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October 14, 2015 / 1 Heshvan, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Religious Zionism’

Religious Pluralism Within Orthodoxy

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Gil Student’s recent review of a book about Orthodox pluralism (R. Yisroel Miller’s In Search of Torah Wisdom: Questions You Forgot to Ask Your Rebbi) got me thinking about my own view on this subject.

Pluralism begets unity or Achdus.

There are different kinds of Achdus. We can be bonded by a wide variety of commonalities. We can all be united as human beings. There is also a sense of unity that we should feel as a people regardless of our ideology.

It is also legitimate to speak of unity within a defined segment of Judaism. Indeed even within segments there is a sense of unity that is often eluded. There can for example be a right and left even within Religious Zionism.

I have always sought to unite all of Orthodoxy. This includes even Satmar Chasidim, and the right wing Yeshiva world on the right – all the way to Left Wing Modern Orthodox (LWMO) movements represented by people like Rabbi Avi Wiess and his Yeshiva, YCT. The common bond being belief in the Torah and adherence to Halacha.

One may wonder about this considering my recent very harsh criticism of Satmar. Or my occasional strong criticism of some of innovations of the left – like the attempt to ordain women. Or my strong criticism of price tag raids by settler movements (consisting of extremist Religious Zionists) in Israel. The fact is that my criticism remains but it does not contradict my belief in a pluralistic Orthodoxy.

I disagree with the ideology of those to my right and my left. But I respect them all in the sense of Elu V’Elu. For example, I understand the Satmar objection to the existence of the State of Israel. It is based on the how Satmar interprets passages in the Gemarah. I have no problem with those who have this Hashkafa.

Nor do I have a problem with the belief of those religious Zionists who believe that we must settle all the land of Israel; that it is Halachically forbidden to cede an inch of the holy land that is now in our hands; and that we must risk our very lives to retain it. That is based on interpretations of Halacha.

Even though I disagree with both of those positions, I respect them. My only problem is when they act on them in ways that impinge on the rights of others or create a Chilul HaShem. It is trying to impose one’s religious values upon others that upsets me. Not the ideologies themselves. Ideologies, yes. Bad behavior, no.

Achdus, unity, or pluralism is not about agreement. It is about tolerance and acceptance… and the humility to understand and accept that we might just be wrong and someone else might be right.

This does not mean that one has to be apologetic about one’s strongly held views. One can argue his views with those of different Hashkafos and try and convince them of the rectitude of their own. Perfectly legitimate. I would even go a step further that if one has strongly held beliefs one ought to be able to make the case for them to a friend with different ideologies. At the same time, one must respect he views of others even if you think they are wrong. They too have thought things through and have arrived at a different conclusion that you have. In other words it is all about respecting the wisdom of others even when disagreeing with them.

On this level I respect the Hashkafos of Haredi thinkers. And I respect the Hashkafos of LWMO thinkers even though I disagree with them and agree with Centrist thinkers. Elu V’Elu is what it’s all about for me. My harsh criticism is reserved for extremist behavior that is a result of those Hashkafos – even if it is from my own.

Many in the Satmar community’s behavior with respect to sex abuse or right wing Religious Zionist settler behavior that results in a Chilul HaShem will raise my hackles every single time. Not the beliefs that generate them. One can be a principled pluralist – to use Gil’s expression – without rejecting the Hashkafos of others. There is no need to try and reconcile such wildly disparate views.

Warning! Xmas!

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

With Santa Claus scheduled to arrive any minute, here are a few pre-Xmas warnings. Be sure to stay away from Xmas parties, non-kosher wine, frivolity, and kissing Suzy under the mistletoe. If there’s a Xmas party at the office, tell them you have a stomach ache. On Xmas day, keep as far away from their festivities as possible. Since Christians are considered idolaters, on their holiday it’s best not to have any business with them at all (Rambam, Laws of Idol Worship, Ch.9, 1-4).

Don’t be fooled into thinking that those twinkling Xmas lights are romantic, and that exchanging gift-filled stockings and candy canes is a harmless gesture of love. Remember, in the name of brotherly love, the Xtrians massacred millions of Jews throughout history. The color red that you see everywhere at Xmas-time is the blood of the Jews.

