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July 1, 2016 / 25 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Religious Zionism’

What Are They Crying About? (Conclusion)

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

The ultra-Orthodox were also on a sort of automatic pilot.

Their society did not talk about the redemptive process and all types of glorious concepts. They simply waited for Mashiach. They learned Torah, fulfilled the directive to settle the land of Israel in their own way, and protected their communities from the winds of heresy with all their might. The irreverent Zionists who suddenly decided to play state making reshuffled all their cards. After all, it cannot be that the Mashiach wears an Israeli farmer’s hat. For the ultra-Orthodox, a serene prayer at the Western Wall under the enlightened flag of her majesty is ten times better than the unnecessary wars that the “heretics” brought upon us.

But somehow, their logic continues, the “heretics” actually established a successful state. And to prove how serious they were, they even asked us to join in on the democratic game. Now that you have engaged us against our will in a state that we do not want, we will try to salvage as much as possible for our communities.

At first, it seemed that the competing religious ideology that viewed Zionism as a positive development was flourishing. The National Religious Party had 12 Knesset seats. They controlled the religious institutions. They were the source for Israel’s chief rabbis and engaged in dialogue with the state. The ultra-Orthodox approach seemed to have reached its end.

But then everything changed. The religious Zionists began to sink, their rabbis looked to the ultra-Orthodox rabbis for approval, their political institutions became increasingly less influential, the state scorned them, and their leaders paid homage to the rabbis in ultra-Orthodox Bnei Brak – not to the rabbis in religious Zionist Kiryat Moshe.

For an entire generation, it seemed that the ultra-Orthodox ideology was more realistic. Proof of that was Aryeh Deri’s consistent observation that no government could be formed without Shas – true, until the past elections. And then it turned out that a government could be formed without Shas – with those very same religious Zionists whose influence had almost dissipated.

That is how the ultra-Orthodox ideological self-confidence evaporated – to be replaced by cries of pain and insult. It is always easiest to blame the rest of the world and not to make an accounting of your own ideology. That’s fine. The religious Zionists did the same thing. But ultimately, reality prevails.

In truth, the religious Zionist ideology was not destroyed. Its foundations were genuine. Those foundations also exist in ultra-Orthodox ideology.

The religious Zionists correctly understand the redemptive process. But their abundance of love caused them to relate to the state as a means – not as an end. Danger! From this point, it is very easy to descend into a soft type of fascism. It is a kind of idol worship, as the halachic decisions made by some religious Zionist rabbis obligating soldiers to obey orders to drive Jews from their homes testify. When the individual belongs to the state and not vice versa, when the state is both father and mother to its citizens, the resulting crisis is just a matter of time.

For their part, the ultra-Orthodox correctly understand the danger of the state – any state. But they completely miss the redemptive process, leaving them outside of history and even outside of society.

Just as the Gush Katif crisis opened the religious Zionists up to their surrounding Israelis, creating diversity and new options, the same will happen now to the ultra-Orthodox. Everybody will gain from this process – first and foremost, the state of Israel and Israeli society.

The state of Israel is stuck, and not only because it does not have an answer for the missiles from Gaza. Bereft of its faith, it is incapable of dealing with all the deep-level challenges of our era. That faith, existing among believers of all stripes and all ideologies, will rise out of the crises to create a faith-based Israeli culture – a new type of vision.

Moshe Feiglin

Pesach and Solidarity

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

In Festival of Freedom, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik observes about our liberation from Egypt:

A group cannot be called am [nation] if there is no solidarity. Am is indicative of a readiness to share, a sense of compassion. The Jews were taken out of Egypt and were freed not because of their spiritual grandeur, but simply because they were charitable to one another; there was a feeling of solidarity among them.

Rabbi Soloveitchik goes on to state about solidarity in relation to the Holocaust:

If in the 1940s we had responded to the call for help that came across the ocean from the ghettos in Poland, Lithuania, and the Baltic lands, we might have saved hundreds of thousands of Jews. We did not respond to that call. I thought at the time that the Jewish community was falling apart, that there was no sense of solidarity, of being together, of suffering together. It was a terrible crime on our part…and we have not purged ourselves from the great crime we committed, tolerating the destruction of six million Jews.

