Score this one in favor of the argument that the extremists on either side of any debate are bound to meet sooner or later. We’ve gotten used to extreme anti-Zionists such as Neturei Karta collaborating with the worst anti-Semites in Tehran, but we did not expect the former IDF chief of staff, former prime minister and former defense minister Ehud Barak to start citing the traditional Satmar anti-Zionist line. Well, he did, on Sunday morning, and it’s not clear at this point whether or not he had been to either of the Rabbis Teitelbaums’ tish on Shabbat.
Here is what Barak said verbatim on Reshet Bet radio Sunday morning, on the occasion of announcing the official name of his new party (Democratic Israel), starts around min. 5:
“The extreme right has diverted the ship of Israel to directions against which the Talmud has already warned us, about two catastrophes that have happened in history as a result of such a policy of false messianism, which pushes to usher in the end, and tries to dictate to God Almighty a schedule of when to send the Messiah; which storm the wall and provokes world powers and sows baseless hatred. These three Talmudic prohibitions are transgressed every day by people wearing kippot and priding themselves on their title of rabbis, but in fact, they falsify and distort Judaism, Zionism and Israelism.”
Holy red heifer.
Let’s unpack: the context of the Talmudic dialogue (Ketubot 110b–111a) about the Three Oaths is the sages’ debate of whether a husband may force his wife and vice-versa to move to the Land of Israel.
The oaths are rooted in an analysis of three verses in Solomon’s Song of Songs: 2:7: I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles, and by the hinds of the field, that ye awaken not, nor stir up love, until it is desired; 3:5: same as 2:7; and 8:4: I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem: Why should you awaken, or stir up love, until it is desired?
The Gemara quotes R. Yossi ben R. Chanina, who formulates: “What are these Three Oaths? One, that Israel should not storm the wall. Two, the Holy One adjured Israel not to rebel against the nations of the world. Three, the Holy One adjured the nations that they would not oppress Israel too much.”
The ancient medrash has been used in debates between Haredi and other religious Jews to attack and defend the Zionist enterprise, with Satmar and its Chasidic allies who are vehemently anti-Zionist using it to attack the redemption of the land, while the majority of Haredi and Religious Zionists say it is now obsolete.
Did Ehud Barak recite something he recalled vaguely from Talmud class in a secular Israeli high school without realizing what he was saying? Does Ehud Barak understand that sticking by the Satmar agenda against his foes in the religious-Zionist parties is highly unusual? Is Ehud Barak off his rocker?
Tune in for the next installment of Ehud Barach (Ehud Escaped), the story of the Israeli politician who has managed to leave behind the Tze’elim disaster victims, the South Lebanon Defense Army, the Labor Party, and now: Zionism.
Like Reb Yoel liked to say in moments like this: Oy vey.