionism was decidedly Reines-like, thoug I seriously doubt whether he would have gone so far as to support Herzl's Uganda Plan, as R. Reines did. The Rov place too much emphasis on Eretz Yisrael to do so, IMHO.]

4) One can oppose Sharon's unilateral retreat without de-legitimizing the whole Zionist enterprise from a religious point of view.

2 comments: said...

By ascribing secular Messianic motives to the Zionist movement, I am not delegitimizing it. However, one must acknowledge the fact that many unsavory elements that came along with the secular zionist movement - chiefly Bolshevism, Stalinism and Communism - are still infecting the state of Israel. At some point Religious Judaism needs to make a clear break with these elements. While Charedi Orthodoxy only briefly joined with the goals of the Zionist movement post-Holocaust to creat a state in 1948, the Mizrachi wing of Orthodoxy was joined at the hip throughout. Of course Rav Soloveitchik made a permanent break with aguda and went from being anti-state to supporting the state. (It is impossible to determine to what extent and how he would react today.)

Even Rav Aron Lichtenstein himslef will admit to the theoretical situation at which point a religious Jew has to "disconnect" from the state (see first question of Halacha and Citizenship). He just doesn't feel that this situation has arisen. Others in the RZ camp feel otheriwse. This doesn't making them "irrational" or "throwing the baby out with the bathwater". As Rabbi Norman Lamm said - "So there are Rabbis". We have no Sanhedrin today.

As the state is basically utilitarian, then there is a utilitarian value to non-violent civil disobedience - even extending to army refusal. Any liberal democracy will tolerate - or even, demand - this at times. One cannot disavow the utilitarian value of non-violent civil disobendience based upon a simple statement in Masechet Avot. I'm not certain that this statement is the sum all and end all of the Religious Jewish approach to dealing with an immoral government that in some respects is oppressing Religious Jewish values.

Rav Ahron Lichtenstein in his article on Torah U'Madda that was attached by Rabbi Brill (and then defended by Rabbi Yitzi Blau), suggests that secular studies has a value - even at the expense of a few potential lost souls. He compares it to the untilitarian value we derive from automobiles - we are willing to sacrifice a few lives in automobile accidents in order to enjoy the wider social benefits of driving cars. This begs the question - why then turn Rav Soloveitchik's statement of the kotel not being worth the life of even one soldier into an entire theology? Maybe the "utilitarian" price of having a secure state (i.e. saving 6 million lives) is worth the "price" of a few soldiers each years?

Furthermore the paradigm of land for peace in order to "save that one life" HAS ALREADY been tested - it turned the Land of Israel into the Valley of the Shadow of Death, with civilian and military casualties over the last 12 years approaching that of the Vietnam War on a proportional scale. To go ahead and do this again - while uprooting Jews from their homes in the process, in the face of severe security warnings and with nothing tangible in return - is the height of sheer folly. No p'sak halacha of Pikuach Nefesh can justify such an action. It is simply sheer messianic folly and madness which will justify this action religiously. The attack on RZ and the Kook world as "messianist" and "irrational" is a canard meant to deflect the lack of rationality in the "peace camp". As the phrase goes - "Haposel, B'mumo Posel".

The simple fact is that the lives lost by giving up territories will significantly outweigh those lost by holding on to them (tested empirically) and the Pikuach Nefesh argument holds no water. This has basically been Rav Ovadia Yosef's Halachic argument post-Oslo War and as it becomes inconvenient to certain Pikuach Nefesh advocates, they ignore the rest of his viewpoint only focusing on the theoretical willingness to surrender territory for peace.

yaak said...

I linked to a few articles about this topic on my blog here and here.