Sunday, April 30, 2006

Yom HaAtzmaut celebrations in the US

The fifth of Iyyar has got to be the most divisive day on the Hebrew calendar. What other day has Orthodox Jews running the full gamut of Hallel with a Beracha to donning sackcloth? [ I have heard of some people actually saying both Hallel and Selichos, when Yom HaAtzmaut falls on Baha"b (the Monday-Thursday-Monday series of fast days after Rosh Chodesh Iyyar and Cheshvan).]

This post is addressed to the Religious Zionists of America.

I can definitely understand you. You feel that there is what to celebrate on Yom HaAtzmaut. There have been some very impressive victories on the battlefield, where the commanders of the IDF have witnessed the Yad Hashem, and the strides Israel has made from an economic standpoint have been quite staggering, such as in the realm of technology. The desert has bloomed for her returning sons and daughters, and holocaust survivors take solace in the existence of a place they can call home.

On the other hand, there is great anguish involved in the fact that those who have been, and still are, at the helm of this return to Eretz Yisrael have been people who are anti-Torah. The establishment of the State by Jews who were alienated from G-d and sought to alienate others as a matter of principle is enough to rip your heart out. The Israeli movie industry is notoriously pornographic, there are gay parades, and other abominations. And we cannot simply ignore this, as the media and the Israeli establishment continue to malign those Jews who are faithful to their Father in Heaven. Hashem has allowed his children to return to His palace, and there are some sons who are so blinded that they spread the spiritual equivalent of trash in His Holy Land, which was the source of our forced departure from the Land to begin with.

Considering that this is the case, I cannot comprehend why so many of the Yom HaAtzmaut celebrations organized by religious Jews, especially in the Diaspora, seem to place so much emphasis on Israeli culture. There may be some Israeli folk dancing, singing of "Shirei Eretz Yisrael" composed by some of the more virulent Torah haters in Israel, eating Israeli ethnic foods such as falafel or mangal (barbecuing - a widespread "Minhag" of Yom HaAtzmaut), flag dances and singing of HaTikvah, and the like. It seems to me that this is a celebration of the secular elements of the State, which are a source of tremendous pain!

Wouldn't it be so much more, well, Jewish, if this Israeli Independence Day were commemorated by organizing Shiurim which relate to the Hashkafic and Halachic elements of Eretz Yisrael, and perhaps inviting a religious IDF officer to relate his sense of awe in feeling the Yad Hashem guiding the wars of the State, instead of celebrating those elements of the Medinah which were meant to supplant our true source of unity - our beloved Torah? As Rav Saadya Gaon states - "Our Nation is not a Nation except by virtue of its Torah".

Please, make these celebrations a Kiddush Hashem by investing them with a deep sense of gratitude to Hashem for the ability to serve Him in His holy palace, not for the ability to eat falafel or sing an anthem which makes no mention of Him.

Unprecedented defection?

In a recent post on Hirhurim, R' Gil correctly challenges the notion that the extent of the phenomenon of defection from the ranks of Torah-true Judaism is unprecedented.

Since the advent of the Emancipation, going off the Derech had become an option, and in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Europe, the problem was rampant. To illustrate the extent of the phenomenon, let's tell over what Rav Shach's grandson, R' Asher Bergman, relates in the recently published "Maran HaRav Shach":

When Rav Shach was about seventeen years old, he was learning in the Yeshiva in Slutzk under Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer. After a while, R' Isser Zalman became aware of the truly destitute situation of HaRav Shach, who was literally penniless. (He had had his suitcase stolen from him on the way to Slutzk). R' Isser Zalman gave HaRav Shach the responsibility to learn with some of the younger Bochurim. One of these young charges was HaRav Yechiel Michel Feinstein, a nephew of Rav Moshe and future son-in-law of the Brisker Rav.

HaRav Shach related that while R' Yechiel Michel was in his charge he would constantly attempt to convince R' Yechiel Michel to stop smoking. Not for health reasons, which were hardly a consideration at the turn of the century. The reason was this: HaRav Shach knew that Slutzk was rife with Maskilim , and that they had the most talented boys in their crosshairs as the best candidates for their ranks. HaRav Shach thought: "At least if R' Michel doesn't smoke, he won't light up on Shabbos!"

"Happens to the best boys, and in the best families" is nothing new.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rav Shach agreed!

Excerpted from the recently published (in English) "A Threat From Within - A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism", by Prof. Yakov M. Rabkin (pg. 198):

"For all of their differences, the last Lubavitch Rebbe and Rabbi Schach, the leader of the "Lithuanian" Haredim, agreed on the place of Israel in Jewish continuity. For Rabbi Schach, before the arrival of the Messiah, the Jewish people remain in exile wherever they may find themselves, including in Israel proper. In the view of his contemporary, Rabbi Menahem Mendel Schneerson, who over time had become more open to the nationalists, "the aliya of numerous Jews to the Holy Land does not constitute a gathering of the exiled" as it is presented in the prophetic scriptures. (Ravitzky: Messianism, Zionism, and Jewish Religious Radicalism, pg.147). For him, the State of Israel has complicated redemption and sowed confusion among the Jews: "The false redemption does not allow the true redemption to be revealed, for those who think that they are already living in the redemption do not perform the [religious] actions required for the going forth from exile and the revealing of the true redemption; they cause the prolongation of the Exile, the exile of the individual, the exile of the community, the exile of all Israel, and the exile of the Shekhina [divine presence]" (Ravitzky).

Opposition to competing visions of the Geulah makes strange bedfellows indeed.
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