Monday, June 2, 2008

Reclaiming "Zionism" - Part II

The Holy Land: full of synagogues, history, scenery, McDonald's cheeseburgers, discotheques and Gay "Pride" Parades. The rampant secularism promoted by a small but influential minority of extremists has long been a point of contention for more traditional and observant Jews. Many often bemoan the lack of observance among some Israelis and their pitiful ignorance of Judaism. Coupled with successive self-loathing, post-Zionist governments, many religious and nationalist Jews no longer identify with the State of Israel. One reaction to the Disengagement from Gaza in summer 2005 was to disengage from the State. In certain synagogues, the Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel was omitted and the blue and white flags taken down. In the minds of many, Zionism is associated with the post-Jewish "new Jew", with secularism, with clubbing on Erev Shabbat and land-for-peace deals.

In the 2nd century BCE, the oppressed Jews led a revolt against the mighty Seleucid empire. After 7 long years of intense struggle, the people of Judeah drove out the cruel Greeks and rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem to G-d's service. To commemorate this amazing victory, the holiday of Chanukkah was established. What began as an idealistic revolt in the name of religious freedom and self-determination soon became corrupt. Subsequent Hasmonean rulers, descendants of the brave revolutionaries, were more interested in pride and greed than in perpetuating the ideals that their fathers had fought for. Divided into squabbling religious sects, the Jews fought amongst one another and internal hatred weakened them. Ironically, while the early Hasmoneans fought against assimilation and suppression of Judaism, the later Hasmonean kings brought Roman influence into the the Land and assisted greatly in its Hellenization. Eventually, through a combination of civil war, corruption and obsession with materialism, the Hamonean kingdom was brought to an end by the conquering Romans. 70 years of Jewish independence was crushed by Roman legions. Despite the complete assimilation in the final days of the Hasmonean kingdom, Jews until this day observe the holiday of Chanukkah and sing Hallel to remember the miraculous victory. Even when the rulers of the independent Judea brought in foreign philosophies and cultures and tried to erase Judaism, nobody even suggested that Chanukkah be abolished.

Some religious Jews who support the IDF and our Jewish brethren in the Israel tend to shy away from the word "Zionist" as they associate it with the secularism of the early Chalutzim and Zionist leaders. It is not common knowledge that a hundred or so years before Herzl, great rabbis such as the Baal Shem Tov or the Vilna Gaon were encouraging their disciples to make aliyah so as to build up the Land. Zionism did is not a 19th century imperialist movement or a new ideology founded by Herzl or Weitzman. Zionism has its origins in G-d's promise to Avraham Avinu that to his descendants He would give the Land of Israel. Zionism is the thrice-daily prayer for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and our declaration at the end of our Pesach seder. It is the dictum of our Sages that living in Israel is equivalent to the entire Torah. Zionism is the essential component of Judaism which teaches that Jews must form a G-dly society in the Holy Land. By rejecting the so-called "Zionists", these people are perpetuating the sin of the Meraglim who slandered the Land and caused Israel to wander in the desert for 40 years.

When asked if they recite Hallel on Yom HaAtzmaut, some will jokingly reply that they follow Ben Gurion's custom: they don't say Hallel, but they don't say Tachanun either. Behind this witty quip is the insinuation that because the State was founded by secular Jews, it is worthless. Little do they know that oftentimes, the most lofty of ideas has very humble origins. The Moshiach's ancestry, that of the most noble king ever to rule Israel, will be descended of the debauchery of Moav which was conceived through incest, and from the adultery of David and Bathshevah. G-d conceals the Redemption through natural and ignoble means so as to confuse the klipah. As king Chizikiyahu lay on his deathbed, the prophet Yishayahu came to visit him. He explained to him that his death had been decreed for the sin of not having children. Chizikiyahu protested and defended himself by saying that he had known through prophesy that his children would be wicked and that he prefered not having them. Yishayahu answered him: "Why do you involved yourself with the Merciful One's matters? You must do as you are commanded and the Holy One, Blessed be He, will do as He sees fit." Why should these "super-frum" Jews involve themselves with G-d's matters? Let them fulfill the mitzvah of the conquest and settling of the Land and let HaShem do as He sees fit. Do they really imagine the Moshiach to come to a deserted and empty land? Rather, every single house built and tree planted in Israel hastens the Geula.

The State of Israel, Reishit Tzmichat Geulateinu, the Dawn of our Deliverance, has certainly fallen short of the promises of the Neviim. However, it is out of the husk of this secularism that our redemption will sprout. Just as I will continue to light Chanukkah candles even though the Hasmonean kingdom eventually persectued the rabbis, I will continue to dance on Yom HaAtzmaut and thank G-d for His miracles. The proper response to such secularism is not to isolate ourselves but rather to get involved and to change the State from within. Any Jew who accepts G-d's promise to the Avot, who affirm's the central mitzvah of the settlement and conquest of the Land, who prays for G-d to return His people to Israel and who proudly declares every Passover, "Next Year in Jerusalem!", is a Zionist. Zionism cannot be separated from Judaism just as Israel cannot be removed from the Torah. Israel does not depend on the religiosity of its people or leaders but rather on HaShem's promise to avenge His great and holy Name that was desecrated among the nations. And HaShem is a G-d who keeps His word.

Cross-posted to Jewish Vengeance

1 comment:

WomanHonorThyself said...

thanks Bar for the constant inspiration!