Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Teves 5761 - January 24, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
We do not Depend on Them

By Nosson Zev Grossman

At Yated Ne'eman we often get letters from readers asking us why we always review the historical opposition of the chareidim to the Zionist movement, since the Zionist idea went bankrupt a long time ago and even the secular public no longer admires its leaders or Zionist symbols.

This is a valid question. After all, none of our readers nowadays are likely to be suspected of being closet Zionists. In the early years of the State, you could still see innocent Jews with long beards and payos dancing on Yom Haatzmaut, but nowadays no chareidi Jew would participate in any nationalist celebrations.

However, looking around us and listening carefully to people's conversations and thoughts, we notice that this heretical movement -- which, according to Rav Chaim Brisker zt"l, touched upon the most sensitive point of the Jewish nation -- still manages to infiltrate its ideas into the hearts of even the most Orthodox amongst us.

It is true that no chareidi Jew will display the flag on Yom Haatzmaut or say Hallel, but the Zionist mentality still manifests itself in several more subtle ways. There are many aspects to this, but we shall only cite two topical examples: the current political situation and the elections for prime minister.

The negotiations with the Palestinians and the prime minister's willingness to make far-reaching concessions have led to a wave of protests by the Right, culminating in a huge demonstration two weeks ago before the walls of the Old City in Yerushalayim. We have made it clear in the past that we do not consider ourselves to have a common cause with these demonstrators, but we would like to clarify this matter further by concentrating on two specific points.

@Big Let Body=The arguments made by opponents to the latest political decisions focus on two totally separate points which are actually totally unrelated, but the fact that they are always mentioned together by right-wing circles has managed to convince even some of us that they are related.

The first argument deals with the security issue and has nothing to do with ideology. It is a factual question, and only experts in the army and security should express an opinion on it. The fear is that the broad territorial concessions are likely to create new dangers in different areas of the country and especially in Yerushalayim. If the border is to be drawn near heavily populated Jewish areas, with Arab neighborhoods under full Palestinian control just across the border, this could result in the nightmarish scenes of Gilo and Psagot being repeated in many other Jewish neighborhoods in Yerushalayim.

As I say, this argument is not an ideological one. The only dispute is about the degree of danger involved in the current proposals and whether a "peace" of this nature may only increase the security risks. Religious people (regardless of whether they would support any peace agreement or oppose it as a dangerous move) are guided by the command, vechai bohem, and the halocho requires us to do everything possible to prevent danger to the lives of Jews.

At the same time, we do not believe this to be the main point. We are obliged to do our bit in accordance with halocho, but we realize that the calamities which happen to us as a nation are heavenly decrees, and that the midas hadin will not be removed from us as long as the Jewish nation rebels against its faith and Torah chas vesholom. Only if "you walk in My statutes" will "I give peace in the land."

These security considerations are, however, not the only reasons for the Right's opposition to the peace process. They are also very worried about the issue of sovereignty. As far as they are concerned, even if an agreement was proposed that guaranteed absolute security, it would still be impossible to concede sovereignty over any part of Eretz Yisroel and especially over Yerushalayim.

On this matter, we can never stand on common ground with them. We are concerned for the welfare and security of every single Jew, but have no interest in empty nationalistic symbols which attach significance to secular sovereignty. Eretz Yisroel is holy and has been promised to us on the absolute condition that we observe the Torah, and changes in its political status will make no difference to this situation until Moshiach comes.

When we merit the future redemption, the Beis Hamikdosh will be rebuilt and a Kingdom of Torah will be established in this country whose whole purpose will be to increase kvod Shomayim, and then there will be a concept of spiritual sovereignty. This will consist of the rule of Torah and mitzvos, and its purpose will be to ensure that the Jewish people fulfills its raison d'etre by behaving in accordance with the kedushoh of this country and does not pollute it chas vesholom.

But as long as we are still in golus -- amongst non- Jews or amongst estranged Jews -- the character of this "sovereignty" makes no difference (again, we are not talking about the security aspect, but about the symbolic significance of one nation ruling a territory rather than another). Does the sanctity of the land increase when certain parts of it are ruled by Jews who have discarded the yoke of Torah, rather than by non-Jews? Does Hakodosh Boruch Hu derive pleasure from the fact that a flag is flying over a certain settlement? Is the degree of kvod Shomayim really dependent on the issue of whether a certain area in Eretz Yisroel is under the control of Arafat, Barak or Sharon?

On the contrary, in some measure, the desecration of the Torah and chilul Hashem are actually increased when non- religious Jews and a secular State trample the mitzvos in Eretz Yisroel, engaging in chilul Shabbos, desecrating shmittah and denying fundamentals of our faith and the Shulchan Oruch.

If there are amongst us Jews who get carried away by the rhetoric of the nationalistic struggle for sovereignty, if people become confused and mention slogans of this kind, it is a sign that the dying embers of Zionism still affect the periphery of our circles.

