Saturday, April 25, 2009

Is Zionism Diametrically Opposed to Judaism?

Is Zionism Diametrically Opposed to Judaism?
Is Zionism Diametrically Opposed to Judaism? silvergleam These are source sheets for a lecture by Rabbi Kenneth Brander addressing the question of whether Zionism is diametrically opposed to Judaism.

And here is the last page of the sources, which I forgot to scan to the PDF; make sure you take a look at this page as well.

Rabbi Kenneth Brander presented a lecture over Shabbat entitled "Is Zionism Diametrically Opposed to Judaism?" where he went through different ideas and beliefs regarding Zionism and Judaism. To begin with, he mentioned that we must be cognizant of and respect other opinions. He then had us look through the array of sources I have provided for you above in order to explain how exactly we can be observant Jews and also Zionists. I thought this was something appropriate for people to learn before Yom Ha'Atzmaut and figured I would provide these sources for you.

To begin with, Rabbi Brander had us look at the verse in Numbers 33 stating that we shall inherit the land and live in it because God gave it to us to inherit it. We then looked at Source 2, the Ramban, who states that we are obligated in conquering the land in all the generations. This to the point that even if a man and a woman are married and one wishes to live in the land of Israel and the other does not, we permit them to get divorced so that the one who wishes to live in the land of Israel is able to do so.

However, there is then a Gemara in Ketubot 11a which states that there are 3 shvuos, three oaths. These oaths are as follows: 1) We shall not go up to the Land of Israel 2) God commanded the Jews not to rebel against the nations of the world 3) God told the idol-worshippers not to oppress the Jews too much.

Said Rabbi Brander, it is off of these three oaths that the Satmar Rav bases his idea that the State of Israel nowadays is incorrect. The Satmar Rav states that we swore that we would not go up to the Land of Israel and this is why we should not be making aliyah nowadays.

Then there is a Tosafot in Ketubot 110b (source 4) which states that Rabbeinu Chaim stated that it is dangerous to live in the land of Israel nowadays and also now it is not a mitzvah for our generation to go up to Israel because there are many mitzvot that specifically apply to the land of Israel that we will not be able to keep appropriately.

Rabbi Brander then showed us that many people who are known to assemble compilations of the ideas in the Gemara completely pass over this Rabbeinu Chaim. For example, the Rosh does not mention it (source 5). The Maharit, Rabbi Joseph ben Moses Trani (source 6) states that this statement from Rabbeinu Chaim is actually a mistake and was never said by him. Some student made an error and wrote it in, but Rabbeinu Chaim never said it. The Pitchei Teshuva in Eben ha'Ezer 75:6 (source 7) tells a story where there were people who wanted to make aliyah and the Beit Din ruled they could not due to this Rabbeinu Chaim. The higher beit din overturned this ruling and stated that these people could indeed make aliyah because this Rabbeinu Chaim is a "talmid toeh kitvo" - a student made an error and wrote it in Rabbeinu Chaim's name, but Rabbeinu Chaim never said this.

Then we come back to the idea of the three oaths that we swore. Rabbi Abraham Bornstein, the Av Beit Din of Sochaczew (source 8) states that the Ramba and all the other poskim do not bring this idea of these three oaths down by halakha.

Rabbi Ezekiel Landau (source 9) mentions that in fact, you are not allowed to learn out halakhot from the aggadic sections of the Talmud, and these three oaths appear in an aggadic section of the Talmud, so to learn halakha from them is incorrect.

This article in the Beit Yitzchak (source 3) mentions a lot of similar sources for why people should make aliyah.

Then there is the question of whether the State of Israel, such that it is, can be seen as the beginning of the redemption. Can the redemption come about through such unholy means?

Rabbi Brander mentioned that Rav Kook quoted the gemara in Sanhedrin 98a (source 12) and said that Mashiach can come in two ways- riding on a donkey or on the wings of eagles, in the blink of an eye. Why specifically does it use the language of riding on a donkey? Because a donkey is the only animal in halakha which is impure (not tahor) but nevertheless has halakhic status. We do peter rechem on a donkey- we have to redeem the firstborn donkey. Says Rav Kook, just as there is this mitzvah by the donkey, which is an impure animal, and it is accorded halakhic status, so too can we regard the secular Jews who are helping to create a State- the Ben Gurions of the age and suchlike. These people have a kind of purity to them, a halakhic status, even though they are not creating a purely Jewish/ halakhic state.

Ramban to Parshat Ha'Azinu 32:40 states that it is certain that we shall have the future redemption, and it is set in stone that it shall happen, even if we are not deserving. There is no condition that first we must all repent and then the redemption shall happen, but rather that it shall happen either way; we could perhaps hasten it if we do teshuva- but it can definitely happen. Hence there is no reason to doubt the fact that the creation of the State of Israel can be a part of the Geulah.

