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!


  1. If Zionism is the new Judaism, then there is no barrier to the Jews who follow it, whether secular or "religious", becoming part of the new world religion where every person and every religion is equal. Everybody "entitled" to his "own truth." You can see on Jewish Israel how many rabbis (mostly anglo Modern Orthodox, but some Mizrachi Israelis) already talk about multiple covenants - everybody on his own path to God. And anyone who insists on the Torah position that there is a difference between Jews and non-Jews and "never the twain shall meet" is going to be seen as a problem.

  2. Rabbis Kook and Soleveichik, z't'l, must be turning in their graves, r'l, on how their great names have been blasphemed by the ones who use their names to promote their sick agendas. The manipulation of Torah and our great sages is as low as it gets. Your blog is a G-D sent to so many who might not know what is really happening - your mitzvah is great, Dvash.

  3. Thank you for the deep thoughtfulness of your post. I was not aware of this dichotomy in the 'religious' zone of Zionism. I thought these people were lovers of the land, believers that with the rebirth of Israel (Yehuda) we were beginning the Geulah process, and as zionists they were religious as opposed to being secular (is this the original Rav Kook vision?).

    This is the first I heard about Rabbi Melamed, etc. Amazing.

    I didn't see the leftists (as seculars) as being an offshoot of the zionists. I don't view them as zionists at all, more like people who happened to be born in Israel, but with no intrinsic connection spiritually. (early egyptians, bad for Jews)

    I view seculars differently. Some are lost little shepsela, raised without Judaism and thus estranged from the Mesorah handed down by Moshe Rabbeinu. Some are searching. Some are learning texts. They, too, are in a process of separation.

    Of course, the Maharal was on spot. And I have understood for a while that Israel needs to cut the umbilical cord to America and also its camaraderie with Europe. Jews all over the world are in need of 'making choices' about their lives, thus all the chaos to stir them up.

    However, it is not quite fair to divide them this way, as each has a neshoma and is required to fulfill their purpose in life. Each one of us needs introspection to clarify our choices, all of the time, and especially at this time of year. A thinking person will do this. But some of us would rather just float along with the majority.

    As I wrote previously, we are revisiting the days surrounding the early xtians and their influence on those early Jews. They need to see where they went astray in order to do a final teshuva.

    Also, Shmirat haBrit is in the mix, for the same reason. (as I see it)

    Moshiach will do the final birur.

  4. Anonymous in Hebrew. I could not post your comment. It has no relevance to the subject at hand. Sorry!

  5. I don't consider myself a Zionist. But i love the land of Israel and the people. This love is important, but we shouldn't make it a religion. Judaism is our path, and Israel is part of it.

  6. "Zionism," the concept that Zion is the home of the Jewish People, is simply part of the Torah.

    Many of those calling themselves Zionist, are not, separating this singular concept from the Torah, and waving around as a stand alone concept, which it simply cannot be. HaShem granted us "Eretz Tzion," and the proof of this is not found in who was here first (the Canaanites were), nor who conquered it first, last, nor in the middle. The proof is not found in any UN vote of Nov. 29 (albeit some say that this is the "permission of the kings" alluded to for our return).

    It is in what HaShem decides to do with the Land. He has given it to us. He has taken it away. He has given it back.

    I understand the argument not to bother arguing over semantics, and simply refer to ourselves as Jews, or Torah-observant Jews, and worry about differentiating ourselves from the mamlakhtim or from Neturei Karta as need be.

    Still, it irks me that the Labor Zionists have hijacked this term, and have run with it, leading many astray in the process.

    Perhaps labels do not matter so much. However, I believe it may be helpful to find a way to solve the problem of confusion Jews around the world have concerning this term, what it means, and what it doesn't me, why they should learn more about their heritage, and why they should just get on the plane already.

  7. Don't worry about it. We're all going crazy and are saying all kinds of things we regret.

    Side note, my wife and I have decided to make aliyah. We are taking 5 garbage bags a day of trash to the street. Trying desperately to sell the house. I'm convinced the end is coming soon. The economy will crash.

  8. Israel, you made me cry. That's not a side note! I wish you all the success in the world with your aliyah and I'm praying that your house will sell quickly.

    Everyone else, wonderful comments. Thank you so much!

  9. I messed up Ariel's comment, so I'm copying it here from the email:

    Ariel ben Yochanan has left a new comment on your post "A Public Apology and Clarification"...

    B"H - Esser Agaroth, Zionism is NOT part of Torah, Judaism is part of Torah. The difference? Judaism worships Hashem. Zionism "the renaissance of the Jewish people" as Rav. Kook put it: A self-serving Torah distortion of the winning mafia, that allows the nominally Jew to be a Torah-less Zionist. On the same token, if Zionism was Judaism (Hashemcracy), it would call itself Judaism, no? Thank you Tomer Dvorah for the excellent exposition of the "Clarification" part. Even if we are under Rosh HaShana, the "Public Apology" part in my view is superfluous as we are not in the realm of personal arguments, but waging Israel's four-front war against Ishmael, Edom, the Erev Rav and their helpers.

