Saturday, April 30, 2005

Colonus, Ergo Diabolus Sum

I often have occasion to tell my students that they pay a very high price for the relative insularity of Israeli-Jewish life. Due to the fact that they read only one language

A Welcome Addition

I just came across a blog entitled, Step-by-Step: Making Aliyah to Israel. It's by woman named Katie-Yael who describes herself as:

...I am not typical. I am not your typical Aliyah candidate: I'm very secular, did not grow up in a zionist household, and have no family living in Israel. I'm not what people typically think of when they hear "Jewish": I have blond hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. I am not your typical American: I speak 2 1/2 languages, vote democratic (and I'm originally from the South!), and the last thing I want is a house in the suburbs.

Judging from her postings, she'll be a welcome addition to our happy little family of Anglos. I realy wish her every bit of success here. Ken Yirbu!

Friday, April 29, 2005

A Defining Moment

Meqom HaMiqdash Posted by Hello
Every so often one has an experience that transcends most of what has gone before in one's life. Every so often, if we're lucky, God provides us with a moment that is nothing less than ineffable. Yesterday, I had just such an experience, when I ascended Har HaBayit for the first time. Even now, I am still at a loss to describe the thoughts and emotions that washed over me.
Ascending Har HaBayit was not an impetuous act on my part. I thought long and hard about. I spent time delving into the halakhic and the archaeological details. I undertook a lot of Heshbon HaNefesh as to whether it was the right thing to do. Once I was convinced of the latter, I had to decide whether it was the appropriate thing for me to do. Neither decision came easily. In fact, as late as yesterday morning I seriously considered not going. Nevertheless, I finally decided that not only is it permitted to go, I was obliged to go. First, after a proper tevillah, ascending the Mount offers the possibility of observing mitzvot that would be otherwise unobtainable (E.g. Morah Ha-Miqdash, and Tefillah ba-Miqdash; though not Rei'ah ba-Azarah-except according to R. Aqiva Yosef Schlesinger). [Here I must give credit to the role played in my decision by the wonderful and inspiring halakhic/archaelogical/hashqafic discussions contained in the collection Qumu ve-Na'aleh by my friend and former student, Rav Yehudah Shaviv.]
Second, the Arabs constantly work (with success) to destroy any traces of the Bet HaMiqdash and to deny that it was even there. The Muslims have succeeded in this to such a degree that Ha HaBayit is mentioned in the media first as 'Haram a Sharif' and then as 'the place that Jews claim was the site of King Solomon's Temple' Jews must go up to the mountain to assert the fact that this is 'Hamaqom asher yivhar HaShem.
However, there was an even greater consideration. In his famous remarks upon completing the first chapter in Hullin, the Rov zt"l (who I am fully aware would most likely not have supported my decision) commented that by nature, a Jew craves Qedusha. That, in brief, is why we mark the completion of a tractate of the Talmud by saying 'Hadran Alakh' ("We will return to you'). We feel the strong need to return to sources of Qedusha. [The full text is available in J. Epstein's Shiurei Harav: A Conspectus of the Public Lectures of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.] I felt drawn, inexorably, to the fountain of sanctity that lies at the center of Har HaBayit, at the center of the world, at the veritable Gates of Heaven. Obviously, again using the Rov's terminology, even on the mountain there would be clear self-restrictions, a clear act of sacrifice since the area of the Temple and the Azarot would be off limits. Nevertheless, just as I felt when I decided to come on Aliyah, I could not countenance the fact that I had the chance of coming closer to the Shekhina and I did not seize the opportunity.
The experience itself was a radical mix of emotions, starting with the preparations and anticipation. Going to miqveh is something all religious men do at least once a year. However, this was a different type of tevila. I had never had to think about hatzitza in the first person. I had never had to consider saying a blessing on tevila (cf. Tosafot, Berakhot 22b.s.v. ve-let). On the way to Jerusalem, and while waiting to be allowed up with the group I had joined, I tried to prepare myself spiritually and emotionally.It was hard. I had no idea what to expect.
In the end, entering felt very natural. The spy sent by the waqf to prevent us from praying stayed behind us, so I was able to say Qabbalat Ol Malkhut Shamayim (a moment that can't be described), Pirke Tehillim and Mishnayot. Our guide, aside from showing us the route around the mountain that avoided the Maqom HaMiqdash, pointed out the place of the Azarot, the altar, the steps to the Hulda Tunnels and integrated prayers into his presentation. I felt uplifted in a way that I never had before. God's presence was truly in the קול דממה דקה, in the still small voice.
At the same time, it was clear that we were still in Galut. עַל הַר-צִיּוֹן שֶׁשָּׁמֵם, שׁוּעָלִים הִלְּכוּ-בוֹ. The destruction wrought by the waqf was everywhere to be seen. There was every reason to tear our clothes, except that it was Hol HaMoed.
I was feeling this last sentiment very keenly, when two things happened. First, we were approached by Rav Yosef Elbaum. Rav Elbaum is a Belzer Hasid who, since 1969, has constantly visited Har HaBayit and devoted his life to raising awareness of the mountain and of the Miqdash. He urged us to come as often as possible.
Then we reached the area behind the Dome of the Rock, the site of the real Kotel Ma'aravi, that of the Qodesh haQodoshim. There are no words for this. לך דומיה תהילה.
We walked out backwards, bowed toward the Maqom HaShekhina and exited through the Sha'ar HaShalshelet that leads to the Kotel. As I left I felt as if I was fighting against gravity, against the force of sanctity that pulled me back in. As we stood back from the gate, and the waqf resumed their iron grip on Har HaBayit, we started to sing:
אדיר הוא יבנה ביתו בקרוב במהרה, במהרה בקרוב אל בנה - בנה ביתך בקרוב
It was time to cry from gratitude, from pain, from longing for hope.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Hag Kasher ve-Sameach!

