Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel / Flash 90
Israel Beiteinu Chairman MK Avigdor Liberman holds a civil marriage ceremony outside the Knesset, December 9, 2020.

I recall an article I wrote in early 2016 about then Min. of Religion Aryeh Deri, called “Two Nations”, under One God, with liberty and freedom for all.

MK Aryeh Deri, appearing on a TV talk show about a Civil Marriage bill then under debate in the Knesset, argued against it because it would split the Jewish nation in Israel. Then argued for the unity of the Jewish people under God, reincarnated on its own land after centuries of religious persecution, with history standing as mute evidence of so many attempts at crushing Jewish allegiance to the Torah.


At the time, I added tangentially that this would effectively create “Two Nations”. I was not referring to political Israel and Islamic fundamentalists, but to a Torah nation, where marriages are called kiddushin, halachically performed according to the laws of Moses and Yisrael, in Israel (or elsewhere), and an anti-Torah nation via civil marriages in Cypress, et al.

When scanning any newspaper or media in Israel today, one realizes that the civil marriage issue at the time, or any other suggested changes in the status-quo which erupted during Israel’s 75 year history, seems like child’s play compared to the spate of hate today which has exploded in full bloom since the election of the pro-Torah government.

Ironically, on the heels of Hag haShevuot, commemorating Matan Torah at Har Sinai after the Exodus from Egyptian bondage, there is a demonic explosion against Torah people and the Torah itself today.

This is the unspoken but obvious real concern of anti-Torah adherents of future governments completely taking over the bodies and minds of the ”Zionists” who choose to maintain their democratic and independent identity in Israel while tolerating a growing Torah society .

Now, at some of the anti-government demonstrations, one openly hears talk of a two-nation/state scenario – Tel Aviv and “Yehuda”. The not-to-be minimized psychotic anxiety that has gripped our country with the last election is not of the Arabs and not of the changes in the judiciary as projected. Rather, it is the unspoken fear of a Jewish state that is “Yehudi”, not necessarily an halachic one, but with a greater collective Jewish identity to the world.

I recall in the late 70s, when PM Menachem Begin was visiting the States, he was confronted with a disgruntled air-traveler about El Al not flying on Shabbat, claiming that it was kefiyat daat (forcing one to abide by “religious standards”).

In typical fashion, the Prime Minister pulled up all of slightly-built body indignantly and dramatically challenged his audience, ‘Forced religion? The dignity of the state demands that El Al does not fly on Shabbat.” (I was at that press conference and will never forget his contempt for the arrogance of the question.)

Back to 2023!

The unspoken concern racing through the minds of anti-Torah people as the result of a now pro-Torah government in power is that Israel will turn into Bnei Brak with a forced governmental religious agenda.

To paraphrase Begin’s argument for the dignity of a Jewish state, while one may tolerate Rechov Dizengoff’s lifestyle in Tel Aviv, even as it provides for Bnei Torah their public rest on Shabbat, Israel, as God’s holy nation, deserves a higher national “religious” standard. A tourist in Rome or Mecca knows that he must follow rules of the state and act accordingly. It is only in Israel, where the Yetzer Hara is the strongest in the world, that a Jew can demand the desecration of its special status as a personal “freedom”.

The Netanyahu-led government is mainly composed of the three “pro-Torah” parties with track records of children, children, and more children. Indeed, the highly traditional Likud membership itself cherishes their family-oriented heritage. This reflection looms ominously over those anti-Torah Tel Avivians who even recently dared to suggest that there should be no Yeshivot there.

But it’s not only the Haredim living in Bnei Brak, Beitar and throughout Israel that worries them. It is also the “Hardalnakim”, the Religious Nationalists through the country who contribute to this Torah group. Family and traditional values flourish dynamically both in the Religious National camp as well as in great proportion within the Likud members as well. Statistics are betting on continued similar governments as opposed to those who have, relatively speaking, no Torah and indeed find little reason to live in Israel except for their falafel and their Friday night football they crave.

The founding Zionists of the past enjoying “Status-quo” should no longer be the modus operandi in 2023 as it was in 1948 when Ben Gurion needed the “dati” vote to launch his Zionist dream. While it succeeded under Socialist governments for 75 years, given the change of government to a pro-Torah one, it’s time to update this political process which has long outdated the reality in Israel today. How many would agree to a “status-quo” in his salary, or bank account, or any stocks and bonds he holds, and more?

