In the introduction to his Hebrew translation, Rabbi Moshe Sheinfeld wrote (in part): "To those of our readers who will find in the words of the Gaon a blatant tendency towards extreme zealousness (kano'us), it should be said: Before we examine gedolei Yisroel against the charge that they may have been gripped by kano'us, it were better that we examine ourselves, lest we have been gripped by a tendency to be lukewarm and to compromise the Holy of Holies and the highest of the values of Yisroel."
The National Idea
The father of the modern national idea in Israel is the "Herald of the Dawn," who lived sixty (eighty) years ago, and fought all his life with great bitterness against the Torah. Apparently he thought that the Torah had already given up the ghost, and that he was to succeed it; for this reason he created an alternative to Torah in the shape of the national idea. In point of fact, this was not the absolute origin of the national idea. At that time, the time of the Balkan war, all the small Balkan people thought in terms of nationalism, seeking to throw the yoke of the Turks from their necks. The opportunity presented itself for him to take across the finished article and merely replant it on Jewish soil.
The main feature of this idea is that to be a Jew means to subscribe to the national idea and nothing more. His successors brought "their Rabbi's Torah" to perfection by their announcement that even an apostate is to be reckoned equal to any Jewish national.
What is the opinion of the Torah regarding such an idea? There are clear laws for such a factor: In thirty-six places (Bava Metzia 59b) the Torah warns that the ger is to be pampered as a father pampers his only son. What must be the ger's origin? Even if he is a descendant of Haman (Gittin 57b), the law of the ger applies to him. On the other hand, an Israelite who is disloyal to his faith, even if he be a son of the greatest godol comes under the ruling "To put down not lift up", (Avodoh Zara26b) he is worse than the dog, to which the law of "to degrade" does not apply.
We see, therefore, that one's origin along without Torah is valueless, so that the National idea is nothing but a modern idol; not recognized by the Torah, it is fundamentally idol- worship.
In the course of time, the National idea begat a child which was named "Religious-Nationalism"—Dati-Leumi. The name implies that Religion alone is insufficient; we must perfect it by the addition of Nationalism. In its very name is contained a denial of one of the fundamentals of the faith; "The Law of the Lord is perfect" (Tehillim 19:8), it lacks nothing, and has no blemish. We were warned, "You shall not add to it (Devorim 4:2)— and all who add diminish." (Sanhedrin 29a) It is clear that since modern nationalism is fundamentally idol-worship, it follows automatically that the Religious- Nationalist viewpoint is nothing less than idol-worship coupled with service to G-d (shituf).
As a matter of fact, the idea of adding a second Torah is quite old. Maimonides writes in his letters: "Since the giving of the Law, the world has fought against the Torah by various methods. One way was by the "strong hand," through evil decrees and enforced baptism. "No arms shall prosper against you" (Yeshaya 54:17). A second method is opposite to this; through a "soft mouth" (Sotah 11) through persuasion and argument. We were promised "Every tongue that comes to judgment with you shall be shown wicked." In the course of many generations a new weapon was found. They say: "The Torah is true, but we must add to it a Second Torah."
All these methods which Maimonides mentions were used from outside, by the nations; but now, in the Epoch of the Messiah, all these weapons are used by our own anti- religious. By the "strong hand" when they have the opportunity. In the land of the Reds, our apostates persecute sincere Jews with fearful cruelty; also in another place, wherever they find the chance to subjugate genuine Jews.
Elsewhere, for lack of physical power, they use other methods and degrade the Torah in articles and speeches. The third method, the addition of a torah to our Torah is brought to reality by the Religious-Nationalists.
The latter have brought a terrible confusion of ideas and mixed values into our camp. Before their appearance it was known that only one who keeps the Torah can be reckoned a real Jew. One who denies it is like an apostate and has no real link with us. The Religio-Nationalists assert otherwise: "Certainly, he is a denier; but since he has Nationalist views he is one of us." The Law states: "If any person is not G-d-fearing it is prohibited to appoint him to any office in Israel" (Maimonides Hilchos Melochim 1:7); yet they condone the appointment of such deniers to be leaders in Israel.