If I were in the Diaspora on Xmas, I’d spend the whole day locked in the john. It’s a lot purer there than out on the street. Xmas is the most impure day of the year. Its cloud of impurity is 100 times greater than the radioactive cloud that spread out over Hiroshima after the bomb was dropped. All over the world, in America, and Europe, and countries all over the globe, hundreds of millions of people are paying homage to Western civilization’s best loved idol worship.

The prohibition against idol worship tops the list of the Ten Commandments. No one is allowed to make or worship a graven image. As the Rambam explains, “The essential principle concerning idolatry is that people are not to worship anything created – neither angel, planet, star, the elements, or something derived from them.” That includes worshiping a man, and bending down to a statue, and praying to Buddhas, Hindu monkey gods, totem poles, crucifixes, and the like. I would post a few photos in illustration, but it is even forbidden to gaze upon the picture of an idolatrous figure, as it says, “Turn not after their idols” (Vayikra, 19:4. See Rambam, 2:2, loc. cited).

In Rabbi Kook’s writings on Christianity, he explains that it began as a break-away sect of Judaism which grew in influence and ultimately led the world astray with its doctrines. He categorizes it as idol worship, and says that its founder brought the majority of the world to err by serving a god other than the Almighty. By abandoning the mitzvot, Christianity enshrouded the world in a seemingly legitimate offshoot of idol worship. While imitating many of Judaism’s values and beliefs, Christianity actually led the world away from the true service of God.

Referring to Christianity’s renegade founder, the Rambam writes: “Can there be a greater stumbling block than this one? All of the Prophets spoke of the Messiah as the redeemer of Israel, and its savior, who would gather the dispersed and strengthen their observance of the commandments, while this one caused the annihilation of Israel by the sword, and caused its remnants to be scattered and scorned. He caused the Torah to be altered, and brought the majority of the world to err, and to serve a god other than the Lord…” (Laws of Kings and Their Wars, Uncensored version, Mosad HaRav Kook edition, Ch11).

This is what we affirm several times a day in the concluding“Aleynu” prayer. The following verse is deleted in many prayer books used in the Diaspora, but here in Israel, we say it concerning the nations, “They bow down to vanity and emptiness, and pray to a god that cannot save.”

The “Aleynu” prayer expresses our heartfelt wish that idol worship be uprooted from the earth, and that the world come to understand that God alone is the One and Only King, “We hope, therefore, Lord our God, soon to behold Your majestic glory, when the abominations will be removed from the earth, and the false gods exterminated; when the world will be perfected under the reign of the Almighty, and all mankind will call upon Your Name, and the wicked of the earth will be turned to You. My all the inhabitants of the world realize and know that to You every knee must bend and every tongue vow allegiance….”

There is no question that we have a lot of problems and challenges facing us in Israel, but at this time of the year, I have to take time-out from the headlines to thank Hashem for granting me the incomparable blessing of living in His Holy Land, and not in the spiritually polluted lands of the Diaspora, where Christmas is being celebrated in all of its insidious force and make-believe holiness.

Why Should I Move to Israel?

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Recently, I received an email from a reader who admitted being troubled by a lot of the new understandings of Judaism he was encountering for the first time in my Jewish Press blogs. He asked me a question that I have heard from other people as well. It may very well be that hundreds of thousands of Diaspora Jews have thought about the very same question at one time or another, so I’m sharing my answer with everyone.

Question: We live in a thriving Orthodox community in Monsey, New York. It offers the best in Jewish education for our children, a wide gamut of synagogue activities for the whole family, Torah classes throughout the day, and real joy during the Jewish holidays, all of which foster a sense of Jewish identity and pride. Why should we move to Israel where the influence of the secular Israelis is so pervasive, and where our spiritual (and physical) well being will be jeopardized?

Answer: There aren’t any spiritual dangers living in America? Is Monsey so hermetic that you don’t feel the influence of the Christian culture that surrounds you? For instance, if you have to leave your shtetl at this time of year, aren’t you immediately confronted by Santa Clauses and mangers? And if my memory serves me right, wasn’t some synagogue in Monsey torched not long ago, and a giant Chabad menorah vandalized? And aren’t there also secular Jews in Monsey, and in the surrounding towns, and on the campuses where your children go off to college? Not to mention their non-Jewish friends and the skyrocketing rate of intermarriage, which hardly exists in Israel.

