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Judaism vs. Zionism, part two


This is the second in a series of three articles on Judaism vs Zionism. This time, the focus is on Zionism.

Zionism and Judaism have the same goal – the survival of the Jewish people in a world that wants them destroyed.

Zionism’s way of attaining the goal is to re-establish Israel as the Jewish homeland and bring the exiles home where they will be strong and where they will have G-d’s protection and support. This happens to be the prophetic definition of Geulah – the Final Redemption.

By contrast, Judaism’s way of attaining the goal is to sit and learn Torah and do mitzvoth, and when Mashiach comes, the Jews will be taken back to their homeland.

Despite two thousand years of learning Torah and doing mitzvoth, Judaism failed to bring the Jews back to their homeland. But after fifty years of struggling to establish the Jewish homeland, Zionism succeeded, and with G-d’s help, Israel became a sovereign state.

How did the Zionists succeed where the rabbis failed? It can be explained by a story they tell about two Talmudic sages in Babylon. One sage asked, “Why did G-d make miracles for the Maccabees, but He does not make miracles for us?”

The other sage answered, “Because the Maccabees were willing to lay their lives down for the Torah, and we are not.”

The reason the Zionist succeeded where the rabbi failed is that G-d fought for the Zionist. Even if the Zionist did not believe in G-d, and even if he sinned against the Torah, G-d fought for him, as it says (Ex. 33:19), “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and show mercy to whom I will show mercy.”

G-d was gracious to the Zionists and He endowed them with Chachmah (Wisdom), but He withheld Chachmah from the rabbis.

In 1939, the High Rabbinic Council of Lithuania  publicly proclaimed that everyone should sit and learn and salvation would come. Only Mir Yeshiva disobeyed and fled to Japan, and only Mir Yeshiva survived.

Out of approximately 209,000 Jews living in Lithuania, an estimated 190,000 were annihilated by the Nazis, y’mach shemam v’zichron. This catastrophic tragedy revealed that the spark of Moses no longer existed in rabbinic Judaism. Its Chachmah was gone.

The Torah defines Chachmah as knowing what G-d has planned, as it says (Isaiah 19:12), “Where are [the Egyptian] wise men (chachamim)? Let them tell you now, let them try to know what the Lord of Hosts has planned concerning Egypt.

Even though the High Rabbinic Council of Lithuania consisted of the greatest Talmudic scholars of the generation, they lacked wisdom. One gets knowledge, not wisdom, from learning Torah. Wisdom comes from using the knowledge one learns to enhance the human condition. Noah had wisdom. He invented farming implements and improved the human condition. But rabbinic Judaism viewed everything outside of its own walls as valueless. Enhancing the human condition was of no interest to the rabbis. Judaism had traded its Chachmah for minutia and trivia, rules and regulations, rituals and traditions, and endless taxonomy. The Talmudists understood a world that no longer existed. And their students understood a world that never existed.

If the modern Zionist had not come along, the Jews would still be in Eastern Europe, waiting for the next tragedy to happen.

The Zionist maintains that living in the land of Israel is greater than all the mitzvoth of the Torah. There are only three mitzvoth that a person does with his entire body:

1. Dwelling in a sukkah

2. Immersing in a mikvah

3. Living in the land of Israel.

And of these three, only living in the Land is a perpetual mitzvah, performed continuously even when one is asleep.

Zionism believes that it is greater to be a simple farmer in Israel than a Torah scholar outside the Land, because the true holiness of the Torah is found only in the land of Israel. This finds support in the Talmud (Ketubot 110b), which says, “Only one who lives in the Land of Israel has a God, while one living outside the Land of Israel is like one who has no God.”

And Rashi comments, “Whoever lives in the Land of Israel, I am God to him, but whoever goes out of Israel is as one who serves idols.”

But the strongest voice in this matter belongs to the Ramban who teaches that mitzvoth performed outside of the land do not achieve their inner purpose, and we do them only as practice for when we return to the Land. He learns this from the Sifrei on Deut. 11:18, which says, “Even though I exile you from the Land, distinguish yourself with the mitzvoth, so that they will not be new to you when you return [to the land of Israel].” 

In May 1981, a group of young American Jewish leaders asked Menachem Begin, zy”a, the Prime Minister of Israel, what he thought were the lessons of the Holocaust. This was his answer:

First, if an enemy of our people says he seeks to destroy us, believe him. Don’t doubt him for a moment. Don’t make light of it. Do all in your power to deny him the means of carrying out his satanic intent.

Second, when a Jew anywhere is threatened, or under attack, do all in your power to come to his aid. Never pause to wonder what the world will think or say. The world will never pity slaughtered Jews. The world may not necessarily like the fighting Jew, but the world will have to take account of him.

Third, a Jew must learn to defend himself. He must forever be prepared for whenever threat looms.

Fourth, Jewish dignity and honor must be protected in all circumstances. The seeds of Jewish destruction lie in passively enabling the enemy to humiliate us. Only when the enemy succeeds in turning the spirit of the Jew into dust and ashes in life, can he turn the Jew into dust and ashes in death. During the Holocaust it was after the enemy had humiliated the Jews, trampled them underfoot, divided them, deceived them, afflicted them, drove brother against brother, only then could he lead them, almost without resistance, to the gates of Auschwitz. Therefore, at all times and whatever the cost, safeguard the dignity and honor of the Jewish people.

Fifth, stand united in face of the enemy. We Jews love life, for life is holy. But there are things in life more precious than life itself. There are times when one must risk life for the sake of rescuing the lives of others. And when the few risk their own lives for the sake of the many, then they, too, stand the chance of saving themselves.

Sixth, there is a pattern to Jewish history. In our long annals as a nation, we rise, we fall, we return, we are exiled, we are enslaved, we rebel, we liberate ourselves, we are oppressed once more, we rebuild, and again we suffer destruction, climaxing in our own lifetime in the calamity of calamities, the Holocaust, followed by the rebirth of the Jewish State.

So, yes, we have come full circle, and with God’s help, with the rebirth of sovereign Israel, we have finally broken the historic cycle: no more destruction and no more defeats, and no more oppression – only Jewish liberty, with dignity and honor. These, I believe, are the underlying lessons to be learned from the unspeakable tragedy of the Holocaust.”

G-d chose the Zionist as His servant because the Zionist was willing to lay his life down for the redemption of the Jewish people. This is the path of prophecy. It is way beyond rabbinic Judaism. A Zionist does not wait for Geulah. He creates Geulah. This is why G-d fought for the Zionists, and is fighting for them today.

To be continued…

This blogpost is dedicated to the memory of those members of the Israel Defense Forces, who made the ultimate sacrifice to liberate Jerusalem, the city of David, from the hands of the enemies of Israel. In their merit, may G-d grant Jerusalem eternal peace. We remember them on Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, the day that celebrates the re-unification of Jerusalem, the 28th day of the month of Iyar, which this year coincides with May 24, 2017. It happened exactly 50 years ago today. Hayom.

Chaim Clorfene