It is said: "The refining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold; and a man is tried by his praise" (Mishlei 26:21). How shall man be tried in order that his inner self may be known? Through those that he praises. We must see those whom he praises. If he always praises good people, it is a sign that he too is basically good; if it is his wont to praise evildoers, it shows that he, too, is to be counted among them. (Sha'arei Teshuva of R. Yonah)
When we hear whom the Religious-Nationalists praise we can know their character. It is clear that one who loves the Torah, cannot love its enemies; one who honors the Torah cannot honor those who degrade the Torah. (Iyov 31:11) Not for naught did the zarzir go to the raven, but because he is of the same kind (Bava Kama 92b). "The honoring of evildoers is a fire which completely destroys" (Sha'arei Teshuva of R. Yonah 3:148, cf. 187- 199).
In spite of the Torah's warning: "It is prohibited to join with Evildoers, even in obeying a precept (Sha'arei Teshuva 3:51) they say; "Not so, for through our co- operation with the sinners we will cause them to repent." They think themselves wiser and better than the Torah itself. The Torah warns: "Be not over- righteous" (Koheles 7:16), i.e. more righteous than the Torah demands. Man must not attempt to outdo the Torah in righteousness.
It is said in the name of R. Israel Salanter (see also Chofetz Chaim On The Torah 136:4): It happens sometimes that a man wishes to do an action which, though he knows it to be against the wishes of the Torah, he considers will bring great spiritual benefit, and is necessary to the upkeep of Judaism. The Gaon related a parable about this mentality: It happened that a king sent one of his nobles on a mission of state to the king of another country, warning him: "If the nobles of the country to which you are going wish to have any bet with you, then decline." He repeated and tripled his warning— not to bet under any circumstances. The noble duly reached his destination and completed his mission.
Before his return, the nobles of that place said: "You are a hunchback, Sir."
"It is not true, I have never been a hunchback," replied the noble.
"Let us bet a million pieces of silver that you are a hunchback," they continued.
He, however, remembered what the king had admonished him; nevertheless, he said to himself, the outcome of this bet is beyond doubt, and why should I not agree to it and thereby enrich the national exchequer? They stripped him and duly found that he was no hunchback. They paid him the money, and he returned to his country rejoicing and of good heart.
In audience with the king, he related the matter of the bet. Said the king: "When I warned you, I knew quite well why I had done so. The nobles of that country had betted with me for a sum of hundred times greater than what you have won, that they could strip one of my nobles naked. Now you have won a million; but I shall lose 99 millions because of your haste."
The moral is obvious. If a man thinks in his heart that in spite of the Torah's warning, a prohibited thing can bring a great advantage we must tell him: The advantage which you see, the Torah also saw; and if the Torah yet prohibited it, it is evident that not a benefit, but great harm must result from it. Instead of bringing the wicked back into the ways of righteousness, the Religio-Nationalists have been turned into faithful disciples of the free- thinkers, who apply all their energy and strength, both privately and publicly against those who bear the standard of the Torah. They bridge the gap between the two camps of the religious and the irreligious. Generally, on a bridge one sees traffic to and fro; on the Religious-National bridge are to be seen only those who pass over in one direction, none return.
Haggai, the Prophet, said (2:12-14): If one bear hallowed flesh in the skirt of his garment... shall it become Holy? And the Priests answered, No. Then said Haggai: If one that is unclean by a dead body touch one of these, shall it be unclean? And the Priests answered and said; It shall be unclean. Then answered Haggai and said; 'So is this people, and so is this nation before Me,' and so on.
These verses tell us that by mere contact with holiness, we do not become holy; but through contact with unclean things we become unclean. The Torah testifies: "Happy is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the wicked" <(I>Tehillim 1:1), if he has walked, he will, "stand in the way of sinners", if he has stood he will assuredly "sit in the seat of the scornful." (Avoda Zara 18b) The Torah's testimony is everlasting and applies to all times and all conditions. He who thinks himself an exception is a fool and of haughty spirit; but he who hearkens to the advice of the Torah, happy is his lot.
End of Part VII
To Read Part I
To Read Part II
To Read Part III
To Read Part IV
To Read Part V
To Read Part VI