National Religious Party MK Nachum Langental's recent
dramatic announcement of his intention to initiate
"revolutionary legislature pertaining to religion and the
State," aroused waves of criticism among the Torah-
observant. The proposal is to redefine the accepted
boundaries between public observance and nonobservance of
Hatsofe, the official NRP (Mizrachi) organ, reported
that Langental's program to changes in the religious
status quo in many realms such as Shabbos, marriages,
conversion to Judaism, and the municipal religious councils
"will be a true revolution." The so-called status quo
was originally based on a letter issued by David Ben Gurion
to Agudas Yisroel prior to Israel's founding promising
certain areas of religious observance in the fledgling state,
but extended in practice to many other areas. In fact it is
under constant (and largely successful) assault from anti-
religious forces and is quite fluid -- usually to the
detriment of religious observance.
Langental declared that these changes will "bridge the gap
and decrease friction between religious and secular Jews."
With this plan the religious community will realize the
Religious Zionist's objective "to be a part of Israeli
Chareidi newspapers, which follow the directives of
gedolei Torah who opposed the historic Mizrachi method
of "walking a middle path," sharply denounced Langental's
scheme. Chareidi writers quoted our Torah leaders who
unambiguously opposed any form of compromise aimed at
appeasing the non-religious for various reasons, both
ideological and practical.
I would like to present additional points for reflection,
which are actually hashkofos received from our Torah
mentors concerning the Mizrachi method of compromise.
In his column, my colleague at Yated Ne'eman, Rabbi
Yitzchok Roth, cited Maran the Chazon Ish's warning against
setting up a united religious front of all religious parties
during the early elections in the fledgling State with those
who use the slogan "religion and real life." The Chazon Ish
said that such people are eager to make concessions in all
matters since "we should not exacerbate disputes. Peace is
all-important!" Because of their conviction about an urgent
need to "resign ourselves" to reality, they have proposed a
whole array of compromises which, they claim, can enable the
coexistence of "religion and life."
Rabbi Roth also quoted the writings of Maran the Chofetz
Chaim zt'l relating to "those who agree to compromises
about Judaism with the excuse that compromises prevent the
wall of Torah observance itself from being breached." Maran
warns that acting in such a way would only lead us to propose
further compromises. Moreover, we ourselves cannot make these
compromises. Although ostensibly they are made for the
benefit of the Torah, we have to ask whether the Torah itself
really wants us to make these compromises that are proposed.
Metaphorically, we really need the consent of the Torah to
make a compromise in her name, just as we need the consent of
all parties in compromises made in beis din.
"The Torah, however, spurns such behavior. It rejects any
compromises: `If Hashem is Elokim follow him, but if
Baal then follow him' (I Melochim 18:21)." Maran the
Chofetz Chaim compares this to someone taking merchandise out
of a store and tossing it into a lake. People seeing him
might presume that he is insane. "Although I am in doubt
whether he is insane or not, one thing is certain: The person
who throws away the goods does not own the store and the
merchandise is not his." If he himself felt the loss, he
would not throw it away.
Similarly, says the Chofetz Chaim, making concessions and
compromises shows one's estrangement and indifference to
continued Torah observance and also that "the merchandise is
On the same subject Rabbi Yisroel Friedman (in the Shabbos
Kodesh supplement to the Yated Ne'eman in Hebrew)
quotes Maran HaRav Elchonon Wassermann zt'l Hy'd who
says: "We do not have the authority to make any compromises
in the Torah's name even when our intention is absolutely,
It is also impossible, asserts R' Elchonon, to accept the
concept of compromising by saying if we cannot save
everything we should at least save half. Although perfectly
acceptable when deciding about medical treatments and
operations, with ruchniyus we cannot make that kind of
reckoning. Torah cannot be divided into two!
HaRav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch zt'l writes that people
are mistaken if they think they can satisfy anti-religious
Jews by granting concessions. They fool themselves into
imagining that by doing so they can at least attain some
recognition for that part of the Torah they did not concede.
However, "precisely because of their conceding half of the
truth, the other part will demand they concede it all.
Initially they are satisfied with the concession, but later
they deny the right to save the other half." HaRav Hirsch
therefore insists that "to concede even a little of our
spiritual and moral possessions is an inexcusable crime and
shameful heresy." Only by "open and overwhelming opposition"
is it possible to proudly present our belief in the Torah's
eternity and imbue this conviction among those remote from
Torah. On the other hand, by our compromising on half [of our
religion] "we are abandoning Hashem's word and denying the
In conclusion Rabbi Friedman cites the Chofetz Chaim
zt'l who declares that not only is it forbidden to
cooperate with those making such compromises, it is even
forbidden to remain silent and give even an outward
appearance of being a partner to these compromises. "Everyone
should realize he cannot make any compromise with those
harboring irreligious ideologies, and rather he should
absolutely disagree with them. He should express his
disagreement even if he does not plan to act as the
[compromisers] do. In addition, we should be careful not to
give a false impression of agreeing with them."
@BIG LET BODY = To add to the above, and to complete the
general picture concerning the opinion of gedolei
Torah about compromising religious values Langental,
according to a Hatsofe report, uncovered the fact that
"during the last few months clandestine discussions have
taken place among Knesset members of various parties with the
aim of arriving at mutual agreements and understandings in
controversial subjects concerning religion and state, and
devising ways to reach a `true agreement' on religious
It seems that this Mizrachi politician has formulated his
suggestions after speaking with secular notables who
convinced him that although such a "real revolution" would
necessitate concessions from the religious side, it would
also cause, for the first time in history, a solid agreement
from the secular side which would resign itself to "religious
limitations" in various areas.