Furthermore, if you enjoy your life in the ghetto, we have dozens of Monsey-like communities in Israel that dwarf Monsey in size and in religious observance, places like Mea Shaarim, Geula, Ramot Dalet, Bucharim, Sanhedrin Muchevet, Romema, Har Nof, Bnei Brak, Betar Illit, Modiin Elite, and the dozens of Orthodox settlements in Yesha, Haredi and Dati Leumi alike. In almost every city in Israel, there are Orthodox neighborhoods which offer everything you describe, with the added bonus of being in the Holy Land.

Don’t make the mistake of underplaying the holiness of the Land of Israel. Nothing in the world compares to it. Just look at the Torah portions that we have been reading. When our forefather, Yaacov, awakes from his famous dream, he realizes that he is in the “House of God” and at the “Gateway to Heaven.” Can Monsey boast that? And notice how the angels of the Land of Israel refuse to accompany Yaacov in his exile from the Land because of the spiritual impurity of the Diaspora. And our Sages teach us that on his return home to Israel, Yaacov feared Esav, even though Esav was a wicked man, and even though Hashem had promised to guard Yaacov, because all the time that Yaacov was away, Esav had the merit of observing the commandment of living in the Land of Israel, which is equal in weight to all of the commandments of the Torah. And see how Yaacov made Yosef swear to bury him in Eretz Yisrael, and not in Mitzrayim, so his offspring would always remember that the Land of Israel was their home, not impure foreign lands.

But beyond these reasons for living in the Land of Israel, I am afraid that your understanding of Judaism is incomplete. Judaism isn’t a private religion such as Christianity, Protestantism, and the like. Judaism is the NATIONAL CONSTITUTION of the Nation of Israel that is to be played out in Jerusalem and over the mountains and valleys of Eretz Yisrael. In addition to private individual commandments like tzitzit, tefillin, and keeping kosher, Judaism includes commandments for the Jewish Nation as a whole, like conquering and settling the Land of Israel, enlisting in the Jewish army, rebuilding the Temple, establishing the Sanhedrin and Jewish Monarchy, and keeping the agricultural mitzvot that are dependent on the Land.

The proper understanding of Judaism is that each individual Jew put his life in line with the goal of the Nation of Israel as a whole (the Clal), and not just live a private, ritual Judaism, practicing personal precepts, stripped of our national essence. The Jewish People are to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, and this can only be accomplished in our national format in the Land of Israel, as it says, “For the Torah shall go forth from Zion, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem.” When we choose to dwell in foreign lands, instead of in the Land that God promised us, it makes Hashem seem weak in the eyes of the gentiles, as if He lacks the power to keep us in our own Land, and this is a Chillul Hashem.

We Ain’t Got a Soul in America

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

In our previous blog, where we saw how the prophets of Israel and our greatest Rabbis described the exile as a zombie-like existence for the Jewish People, because when we are scattered in foreign lands, our national format is destroyed, and we are left like dry lifeless bones. To understand this more deeply, we will continue with our translation of the book, “Binyan Emunah,” by Rabbi Moshe Bleicher, a longtime student of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, and Rosh Yeshiva of the Shavei Hevron Yeshiva in the city of Hevron.

Please note that these are very deep matters, and our condensed excerpts from the book don’t present the total overall picture that readers will glean from the entire book itself.

From the Chapter, “Exile and Redemption”:

In order to understand why the exile is a situation of death for the Jewish People, we have to first meditate on the meaning of life. As much as life is familiar to us, there is a secret of life which we cannot fathom, and this is the force of life itself, a Divine Creation.

An example will make this clear. A human being’s body contains many organs, some of which are extremely complicated and sophisticated. For instance, the eye is an advanced optical mechanism which functions in a wondrous manner. However, if we were to remove the eye and mount it on a wall to serve as a security camera, the eye wouldn’t work at all. Only through its connection with the body, and with the general life force that exists in it – the soul – can an eye fulfill its function.

Why is this? Isn’t the eye sophisticated enough to operate by itself? Is the fact that it can’t function apart from the body a sign that it is a more primitive mechanism than some electronic optical devise which can? No. The reason that the eye cannot function without it being attached to the body is because the eye isn’t a private organ which exists by itself. This is also true for the other organs of the body – the ear, the brain, the heart, etc. If you were to take out all of the organs of the body and connect them together, a man wouldn’t result – only a big, lifeless doll. The thing which gives man his essence as a man is the general life force inside of him. This is what enlivens and operates all the organs of the body, determines their function, and also gives man his consciousness as a man. Isn’t the eye which sees, and the ear which hears, but rather, the general force of life in a man, his soul, which hears via the ear, and sees via the eye.