As Pesach nears, these words should set our consciences aflame. Today, some of the world’s most inspirational Jews suffer continual persecution and brutality. Masked troops destroy their communities under cover of darkness and jail their children without due process, traumatizing families and empowering the enemies of Am Yisrael.

These crimes occur not under the flag of nations like Egypt or Russia, but under the flag of Israel.

We should know the name Akiva Hacohen. After this patriot warned Jews in Yehuda and Shomron about planned demolitions of homes, in August 2011 the state expelled him from his home in Yitzhar. Akiva was then jailed for espionage in January 2012.

Subsequently “released” to a house arrest with 24-hour monitoring that in effect also put his family under house arrest, the state further prohibited Akiva from using communication such as a cellular phone and the internet. “All we wanted to do was to guard the Land of Israel,” his wife Ayelet stated. “Unfortunately, this is an anti-Zionist state which abuses Jews who love the Land of Israel.”

Ayelet’s reference to “an anti-Zionist state” is a key point. Zionism means defending Jews and building Eretz Yisrael. People who hurt Jews and surrender Israel to Islamist neo-Nazis are not Zionists, no matter how fluent their Hebrew is.

We should know the names of the bulldozed Torah communities Akiva and Ayelet tried to defend—names like Mitzpe Avichai and Ma’oz Esther and Oz Zion and Ramat Migron.

Where is our solidarity for these oppressed brothers and sisters? Where are the manifestations of collective outrage?

It takes little if any moral courage to say that dead fascists and perpetrators of rocket attacks from Gaza are evil. It is another matter to confront brutality against Jews that is perpetrated by Jews. Denouncing Hitler and Hamas while ignoring Jewish enemies is outrage on the cheap.

In fact, all too often the attitude of Jews in the dati leumi (national religious) camp toward these matters is one of coarseness and evasion. “Now that it’s done, it’s done,” a dati leumi commentator said about the Shalit deal soon after it took place. Another commentator likewise reduced Gush Katif’s destruction to having been “a bad policy.” (I suppose then that England’s expulsion of Jews in 1290 was merely a bad policy.) These statements bring to mind what Rabbi Meir Kahane wrote regarding Mishlei 17:15 and 24:24-25:

[T]hose who fail to rebuke, aid and encourage the wicked to continue, and through their silence or their very timid, tepid and ‘mild’ criticism that fails to stamp the deeds as evil and as wrong, they are in effect labeling them as decent and as acceptable, thus erasing the line between good and evil.

This Pesach, let us take to heart Rabbi Soloveitchik’s words about what solidarity means for Am Yisrael and act accordingly.

Menachem Ben-Mordechai

Aliya: What’s it All About?

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

The Hebrew term “Aliya” literally means “elevation.” The term is widely used in the Jewish culture to describe being called up to recite the blessings on the Torah reading in the synagogue, as well as to describe immigration of Jewish people to the land of Israel. Each of these Aliya opportunities is considered to be a great honor.

In Jewish thought, the land of Israel is considered to be higher than the lands of the other nations. The diaspora is considered a punishment – banishment from our homeland, the special land singled out from among all others in the Bible and allocated by God himself for a nation which was also singled out for a special mission: to be a light unto the nations.

Some ponder the reason God Almighty would give this land, of all others, to the people that he loves so much. Could he not have picked one with at least some natural resources? The Arabs got the oil, the Africans precious stones and metals. What does the land of Israel have to offer?

With that in mind, the special connection of the people of Israel with their homeland is a phenomenon which is hard to explain in rational or pragmatic terms. But the fact remains that for 2000 years, the Jewish people retained their devotion to their land in a manner unique throughout all humanity. There is no other people in history that survived an exile for so long, while retaining their national identity and yearning to return to their homeland.