These discussions gave birth, as explained above, to various
suggestions about changing the religious status quo --
proposals that shocked the Torah-loyal. We have a tradition
from our Torah mentors, the idea that a new charter can be
drafted with the anti-religious that would truly benefit
Judaism is inconceivable. Chazal (Yevomos 103) teach
us that "any good emanating from reshoim is bad for
tzaddikim." Any secular attempt to present new
proposals concerning religion must automatically come up
against a wall of suspicion and opposition.
Our starting point must be our understanding that they are
not interested in helping us and we must therefore beware of
their harming us. We must carefully investigate their
suggestions and be vigilant. Secular feelings of "goodwill"
of the type that Langental recently received must be viewed
We must act like a store owner when a professional pickpocket
or a notorious crook enters his store. The store owner knows
from the moment an undesirable person walks into his store
that his aim is not to buy goods, nor does he want to
increase the store's annual profits. It is crystal clear that
his sole aim in visiting the store is in spotting the moment
the storekeeper will let down his guard so he can snatch
money from the cash box or steal merchandise.
HaRav Yitzchok Zeev Soloveitchik zt'l, the Brisker
Rov, used to insist that chareidi Knesset representatives
adopt a policy of extreme mistrust even when dealing with
apparently neutral topics that are unconnected to religion.
When he was asked why he is so distrustful, why he analyzes
and examines even ostensibly innocent laws and regulations,
he explained as follows:
We find in the explanations of the acharonim on
seder Nezikin and Choshen Mishpat, remote and
intricate reckoning about the use of a migo (a logic
accrediting credibility to a claim when the claimant could
have made a better claim).
An obvious question is: how can it be that every common thief
is such a genius to contrive the keen-witted migo of
the brilliant acharonim?
The answer is that it seems that even if in one's daily life
he does not naturally show any brilliant powers of thought,
under pressure and when desperate to gain something, people
can suddenly show creative talents. We can assume that in
such a situation one can think of any argument and
migo that could enable him to attain his wish.
The same, said the Brisker Rav, is in reference to proposals
from the anti-religious. Since their main objective is to
weaken Torah observance they enlist all their talents to
achieve this. They will use any sophisticated method or
clever scheme, and are capable of camouflaging their virulent
plots as innocent initiatives.
With this outlook, Maran the Chazon Ish zt'l rules
that we must reject any compromise in religious matters even
when the compromise is not forbidden. We should not give
those trying to ambush us and to uproot Judaism even the
slimmest chance. In a letter (about Sheirut Leumi --
National Service for girls) Maran writes: "Putting them in a
religious kibbutz does not solve the problem since we
know that some people are pleased with matters that for us
are a tragedy, and lie in wait for us to make the slightest
The extreme suspicion with which our Torah mentors viewed
every plan of the non-religious is not due to unreasonable
apprehension or nervousness, unnecessary worrying, or frayed
nerves. The basis of this suspicion is the profound concern
about the possible harm to the Torah -- as a mother guards
her small beloved babies from any cold wind that might chill
them. The gedolei Torah have a very clear perception
of the true character of those estranged from the Torah.
This is explained well in the commentary of Rabbenu Yonah to
Mishlei (21:12) on the posuk, "The
tzaddik understands the house of the rosho, and
perverts what the rosho does to being evil."
"Many think a tzaddik does not understand the
character of the rosho and his excuses and nature,
since they are so much the opposite of the tzaddik's
nature. This is not so. `The tzaddik understands the
house of the rosho' and reflects about his ways of
deceit, his plots, and his final intent. Chazal (Bovo
Basra 89b) teach us: `Perhaps swindlers will say
talmidei chachomim are not familiar with what we do.'
`Perverts what the rosho does to being evil' -- i.e.,
since the tzaddik realizes the final intent of the
reshoim and is familiar with their nature he distorts
what they do and what they say and resolves to condemn them
because of it."
This is the secret. Sometimes it is difficult for us to
understand how superbly the gedolei Yisroel discern
the nature of the reshoim since they are so remote
from them. The truth however is that "`The tzaddik
understands the house of the rosho'-- and reflects in
his ways of deceit, plots, and final intent."
This being so the gedolei Torah can act in the way
that "`Perverts what the rosho does to being evil'--
precisely because the tzaddik realizes the final
intent of reshoim and is familiar with their nature he
condemns what they do and what they say."
Sometimes this is a long-range observation and sometimes a
short-range observation is all that is necessary. The Brisker
Rav used to say: "My father could see in every act and idea
what harm is liable to emerge from it in another fifty years.
I do not have the power to see from afar, but at least what
is revealed under my nose I can see."
Today after our Torah leaders of previous generations
revealed the danger of secular movements and Zionism, and
these movements have clearly shown that their intention is to
harm the Torah, it is vital that each one of us be suspicious
of what they do and what they propose to us. Our gedolei
Torah have already removed the mask from their faces and
what remains is only for us to open our eyes and see what is
under our noses.
In summary, when we consider Langental's actions we must
remember that because of all the above cited reasons this
type of compromise is posul in every respect. The
Torah did not permit making any compromises in its name and
to do so proves "the merchandise is not his." Another reason,
as explained above, is that to compromise on half the truth
only creates a subsequent demand to concede the whole truth.
Furthermore it is forbidden to even give the appearance of
agreeing to compromises opposed to our opinion. We must think
one step ahead, be wary, and thoroughly investigate their
proposals. We must discern the root of the plans of those who
lie in ambush for us, foil their plans, and be suspicious of
some hidden design.