Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Case for Religious Zionism

It happens all the time. People born and raised Secular or Traditional Zionists start becoming more and more religious. They are then confronted with one serious question: Now that they are a new person, should they Zionists or not? Basically, is Zionism Kosher?

What makes this question even more excruciating for them is that most of the time, their tshuva was initiated by a non-zionist rabbi who hid his opposition to Zionism until the person was “ready” to hear it, in a serious case of hypocrisy in the name of religion. Before showing his true colours, the rabbi would speak about how amazing the land of Israel is. Only after would he say that land and state mean two different things to him. Only after will he say that in his opinion, you can love the land of Israel without being Zionism.

Today, I am embarking on a very tough mission. It is especially tough because theoretically, I am in no position to embark in it. I am nothing more then an am haaretz. But the Pirkei Avot say clearly: In a place where there are no Men, strive to be a man. In North America, there are very few Men who are ready to take the time to explain the awesomeness of the greatest miracle in history, and defend it against its detractors. Only few men are willing to fight the tumah of the people who call God’s Miracle’s Satan’s actions. There is a serious need for a well written, thorough defense of religious Zionism so that newly religious people, who often go with their heart and are not always aware of all the aspects of a certain question because they are only fed one point of view, get the full picture and understand how irrational and un-Jewish it is to oppose Zionism. I will do my best to make the Case for Religious Zionism while recognizing that I am not up to the challenge of describing the greatest miracle in history. If it took God to speak of yetsiat mitzrayim in the Torah, no man will be able to really capture our generation’s yetsiat mitsrayim. I will still do my best. The truth is that even any Am Haaretz can understand the awesomeness of Zionism when presented with all the facts.

We will start by defending Religious Zionism from the 3 main accusations leveled against it by Anti-Zionist and non-Zionist Jews. You will quickly realize that all the arguments of the Anti-Zionist Jews fall in one of these categories in one way or another. We will completely destroy the case of these anti-Zionist Jews. Then, we will answer one of the tougher questions: How can you be so sure you are right? Through this, we will make a strong case for what we know as Religious Zionism.

Before starting, I feel forced to make an important note: People do not be fooled! A lot of religious people will try to make themselves sound Zionist in order not to turn you off while they try to transform you into one of them. Don’t be afraid to ask straight out: Are you Zionist? If the person hesitates, if he starts ducking the question by telling you how amazing the land of Israel is, chances are he is not Zionist but is afraid to say the truth. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will better understand what to answer him then.

The 3 main arguments people make against Zionism are:
1. How can something started by secular, and sometimes anti-religious, Jews be holy, let alone the start of the redemption?
2. All the big rabbis are against Zionism! How could they all be wrong?
3. We need to wait for Mashiach before building a state for ourselves! The state of Israel is one big Sin!

1. Secular Zionism as something holy

To tell you the truth, this argument is probably the hardest to fully understand because we live in a world where everything is black and white and people have difficulty seeing shades of grey.

Lets first go through one of the false arguments the AntiZionists will bring up:

Herzl wanted to convert the whole of the Jewish People to Christianity and only after this did not work did he think of Zionism.
This is simply untrue! While it is true that he wanted to convert the whole of the Jewish People (a horrible thing to think), he then realized how stupid his idea was. It was after this realization that he came up with Zionism. Zionism was his TSHUVA!

Now that this has been said a few points:

--> Religious Zionism is not based on Herzl’s Ideology. It is based on the Ideology of Rav Kook who got his Ideology from Rav Kalisher and Rav Gutmacher who were themselves students of Rav Akiva Eiger who was a student of the GRA (Vilna Gaon). When someone is a religious Zionist, he IS NOT SAYING that Herzl was right in his ideology. We actually disagree with many things Herzl said. We identify with the Rabbis who have called for generations and generations on their students to go up to Israel and rebuilt the state of Israel (Starting with the GRA in Kol Hator). Now, in one of his essays, Rav Kook explains that there are 3 ways with which the Jews will leave Galut: by listening to their rabbis, through secular ideology or through hatred of other nations. The Jews did not listen to their Rabbis from the time of the GRA up to the time of Herzl. While the rabbis were calling on people to go up to Israel and establish a state, they refused. So, God went with Plan B: Secular Zionism. God Promissed Gueoula and so he was going to bring it even if it was through secular vessels. But everyone needs to realize that the reason why we had to resort to Secular Zionism was because the Religious Jews did not listen to their Rabbis. They did not listen to the call of people to go back to Israel. Unfortunately, today, we see religious Jews still living comfortably in New York, Lakewood etc.. instead of listening to the call calling them back to the Land of Israel. Imagine how holy the state of Israel would have been if we would have listened to our rabbis! Imagine what kind of Kingdom we would have built! But because we did not listen, the path is longer towards redemption and we need to go through secular Zionism before going to a religious State of Israel in the time of the Mashiach. IT IS ALL BECAUSE OF “RELIGIOUS” JEWS IGNORING THE ORIGINAL CALL OF THE VILNA GAON’S ZIONISM. Don’t let these same Jews deter you from Zionism today.

--> There is a great misconception in the Religious World whereas Zionism was the movement which brought secularism. People think that Zionism was a way to be a new nation without religion. This is simply a lie! Secularism came with the enlightenment. Zionism was a type of tshuva to this enlightenment period. Lets look at how Rav Kook looked at this period of history:
When we were first chosen, we were chosen as a holy nation, not a religion. God told Avraham: I will make you into a great nation. He did not say into a great religion. Authentic Judaism is nationalism. The goal of Judaism was always to create Mamlechet Kohanim Vegoy Kadosh, a holy nation! Unfortunately, when we went to Galut, it was impossible to stay true nationalists. First of all, the nations we lived under would not host us as foreign nations. They were more likely to accept other religions. Also, since we were so spread out, it was hard to act as a nation. The BIG light of authentic Judaism (Jewish Nationalism) was dimmed into a small light of Jewish Religion.
What happened during the enlightenment? Rav Kook explains that the Jews of the Enlightenment who left religion left it not as a rebellion against Judaism, but rather as a rebellion against the representation people showed them of Judaism. By then, it was already time for the big light of Authentic Judaism to come out and the souls of these Jews were not happy with the smaller light of Jewish Religion. Therefore, they left. Where did they go? Mainly to two movements: 1. Communism and 2. Secular Zionism. It is interesting to note that both of these movements tell people to stop thinking only of their individual self. Communism tells you to look at the collective while secular Zionism tells you to look at the Nation. Jews wanted authentic Judaism but instead of providing them with it, the religious communities rejected their request as a sign of evil rebellion and kicked them out of the communities.
Today, there are still those who will reject Secular Zionism instead of understanding it as a Call for authentic Judaism based on true Jewish principles of Nationalism and not the small light of individual religious practice. Instead of rejecting this call, we should work on providing these lost Jews with the big light of Religious Zionism which combines the principles of Judaism with Nationalism, thus bringing back Judaism to its authentic nature.

-->If religious Jews were to build the state of Israel, as we have already seen, it probably would never have been build because people were too busy learning torah to listen to their rabbis and bring gueoula! In Jewish Thought, there is Mashiach Ben David and Mashiach Ben Yossef. Mashiach Ben Yossef comes before Mashiach Ben David and builds the physical redemption of the Jewish People. Brings them back to their land, creates a state etc.. This does not need to be done by a religious person. Only when Mashiach Ben David come will all these great things be combined with the depth of Jewish Thought (See Kol Hator and Hahesped Hagadol).

--> Some people will tell you they do not oppose the state they only oppose the government and that is why they are against Zionism. This is crazy! The people who oppose the government the most are the Religious Zionists. Who was at all the rallys against the disengagement? Religious Zionists! If you oppose the current government that doesn’t make you anti-zionist. The government changes all the time! If you oppose the government and live out of Israel, make aliyah, go to vote and then next government will be more religious! Stop using the current government as a reason to oppose the holy movement of Zionism!