Just as a life force animates an individual, the same is true for the Clal, for Am Yisrael, as a Nation. Hashem created us as a Nation at Sinai, to sanctify His Name in the world – precisely in our National format in Israel, and not in the wilderness of Sinai, or in other foreign places in the world. Am Yisrael is capable of illuminating existence by revealing the Divine Ideal in life, and through this, to raise existence out of its darkness, and to attach it to its Divine Source. The nations of the world also call upon the Name of God and praise His greatness, but in the very same breath, they are capable of murdering millions and carrying out the most savage and bestial acts. In contrast, when Am Yisrael calls upon the Name of G-d, it is to reveal and establish the Divine Ideal and Morality in the world, with the altruistic aspiration of bettering the life of all mankind.

This lofty moral recognition is the innovation which Am Yisrael brings to the world. “This Nation have I created for myself, they will declare My praise.” The ability of Am Yisrael to declare the praises of Hashem, to illuminate the world and liberate it from its truncated framework of private interests and egotistical concerns, from its bondage to individual lusts, by attaching all of the forces of life to their ideal Divine Source, this stems from the unique vision of Am Yisrael that recognizes the existence of a single unifying Divine Goal which stands at the foundation of the world – the recognition that there is a single unifying force of life that lends ideal meaning to all of the details of life. This is a great Kiddush Hashem, the ability to reveal in life the Universal Unity which gives life to everything.

The Soul of Existence, the Ideal Goal which stands at the foundation of life, is not a mere spiritual thing, but rather a powerful and dynamic life force which activates all of the wheels and gears of existence, pushes them toward greater and greater perfection and expression in life. For example, with an apple tree, the “goal of the tree” isn’t an abstract matter, but a concrete life force which dictates the stages of the tree’s development up till the appearance of its fruit. Similarly, the soul of a person isn’t a spiritual entity disconnected from the body and its powers, but is the very life force which activates and gives meaning to every organ and faculty of life. This same understanding holds true for the Soul of Existence as well.

Applying this metaphor to the world, Am Yisrael is the “body” which is able to absorb this Inner Truth that there is a Divine Soul to existence, and which is able to attach all branches of life to their inner, general, all-encompassing, Clalli, Source. This Clalli Soul appears in Am Yisrael as a dynamic and empowering life force. This is what gives the Nation its life, and from its driving force, the Israelite Nation has the motivation and willpower to establish and build a State in its Land, an army, and a thriving economy. All of its National life surges forth from this inner, exalted Truth, to the point where the Nation of Israel has no private, egocentric interest in attaining glory and accolades on the stage of history, but only to sanctify the Name of God in the world, and to reveal how all of the systems and frameworks of life, with all of their details, stem from the ideal, universal, Divine Life-Force which activates all of existence.

As we mentioned, the principle Kiddush Hashemoccurs when we reveal how the Source of Divine Unity stands behind all of life, uniting everything. Am Yisrael was created to illuminate this Truth, to declare the praises of God. When Am Yisrael gathers in its Land, every Tribe in its inheritance, and with the Beit HaMikdash rebuilt on the Temple Mountthis Clallilife-force appears in the life of the Israelite Nation, in all aspects of its National existence, in their most ideal and healthy format.

Like with an individual man, whose soul gives life to all of his organs and limbs, so too, when Am Yisrael returns to Eretz Yisrael, its unique, Clalli life-force,which only comes to life within the Nation when it dwells in its Land, radiates its powers to all of the national faculties of the Nation, and to every vista of its life. The more the Nation is true to its inner essence, and knows how to direct its varied endeavors to draw vitality and strength from the Source of its life, the healthier it will be, and it will succeed in achieving its mission in the most complete and ideal fashion.

This is a life of national Kiddush Hashem, where the Divine Presence is revealed in our midst, through the realization of the ideal, universal, Divine Goals and Aspirations in the life of the Nation as we live our National Torah life in our unique Holy Land.