The Jewish people spread our in a diaspora which reached every location in the world. Three times every day, all through that time, we would turn towards the holy capital city, Jerusalem, and pray that God would have mercy on us and allow us to return to our land and rebuild our country and again live as a sovereign nation.

This new blog is about Aliya and living in the land. I will use this platform to share my own experiences and enthusiasm about this wonderful historic opportunity, as well as to discuss the unique challenges in making Aliyah and some practical aspects, in hopes of encouraging other Jews to make the move and return home to Israel.

Please feel free to ask questions.

David Ha'ivri

A Soldier Remembered in His ‘Letters to Talia’

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Considering the continued uncertainty in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition quest/negotiations, I see this as a good time to post my review of the English translation of the Israeli bestseller,  מכתבים לטליה Michtavim liTalyaLetters to Talia, by Dov IndigHaYa”D.

I remember hearing about the book when it was first published in its original Hebrew, but as usual I let news of Hebrew books fly over my consciousness, since I don’t expect to read them.  It’s not that I don’t read Hebrew at all.  My Hebrew is for labels, ads, my pay slip, letters and notices on the Shiloh email list, our weekly newsletter and the very occasional newspaper or magazine article.

I received Letters to Talia from Gefen Publishing House to review.  I don’t remember if they mailed it to me or it was one of the books I picked up from them at the Jerusalem International Book Fair.  But it really doesn’t matter how I got it, because it’s a great book and I must tell you why.

First of all the translation by Yehuda Burdman is fantastic.  I have no idea how easily the original Hebrew read, but it was a true pleasure reading it in English.  I even carried the book around with me to take advantage of a few minutes’ reading time here and there.  I don’t normally do that.  My bags are always too full and my time too short for such a luxury.  But this book followed me around for the few days it took to complete reading it.

Now, what’s it about?

Dear Dov,You must really be surprised to be receiving a letter from a girl you don’t know… Dov Indig was killed on October 7, 1973, in a holding action on the Golan Heights in Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Letters to Talia, published in his memory by family and friends, contains excerpts from an extensive correspondence Dov maintained with Talia, a girl from an irreligious kibbutz in northern Israel, in 1972 and ’73, the last two years of his life. At the time, Talia was a highschool student, and Dov was a student in the Hesder yeshiva Kerem B’Yavneh, which combines Torah study with military service. It was Talia’s father who suggested that Talia correspond with Dov, and an intense dialogue developed between them on questions of Judaism and Zionism, values and education. Their correspondence continued right up to Dov’s death in the Yom Kippur War.  (Gefen)

While readying the book my mind was full of “ifs.”  The main “if” obviously is: If only Dov Indig hadn’t been killed in the 1973 Yom Kippur War…

Indig’s analysis and predictions as to what would happen if Israel withdrew from our Land liberated in the 1967 Six Days War or what he expected would happen to the kibbutz movement, especially the secular ones, are so on target, that it’s frightening.  We, Israel and the Jewish People, lost a great and brilliant talent.  There is no other way to describe him.  Yes, you must read the book to fully comprehend what a terrible loss it was to all of us as a People and Nation that he isn’t with us today.

So many of the very best were killed in that terrible war in 1973.  My friends and I still mourn our Betar New York friends who were killed.  We get together every year at Mount Herzl to honor them.  From my perspective, having made aliyah with my husband in 1970, I can easily identify with Indig’s friends who felt it vitally necessary to publish this correspondence.

Everything Indig said about the secular kibbutz movement has happened (for instance, “I will risk a prophecy … that in the next generation most of the kibbutzniks will grow tired of the cooperative spirit and all the ideals associated with it” (page 52)).  That makes me even more curious about Talia, not her real name.  All that is revealed in the postscript is that after her National Service and subsequent army service, she returned to her kibbutz where she still lives.  In her letters, we discover that her best friend actually became religious, Talia is too attracted by the idea.  She’s infatuated with Judaism and Dov.  In her last letter, which Dov most probably never read, she tells Dov that she will fast and go to a synagogue on Yom Kippur to pray for his safety.  It’s too easy to imagine her disappointment even anger with God when she discovers that her prayers didn’t protect Dov from death.