From the Rothschild Miscellany Posted by Hello
והיא שעמדה
לאבותינו ולנו שלא אחד בלבד עמד עלינו לכלותנו
אלא שבכל דור ודור עומדים עלינו לכלותנו
והקדוש ברוך הוא מצילנו מידם!

בניסן נגאלו ובניסן עתידין להיגאל.

ברכת חג כשר ושמח מאחלים לכם ולשלכם,

ג'פרי, טובי, אבי, אריאל, חנה, אלישבע ומוריה

With Warmest Best Wishes for a Hag Kasher ve-Sameah,
Jeffrey, Toby, Avi, Ariel, Chana, Elisheva, and Moriah

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The significance of the Story...

It's been nigh on impossible to write during the rush up to Pesach. Still, I had an ironic insight during the twilight twixt Hametz and Matzah.

The essence of the mitzvah of telling the story of the Exodus is just that, telling the story. Telling the story, which is but one part of passing on the Masorah (Tradition), is the most a sublime obligation of the parent/teacher. It is a right and an obligation and a privilege that is vouchsafed to those who are loyal to the Masorah, to those who sacrifice for the Masorah, to those who live heroically in the preservation of the Masorah. It is the teller of the story who ultimately decides who is wise and who is wicked, in the annals of the Jewish People (based upon God's judgement, as he sees it).

In secular terms, it will be those who survive as Jews, as bearers of the Masorah, who will ultimately write the history of the Jews. Those who have given up, will either care not or know not to be interested. Hence, all those who think that they will ensure their place in Jewish History for good by driving Jews out of their homes w/o anywhere to go, by paternalistically dismissing the profound seriousness of our enemies, by systematically trying to de-judaize the State of Israel will indeed find themselves a place in our history. We, however, will be the ones who determine that history's evaluation. They may well find themselves in for a very rude surprise.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Misrepresenting the Temple Mount