However, when the Nation of Israel is exiled from its Land, and its general, Clalli, life force is lost, all of its life undergoes a drastic descent. Its general, Clalli soul ascends to the celestial heights, and no longer functions as the battery source of the now scattered and splintered Jewish People. Now, exiled from its Land, and unable to exist in its National format, the individual, private side of life becomes dominate, and the forces of life appear separately, seemingly independent, one from the other, without stemming from a unifying, general life-force. In this way, the level of life changes, and the entire observance of Torah and its commandments falls into the category of“Set way-marks up for yourselves,” (Yirmeyahu, 32:20), as described in the vivid words of our Sages, concerning a verse found in the second paragraph of the Shema“And you will quickly perish from the Land….” (Devarim, 11:17).

Our Sages teach: “Even though I am exiling you from the Land to outside of the Land, be distinguished by the mitzvot, so that when you return they won’t seem new in your eyes. This can be compared to a king who became angry with his queen, and sent her back to her father house, telling her to continue to wear her royal jewels so that they would not seem new to her when she returned to the palace. Thus said the Holy One Blessed Be He to Israel: My son, keep adorned with the mitzvot so that when you return they will not seem new. This is what Yirmeyahu told them, ‘Set up way-marks for yourselves’ – these are the commandments by which Israel is distinguished”

These words of our Sages are eye-opening and even staggering. Concerning the performance of the commandments in the Diaspora, the inner truth of the matter is that outside of the Land of Israel, where theClalli, life force of the Nation doesn’t appear, there is no essential meaning in observing the commandments. The only reason for our still keeping the precepts inChutz L’Aretz is because of our past connection to theClalli soul of the Nation which vitalized us when we lived in our Land, and because of our connection to the future when the Clalli soul will return and reveal itself in our resurrected national life with the ingathering of our exiles to Zion.

A living holiness, filled with vitality, is the “electricity” which activates the soul of the Nation and the general,Clalli, life force within it. This force is what gives life to the details of the Torah and to its commandments. Thus, when the Nation isn’t living, when it is exiled from the Land and its organs are scattered throughout a netherworld of impure and unholy places, there is no essential value in keeping the mitzvot, and we are commanded to continue to perform them only so we don’t forget how to do them, so they won’t seem new to us when we return to our own Holy Land, where theClalli soul comes to life with the union of the Nation and the Land.

It is important to understand that the startling new insight revealed by our Sages is not that the precepts practiced in the exile are merely road signs to help us remember the way home, as indicated by the Prophet’s command, “Set up way-marks for yourselves,” but that it is possible at all to learn Torah and perform commandments in our altered and “decomposed” situation in exile, where we merely exist, without life, like in the prophesy of the valley of lifeless bones. The ability to do so only stems from our deep inner, historic, and genetic connection, even in our disintegrated situation in exile, to our complete, former, national, Clalli life as a Nation in its Land.

All of our life changes when we are in Galut. Not only does our Clalli soul disappear, but every detail of our life is affected. Regarding the teaching of the Gemara, “Everyone who dwells outside of the Land of Israel is like someone who has no God” (Ketubot 110B), Rabbi Pincus HaLevi Horewitz, author of the commentary,“HaHafla’a,” writes that this is speaking about a person who observes the Torah and mitzvot in Chutz L’Aretz – but because he doesn’t live in Eretz Yisrael, he is like someone who doesn’t have a G-d. The reason behind this is that outside the Land of Israel something profoundly essential is missing – our general, Clalli soul.

Therefore, in the exile, Jewish Belief (Emunah) and the worship of God appears in an incomplete form. If Emunah was merely a philosophical and intellectual discipline, there wouldn’t be any meaningful difference between its revelation during the Galut or at the time of Redemption (Geula). However, as we shall continue to explore, Emunah is the encounter with Divine Existence as it is revealed in our midst when we are a sovereign Nation in our Land. Thus, during the time of exile, when the general, Clalli life-force is withheld from us, and where God only appears in “the four cubits of Halacha,” in the life of individuals, the entire encounter with the lofty goals of the Torah, which appear in a dynamic living fashion in the national life of the Nation in our Land, is lost. It follows that the deeper levels of Emunah also are missing, and the individual Jew encounters his Maker on a shattered level, which is only a shadow of true and complete Emunah.

A Great Miracle is Happening Here Again!

