07 September 2014

A Public Apology and Clarification

12 Elul 5774

In the spirit of Elul, I would like to apologize to anyone who was offended by this comment which I published last week:
What we've really got here is a clash of values between two religions - traditional Torah Judaism and so-called Religious Zionism. Many settler-type Jews have unfortunately been converted over to Religious Zionism which is as idolatrous in its own way as Xianity, hence the compatibility between the two. This is how HaIvri, Medad, etc can call Tommy Waller their "brother" while they disrespect and insult and ridicule a good Torah Jew like Ariel Ben Yochanan. I see that it is useless to quote Torah to these adherents of this new false religion because very simply it is not their authority. The rabbis of the Kook-persuasion who have propagated this new false religion are their authorities. And it is enough to just throw out the names and the title rabbi is supposed to awe us. No need to actually find and quote authentic traditional Torah sources. If you really begin to examine these two groups, you will find that HaIvri and Lipkin and Medad and so many others from YoSh really have converted over to another false religion and they now have much more in common with their Xian "brothers" than with the likes of us - the lovers and upholders and defenders of authentic Torah Judaism.
Although I did use the qualifier "many" so as not to paint an entire community with the same brush, I see that the accusatory tone which came across negated it. It was very wrong of me to throw such deep issues into such an off-the-cuff remark. Please allow me to expound on these thoughts.

There is a large and growing group of Jews who self-identify as "Religious-Zionists" who believe that they can and should make common cause with so-called "Xian-Zionists" around the Zionist values of land, state and army. We saw in a recent IDF ad how there are now even "Muslim-Zionists" who are serving in the supposedly Jewish State's defense forces. It was the ad's statement, "Zionism is more than a religion," which got me thinking along these lines. 

It brings up questions like... Can Zionism be a religion and if so, is it? So, then, what about religious Zionism? How does Zionism redefine Judaism? It has its own definition of Who is a Jew? and Who is a righteous gentile? (All it takes is to be "a lover and supporter" of the Zionist State of Israel) Moshe Feiglin has said that Yad Vashem is the Zionist Temple.

Everyone knows that secular Zionists idolize democracy (along with its two sisters, tolerance and diversity), the IDF, the flag, and many other symbols of statehood. As far as I can see, a great many Religious-Zionists are only distinguished from secular Zionists by their adherence to certain mitzvot. But, when Torah values come into conflict with Zionist values - like the admonition to remain separate from gentiles; not to socialize with them or build relationships with them and not to allow them to practice avodah zarah in our holy land - the Zionist-democratic values win out.

I made reference to "rabbis of the Kook-persuasion" who are encouraging this view of Zionism among their students. I was speaking, of course, of Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav which has been viewed as the flagship yeshivah for the teaching of Religious-Zionist ideals. (It was in no way intended to cast any aspersions upon Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, ztz"l.) It is where Rabbi Eliezer Melamed began his studies. He is not only the Rav and Rosh Yeshivah of Yishuv Har Brachah. He is the one who put a kosher stamp of approval on Tommy Waller's HaYovel. Har Brachah is also where the HaYovel Xian encampment has been established with Rabbi Melamed's blessing.

So, my words tarred the entire yeshivah, for which I woul like to publicly apologize. But, bear in mind also, that I had in the back of my mind this very important shiur which I learned from Rav David Bar-HayimRedefining Religious Zionism - a Critique of Mercaz HaRav

I think if you will also re-read a post I wrote two years ago (Dangerous Ideas), it will give you an even better idea of what forms the basis for my thinking.

All of that said, it could not be clearer that the times are changing and that we are all being brought to a point of clarification where we muct choose sides. I do not believe that it is any longer going to be possible to call oneself both a Torah Jew and a Religious-Zionist. This reminds me again of what the Maharal said of the secular state, four hundred years before it was established...
(As written by Rav Aryeh Carmell) Maharal's vision is guided by veiled hints in the Midrash: the "Kingdom of Israel" itself undergoes development. In its immature stage it forms part of the Fourth Empire, and only when it reaches maturity does it throw off this attachment and emerge as "the holy kingdom of the Messiah". (Kingdom is, of course synonymous with "state".)

Maharal continues: So long as the kingdom of the Messiah has not yet reached perfection, the kingdom of the Messiah is attached to Edom (nigar el Edom) ...The holy kingdom of Israel... must grow out of the non-holy kingdom that preceded it.
Maharal, in a telling parable, describes the relationship between the embryonic "kingdom of Israel" and its "Edomite" environment: Fruit grows within a husk; when the fruit ripens the husks falls off... So it is with Israel. Their kingdom emerges and grows from within the kingdom of the nations i.e., from the existential power of the kingdom of the nations, and from their level, it raises itself to a higher level. And when the kingdom of Israel reaches complete maturity the kingdom of nations is removed, just as the husk is removed, and falls off when the fruit reaches its perfection.
...The Messianic revolution will take place in the hearts and minds of the people. The "falling off of the husk" does not refer to a political or military event, nor does "kingdom of the nations" refer to a political entity. The husk refers to the value system of the Western world. The falling off of the husk signifies the victory of spirituality over materialism, faith in G-d over unbounded trust in one's own power, and awareness of divine providence over belief in blind chance.
Yet it appears that the "kingdom of Israel" in its infancy (and here "kingdom" means both state and cultural entity) is still definitely "attached to Edom". Could Maharal, from his 16th century vantage point, be referring to the reality of the State of Israel today?
I think we are very close to the moment in time when real Torah-faithful Jews will let go of the "Religious-Zionism" term and the Erev Rav among us who are part of that group will cling ever more tenaciously to it as it really defines them. Because, let's face it. Zionism created a way to be Jewish without the Torah. And if you want to appear "religious" or even be a rabbi without obligating yourself to those mitzvot which are impossible to reconcile with Western values, there's no better home for you than Religious-Zionism.

Also, see again my blog post on Revolutionary Zionism.

The most important thing that I hope for all of you to take out of all this is the following...

As the world unites more and more, and certain Jews with it, know that Hashem is calling His children to SEPARATE more and more to maintain our unique distinction as a light to the nations.

Shavua tov!