The Ohr HaChayim actually mentions that God first plans to look to the religious Jews to bring the Geulah, but they will ignore Him, and therefore he will turn to the sinners to do it, and they will help Him to bring it. So this is absolutely consistent with what we have seen regarding the State of Israel and its creation.

Apparently R' Aaron Soloveitchik wrote that we even see in Melachim 8 the story of Gechazi and his sons who are all lepers, and yet they are the ones who save the city (I don't understand this, as that does not seem clear to me from the pesukim, so I would say- through which the knowledge that the city is saved is brought to us. I would have to see where R' Soloveitchik actually writes this to understand better.) They decide to approach the enemy camp and discover that it is empty; the enemy has fled! And this is the same Gechazi who made Elisha look foolish before Naaman and asked for silver and presents that Elisha did not wish for, so if God can bring about the Geula through people who have actually sinned against God's prophet and against God, all the more so can He bring it through ordinary people who have not actively sinned against God, per se.

In source 16, Rabbi Tzvi Kalisher writes a letter to the Rothschilds- he was on a crusade to have the Rothschilds purchase the land of the Temple Mount; he was very concerned about Israel and was one of the first religious Zionists- so this shows that he was very much connected to this.

This is where Rabbi Brander concluded, as it was very late at night; he showed us that our Zionism is very much rooted in halakha and we can feel very comfortable stating that religious Zionism is a halakhically permissible situation.


Here is my question: The Satmar Rav must have been an extremely learned man, and I am certain he knew all of this (including the fact that people say that Rabbeinu Chaim is an error and it is not accepted, and that we do not learn halakhot out of aggadic sections of Gemara). In that case, why was he so vehemently opposed to the State of Israel? It cannot be just because he did not know this...


Erachet said...

"The Ohr HaChayim actually mentions that God first plans to look to the religious Jews to bring the Geulah, but they will ignore Him, and therefore he will turn to the sinners to do it, and they will help Him to bring it. So this is absolutely consistent with what we have seen regarding the State of Israel and its creation."

This is not saying something very positive about religious Jews...

It just makes me wonder what it is about religious Jews vs. sinners (to use the Ohr Hachaim's language) that would make religious Jews ignore God but the sinners not?

(Sorry about the spammy commenting. The comment box kept messing up the html in my comment. Grrr.)

The Talmid said...

Joel Rich answered this question a couple weeks ago here (see below). I'd add that life experiences also lead to how someone paskens - if he met Zionists who were moserim etc, could have caused him to see the Zionists in a very negative light.

I didn't notice the gemara saying he continued to rule, just that he continued to believe himself correct. Do you see it differently?

Also do you believe personality traits do not impact the positions taken by various poskim?
Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

For a history of religious Anti-Zionism that goes back way before the SR though it doesn't go in to the details of the back and forth arguments see this book-

The Talmid said...

Rav Ahron Soloveichik's article "Israel's Day of Independence: Reflections in Halachah and Hashkafah" is reprinted in his first book, "Logic of the Heart, Logic of the Mind," pp 179-196.

...According to our Sages, these four outcasts were none other than Gechazi and his three sons, who were afflicted with leprosy as a penalty for their spiritual heresy. The Rambam in his Commentary to the Mishnah in the last chapter of Sanhedrin describes them as cynics and scoffers....
We thus see that the miracle of the deliverance of all the inhabitants of Samaria was carried out through the medium of four lepers: physical lepers, yes, but above all, spiritual lepers.

The first argument, as to how any relief for the Jewish people could be realized through the medium of apikorsim (non-believers), can easily be rebutted by the precedent of the deliverance accorded the people of Samaria through the medium of the four lepers. This episode shows that no Jew can be excluded from the grace of God, that Yisrael af al pi shechata, Yisrael hu - a Jew, even though he has sinned, remains a Jew, and that there is an innate tendency towards altruism even in the heart of spiritual lepers.
It also shows that God does not exclude any Jew from salvation and He may therefore designate even spiritual outcasts as the messengers of relief and deliverance for the people of Israel. Consequently, we cannot ignore the significance of the establishment of the State of Israel simply because Jews who stand a substantial distance from any form of observance of mitzvos were at the forefront of founding the State. Perhaps the fact that nonobservant Jews are in the forefront today is a penalty for Orthodox Jewry's failure to play the most important part in the formation of the State. (pp181-2)

quoted on:

Chana said...

Hey Talmid,

Thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

To be intellectually honest I have heard some say the answer to my question is no (although I was disappointed that noone, including the baalat hablog) took up the discussion.

Question: If the answer is no, why is there not more uniformity in psak?

Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

or put another, more frum, way - perhaps his lev shel torah told him the answer, he then constructed the logic.

Joel Rich

The Talmid said...

you're welcome :-)

Chai18 said...

em habanim semaicha

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