29 July 2019

Messianic Moves (Part 1 of 2)

27 Tamuz 5779

I introduced my readers to Rabbi Tzvi Yisrael Tau in this Tevet 5778 blog post:
HARDAL: Bringing Together The Best From Both Worlds?
As I mentioned near the end of that post: "In my considered opinion, these are the people to be watching for a glimpse of Mashiach."  I still believe that and this is why I believe his formation of a political party called "Noam" is worth talking about.  But first, some more background.
Zvi Yisrael Thau ... was born in Vienna to parents who emigrated from Galicia at the end of the First World War. His father, Avraham Adolph Thau, was a banker, and his mother, Judith Yutah Meisels, was a chemist. After the Anschluss, the family left for the Netherlands, and during the Holocaust they were hidden by a local family in Hilversum. They were saved, among other things, due to his mother's resourcefulness.

His sister Eveline related: "In June, 1943, there was a large Aktion [round-up of Jews to be deported] and we were saved thanks to our mother, who was a chemist. She managed to disguise us as measles patients and hung a sign on the door: 'Beware. Contagious disease'."

After the end of the war, Thau studied in a public school, where he was exposed to philosophy. At the age of 17, after his mother's death, he immigrated to Israel despite his father's objections, due to his refusal to complete a matriculation certificate prior to immigration. His father and sister moved to the United States during this period.

After making aliyah to Israel, he studied at Yeshivat HaDarom under Rabbi Yehuda Amital. He related that Rabbi Amital invested a great deal in his absorption and introduced him into the world of Torah and specifically to Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook's teachings. After one year, he went to study at Yeshivat Mercaz Harav in Jerusalem.

From the 1960s, Thau held a position of influence at Yeshivat Mercaz Harav. He is considered by many to be the leading disciple of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, the dean of Mercaz HaRav.

In 1997, Thau strongly opposed the introduction of an academic framework - plans to integrate a teaching institute - into Mercaz HaRav. As a result of the disagreement, he, together with six senior lecturers and many students, left the yeshiva and established the Har Hamor yeshiva. (The name "HaMoR" is also a Hebrew acronym for "Successor to Mercaz Harav".) While he is not involved in Har Hamor's day-to-day management, Thau is the ultimate authority in ideological matters.  (Source)
Who is Rabbi Zvi Tau and why is he so essential for understanding the growing rifts between extremists and centrists in the Zionist-religious sector?

Until a decade ago, leaders of the hardal – an acronym for haredi dati leumi, or haredi national-religious – community, representing some 15% of the Religious Zionist public, did not take serious steps toward realizing their political vision for the country, but many seem to think that they are stepping up their game.

Yoav Sorek, a former editor at the Makor Rishon daily, points his finger toward Rabbi Zvi Israel Tau, the spiritual shepherd of the hardal sector, who was often quoted making harsh statements against the way the state is run. He described Israeli reality as a “cultural war” and said his public is under “existential threats” by the secular world.

...Over the past 20 years, Tau has built what some call a small “empire.” Other than Har Hamor, there are few other institutions where Tau’s leadership is taken very seriously, such as Yeshivat Midbara K’Eden in Mitzpe Ramon or the pre-military academy Bnei David at the Eli settlement, nicknamed “the military wing of Har Hamor.”

It is thus nicknamed because it is not as rigorous as other yeshivot and is directed toward making the young men into good soldiers and, indeed, it is regarded as very successful in this regard.

These institutions are not officially part of his so-called “empire,” but are perceived as carrying his ideological line.

TAU RARELY directly intervenes in politics, but indirectly is a different story.

He makes sure that his opinion is heard on specific politicians and topics. According to sources who prefer to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issues, Tau holds weekly meetings with his closest followers where he lays out his agenda.

In a lesson he taught in 2013, he harshly criticized the head of the Bayit Yehudi Party and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, saying he “doesn’t have the smell of Torah. You can easily tell that he didn’t pass through the gates of Torah. This is the man who would guard the Torah?” Tau also made a point of clarifying his position on Jerusalem’s annual gay parade, explaining in a pamphlet circulated online and in synagogues, why and how homosexuality is an “abomination.”

During the past three years, a movement arose among yeshiva graduates that, according to many people, acts under his leadership. These graduates have created a number of organizations that not only focus on self-education in their own communities, but also aim to “educate” a greater share of the public.

Among these organizations, LIBA stands out.

LIBA’s official purpose is to “augment the holiness of the state so that the Torah and the mitzvot will lead the path.”

It is run by Rabbi Yaakov Dvir of Yeshivat Midbara K’Eden, which publishes articles on topics such as Reform Jews’ religious rights, military service by religious women, and the status of the state’s rabbinical courts.

LIBA activists have told The Jerusalem Post Magazine that many of those who participate in the organizations and campaigns see themselves as followers of Rabbi Tau. Bar-Ilan University political science professor Asher Cohen told the Post that “these activists are not only working together, but they are all the same people.”