Whenever Jews show an interest in Har HaBayit (or, when it looks like the government will give it away), Haaretz can be relied upon to trot out some 'expert' who declares either that we don't need it, or that Jews shouldn't go there. The most recent example appeared today. One Meir Inbari, decribed as 'a doctoral student at the Institute for Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem,' holds forth and argues two points:

1) How is it that so many observant Jews behave in opposition and in contradiction to such a severe prohibition? How can it be that the religious law on such a central issue has been breached, and that Orthodox rabbis are openly permitting something that is prohibited?An answer to this issue can probably be found in the manner in which the religious leadership is attempting to deal theologically with the crisis that the peace processes are creating for them. In order to understand them, we need to understand the religious attitudes of many members of religious Zionism movements toward the State of Israel: Since the inception of the religious Zionist Mizrahi movement, there have been many Orthodox Jews who didn't consider the establishment of the state a goal in itself. The activist messianic faction of religious Zionism called the Zionist process at'halta degeula (the beginning of the Redemption); Zionist activity was interpreted as a secular move that in the final analysis would bring about, without the knowledge of the secularists, the fulfillment of the religious goal of the Return to Zion: namely, the establishment of the religious kingdom and a renewal of the rites on the Temple Mount.

2) The breach of the rabbinical decision that forbids entry to the Temple Mount demonstrates that the strict religious law - regarding which we have always been told that not even a single comma in it can be changed - can in fact be updated in accordance with the changing political circumstances.

Inbari is wrong on both counts. I addressed the first in a response on their wenbsite:

Moti Inbari has every right to offer his sociological analysis of the renewed Jewish interest in ascending the Temple Mount. He does not, however, have the right to misrepresent the facts. The prohibition against ascending the mount in a state of ritual impurity is confined to the area of the Temple. While the exact location of the Temple may be in some doubt, there is no doubt as to the large areas where the Temple was not. Entry to these is absolutely allowed by Halakha. Indeed, none other than Maimonides, who is one of the key authorities to restrict such visits, himself prayed on the Temple Mount. Moreover, there are indications that the Fatimids allowed a synagogue to function there until the 13th century.
If Jews stopped ascending the Temple Mount, it was because they were prevented from doing so by the Muslim authorities (from the mid-thirteenth century onwards). This was part of an overall trend to ban dhimmi from sites deemed holy by Islam (e.g. Me'arat Ha-Makhpelah). Dr. Inbari should check his facts befoere offering tendentious interpretations.

The second point is also mistaken. The rabbis who ruled after 1967 not to go the the Temple Mount did so as a matter of policy, not of pure Halakha. The wanted to prevent people from unknowingly wandering into the area of the Temple itself. Even the Mishneh Berurah rules that entering into the Maqom HaMiqdash is a safeq issur karet. However, since the routes taken by the pilgrims today is definitely outside of the MhM, there is no such safeq.

[In order to be fair, I must note that Shalom Yerushalmi writes in today's Maariv that Jews have more reason to fear for Har Haayit from the destruction of archaeological remains, than do the Arabs. It's refreshing to read a bit of sanity.]

On Neo-Satmarism: The Word from the Out of Step Jew

In line with my postings about the crisis of Religious Zionism, I thought I"d quote this posting by 'An Out of Step Jew':

