Rosh Yeshivas Beis Medrash Elyon and Torah Vodaas
Passed away 22 Adar, 5718 (1958)
[An excerpt from Ba'ayos Hazman (Bnei Brak: Netzach Publishers, 5748), with the permission of the author's family and the publishers.]
HaRav Reuven Grozovsky, the son-in-law of the gaon HaRav Boruch Ber Leibowitz, rosh yeshivas Kaminetz, and later head of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah in America, was one of the outstanding leaders of Torah Jewry in America during World War II and thereafter. HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky said that even his discussions of hashkofo were "mamash like a shiur." He clarified many of the issues of modern Jewry and presented them with clarity and comprehensiveness, as is evident in the selection that follows.
A war is being waged there against all of the Torah's tenets! It is incumbent upon us to rally to Hashem's cause, and to the aid of our brothers who are fighting for their souls and the souls of their sons and daughters—and indeed, the soul of the entire nation— against the government of atheists. We must show the oblivious public the tactics and schemes of the secularists, exposing their rebellion against Hashem and their persecution of Torah- loyal Jews, aimed at ending their observance of our religion. It is not only that the secularists have no real ahavas Yisroel; they go so far as to oppress every kosher Jew with various forms of pressure and harassment, with the aim of destroying them.
Even if they were full of ahavas Yisroel, still, such people are despised and rejected by Hashem as leaders of the Jewish nation. We find in the gemora (Sanhedrin 102b) that Hakodosh Boruch Hu paid Achav King of Israel his reward [for his good deeds] in this world; all the same, the gemora (ibid. 39b) also writes that the posuk "When the wicked are destroyed there is joy" (Mishlei 11:10) refers to Achav.
The State is, however, a reality, and the Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisroel is also a reality. Our aim now is not to argue whether to say Hallel or Selichos [about the founding of the State], or whether founding the State was the first glimmer of the Redemption, or simply more pre-Messianic tribulations, or a new golus.
First of all, all this doesn't make much difference, practically speaking. Then again, why should we argue about matters that Hashem conceals from us? Furthermore, why should we start up a verbal battle when there is such strong opposition on this issue? (This is because there is a natural tendency to believe that this is the beginning of the salvation, and that is what many believe in their hearts.) And why should we fight against the blue and white flag when we can easily prove to any straightforward person who believes in Hashem the wickedness of those who are in control over there? Is it not better to cause these people to stop supporting those rulers and instead help the Torah-observant?
Yet even nowadays, after the establishment of the State, it is unthinkable that we should change our outlook on those enemies of our faith even one iota. We fight against their government because they hate us and persecute us, and not, choliloh, as colleagues who merely differ in opinion.
As for which strategy to fight them with, that must be discussed at length. That depends not only upon our outlook on them, but also on the nature of the situation and the conditions of battle. We must deduce conclusions from known facts that are applicable to our case. On this point there are many opinions within our own camp: some see no distinction between the Jewish State and the Zionist Movement that founded it, in which case we need not associate with them in any way, nor need we acknowledge any law that was promulgated by a majority composed of heretics. We can act as free people and do as we wish.
It follows according to this that all of the reasons against participating in the Zionist Movement apply also to the Jewish State, and the same goes for participating in their official elections. Although gedolei Yisroel participated in elections for the parliaments of gentile lands, and sometimes also in the government itself, those who hold this opinion draw a distinction between gentile heretics and Jewish heretics.
Others think differently about the situation. In their judgment we must distinguish between a state and a movement. If we live in a state we are ipso facto partners in it, and the government rules over us whether we want it or not. There is no possibility of evading their laws entirely, nor can the campaign to abolish, or at least mitigate, their wicked decrees be carried out other than through their laws. Therefore the Mishnah's warning, "Do not join a wicked person" (Avos 1:7), is irrelevant in our case—since we are together with them anyway. On the contrary, if we do not use the rights that they left us in their laws to fight them—for example, if we do not participate in the elections- -we are actually relinquishing our right to maintain our own views. We are handing our mental powers over to the wicked, and it is as if we are assisting them to strengthen their rule over us, and to lead us and our children astray after the three cardinal sins: idolatry, libertinism, and murder.
