Dear Editor at The Jerusalem Post,
I read Rabbi Dov Lipmann’s front page article (“Why Chareidim should be Zionist” originally published April 23, 2012 in Jpost.com) with much interest. While no one can disagree with the fact that we Charedim pray for a return to Zion thrice daily most of the article was beside the point and did not address the fundamental issue. As is common in both camps the proverbial “painting with a broad brush” is used as a device to make points that while seemingly valid are destructive and misleading.
Our Rabbis teach us (Ethics of our Fathers 2, 4) that one of the first questions we will be asked in the heavenly court when we die is “were you looking forward and awaiting anxiously for the final redemption”. Rabbi Lipman’s article is misleading in that the title should have been “Why Chareidim should be M’tzapeh L’Yishuah“(looking forward and awaiting the final redemption). But we all know that such an article would be laughable and would never make it off the printing press because no Torah Observant Charedi denies or does not look forward to that day when Moshiach will come and peace will reign on earth. A day when the “lion and the lamb will dwell together” and all will know the knowledge of God “like the waters in the sea”(Isaiah 11,9).
The issue is not Redemption the issue is another false God, foreign ideology, and another ism. We Jews seem to have a propensity for that which is alien to God starting with the Golden Calf but it has only caused us untold suffering throughout our long History. In the 20th century alone we Jews were at the forefront of all the isms of the day Communism, Socialism, Marxism, Social Activism, Capitalism, etc. While some of these ideologies may have merit in the right measure and at the right time and place the very fact that they are an entrenched ideology, an ism if you will, makes them foreign to the Torah ideal if they become a part of your essence and identity. In the Torah ideal there is nothing but God “for he is one and his name is one” (Zechariah 14,9). That is why Judaism with it’s suffix is not quite an accurate word defining who we are and what we Jews believe. It is not merely another ism akin to Buddhism, Darwinism or any other entrenched belief of which there are thousands in the world today, rather it is an affirmative statement that there is One God in the world who is involved in the personal and national lives of all his creations.
That is the crux of the issue. For Charedim, Zionism, even religious Zionism, as with any ism is just that, another potential foreign ideology. Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, Rav Chatzkel Sarna and all those great leaders of the Jewish people that you so proudly mention in your article did not have any question whether to say Hallel (Thanksgiving Prayer) with a blessing or without a blessing on Israel Independence Day (as do some in the Religious Zionist camp), rather they did what David Ben Gurion did, and did not say it as part of the Morning service at all. Do you know why? Because Ben Gurion the father of the Modern State of Israel (1948) openly awaited the day, not for the arrival of the Moshiach with all its ideals, but rather of a day when the State of Israel would be accepted amongst the nations and would be like all other nations with the full spectrum of society rapist, murderers, thieves included, just so we, the “new non ghettoized Jew” could finally be like every “normal” society. That is not something we Charedim want to say Hallel and thank God for.
No doubt we live in exciting and tumultuous times. Maybe this is the beginning of the redemption period or the “end of the exile” as other great sages not mentioned by Rabbi Lipman have poignantly stated but that does not necessarily mean it is a time for premature celebration. While we must recognize the great miracles of the last 60 years The Modern State of Israel is neither fully independent (always worried about America and the rest of the world) nor have we fully returned to Zion (unless you do not consider East Jerusalem part of Zion). No one in his right mind will tell you that the State of Israel as it is now is what we have been praying for thrice daily for the last two thousand years. While it may be true that instead of complaining about the state of affairs we Charadim should direct the Future of the State of Israel and maybe eventually with their high birth rate that will eventually happen and bring the Final redemption, but that is currently a moot point. At best this seems to be merely the end of the exile or beginning of the Redemption with all its birth pangs. I am reminded of what Winston Churchill once said to his fellow countrymen In 1942 at the height of the Second World War. He stated in a now famous address to his fellow countrymen “Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”. Thus, we would do well to be mindful of the elders in the Time of Ezra who did not readily rejoice upon the rebuilding of the Second Temple (in fact they cried) realizing just how far they were from true redemption (Ezra 3,12-13). In fact, Ullah and Rabah, two of our venerated Amoraic sages both stated unequivocally (in stark contrast to Rabbi Yosef) that the Moshiach should come but they did not want to be around to witness it because of all the birth pangs and calamities that may befall the Jewish people prior to his arrival if we are not worthy (BT Sanhedrin 98b).
While these secular Governments may be essential to the redemption process it is not a reason to be dancing in the streets(especially during the days of Sefira Mourning). Rabbi Akiva was able to turn tragic situations on their head and look for their positive silver lining (BT Makos 24a). But he certainly did not say “thank God this is what we have been longing for” when he saw the fox running out of the area where the Holy of holies used to stand.
And so while we Chardeim are cautiously optimistic and continue to long for the Final redemption and could do more in that regard we cannot be expected to embrace a foreign ideology in the process. Even the Maharal (Rabbi Yehudah Loewy 1525-1609) that Rabbi Lipman mentions who seems to insist that a secular government must be in place prior to the Redemption would not ask that we embrace the likes of modern day Achav , Omri, or Yerovom(see Sefer Melachim).
Finally, I would like to address a myth that this article further entrenched with the proverbial broad paint brush though I am sure the author being a God fearing Jew did it without malice aforethought. It should not take a Rocket Scientist to differentiate between the Charedi distaste for the Secular Government with their untiring efforts to secularize and eradicate all but the Cultural Jew, and individual fellow Jews, specifically our Jewish brethren (men and women) in the Israel Defense Forces. There is no God fearing Charedi that will deny that these precious souls that are protecting other Jews in Eretz Yisroel deserve to be in our prayers when we daven. In fact, no less than Rav Chaim Shmulevitz ZTL, the great Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, stated unequivocally during the Yom Kippur War that the status of the soldiers in the IDF was equivalent to that of the Harugei Lud (martyrs of Lud) of which the Talmud tells us their reward is of the ultimate kind (Sichas Mussar page 457). Furthermore, when I studied in the Mirrer Yeshiva in New York (a first rate Charedi Yeshiva) during the first Gulf War, my Rosh Yeshiva Rav Shmuel Berenbaum ZTL, instituted extra recitation of Psalms every day in addition to a Yom Kippur Koton and a 24 hour Taanis Dibbur (fast of words) all for the protection of the soldiers and citizens of the State of Israel.
Rabbi Lipman, you do not have to look forward to a day when Charedim will “pray for the welfare of our soldiers” since those that are truly “Charedim El D’var Hashem” (trembling before the word of God) already do so. So while it may be convenient to lump the issues together it is a common tactic used by the popular media to sow further baseless hatred between the secular and religious.(Frankly, I am very surprised Rabbi Lipman has fallen victim to such false notions). Such hatred only manifests and mushrooms which ultimately only pushes the ultimate Redemption that much further out of reach. Only Jewish Unity (“destroy the sin not the sinner”- BT Berachot 10a) and unadulterated belief in God can reverse that.
Jacob (Chaim Yakov) Hirsch Esq.