Batya Medad

Rabbi Menachem Froman: Not What You Thought

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

First and foremost, Menachem Froman was a community rabbi who dealt with questions of what is permitted and what is forbidden.  Although he seemed to exist beyond time and space, he refused to permit anyone who arrived after sunset to hold Mincha prayers in his synagogue.

The many young people who flocked to Menachem, thinking him a great reformer, ought to take note: you can’t take home only the easy things.

When Menachem participated in Shabbat camping programs, he kept a copy of Keeping Shabbat in hand for reference when dealing with any problems that came up.  He received his ordination from two great luminaries who were exacting regarding things great and small: Rabbi Shlomo Goren and Rabbi Avraham Shapira.  And as Rabbi Moshe Levinger, who went to visit Menachem during his illness, said, Menachem was a skilled halakhic decision maker. During that visit as on many other occasions, the two old friends found themselves in a political argument.  I can imagine that was said: I had often had such arguments with Menachem in the past, ever since he went to the Madrid Conference, calling for a compromise with the Palestinians, while we terror victims took the opposite position, calling against talks with terrorist organizations.  But it was impossible to argue with Menachem for very long.  He put an end to any disagreement with a bear hug.

In Rabbi Levinger’s words, Menachem was not a great politician, but he had a big heart, which is why Rabbi Tvi Yehuda Kook loved him so much.  Because of his good heartedness, he refused to believe that it was impossible to find some good on the Palestinian side.  Menachem thought that through love and planned encounters he could reduce the tension, forgetting that one does not go to the political marketplace with love.

The Palestinians have political aspirations that do not mesh with ours, aspirations that do not allow for Jewish statehood in a place where they and Sha’ariah law hold sway, but only for individual Jews living under protection.

Those on the other side shook his hands and kissed him as is customary in the East, and some truly respected him—but they made no concessions to him.

There also were times when Menachem adopted a more hawkish stance.  He worked against the Schalit Deal with me in my capacity as head of Almagor, both in talks with politicians and with prayers.  When the deal did go through, he took it hard.

So where did his good heartedness and daring make a difference?  Among Jews.  Menachem’s approach brought to Judaism the young, the estranged, people from one end of the ideological spectrum to the other.

At his funeral, Yehuda Etzion, one of the heads of the Jewish Underground and a leader of Gush Emunim, stood side-by-side with Naftali Raz of Peace Now, who was heard to join in the singing of “A Woman of Valor,” which Menachem had instructed be sung at his funeral as a final thank-you to his wife, Hadassa.  At the words “Her children rise up and praise her,” the assembled joined his children in applause for their mother as they shouted “bravo” mid-verse.

At how many funerals have we seen a husband being lowered into his grave leave a final song to his wife, thanking her for all her long, loyal years with him?  For one who knew Menachem, it stands to reason that it was the practice at his home every Friday night to shout “bravo” for his wife: one of many novel customs that he instituted in Tekoa.

Another was to pause prayers in the synagogue for whatever comments, dancing, and hand motions came to his ever-active mind and warm heart in his very personal relationship with God.

Odd, you say?  Strange?  Menachem wouldn’t have cared.  He’d have dismissed you as “meshuga.”  Menachem transcended all that.

And what about some dignity?

That came in the form of a kind of eccentric, theatrical costume that he made out of white robes and a white shtreimel.

Theatrical, you say?  So what?  Who said it’s not appropriate to put on some theater for God and his people?  You want us to be serious all the time?  He is our father, after all.

Menachem made it legitimate for young people to experience both rises and falls in their personal and religious lives.  As one of them said to me, “His brand of religiosity allowed us, the second generation of settlers, to connect.  We became his chassidim and he became our rebbe: the rebbe of Tekoa!” So it was that last Hoshana Rabba eve, the Tekoa basketball court filled with thousands of national-religious and formerly religious Israelis of various stripes and all jumped around energetically along with him and his music stars, roaring, clapping, jumping, as Menachem moved about contentedly on the stage.