@Big Let Body=Another topic which calls for some introspection on our part is that of the upcoming elections. The matter of principle as to whether we should be participating at all in elections to the Knesset has already been decided by gedolim both past and present. On previous occasions, when elections for prime minister were held at the same time as elections to the Knesset, the gedolim instructed us to vote for the least anti- religious candidate. But each case must be considered separately, especially now that the vote will only be for a secular prime minister. We await the ruling of the gedolim about participating in these elections.

This only concerns the actual vote on election day, and for us it is enough if a ruling is made just before the elections, but it appears that some people feel a need to participate in the election campaign itself, organizing and so on, without waiting to hear what the gedolim have to say. Apart from the problem of initiatives undertaken by people relying on daas baalei batim unguided by daas Torah, these actions signify a deeper malady: the wish to be part of Israeli society.

Our involvement in governmental, political and electoral affairs has been forced upon us. We have no desire to be partners in running the State, and it is only because of press of circumstances that we send representatives to the Knesset in order to save whatever possible. If we become more involved than the minimum that is required for this purpose, we infringe the command "to seek no intimacy with the ruling power."

We should follow the example of Yaakov and his sons in Egypt: "And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, `What is your occupation?' that you shall say, `Your servants have been shepherds from our youth until now, both we, and our fathers,' that you may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is considered an abomination by the Egyptians" (Bereishis 46:33-34). Rashi (ibid.) says, "He will put you at a distance from him and settle you there."

HaRav Yeruchom Leibowitz zt"l commented on this that we should be amazed by the behavior of Yaakov and his sons, who preferred to degrade themselves in front of Pharaoh and all the Egyptians just to be able to live far away from them. Moreover, Yosef chose only to present those of his brothers to Pharaoh who would be the least likely to be chosen as ministers or appointed to important governmental positions.

The Mirrer mashgiach continues: "This is how the Jews behaved subsequently in all their periods of exile. Our ancestors were always ready to suffer persecutions from their host nations, just for the sake of not becoming too close to them. It is a mistake to think that the Jews are hated because they are Jews. During all periods of history, the non-Jewish nations always wanted the Jews to unite with them. Their call was always, `Return, return, that we may look upon you' -- `come to us and we will appoint you commanders, prefects and rulers' (Shir Hashirim Rabba 7:2), but the Jews always preferred poverty and persecutions, seeking `no intimacy with the ruling power' and keeping as far away as possible from politics and its tribulations.

"How differently we behave nowadays! We run towards any available government position, citing various excuses to justify our behavior. We argue that the economic and political situation forces us to become influential, and that if we continue our policy of secluding ourselves from the world we will become `pariahs' and outcasts of society. How we have changed and regressed from the position of all our ancestors z"l! They exerted every effort to become `pariahs' and `untouchables' -- and we, in our shortsightedness, run after them."

He concludes: "Becoming intimate with the ruling authority, drawing closer to the nations, and becoming involved with politics can only lead to destruction; we must run away from sin!"

Our rabbonim shlita have taught us that we have to behave this way in all circumstances, not just when we are in exile amongst the non-Jewish nations. When a secular Jewish government is in power we should also have no interest in becoming associated with it in order to feel that we are "part of Israeli society." Our sole concern should be to do whatever is necessary for the preservation of religious rights, which are our primary concern.

The national-religious and nationalist-chareidi camps, on the other hand, feel an uncontrollable urge to be legitimate, accepted and loved. They consider the State to be an admirable, valuable entity, bordering on the holy. This explains why it is so important to them to be accepted and admired in governmental circles and the media, and why each time they are branded with the label of illegitimacy -- as was the case after the assassination of Rabin -- they go into a deep crisis. Their image as a recognized and desirable sector of Israeli society is of paramount importance to them, and they will go to any length to maintain their legitimacy and popularity.

The chareidi public, on the other hand, which follows the instructions and outlook of the gedolim, has no trace of admiration for the paper tiger known as Zionism, and feels no need for recognition by the State and its organs. All we want is to be left alone and to be allowed to lead a Jewish life of Torah. We will fight against any attacks on our lifestyles and on the fundamentals of Judaism, but we do not go out of our way to prove that we participate in the social life of the State, that we are an integral part of the government, legitimate citizens with the right to exist in the Zionist state.

Let them think of us what they want, and label us to their hearts' content. We do not need the stamp of legitimacy from our secular brethren. We do not depend on them. As Rav Yeruchom zt"l wrote, Jews were not intimidated by threats that they would become pariahs and outcasts if they do not assimilate. On the contrary, throughout the generations Jews wanted to be considered outcasts. They made a point of not seeking intimacy with the ruling authority, even preferring to have the image of people who dealt with "the abominations of Egypt" in order that their host nation keep them at a distance.

Whoever has not been infected to any degree by the Zionist plague sees no value whatsoever in secular sovereignty over parts of Eretz Hakodesh or over Jews within it. On the contrary, it hurts us to witness a situation where the secular leadership has taken control of the Jewish nation and of Eretz Yisroel and we have no desire to endear ourselves to them or come under their protection. Let them consider us separatists, anti-Zionists, parasites, draft- dodgers, illegitimate or any other pejorative designation which expresses our isolation from secular society, just so long as they do not prevent us from leading our Torah way of life.

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