Judaism vs Zionism: Resolving the differences, part one.
Judaism was created for survival. Zionism was created for redemption. Judaism was created during Galut (Exile) to preserve the Jewish people during the long and bitter Exile. Zionism was created during Galut to end the long and bitter Exile.
Both Judaism and Zionism have been successful. Orthodox Rabbinic Judaism has preserved the Jewish people throughout Galut. And Zionism brought the Jews back to their ancestral homeland, and rebuilt them as a mighty nation.
But now, it would appear that, in many respects, Judaism and Zionism have outlived their usefulness and should either be rejuvenated or scrapped. But in truth, they should be rejuvenated and not scrapped because both Judaism and Zionism are essential for the stability of Israel and the rest of the world.
I would, therefore, like to offer a brief look at Judaism and Zionism and suggest a method for rejuvenating them and resolving their differences, all for the sake of advancing Geulah (Redemption) to a second stage, which I believe will include unprecedented degrees of personal freedom and unprecedented revelations of G-d.
Let us look at Judaism first. Orthodox Rabbinic Judaism was instituted during the Babylonian Exile after the destruction of the First Temple in the year 586 BCE, according to historians and archaeologists. But if one calculates the date based on rabbinic sources (Seder Olam, etc.), the date was 422 BCE. This 164 year discrepancy is an expression of Galut, which may be characterized by “existential alienation,” like the soul of a man trapped in the body of an animal, Heaven forbid. It comes as a result of G-d concealing His Presence, which is the nature of Galut.
Of the four carpenters of Israel, the King and the Priest were eliminated when the Jews were exiled and the Temple was destroyed. And the Prophet was being phased out because the Ark of the Covenant, the source of Prophecy, was hidden away. Of the four carpenters, only the Judges (Shoftim) remained. Out of necessity, they worked together to form a new body of Jewish authority, called the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah, the Men of the Great Assembly. This judicial court and legislative congress consisted of 70 sages and 50 students.
The AKHG established a new ruling class in Israel, the rabbinate, although the title, rabbi, would not be used until the ascendancy of the dynastic family of Hillel the Elder towards the end of the Second Temple period, 450 years later.
The rabbinate was – and still is – an oligarchy. And like royalty, their positions of leadership and authority are inherited by their sons, if they are deemed worthy.
In Babylon, this new ruling class separated itself from the people as a whole and ruled them from above.
The names most associated with the AKHG are Mordecai, Ezra, Nehemiah, Zerubavel, Zechariah, Haggai, and Malachi and Baruch ben Neriah.
The Zohar (Shemot 2a) teaches that the Babylonian Exile was harsher than the Egyptian Exile in one respect – hope of redemption. In Egypt, the Hebrews had a tradition that they would be redeemed. This kept their faith alive.
But even though Jeremiah had prophesied that the people would return to their land, Babylonian Jewry believed that Hashem had abandoned them forever.
Despite this, the sages of AKHG understood that Israel remained the light of the world, and its survival was essential to bring the world to its planned perfection. So they built a complex religion around the Torah to keep the Jews connected to G-d, even though G-d was no longer connected to them. The religion was called Judaism. It was the first replacement theology.
To create the new religion, the AKHG changed their language from Hebrew to Aramaic and changed their script from Hebrew letters to Aramaic letters (Ktav Ivrit to Ktav Ashurit). There were no printing presses, and the AKHG owned all the Torah scrolls, newly re-written in Aramaic script. And only the AKHG knew how to read and interpret them. Now, if someone had a Torah scroll that was written before the Babylonian Exile, he would be told, “We no longer look at that. Trade it in for the new one that we wrote.”
From that day forward, the Men of the Great Assembly and their rabbinic successors became the only source of Torah.
They also established a ritualized prayer service with a formalized liturgy. We now said their words when we prayed. They also sealed Tanach (the Written Torah) so that no new books could be canonized. And they phased out prophecy. And then, they made a fence around the Torah, as it says (Fathers 1:1), “The Men of the Great Assembly said three things, ‘Be careful in judgment, raise many disciples, and make a fence around the Torah.’”
The fence consisted of rabbinic laws that beautified the mitzvoth and protected the people from sinning against it. It governed the Jewish people from the first waking moment of every day till they down to sleep at night, and then they told the people how they must sleep.
The people had been exiled because they lusted for idol worship, so the AKHG gave them a kosher cult, where everyone acted the same way, thought about the same things, and eventually wore the same uniforms, all under the scrutiny and control of the AKHG and the Sanhedrin, which grew out of the AKHG during the Second Temple period, and then the rabbis who grew out of the Sanhedrin after the Second Temple was destroyed. The rabbinic brotherhood was formed as a ruling oligarchy and has remained a ruling oligarchy for the last 2600 years.
The Orthodox Rabbinate maintains its authority by tenaciously clinging to the path of its fathers. It thrives on Galut and the suppression of independent thought and individualism. Rabbinic Judaism has become the Jewish Church. The Babylonian Talmud is its New Testament, and Halacha (Jewish Law) is its gospel. And like most churches, it is corrupt.
The Baal Shem Tov and the Vilna Gaon both proclaimed that the rabbis would be the ones to block the Geulah. Therefore, Orthodox Rabbinic Judaism abhors Zionism because Zionism exists only to take the people out of Galut and bring them to Geulah. And the reason why so many rabbis are against Ger is because Ger is the portal to Geulah.
Next time, we will look at Zionism.
To be continued…