26 December 2017

The Middle Ground of Truth

8 Tevet 5778

Some might get the wrong idea when I talk about the "middle ground." I'm not at all talking about sitting on a fence. I'm not talking about some place of compromise between truth and falsehood. I'm referring to the balance between two extremes of truth - between pure chesed and pure gevurah.

When I talk about this middle ground of truth and how it brings together the best of both the national religious and the chareidi hashkafot - that place occupied by the chardalim - I see the national religious going to the extreme of chesed and the chareidim going to the extreme of gevurah. Some of the national religious have gone so far to the extreme of chesed that they can accept idolaters and sodomites as their "brothers." On the other hand, some chareidim have gone so far to the other extreme that they refuse to accept any non-chareidi as a kosher Jew. Some even take modesty to such an extreme that if it continues on its current path, it will see women locked behind closed doors and shuttered windows.

My life-long search for the truth brought me naturally to the chardal position without my even being aware of it - all directed, of course, by HKB"H.

Now, I mentioned that I take the middle ground within the middle ground and I want to explain that as well. Take for an example HaRav Tau's instruction to his students during the Gush Katif expulsion.
A 'gray' form of refusal
Sep 15, 2004
A surprising development occurred a few months ago behind the scenes in the world of Israel's premilitary religious preparatory centers. Several preparatory center heads met with Rabbi Zvi Tau, head of the Har Hamor yeshiva in Jerusalem, to hear his views on the issue of refusing to obey the order to evacuate a Jewish settlement. The directors of two major centers, Rabbi Eli Sadan of the community of Eli and Rabbi Rafi Peretz of Atzmona, are among Tau's staunchest disciples and operate in accordance with his directives. Their prominence has influenced the heads of other centers and, because of that prominence, Tau's position on the above issue has great bearing on all the centers.
Prior to the meeting, all Tau's students believed he firmly backed the concept of the Jewish state's sovereignty in this question: Although firmly opposed to any withdrawal from any part of the Holy Land, he also opposed any undermining of the state's sovereignty, especially any undermining of the Israel Defense Forces' authority. Thus, students at the Eli center could sometimes be heard saying, "If we have to, we will even evacuate our own parents."
However, the meeting with Tau turned out to be very surprising. He protested the "misunderstanding" surrounding his position: Explicit refusal to obey the order to evacuate a settlement was unthinkable; however, students at the centers would have to make it clear to their commanding officers that they "were incapable" of obeying such an order. Following the encounter, Sadan held a meeting with his students at Eli. He informed them that his previous directives had been mistaken and then issued new ones.
The change in Tau's position on the refusal-to-obey-orders issue has far-reaching implications. Rabbinical authority, which was supposed to counterbalance recent rabbinical rulings favoring refusal, is now encouraging a "gray" form of refusal.
So, in this instance, HaRav Tau actually found the middle ground between these two extremes - do not outright refuse orders, but do not under any circumstance carry it out either. Because this is harder to understand and requires some intense thought, there are people who prefer to go to the more clear-cut extreme - either this or that.  

I think HaRav Tau showed a remarkable vision of the bigger picture and appreciation for the possible consequences down the road. As long as we live in this quasi-democracy - and we pray daily that HKB"H will restore our monarchy as of old - we have to look also at how an outright refusal of orders may be used against us in the future. If you are going to have an army at all, you can't condone any part of it refusing orders. But, for individuals on a case by case basis saying they are incapable of carrying out an order or to refuse to serve in the first place as conscientious objectors, that is a subtle, but important distinction that many people don't want to consider because it seems like a cop-out to them. I think it shows the wisdom of his age.

On the other hand, HaRav Tal, who was the rabbi of the synagogue of Neve Dekalim in Gush Katif, was so demoralized by the expulsion that he went from one extreme to the other - from believing the State is holy to believing it is merely a means to an end and its establishment should not be celebrated.

Surely the truth is to be found in the middle ground between these two extreme positions. The State, in and of itself, is not holy, but by virtue of its historical support for Torah learning, the building of mikvaot and synagogues and ingathering of the exiles; by virtue of its being home to the majority of Jews in the world, it does have some associated sanctity. On the other hand, the destruction of Jewish homes, synagogues and mikvaot during multiple expulsions, a drive to assimilate Torah students into the army and the shmad of Israeli secular education may very well have already wiped out whatever merits may have accrued to it.

Whatever the case, however HKB"H judges its merits or demerits, the fact remains that the State of Israel would not exist had not HKB"H willed it. With holiness, without holiness, it is still the vehicle by which redemption will arrive. 

Today, we can say that it is the donkey that Mashiach will ride in on. Anyone who denies the right of the donkey to exist, will not merit to greet its rider.


  1. Surely 'truth'is found individual by individual, in each person's soul and heart, regardless of the 'label' or box they have externally?

  2. Thank you for explaining the middle ground...

  3. The Donkey is referred by Chasal to gross materiality and it's the fabric of our reality. It's not just State of Israel but It's the whole world in general . The Mashiach will be the one who has conquered the material aspects of Himself, and he will ride them, and it will be a Chamor, because it will provide him with the material as a means to His ends. In fact, the prophets use two images to describe the advent of the Mashiach. In one, he is "poor, riding on a donkey" (Zachariah 9:9); in the other, he comes "with the clouds of heaven" (Daniel 7:13). Using materiality "for the sake of heaven" will reveal "the clouds of haven”. Knowing G‑d "in all your ways" will reveal the divinity that is "riding on the donkey". And that's mean standing strong with a truth without compromising it. Like an example HaRav Tau's instruction to his students during the Gush Katif expulsion, as you mentioned. That’s how you ride a donkey! The purpose of a Jew, and every human being, is to refine the coarseness of this materialistic world, one's body, household, neuborhood, country etc. through the study of Torah and observance of mitzvos. It is only in the era of Mashiach that the superiority of the body over the soul will be fully revealed. At that time, even the highest levels of the soul will be elevated through the refinement of physicality. For this reason, Mashiach will actually ride upon the donkey.

  4. In reality, even when each of their reasonings are sincere, how does anyone or group go up against a mighty military force (there are no heroes or holiness as in the time of the Macabbees)? Salvation will only come with the coming of Moshiach Tzdkeinu. We have reached to this point, as you write, because H' brought about the rebirth as the 'State' and it will be H's servant, Moshiach, who will bring us to Eretz Yisrael and Torah. Thus, the best solution is unity of all those who stand under the banner of Torah which will hasten the geulah!