Why do so many Jews believe otherwise?
You should ask them.
You descend from a Chabad family and went to religious Zionist schools growing up. How would you describe yourself today?
I’m Moshe Zalman Feiglin. There’s no [label] that describes me specifically. Sometimes you can call me Chabad, sometimes you can call me dati le’umi [religious Zionist], and sometimes you can even call me not religious at all since I don’t identify with the concept of “religion.” Religion, to my understanding, is not a Jewish concept. The first person who uses the word “dati” [religious] in the Bible is Haman Harasha.
Judaism is not a religion; we should remember that. Religion is just part of Judaism that served us in the Diaspora, but when we come back to our land we should open that to a full culture because otherwise Judaism cannot fulfill its message.
There’s a reason why the punishment of not willing to go from the Sinai desert to Eretz Yisrael was much bigger than the punishment the Jews got for cheit ha’eigel [the sin of the Golden Calf]. For cheit ha’eigel – which is, so to speak, a religious sin – we can do teshuvah and start from the beginning. But when you’re not willing to go to Eretz Yisrael, you’re basically saying, “I give up on the Jewish mission” – which can only be fulfilled from the land of Israel.
Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch also disliked the word “religion” to describe Judaism since it implies that Judaism concerns only one aspect of life – the religious as opposed to the secular – when, in fact, Judaism encompasses and is supposed to permeate and inform every aspect of life. Is this what you’re saying?
We took the concept of religion from Christianity, and we should understand that this is not what Judaism is all about. It’s not just about religion. It’s much wider than that. Of course I’m not talking about giving up Torah u’mitzvot. Nahafoch hu. I’m talking about Torah u’mitzvot with a national purpose. Not just a private purpose or a family purpose, not even a community purpose – but a national purpose.
On that level it can be done only in the land of Israel with Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, and, b’ezrat Hashem, as soon as can be, the Beit HaMikdash.
Who are your heroes?
Herzl is also definitely a hero. Not that I agree with everything he said, but definitely a person with a vision who changed history. If you want to talk about non-Jews, we can talk about Churchill who saved his people from Germany.
Both your friends and enemies sometimes compare you to Meir Kahane. Do you embrace this comparison? Reject it?
You can find places where we say the same things. You can also find places where we are different. I was in the army when Meir, Hashem yikom damo, was [most] active, so I didn’t get to know him so well. But I can definitely say that the slogan “Kahane tzadak – Kahane was right” has proven itself many times.
When you first started your campaign to become Israel’s prime minister, terrorism was rampant and Israel’s leaders were constantly negotiating to surrender land to the Arabs. Matters seem to have improved somewhat since then. For people who only care about land and security – rather than the ideological vision you outlined earlier – why is it important that you become prime minister?
Well, I don’t agree with the way you describe the situation. Just a few months ago, we had missiles being shot from Gaza at Tel Aviv. It reminds me of the joke of a person falling from the roof of a skyscraper and somebody in the middle of the building is looking from the window and asks him, “How is it going?” and he says, “So far so good.”
Israel is being targeted by terrorists and losing its credibility all over the world. We have the strongest economy; we have accomplished miracles. But we have also lost our roots and our ability to justify our existence. We definitely need Jewish leadership.
Do you genuinely believe you will become prime minister one day?
I have no doubt that sooner or later Israel will have Jewish leadership.
About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and holds a Masters degree from Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel School of Jewish Studies.
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