2. All Rabbis are against Zionism?

This claim is another completely false claim. The people who say all the big rabbis are against Zionism say so for one reason: As soon as a rabbi is Zionist he is not great to them anymore! Therefore, Rav Kook, Rav Soloveitchik, Rav Charlap, Rav David Cohen, Rav Tzvi Yehuda, Rav Ashkenazi, Rav Neriyah, etc… are not guedolim to them but these were the greatest rabbis of the times! They only discredit them because they are Zionist! If by definition a Zionist is not a gadol then of course no gadol will be Zionist!

Today, in Israel, most rabbis of cities and in high positions are Zionists. Rav Ovadia Yossef openly said one should say hallel on Yom Haatsmaout. Rav Mordechai Eliyahu called everyone who opposes the State of Israel one who listens to his yester hara. Rav Getz, rosh yeshivat hamekubalim, said Hallel with a bracha on Yom Haatsmaout etc…
Of course, they are not Zionist though because it is impossible for a Zionist to be a gadol!

That being said, even if it WAS true that Zionism was the opinion of a minority (and it is NOT true), the GRA said explicitly in Kol Hator that the sin of the Meraglim would come back right before the redemption and that it would davka attack the guedolim. Let us not forget that the Meraglim were all huge talmidei chachamim! But what was their sin? They refused to go into the land of Israel! They said its better to stay in Galut! Why listen to Moshe Rabbenu, he looks Egyptian, he doesn’t wear a black hat!
Today, we see some guedolim saying the same thing: Stay in Chuts Laaretz! Don’t become a partner to Zionism! This is the sin of the Meraglim. Once again, I am saying this with the outmost respect for the guedolim because the Meraglim where HUGE tsaddikim! Yet, they sinned.
Let us not forget that the meraglim were 10 and only 2 people opposed them. We see from there the majority is not always reliable!

Some will then say that if we look at the state today and its security situation, we see that we were better off before and so even if majority doesn’t matter its clear which guedolim were right.
I think this is the biggest insult which could be said to victims of the holocaust. During the Holocaust, MANY anti-zionist guedolim told their students not to leave Poland even if they had tickets to go to what was then Palestine. They said nothing will happen in Europe and its better to stay there then join the Zionists.
The religious Zionist rabbis told their students to move to Israel.
Let me know now, who was right? Those who sent their students to the gas chambers or those who brought them to the state of Israel?

3. We need to wait for Mashiach before building a state for ourselves! The state of Israel is one big Sin!

This argument is mostly based on a gemara in Ktubot. This argument is so inaccurate I do not even want to deal with it and instead I will link here to a place I found dealt with it very clearly. But just a note:
We do not learn halacha from Gemarot. So even if it was true (and its not!) that we went against this gemara, it would still not be an issue! No possek every took this gemara as halacha.
Here are the links dealing with this issue- there is a list of 13 reasons why this argument is completely untrue:

4. How do we know Religious Zionism is right?

So, how do we know religious Zionism is right anyways?

I heard from a rabbi once:
When Moshe went to Egypt and presented himself as the savior of Am Israel, no one was sure he was the right guy. He looked Egyptian, no black hat. Why would he be the savior of Am Israel? People asked questions and these questions were fair.
However, after kriyat yam souf, after the splitting of the sea, the only people still asking questions were Datan and Aviram! And we know what the torah says of them.
Today, we are not only after kriyat yam souf, we’re in Erets Israel. Unfortunately, some Datan and Aviram is left in Am Israel.

Rav Soloveitchik used to be anti-zionist in his youth. When asked why he changed sides, he said: Before the miracles in state of Israel, there was a machloket as to whether Zionism was good or bad. After these miracles, it became clear. God was possek and he said Zionism was good!

May we all free ourselves from the sin of the meraglim, free ourselves from the sin of Datan and Aviram, and recognize the amazing miracle God has provided us which is mamash the beginning of our redemption. more...


Gavi said...

This is a wonderful post!!! I've tried so many times to explain to people the same thing, but have trouble wording it properly. You've laid it out beautifully! If its okay with you, I would like to link this article on my blog as well.

Dan said...

Its more then ok!

I'll just need to change the settings now for comments because I'm in Yeshiva for the summer and have no time to moderate and answer comments...
But please do so!

And thanks for the kind words