  10. BS"D

    Do you ever notice that when the Jewish nation brings something to the curb and leaves it hefker, the nations pick it out of all the rest as though it were a diamond, gold, or other precious something, to appropriate to themselves?

    I wish we would take back all our names and give these concepts different names.

    For example: "Zionism" could be called something that describes what it is: Jews in body only: JIBO. Perhaps someone can think of a better way to put it. Zion is the location of our Holy Temple, soon to be, BE"H! Why disparage it?

    The same with Israel/Israeli (from the more spiritual name of Yaakov Avinu), and even names we were given by the goyim and are now used against us, like Palestinian. I always wonder how Golda Meir could throw a name like this away. Now our enemies have everyone believing that they were always the Palestinians, and not us. Unless we can make them realize that yes, they are the true invaders, since that's what Palestinian means and they should GET THE H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEYSTICKS OUT, we should not have let them just take the name and walk away like shoplifters in a jewelery store.

    I'm not letting this go. My grandmother - my mother's mother, not some distant ancestor - was a Palestinian Jewess, born in Haifa before the British Mandate. I am sure there are many other Jews with a similar history.

    If there are any questions, I'd be happy to clarify, be"H, b"n.

    CDG, Yerushalayim

  11. Ariel,

    Zionism is supposed to the concept that Eretz Tzion is the home of the Jewish People, something which you will agree is a constant theme in the Torah.

    As the previous Belzer Rebbe once said, "I am more Zionist than the Zionists," and then proceeded to quote by heart verses from the Tana"kh with the word "Tzion" in it.

    Even Neturei Karta agree with this concept, just now with the when, how, and by whom I believe in.

    The mess the so-called "Zionists" have made of it is not Zionism,...not even close.

    The Labor Zionists are at fault, and some believe they even collaborated wit the Nazis ysh"w, and were responsible for the flow of much Jewish blood, including much of the Hungarian Haredi communities.

    They're nasty, but they're also not real Zionists. They have no interest in Israel as the home of the Jewish People, as dictated by the Torah, the only support we have for this Land being ours.

    Rather it is their goal to destroy the Torah. They have already succeeded (for now) in destroying the true meaning of what a proper Jewish homeland should be and how it should be "owned and operated."

  12. You covered a lot here, Devash. Thanks for your clarification.

    While I used to identify myself as Religious Zionist, I later realized that just as keeping the mitzvah of bal tashchit doesn't make me an environmentalist, being careful of tzaar baalei chaim doesn't make me an animal rights activist, and respecting the tzelem Elokim in every person doesn't make me a humanist....living in Israel/promoting Jewish settlement in Israel/defending the rights of Jews in Israel doesn't make me a Zionist.
    I'm a Jew. That's it.
    And yishuv haAretz is one of the many mitzvot that I try my best to follow.
    Yes, to some degree, it has become an issue of semantics, but why do we label this particular mitzvah by using a relatively new and invented term: Zionism/Tzionut? With regard to other mitzvot, we use terms such as "shomer kashrut" and "shomer Shabbat," and not being a "kosherist" or a "Sabbathist." And I know others who skip the whole dati-chareidi labeling altogether by calling themselves "shomer Torah u'mitzvot." (I like that one the best, personally.) With the mitzvah of yishuv haAretz, I don't see what is wrong with labeling myself according to the mitzvah: "I'm shomer yishuv haAretz" -- just like how I say "I'm shomer Shabbat." Or, "Sorry, but I really can't allow you to deport me from my home because I am being yoshevet haAretz right now."
    Zionism is not mentioned in the Torah, but yishuv haAretz is. I honestly don't see living in Eretz Yisrael (if one possibly can) as different than keeping Shabbat or any other mitzvah (but I do acknowledge that it is more complex to carry out).
    Chazal mention "l'aloht l'Aretz," "l'lechet l'Eretz Yisrael," "l'kvoah dirato b'Aretz," etc. But Tzionut is not mentioned in either the Torah or by Chazal.

    And one final point, if I may?
    If we would use the original term for this important mitzvah, we would also need to use the English translation "settling the Land" or "dwelling in the Land." Which would make us all "settlers" or "dwellers" -- not Zionists. Perhaps one of the reasons why "settler" has been allowed to become a dirty word, so to speak, or to only mean one specific group of Jews is because the invented word became the norm and the mitzvah word did not.

    There is a lot more one could extrapolate in changing from an invented term to the mitzvah term, but this is enough for now.

    To Israel and his wife: Heartfelt wishes for tremendous hatzlacha and bracha in the entire aliyah process!

  13. Rather like a space mission which sheds bits of the rocket on the way to it's destination, or a food item which comes with wrapping (klipah.)

    Well done Devorah, you are fighting the Wars of HaShem.

  14. Oh, brother!
    They're at it again!

    Don't they know that we already have a Constitution? It's called the Torah.