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Every child in the Diaspora knows the difference. But when they get older, I suppose they forget.

In the Diaspora, the Hebrew letters on a dreidel are Nun, Gimmel, Hey, Shin. “A great miracle happened THERE.”

In Israel, the letters on the dreidels are Nun, Gimmel, Hey, Peh. “A great miracle happened HERE.”

That says it all.  This is the Land of Miracles. This is the Land that God gave to the Jewish People. This is the Land of our Biblical history, and the Land where our Redemption is unfolding today.

Yesterday, we drove to Modiin, where the Chanukah rebellion began, to pay our respects to Mattitiyahu and his brave and holy sons, and to pray at their graves. Across the highway, you can see the vibrant, modern city of Modiin with its hi-rise buildings, a new Israeli city filled with synagogues, mikvaot, brit milah ceremonies every day, and happy Jewish life, the very things the Greeks sought to destroy. Just along the road is the Haredi city of Modiin Elite with even more yeshivot and mikvaot. Their rebuilding is the greatest revenge over the Greeks and over all the nations that have tried to destroy us and to uproot our faith.

Happy Chanukah!

The Biggest Menorah in the World

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Many people think that in lighting gigantic Chanukah menorahs in places like Manhattan, Paris, Melbourne, and Berlin, we are “a light to the nations.” However pretty and moving this may be, the light of these solitary and scattered menorahs gets swallowed up by the surrounding darkness of foreign gentile lands. It’s a little like lighting a match in a dark alley. For a few seconds, there’s a flickering of light, and then it vanishes, engulfed by the blackness of the alley. Even if matches were lit in alleyways all over the world, the light would shine for an instant then disappear in the dark.

The only way of sustaining the light is by lighting all of the matches into one great bonfire, and this can only be accomplished by bringing the matches together and kindling them in one place – the Land of Israel.

When all of the scattered exiled Jews are gathered in the Land of Israel, a great Divine light goes out to the world like a towering beacon, illuminating the darkness of the nations. This is the meaning of the prophecy, “For from Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the Lord from Yerushalayim.” The light goes out from Yerushalayim, and not from Times Square or Beverly Hills.

We become a “light to the nations” precisely when we are living together in Eretz Yisrael, and not when we are scattered all over the world, minorities in foreign lands, stripped of our Israelite nationhood and our pride, needing the permission of the gentiles to light our Chanukah candles in public.

During the long exile, the lighting of the Chanukah menorah had meaning in reminding the Jews in faraway gentile places, that we were still connected to an eternal light, to a national Jewish valor, and a Land of great miracles – but now, with the re-establishment of Medinat Yisrael, and the ingathering of Jews from all over the world, we no longer need the menorahs in Times Square and Sunset Boulevard. The time has come for each and every Jew to take his little light and join in with the great light that is shining forth from Israel.

For example, even in this early stage of our Redemption, when millions of our outcasts are still shrouded in the darkness of alien lands, even though we still have a way to go before we reach our full Torah power in Israel, still, even in our temporary secular state, all of the world’s attention is focused on what the Jews are doing in Israel. Pick up any leading newspaper from the capitals of the world and chances are you will find a front-page story about Israel. When a settler lights a small menorah on a hilltop in Judea, the whole world goes crazy. The United Nations rushes to condemn it. The White House issues an immediate warning. And the Europeans protest at the top of their lungs, like a Sunday church choir in unison.

No one cares about the giant menorah in Berlin or Boston. But a tiny menorah lit by a Jewish settler in Beit-El, Elon Moreh, Yitzhar, Migron, or some deserted and unnamed hilltop, causes an international raucous. Why? Not because the settler is infringing on Palestinian rights. No one really cares about the Arabs. And in most cases, there aren’t any Arabs living close by. The uproar comes because, in their unconscious psyches, the rest of the world senses that with each Jew who returns to the Land of Israel and sets up his home on a Biblical mountainside, the one and only God of Israel is returning with him, to establish His rule in the world, the coming Kingdom of God, and the nations cry out, blinded by the light of this tiny menorah – tiny in size, but world-shaking in its spiritual import and influence.

Even in our present interim stage of Redemption, when our incredible Torah power is still hidden, and when prophecy has not yet reappeared, the sons of Esav and Yishmael sense the great light and they tremble, knowing deep in their hearts that their religions and doctrines are false, that God has not abandoned the Jews as they claim, and that the Biblical prophecies regarding the day when Israel will be lifted up above all other nations will surely come to pass. So they try everything in their power to stop it, so they can continue on with their falsehood and whoring.


