Haredim And Israel (I)
Re reader Asher Bernstein’s April 11 letter:
I too find haredi arguments against the state of Israel to be specious at best, disingenuous at worst.
One of the most famous of such arguments is based on the midrashic tale of the newly exiled Jews taking an oath that they would not try to reclaim Eretz Yisrael on their own. The nations of the world, for their part, simultaneously vowed not to excessively persecute the Jews during their exile. One oath was contingent on the other.
First of all, the story of the oaths, as noted above, is derived from a midrash, and the Rambam and others have cautioned us not to take midrashim literally.
Think for a moment about the implications of this particular story if taken literally. Does it mean Hashem actually revealed Himself to all the nations and extracted a vow from them? How did He do so? Did every member of every nation get a vote? Did Hashem speak only to the leaders of the nations?
And if the story were literally true, would it not have been handed down in the history and lore of all those nations? What nation could possibly forget the auspicious moment when the Creator of the Universe asked it to make a vow?
And if the story is meant to be understood literally, if it happened precisely as described in the midrash and the nations actually swore such an oath, haven’t they broken it many times over? Haven’t the Jews been persecuted excessively during their long exile? Expulsions, pogroms, forced conversions, serial massacres, and of course the Holocaust – that’s not excessive?
If the nations of the world literally swore an oath not to excessively persecute the Jews, surely they’ve broken it many times over and the Jews therefore are no longer bound to their own oath not to reconquer Eretz Yisrael by force of arms.
On the other hand, if the story was not meant to be taken literally, then the oaths it describes carry no moral suasion or historical legitimacy. So either way, whether the story is literal truth or poetic metaphor, it hardly constitutes a persuasive argument against the formation of Israel in 1948.
Haredim And Israel (II)
Reader Asher Bernstein is wrong about haredi feelings concerning the state of Israel.
As believers in Hashem they can hardly (and largely don’t) deny that Israel’s military and economic successes were miraculous. Where they differ from many of us is they don’t accept the idea that the modern state of Israel somehow represents the biblical vision of a restored Davidic kingdom. They insist that the latter must be the result of the coming of Mashiach.
In the context of the draft controversy, haredim would also suggest to their critics that perhaps Israel’s successes are tied to the undeniable flourishing of Torah learning in the Jewish state. Anyway, I’ve always felt that all Jews of whatever stripe have an obligation to support their fellow Jews who are in danger.
The Fight Over The Chief Rabbinate (I)
In his April 11 op-ed article (“An Attack on Torah and Tradition”), Rabbi Yehoshua S. Hecht argues forcefully against any attempts to weaken the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.
I wonder, however, if Rabbi Hecht would be so strongly supportive of the Chief Rabbinate if it were still under the control of the Religious Zionist camp, as was the case for the first few decades of Israel’s existence. In those days, Orthodox Jews who were not Religious Zionists viewed the Chief Rabbinate as irrelevant and a tool of the Zionist government, and the rulings of various haredi rabbis were always taken much more seriously than anything the chief rabbis said.