We have written often in the past of the terrible strain that the hitnatkut (disengagement from Gaza) is having on the religious –Zionist community in Israel. There has been talk of a "disengagement" from Zionism and the Sate of Israel for betraying the messianic vision and some rabbis and small groups of people have changed views and habits as a result. Some of the more extreme reactions though were a long time coming as a certain group of religious-Zionists have been drifting to the anti-Zionist haredi camp for a long while. This is just the excuse to make the break that would have come otherwise.
But no matter the group or the views (the very few and very young fanatics aside) in the back of everyone's mind is the knowledge that come what may, we still have to live here. The country must be defended, the land must be settled, Torah must be learned and a living must be made.
Lately, I have been hearing of and from groups of American religious-Zionists, or American haredi-Zionists and those from Chabad who have always supported Israel but whose eagerness to destroy the State of Israel as it is now constituted can only be described as neo-Satmarist. The neo-Satmarist ideologues seem to have adopted a scorched earth policy where any and every fact, article or myth that weakens Zionism and the infrastructure of the Jewish state must be circulated and believed. The American neo-Satmarists have decided that without a Jewish presence in Gaza the Jewish State has no justification.
Of course, the neo-Satmarists don't have to live here. They don't have to live with the consequences of soldiers who disobey orders or of young boys and girls who attack soldiers and policemen. They don't have to continue building their lives and raising their children on the rubble that they hope will come but can walk through thst rubble back to their homes in Teaneck, Beverly Hills, Skokie, Jamaica Estates and other hitnachluyot on the West Bank of the Atlantic.
You can criticize Israel and its government all you want. But that is no reason to de-legitimize the lives of nearly six million Jews who decided, for good and for bad, to live and build a Jewish State in the Land of Israel.
There was never room for the destructive Satmarist ideology in this Jewish world, this is not the time for a neo-Satmarist revival.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Reflections on the (Possible) Revolution...

With apologies to Edmond Burke....

I've just returned from the wedding of the son of close friends, and the break gave me a chance to mull over the things that I've been grappling with (on and off posting) today. So, here is more food for thought...

It occurred to me that Barnea's and Yatom's intemperate, vicious and paranoid comments might actually signal something positive. Let me explain. A few months ago, a neighbor of mine who is very well-read (as opposed to most Israeli journalists and self-appointed pundits) told me that he had recently re-read Arthur Schlesinger's, The Age of Jackson. In the work (which is somewhat passe) Schlesinger notes that John Marshall created the doctrine of judicial review (Marbury vs. Madison) as an attempt to make the Supreme Court the bastion of power for the declining Virginia elite, which created the United States (with a lot of help from New England-JRW) but which had long ago lost the White House and the Congress to the western rabble. My neighbor suggested, that Aharon Barak, who is an avowed admirer of Chief Justice Marshall, may well be trying the same tactic with his judicial activism. Certainly, when you look at the religious reverence with which the court is held on the secular Left, and the fairly homogenous composition of the court, the observation seems apt.

So, it might be that the hysterical peronouncements of Yatom, Barnea and other Leftist avatars may well be the swan song of the Ashkenazi secular elite, facing the advent of multi-cuturalism in the form of Sephardim, Religious Jews and Russians. [This was one of the points made by Amnon Lord in the article I cited below.]

Religious Zionism in Crisis (Part 4)

Sometime in 1994, I got a ride home with a colleague. I was a relatively recent oleh, (only a year in the country). We were discussing the political and religious situation when he offered, 'I feel really badly for you. You never got the chance to live here when Israel was a Jewish country.' The spur to his remarks was the anti-Jewish onslaught that I discussed in my previous posting and which was gathering steam at just that time. [ It blew up with Rabin z'l's murder and the buses that followed.]

As I noted, this push has been ongoing, though recently it has achieved greater intensity. The Supreme Court, for example, has comsistently ruled against almost any and all Jewish content to the country. The recent approval of Reform and Conservative conversions is a case in point. Indeed, Chief Justice Aharon Barak ultimately maintains that the Jewish character of the state can be reduced to universalist pablum based upon the prophets, a position that brought him into constant conflict with Justice Menahem Elon. (See my posting here and the article about Prof. Ruth Gavizon, here. - Thanks to Geviha b. Pesisa for the latter reference.) In this, the court merely serves as the agent of post-Judaism in Israel. [True, the court ruled in favor of Shabbat last week. Close study of the ruling, however, proves that it was a mixed blessing.]