What a “Tel Aviv State” proponent will not accept or understand is that a pro-Torah government, composed of Bnei Torah, who believe in the basic principles of Shabbat, family purity, kashrut and morality, is not a threat to their lifestyle, but an alternative to their hedonistic existence and loss of their most precious asset, their children, trapped in the clutches of freedom of choice and immorality!

Having fulfilled their dreams and aspirations for establishing a liberal democratic state, the pull of economic and financial opportunities throughout the world had lured them to more fertile grounds and one where they would not be encumbered by a Torah oriented society demanding more and more ritual. A comparative quality of children is hardly required as they picture stares them in the face every day.

The Talmud relates the classic tale when R. Akiva was asked how he dares disobey the Roman masters by insisting on studying and practicing Torah, at the risk of his very life, then offers the following parable:

A fox, strolling along the banks of a river watching the fish swimming by, apparently trying to escape a fisherman’s net, suggested: “Why don’t you come on land. This way you’ll be safe.”

“And you’re the one called sly,” they teased. “If in our natural environment we face natural dangers, how much more will be exposed to unnatural dangers if we leave these waters.

The mistake those who seek to divide and conquer the Torah people are making is they believe it is they who they have kept Israel alive for 75 years through bitter struggles and thousands of sacrifices. But now, Torah is old-fashioned! Freedom of choice and democracy dictate reality.

The truth is just the opposite. It is the Torah that has sustained the Jewish nation throughout the history of religious witch hunts and blood libels. Now, safe at home, it is ironically those very democrats and modernists who believe that by jumping onto dry land, a strong democratic community, they will find peace and happiness in their personal lives as well as in communal environments.

Aryeh Deri’s argument to those civil marriage supporters was simple and to the point. We must keep the Jewish people united and strong as we move forward in this Messianic era. For centuries, the Jewish people managed to withstand the devious pressures from those who would have us leave the living waters of Torah and in areas so vital to national integrity, as life, death and in between. But while people are free to marry elsewhere, even funded by Israeli’s taxes, the sanctity and dignity of the Torah nation, demand that the Torah authority must be retained in the hands of those experts who have been mandated to do so since Har Sinai.

Short sighted personal interests are challenging the best scene solutions for the totality of klall Yisrael, travelling more rapidly now through its Messianic orbit barreling towards global perfection.

So be it! If the current situation will yield the inevitable “hitbolalut” and de facto two nations under one God with liberty and freedom for all, the Torah world has nothing to apologize for. Years of stubborn adherence to the principle of one nation under the God of Israel, seems to have taken a detour, but the Jewish world will survive the onslaught from within as well as from the goyim.

The aspiration of individual couples who choose to leave the assemblies of the House of Israel are certainly free to do so, just as they are free to defy any and all of the Torah mitzvot. We are living in a democracy! Consequently, no longer will there be two marriage eligibility lists for the rabbanut, but two classes of Jews. Not better or worse, just believers and non-believers. Torah and non Torah adherents, somewhat similar to the Karaites and Shomronim in Jewish history.

Yes, there is choice! As the Torah tells us (Devarim 30:18): “I call heaven and earth as witnesses . . . that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, so that you and your descendants may live . . .”, especially in Israel, today,

In this shichrur hanefesh period of redemption we are privileged to be living through, now it is incumbent upon all bnei Torah to reach out to our lost Jewish souls and bring them to greater heights and one step closer to kedushat Yisrael.

We recently learned in the Daf Yomi (Lev, 24:5) קדושים תהיו. “kedoshim tihyu,”, Rashi explains that this  means “perushim tihyu”-הוו פרושים מן העריות ומן העבירה  distance yourselves from immorality and sin, and not by howling at the moon on some isolated mountain top. This tikkun is so necessary, especially in Israel and especially at this time more than ever.

I pray that when my grandchildren and great-grandchildren are ready to marry, they won’t have to face the shame of being a second-class Jew in their own home.

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Rabbi Yehuda Schwartz discusses current issues on Eretz Yisrael from a Torah perspective gained from the many years drinking from the wellspring of the Great Gaon Harav Chaim Zimmerman, זצ"ל.