Thursday, October 4th, 2012

As we saw in a previous blog, the t’shuva of the Nation and the Land of Israel go hand in hand. Phase two is the Nation’s return to the Torah.

During the reign of King Solomon, the Nation of Israel was at its prime. We lived in peace in our own homeland. A Jewish government ruled over the country from the majestic city of Jerusalem. All of the people gathered for the Festivals at the Temple three times a year. Jewish law went forth from the Sanhedrin. Prophets communicated the word of the Lord to the Nation and the world. A powerful Jewish army guarded the country’s borders. Torah was studied in great academies of learning. Hebrew was spoken on the street. The leaders of foreign nations flocked to Jerusalem to pay tribute to the Jews.

When Israel was exiled, however, everything was lost. The country was conquered by enemies. Jerusalem was razed, the Temple destroyed. Prophecy ceased. Jews wandered from country to country. They began speaking strange languages. Instead of being honored by the gentiles, the Jews were disgraced. They became an oppressed minority in alien lands. And while Jews continued to learn Torah throughout their exile, its light was considerably waned (Chagiga 4B). In the face of persecution and assimilation, Judaism lost its once great stature.

As we mentioned in our previous blog, with the commencement of the Zionist movement, the Jewish people began to return to what had been lost. Jews began to return to their homeland. They began to return to their very own Hebrew language. A Jewish government returned to Jerusalem. The city was rebuilt. Once again, Jews were sovereign in their homeland. Jewish soldiers once again guarded its borders. Once again, foreign rulers came to pay tribute to the leaders of Israel. Out from the humiliation of exile, the Nation was resurrected to life. The physical, national body of Israel’s statehood was restored with a newfound Jewish valor and strength. But without the Temple, without the Sanhedrin and prophecy, without the pilgrimages to Jerusalem three times a year, and without a national dedication to Torah, the return is still incomplete. Nonetheless, Rabbi Kook assures us, within the yearning to return to the Land is a deeper, hidden yearning to return to the Torah as well.

Within the inner heart, in its pure and holy chambers, the Israeli flame increases, demanding the strong, brave, constant connection of life to all of the mitzvot of God…. And in the hearts of all the empty ones, and in the hearts of all of the sinners of Israel, the fire burns and blazes in the most inward depths, and in the Nation in its entirety, all of the desire for freedom, and all of the yearning for life, for the community and for the individual, all of the hope for Redemption, only from the source of this inner spring of life do they flow in order to live Israeli life in its fullest, without contradiction or limitation (Orot, Eretz Yisrael, 8).

Under the secular-looking Zionist State is a flaming, raging, engulfing fireball of t’shuva. The Jewish soul is yearning for religion. Like a man dying of thirst in the desert, the voice of the Nation cries out, “Torah, Torah, Torah.” Ironically, it is precisely the spiritual wilderness which brings the great thirst. Rabbi Kook writes:

T’shuva will come (to the Jewish Nation) in several directions. One of the causes will be the deep sorrow felt over the humiliation inflicted upon the great spiritual treasure which our forefathers bequeathed to us, and which possesses immeasurable power and glory (Orot HaT’shuva, 4:9).

Israel’s great spiritual treasure is the Torah, the commandments, the holidays, Jewish customs, traditions, prayer, and the vast sea of Talmudic learning.

This mighty spirit spans over all generations. Its source is the most exalted Divine Source of life. When one looks to it, one finds everything, all beauty and splendor (Ibid).

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov told a story about a poor man from a poor village who was told in a dream to seek out a treasure buried under a certain bridge in a faraway town. The poor man made the long journey and located the bridge. As he was searching around, a policeman accosted him and demanded to know what he was doing. When the poor man explained, the policeman confided that he too had had a similar foolish dream, in which a treasure was to be found in a certain faraway village under the shack of a poor man. When the policeman cited the poor man’s name and village, the poor man realized that the treasure was buried under his very own house! He had to make the long journey to the bridge to discover the secret. Sure enough, when the poor man hurried back home, he uncovered the treasure under the floor of his storeroom.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/torah-torah-torah/2012/10/04/

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