On Erev Shabbat, columnist Amnon Lord, highlighted the intensified efforts of the media cum academia cum cultural elite to, once and for all, denude Israel of its Jewish character and replace it with an ephemeral 'Israeli' civilization (I haven't a clue what that means.) I found Lord's article both disturbing and comforting. It was comforting, because I felt validated. It was disturbing because I was hoping that I was wrong.

In any event, this trend is naturally causing considerable angst among religious Jews in this country. If Shabbat goes, and conversion goes, and Hesder Yeshivot go, and the Dovrat Commission eviscerates religious education, and the media falls over its feet to ridicule the Torah, then what is our Zionism about? [Living in Eretz Yisrael, you will recall, is always a mitzvah.] Thus, there are those who are ruminating out loud that Haredi-like withdrawal is the only answer.

I deeply feel the pain that such people express. I hope, however, that they are wrong.

First, if Judaism is under attack it is for two reasons. On the one hand, there is the vicious self-hatred of the Left and the vacuous pseudo-intellectual prattle of the cultural avatars of Israeli society. On the other hand, we give them plenty of ammunition. If the courts acknowledge non-Orthodox conversion, it's in no small portion due to the obstructionism of the rabbinate. If rabbis are ridiculed, it's partially because they tread where they don't belong. More to the point, the religious leaders of Jewry in Israel are overwhelmingly incapable of making the case for Torah in a manner and mode that would (at least) command a hearing in general society. [Yes, this is yet another pitch for the creation of a principled Modern Orthodoxy in Israel.] Furthermore, many of those Orthodox intellectuals who might be able to present Torah respectably either 'go native' once they mix with the hoi palloi or lack the Talmudic credentials to responsibly fill that role. [A prominent and precious exception to this rule is Professor Shalom Rosenberg.] As a result, we aid and abet the attack on Torah. 'For the sin that we have sinned before Thee by misrepresenting Your Torah.'

Second, as the Rov zt'l pointed out in Qol Dodi Dofeq, one way of dealing with the real tragedies that have and are befalling us is to ask: 'What shall the sufferer do to allow him to live with his suffering?' I think that the answer is clear. We must reaffirn our determination to conquer the hearts of the Jewish population of Israel for Torah (eretz Yisrael will come willy nilly. However, without Torah there is no Eretz Yisrael). This will require moving back into secular communities or teaching there. Every Jew must become a messenger. Lay persons will be more effective here than rabbis. It doesn't matter, though. We need to create a massive number of facts on the ground. That way. the forces arrayed against us will not stand a chance. In this connection, we would do well to recall that the Essenes disappeared. They chose purity of life over involvement in the general community.
We can't afford to do that. The survival of Israel; and of Diaspora Jewry, depends on our following this recipe. We don't have the luxury of running back to the ghetto. Do we really want the souls of four million Jews on our consciences?

Religious Zionism in Crisis (Part 3)

I have maintained for a long time that there are two, interlocking struggles going on in Israel today. The better known controversy concerns peace negotiations with the Arabs. However, this has been accompanied by an all-out kulturkampf over whether Israel will be a qualitatively Jewish country, or not. As Dan Michman notes, in his important reader on post-Zionism, the Israeli Post-Zionist Left is interested in divesting itself of Yesha not solely in order to achieve peace with the Palestinians, but in order to detatch Israel from the Biblical heartland and thereby advance its agenda of de-judaizing the State of Israel. This goal is helped by the fact that the most prominent settlers (though not the majority) are religious.

Since the 1996 elections, this agenda morphed into an all-out campaign of demonization against Orthodox Judaism, generally, and the settlers in particular. I recall, in particular, a series of Meretz commercials in which blatantly anti-semitic images were used to depict both RZ and Haredi Jews. (Though I generally eschew referring to the Shoah, in this case I must add that they would not embarress
Der Sturmer, Der Angriff and Volkische Beobachter) The settlers were denounced as 'enemies of peace' and all religious Jews as obstacles to modernity, liberal democracy and progress. (This where Shinui enters the picture. Indeed, it is deeply ironic that a Holocaust survivor like Tommy Lapid inspires this kind of campaign.)