Meir Indor

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Twenty-Eight: Waiting for the Baron

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

When word arrived that Baron Edmond Rothschild was coming for a visit, with none other than the famous Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the colony turned into a frantic beehive of activity. Since the death of Theodor Herzl, Weizmann had become one of the driving forces behind the Zionist movement in Europe. The Russian-born chemist had become a leader of the World Zionist Congress, and his diplomatic skill, erudition, per­sonal magnetism, and dedication to the Zionist cause had won the respect of political leaders throughout the world. The rumor of the pending visit was started by the driver of the monthly supply wagon on one of his trips out of Zichron Yaacov. He said that the Baron and Weizmann were due to arrive in Palestine for an inspection of all of the settlements, and that the Morasha region was being considered as the next major development area of both the Keren Keyemet, Jewish National Fund, and the Jew­ish Colony Association. That meant a possible investment of millions and millions of francs to turn the quiet village of Morasha into a bustling agricultural center. The billionaire phi­lanthropist and the charismatic political leader were known to be friends, and if they were impressed by what they saw on their visit, it was almost certain that the Baron would spread money like fertiLazer throughout the hillsides of Morasha.

In the excitement, no one bothered to ask how the driver of the monthly supply wagon was privileged to such exclusive information. As the news spread from settler to settler, the dream of transforming the struggling yishuv into a model metropolis seemed absolutely assured. Someone said that the scientific-minded Weizmann planned to build a university on the crest of the Morasha hillside. Another said the area was slated to be turned into a modern industrial park. It was even rumored that the Baron Rothschild was thinking of Morasha as the site of a new summer mansion.

Hearing these wild fantasies, Tevye scoffed.

A boobe-miseh if I ever heard one,” he said. “And I sup­pose that the Mashiach is on his way too.”

His reference was to the Jewish messiah, whom the Jews had expected for two-thousand years. Faithful to the promises of the Prophets and Sages, the Jews waited for his coming every day. The Hasidim were especially on alert for his arrival. If nightfall came without a sign of his appearance, they took solace that certainly the Mashiach would come the very next day to usher in the awaited age of salvation. It was a dream Tevye had fostered every day of his life. He believed it with all of his soul. If only the Jews would return to their Maker in repentance, surely the scion of King David would come to rescue the downtrodden nation.

Tevye was far more skeptical regarding the coming of Baron

Rothschild.  But when the Company manager, LeClerc, arrived with the very same news, Tevye also caught the fast-spreading fever. His imagination proved as fertile as his neighbors. Not only would Morasha become the Paris of the Middle East, Tevye could very well become one of the wealthiest men in the region. Stranger things had happened in life. Hadn’t Joseph, the simple shepherd boy, become ruler of the mighty land of Egypt? Every schoolboy knew the story. And what was the secret of Joseph’s success? His dreams!

LeClerc assembled the settlers together outside of the barn as the sun sank over the distant ocean. The historic visit, he said, was just three days away. Because of political developments in Europe, the entourage had embarked sooner than planned. After brief stops in Rishon Le Zion and Zichron Yaacov, the Baron and the Doctor of Chemistry were arriving in Morasha to scout the site them­selves to determine if the expansive, virgin region could be transformed into a center of Jewish immigration for the hundreds of thousands of Jews whose lives were being threatened by the worsening persecutions in Russia.

Needless to say, LeClerc continued, it was imperative that the Morasha colony and its settlers put on their finest appear­ance. To this end, a shipment was due to arrive the next day with building supplies, paint, flowers and plants, new clothes for the settlers, and enough food to prepare a banquet for a king.