Every vote and every representative in the parliament is part of the government's system of control. Each person who abandons his right to vote for a representative is working for our foe's benefit and granting them a greater share in the government.
Participating in their parliament does not mean consenting to their government, their laws, or their views. Doing what we are compelled to do, what is done to save ourselves, cannot possibly be viewed as conceding anything. The gemora in Nedorim (22a) emphasizes this point: "... But perhaps we are strengthening the sinners? He answered: `You are saving yourselves.'"
This view compares our situation in Eretz Yisroel to participation in the gentile governments in other lands, even though sometimes there it was a government of fervent heretics. In the latter case it would not be permitted save for the abovementioned reason, since even with gentiles it would be otherwise forbidden. The followers of this school also draw a parallel to the Polish communities where the gedolim permitted, and even commanded, participation in the elections, even where the majority of people there were atheists. Nonetheless it seems that even so, most of the Torah-loyal, and apparently even most Torah scholars, agreed to participate in those elections.
Others add that the above reasons obligate us [not only to vote and be represented in the Knesset in Eretz Yisroel, but] also to take government posts as well. Some also draw an analogy to Yosef and Mordechai and Daniel and Nechemiah, and to R' Shmuel HaNagid and Abarbanel; or to Ovadiah in Achav's palace; and to other Jews who served as shtadlonim for Yisroel.
Although it can be argued that these cases are dissimilar to our own, nonetheless, if what is done is done for Heaven's sake, with only the intent of saving ourselves, and because we are forced to take action (as with Esther and Ya'el, who did an aveiroh lishmah), and when in our hearts there is no respect for the rulers nor any agreement with their decrees against Torah observance—then it would seem that the difference of opinion is not an argument in hashkofo matters, but is only a difference in how to evaluate the situation. But even if the argument is truly a difference of opinion in halocho and daas Torah, nevertheless the differences are only about how one should draw analogies from one case to another, and not in the essentials of emunah that are the foundation of Agudas Yisroel.
When ruthless people attack us from all sides, wishing to mortally wound us, we must try to save ourselves, just as a deer strives to escape from a trap. We must battle against them with all the strength we can summon. Now is not the time to carry on disagreements among those who are faithful to Hashem and His Torah and the essentials of emunah, for we are all being persecuted together by Hashem's enemies. This is true despite our disagreements concerning the right way to save ourselves; it is true even if, in our opinion, others are even damaging our cause with their actions and their policies. We are in a similar case to those under Soviet rule, where each one seeks the way that is most fitting, in his opinion, to observe the Torah; or to those who were persecuted by the Nazis, where some fled to forests, others hid themselves in bunkers, or joined the "Jewish Councils" and planned schemes in the ghettos and the concentration camps to save their lives.
The main thing is to devote all our thoughts and feelings, our bodies, our might, and all our deeds, to fight Hashem's war against His undisguised enemies, and not to distract ourselves by quarreling with other Torah-loyal Jews.
All this is simply practical sense: for in a time when we are obligated to fight in the great war for Hashem that occupies the times of ikvesa deMeshicha, and we see great negligence about this matter, there is no time to argue with our fellow believers and put aside this great mitzvah of fighting for Hashem, even if such an argument is also a mitzvah.
However, the truth is that among those where the only difference of opinion is about how to understand the current situation, or even how to draw parallels from one thing to another—of them it was certainly said: "they love both truth and peace" (Zecharya 8:19). Brotherhood and friendship must be maintained between us in every event. [But even more,] even if we suspect that the other's motive is not for Heaven's sake, and even if the other is suspected of transgressing the Torah's laws and straying from its ways, although we are obligated to rebuke such people, still we must do so gently so that they will accept the rebuke from us. Concerning this it is written in Avos DeRebbe Nosson (16:5): "Love everyone, but hate the heretics and apikorsim."
When we go forth girded to fight Hashem's war for His sake, as He has commanded us, Hashem will go forth with our armies and will fight our wars, and argue our arguments, and deliver the mighty into the hands of the weak and the many in the hands of the few. He will make for His honor a great and holy reputation (name) in His world, and will hasten the advent of His Moshiach, soon, in our days.