By “same people” he alludes to those who are behind LIBA’s sister organizations, Hotam (Teach First Israel or TFI), launched in 2010, and Tzav Ehad – that monitors violations of Jewish religious rights in the army, and runs a hotline for soldiers’ complains – and the Brothers in Arms campaign – a handsomely funded short-lived campaign that called for limiting female soldiers’ service options in the army. Hotam made headlines this year after it uploaded an animated video allegedly showing the hardships of being a religious woman in the army that was clearly aimed at discouraging women from serving in the military.

...The sudden appearance of these organizations during the past two or three years and their strategic choices to impact the general pubic discourse perhaps have something to do with the change in Tau’s reading of Israeli reality....

...Asked the same question he raised two years ago, Sorek said that, “The Religious Zionist camp is still driving toward a crisis. Nothing too dramatic has happened yet. The mainstream Religious Zionist leaders haven’t yet spoken out against the hardalim. There is a desire to hold things together, at least from the point of view of the mainstream leaders. On one hand, it looks like we are heading toward an unavoidable, deep division; on the other hand, this very much depends on Rabbi Tau.”

Tau himself doesn’t speak with the press. One of his closest followers, Rabbi M., told the Post that he cannot be interviewed or answer any question, since this is against Tau’s orders and that no one from Tau’s inner circles would talk to the press. He also insists that “it’s impossible to understand anything about Tau’s aims,” since he exists on a “higher sphere of being,” a different reality of sorts, incomprehensible to anyone without “at least 10 years of study.”

Nonetheless, Tau and his followers are trying to affect the everyday lives of Israelis who didn’t choose to study with him. In a recent pamphlet funded by real-estate mogul Yisrael Zaira and distributed in synagogues, Tau articulated his position on various toxic topics and explained the steps needed so that the Jewish people realizes its anticipated redemption.

In this sense, his Jewish political thought is far from ultra-Orthodoxy, which by and large believes that Jews shouldn’t rush the coming of redemption, but only wait for it patiently. In the pamphlet, Tau states that the Zionist secular ideologists and leaders such as Ahad Ha’am and David Ben-Gurion were infidels, that today a small group of lefty fanatics is trying to sabotage the process toward redemption, that the IDF is “in bad hands” and that it is time to respond to trends that are corrupting society. Curiously, despite his purist opposition to Western culture, Tau draws comparisons between Israel and ancient Athens and quotes from Plato’s Republic.

According to the political theology of Religious Zionism, the creation of the State of Israel was the first step toward redemption, even though it was made possible by secular Zionists. Rabbi Kook and his son, Zvi Yehuda, believed that it is crucial to join forces with the secular Zionists in order to ensure the Jewish state’s success. Rabbi Eli Sadan, co-head of the yeshiva at Eli, recently authored a manifesto of sorts titled “A call for direction for Religious Zionists,” in which he acknowledges the ineptness of religious political movements in creating a state in years past and the triumph of secular Zionism.

He concludes that it is time for Religious Zionism to take charge of the country through key positions in the military, state institutions, the judiciary and education.

“We should do today what we didn’t do a hundred years ago,” he writes.

“This is the real solution for the problems of the hour.”

...Rabbi Tzvi Kustiner, a student of Tau’s who heads Yeshivat Midbara K’Eden, also teaches in the official military course for IDF rabbis. A Ynet article from this January reported that he preaches against military service by women, that it is okay to shoot uninvolved citizens in a time of war (which is against open-fire regulations), and that non- Jews should be kicked out of the army.

It’s difficult to determine the magnitude and impact of these changes.
Some see this newly forged alliance as an unprecedented threat to the pluralism of Religious Zionist society. Hanan Mendel, the director of Ne’emanei Torah Va’avodah, told the Post that never before had ultra-Orthodox and hardal rabbis seen things eye-to-eye like this.

Sorek, however, maintains that, “while the hardal is a loud voice heard among Religious Zionists, and that many educational institutes and teachers share their ideology, it’s important not to exaggerate. It still doesn’t mean more people are turning to them.”
With the abdication of Yachad (whom HaRav Tau supported) under the leadership of Rabbi Mazuz and Eli Yishai just prior to the most recent (failed) election, those Torah Jews who share this vision were left politically homeless.  But now, Rabbi Tau has formed "Noam" which we will talk more about in Part 2.


  1. Excellent. Halevai, the truly religious zionists and all stripes of religious Jews would wake up and join forces under the leadership of this wise Rav. It sounds like he could be MBY. Agree with everything he stands for. The secular zionists have completed their role by taking us to the point of being accepted by the nations and building up the state. Now they have become a detriment to the real reason we have come home and their time of rule is finished and the real Jews will begin to rule and bring in the Geulah Shleimah. If the religious zionists do not unite and allow the Erev Rav to continue to rule, the medina will c'v descend into an abyss of c'v, no return, which, of course, H' will not allow. Very happy you are publicizing this important information. Yasher koach!

    1. Thank you so much, Moshe, for your continued and enthusiastic support. :-)

  2. Great article !!! He is one of a small handful to step up to the plate in these terrible times !! Can't let the bad guys win Rav Tau … Keep up the great work Devorah . Yehuda Richter

    1. Many thanks for your guidance and encouragement, Rabbi.