Tzvi Fishman

Rav Kook’s ‘The Caged Lion’

Monday, February 4th, 2013

In addition to having been a master in all disciplines of Torah, and a great visionary, Rabbi Kook also wrote many powerful and inspiring poems, expressing his passionate yearning for God. Here for your enjoyment is a short fable he penned. Unfortunately, my translation can’t compare to the beauty and depth of the original Hebrew, with its rich imagery and multiple nuances. But its symbolism and message to Diaspora Jews are obvious.

Like the lions in Rabbi Kook’s poem, may we also find the longing for freedom, and the courage to shatter the cage of our long exile, to make our way joyously back to the glorious, tree-filled kingdom from whence we came.

The Caged Lion

THE old lion is broken
Tired from his many hunters
Trapped in a narrow cage
He remembers times from his childhood
Memories of freedom
The valor of the forest.

His cubs were born in captivity
Their souls don’t feel his weariness
Yet their souls haven’t grown.
They haven’t been broken by the enemy
Because they haven’t seen battle
And the valor of the forest they don’t know.

Though the cage is narrow
It doesn’t oppress them so much,
It inhibits the wildness of their youth,
But the cubs don’t moan
Over this small matter,
And the glow in their eyes
Over this doesn’t darken.

The cubs are angry with their father,
Why is he so sunken in his thoughts
To have forgotten about life?
There still is room to frolic a little
Even in this narrow cage.
The children are astounded
When they look upon the aged lion
So stooped over and sighing.

ONCE the old lion awakened
And told his tale to the playful youngsters,
“There is a world filled with light
A place filled with liberty and freedom
A forest of great expanses,
And towering trees
How pleasant are those cedars of G-d!
The scents of the forest restore the soul
A myriad of living creatures dwell within
And everything is enlivened with the pleasures of freedom.

“And when I was your age, children,
It was there that I ruled with pride and strength
All of the forest’s warriors bowed before me.
And if not for my pursuers who shattered my bones,
And if not for this narrow cage
I would still now be ruling in the forest
And you too would be filled with freedom and pride.”

These words came forth from the old one
And the youths ceased to frolic.
Instead of joy in their eyes
A flash of revenge shone in them,
Eyes filled with fire and blood,
And with an embittered spirit and hidden rage
They tried to break
The narrow cage.

THE soul of mighty lions roared inside the cubs
And their eyes also saw
With all the same force
The kingdom of the forest.
The longings in them grew stronger
To reach the open expanses,
To the place where their old father ruled.

They couldn’t keep still in the cage
The scent of the oak trees of the forest
Filled their nostrils and lungs,
The colors of budding flowers
Held their hearts captive

Their spirits didn’t fall
And they didn’t groan
Like the elder
Whose bones had broken,
And the light of his life turned gloomy
Because of the oppression of his captors
Who turned his world upside down.
And with a yearning of spirit
Like billowing flames
Their hearts yearned for the forest.

“IF in sincerity and innocence
The forest is loved,”
The old broken lion once said,
“Then the soul of proud lions
Still beats within you,
And this the narrow cage
Won’t be your home
For you will always belong to the forest kingdom.”

The words of the elder
Strengthened the hearts of the youth,
And with the power and valor of young lions
They began to smash at the cage’s bars
With their claws, their teeth, and their roars
Frightening the captors
From their routine guard.
And with a fierce spirit raging with love for the forest
They broke and shattered the walls of the narrow cage.

SEEING the boldness of the cubs
The old broken lion was filled with courage,
And a spark of the proud lion inside him was kindled anew.
Taking a place in the front of his sons
All of his being filled with valor,
And together with a spirit of freedom
They fled to a place with freedom and light.
Hearing the roar of lions, their captors trembled in fear,
And with a proud spirit the lions went on their way
Until they came to the place of the oaks
To the castle of the lions
As it had been from time immemorial.

It was as if the old lion regained his youth
And his broken insides
Became bonded together in joy.
And he together with his cubs
Spoke victoriously to their enemies at the forest’s edge
And all the lions returned
To raise up the forest kingdom.

Tzvi Fishman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/rav-kooks-the-caged-lion/2013/02/04/

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