Truth to tell, the post-Zionist, anti-Judaism campaign went into retreat when the war broke out in September of 2000. In fact, I actually thought that the confrontation with evil and with Arab and Western anti-semitism was advancing Jewish identity and involvement here.

I was wrong.

As soon as the war wound down (it's not over) and Sharon started gearing up for the retreat from Gaza, the unholy trinity of media/police/Justice Ministry combined with academia to renew the diabolization of Jews, Judaism and settlers with a ferocity that was unseen since Rabin z'l"s murder. Hysterical headlines scream that 'the Jews' are going to blow up the mosques on Har HaBayit. More strikingly, the media is carrying on an ongoing celebration of the destruction of Gush Qatif and the expulsion of 8,000 Jews from their homes. Now, irrespective of one's political position, isn't there any room for compassion here? Evidently not, after all we're not dealing with people here. We're merely dealing with Jews, and religious Jews at that. In this situation, the Jew can't win. If he fights to save his home, he's a right-wing extremist; a messianic psychopath and an enemy of peace. If he fights for real compensation that will allow him to rebuild his life in Israel, he's a parasitic, money-loving Jew. [The situation reminds me of Joshua Trachtenberg's Introduction to The Devil and The Jews, where he notes that only a Jew can be a Communist and a Plutocrat at the same time.]

In this climate, Judaism and rabbis (though, here, they themselves contributed) are being pilloried per se. Judaism is the enemy of the State and of Democracy. You don't believe it? Today's Ynet reported that MK Danny Yatom warned that if too many religious officers enter the army, they will take over the country by military coup. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Independent of the crisis of faith brought on by the destruction of settlements, is it any wonder that even moderate Religious Zionist Jews are having second thoughts about whether the two words go together.

I"ll expand on this in my next post.

[Later addition: Meanwhile, the poison keeps coming fast and furious in the media. Nachum Barnea, Israel's self-appointed leading journalist, has decided that the settlers are nothing special and deserve no consideration. He lives in a formerly Arab section of Jerusalem....]

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.

A Great New Site!

My son, Avi, just came across this wonderful site about Israel and Zionism, About Israel. It's sponsored by the Inter-Disciplinary Center in Herzliya and it has a wealth of material, untinged by Post-Zionist Judische Selbst-hass.

Knowing When I Update...

I've been asked by a number of people if they can be notified when I update my blog. Evidently, blogspot does not have this feature. However, I just discovered Bloglines, which allows you to register the blogs you read and it will tell you when they're updated.

So, click here and enjoy.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

R. Zekharia b. Avqulos Lives (Part Two)

My earlier posting about the crisis of Religious Zionism, reminded me that I hadn't finished discussing R. Zekharia b. Avqulos. As noted, most people know of him from the Qamtza/Bar Qamtza story in Gittin. However, there is another version of Q/BQ in Midrash Eikha Rabbah (Parsha 4 s.v. (3) ma'aseh). In that version, it turns out that R. Zekharia b. Avqulos was sitting at Qamtza's party and was a witness to the way Qamtza publically humiliated Bar Qamtza. The Midrash says that Bar Qamtza was deeply wounded by the serene way in which RZA and the others sat there and let Qamtza humiliate him when they could have protested the violation of the rabbinic injunction against humiliating another person. Hence, he decided to avenge himself on everyone.

I understand the Midrash to be conveying a very serious social message. Rabbis (and religious Jews, generally) are halakhically obligated to intervene to prevent others from being hurt; to object to verbal and physical abuse; and to take stands on social issues. If the Torah is reduced to ritual, it ceases to be the Torah (though the opposite is eqully true). The Qiddush HaShem that could be done if the RZ community were more involved in general social issues and more open about its Hesed activities, that Qiddush HaShem would go a long way to redeeming society, rejudaizing the country and really bringing the redemption closer.

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.