By: Rabbi A. Kanarek  | 

Support At All Costs? (Vol. 58, Issue 11)

The recent visit of Yitzhak Rabin to the Yeshiva was heralded as an historic event and a great honor for YU. The “red carpet” was truly rolled out, from the “welcome” sign across Amsterdam Avenue to the repainting of Tannenbaum Hall. May I tread on sacred ground and ask -- what was all the fuss about?!

The philosophical father of religious Zionism is, of course, Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook zt'l. Rav Kook writes “... the continuation of Zionism, as it is at present, saps the strength of our religion and faith (Rav Kook-Selected Letters, letter 37-Feldman).” Rav Kook spoke about a Zionism which was nationalistic, but not religious in any form. The Rav goes on to say, “The sources before us are, after all, open. History shows us that a successful national resurgence has never lived among us without it holding to, and linked with, religion and faith.” Rav Kook maintained that in order for us to support a Zionistic movement, first and foremost, the organization would have to accept as its bylaws that, “one of the major foundations of work for the spread and flowering of Zionism will be the establishment of religion and faith in our nation.”

If Yitzhak Rabin would stand for the furtherance of Jewish education and Torah observance in Eretz Yisroel, then he would deserve all the honors in the world, but sadly, he does not (yet)!

Rabin’s choice for Minister of Education, Shulamit Aloni- an anti-Dati person- is proof enough of his agenda. Religious Zionism, which presumably our Yeshiva preaches, believes that the creation of the State of Israel was through Divine intervention. Hallel is recited on Yom Ha’atzmaut to thank G-d for allowing Jews to once again live freely in Eretz Yisroel under a Jewish government. Our observance of Torah and mitzvot must always reign supreme, and only then could Zionism find a place.

One of our very prominent Roshei Yeshiva (who is very much a supporter of the Medinah) commented, before the visit, [that if] if at the event (Rabin’s speech) Rabin would be encouraged to support Dati causesin the Land of Israel, then we should attend to applaud this effort. Since, however, that will not be done, he went on to say, then to attend would merely be “chanifas reshaim” (flattering evildoers). This Rosh Yeshiva predicted accurately. Rabin was flattered and praised, but never given any cordial rebuke on his attitude towards religious affairs.

During the visit, a small crowd of protesters was across the street. They were protesting the allowance of archaeological digs in Israel that dig up Jewish graves. Could you imagine if the American government started to dig up Jewish graves? I could just hear the great hue and cry that would go up from the American Jewish community! When this is done by an Israeli government, is it any better? And if not, then perhaps we should have been across the street rather than in the auditorium. 

I remember when I was learning in Yeshivat Sha‘alvim, about thirteen years ago, my Rebbe posed the following dilemma to the shiur: Who do you believe to be a better Jew — a non- religious Jew who is a loyal nationalistic Zionist, ora Jew who is a Shomer Mitzvot and yet denies the existence of the State of Israel. The Rebbe, who was a Rav T’zvaii and a former paratrooper, said that of course we would have to choose the latter. Whereas the Zionist is loyal to the medinah, that ends his commonality to a religious zionist; as opposed to the frum yid, with whom you have almost everything in common but one detail in your hashkafa!

Rav Aharon Lichtenstein shlita, in a shiur he gave here at Yeshiva, once made a similar observation as the Rebbe in Sha‘alvim. He said it is of course more important to share “miley de‘rekia” (matters of Heaven) with someone rather than to share merely “miley d’arah” (matters of this world.)

If our Yeshiva is to continue to be the “shining light” for Centrist and Zionistic Orthodoxy in America then it needs to get its priorities straight. We must show the American Jewish community that our Torah ideals may never be compromised at any cost! We should support efforts to increase Torah observance and chinuch in the medinah. This will not be accomplished by lauding praise on anything or anyone representing Zionism despite anti-religious policies. As Rav Kook z’tl wrote --“ourTorahand our faithare our breath and the light of our lives, and because of this, they need to penetrate all the limbs of all of our nation.”

This article is meant as a positive reform, not as an attack on Yeshiva activities. It was written with the hope to reawaken ourselves to examine what our goals are and our true attitudes in supporting the medinah.

May HaShem bring the complete redemption to all of Kial Yisroel speedily in our day!

Rabbi A. Kanarek

(Faculty of TMSTA and Rav of AECOM Synagogue)