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Fate, Destiny & Shivat Tziyon: The RAV on Religious Zionism

Max Stern Division of Communal Services

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary

An Affiliate of Yeshiva University

 

TEXTS AND TOPICS

IN TEACHING LIMMUDEI KODESH

 

 

FATE, DESTINY & SHIVAT TZIYON:

The RAV on Religious Zionism

 

A Study in the Thought of the “RAV”,

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Z”L

 

 

By Dr. Moshe Sokolow, Director

Educational Services Program (ESP) for Yeshiva High Schools

 

Dear Educator,

 

We are pleased to be able to provide you with the enclosed essay which is based upon the famous religious Zionist derashah, KOL DODI DOFEIK, by the RAV, Rabbi Yosef Dov haLevi Soloveitchik, z”l. A giant of 20th century Jewish thought, the RAV was a master of Halakhah, Aggadah, and Jewish philosophy who possessed a distinctly modern Torah-true outlook, weaving together the timeless traditions of Halakhah with the philosophical yearnings of 20th century man.

 

He was born in Poland, in 1903, to a family noted for outstanding Torah scholarship. His grandfather, Rav Hayyim of Brisk, and his father, Rav Moshe, had revitalized Talmud study through a renewed emphasis on scientific clarification and rigorous analysis. The young Yosef Dov received his own instruction from them. The RAV later pursued a course of secular studies at the University of Berlin, and received a Ph.D. degree, in philosophy, in 1931. In 1932, he came to America, settling in Boston, where he guided the growth and development of the Maimonides Day School. In 1941, he succeeded his father as Rosh haYeshivah of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University, where he also became a professor of philosophy. He died on the second day of Hol haMo’ed Pesah, 5753 (April 8, 1993).

 

The “Questions” and “Answers” in the enclosed unit (appearing in bold type) are intended to guide discussions of the subject matter. The text which meets the left margin consists of my explanations; the quoted paragraphs, however, are verbatim citations from the RAV. The accompanying “Notes” (appearing in italics) provide additional pedagogic suggestions. You may also wish to refer to another essay by the RAV, “The Singularity of the Land of Israel,” published in Reflections of the Rav (1979), which develops the related concept of  “segulah.”

 

We are particularly pleased to be able to present this unit in time for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel. We look forward to receiving your reactions to the unit and sharing your experiences in its utilization.

 

 

Moshe Sokolow

 

 

FATE, DESTINY, AND “SHIVAT TZIYYON:”

THE RAV ON RELIGIOUS ZIONISM

by Dr. Moshe Sokolow

 

PREFACE:

 

On Yom ha-Atzma’ut, 1956, the RAV delivered a public address at Yeshiva University entitled: Kol Dodi Dofek; The Voice of My Beloved Knocks. The address, which has become a classic of religious Zionist philosophy, enumerates, and elaborates upon, the instances of God’s tangible presence in the recent history of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. It also issues a clarion call to American Orthodoxy to embrace the State of Israel and commit itself and its resources to its development.

 

We shall deal, here, with the latter portion of the address and, specifically, with the distinction the RAV draws between two forms of covenant [BERIT]. He calls one: “The Covenant of Fate” [GORAL], and the other: “The Covenant of Destiny” [YI’UD]. In developing these themes, the RAV treats, both halakhically and homiletically, the narratives of Yetziat Mitzrayim and Matan Torah. In that process, he also adumbrates a position on conversion which is particularly poignant in light of the current controversy over the Ne’eman Commission and its recommendations.

 

Since the printed address runs over 60 pages in its English translation, we regret that we cannot supply more than a small fraction of the original text here. We hope that you and your students will be encouraged and stimulated by this study to read the essay in its entirety. The English version, translated by Lawrence Kaplan (who also edited the RAV’s Halakhic Man, JPS), is published in Theological and Halakhic Reflections on the Holocaust (KTAV and the Rabbinical Council of America, 1992). The Hebrew text appears in Besod haYahid vehaYahad, ed. Pinhas Peli (Orot, 1976).

 

 

SIX KNOCKS

 

1.     “First, the knock of opportunity was heard in the political arena. No one can deny that from the standpoint of international relations, the establishment of the State of Israel, in a political sense, was an almost supernatural occurrence.”

 

The RAV, acknowledging the “unholy” alliance of the West and the Soviet Union in the recognition of the Jewish state, ruminates over the possibility that the entire organization of the United Nations came into being solely in order to facilitate the establishment of Israel. When the chairman of the UN General Assembly banged his gavel to call the role on that fateful Nov. 29, 1947, the RAV heard the voice of the Beloved knocking.

 

Note:   Compare this with the Orthodox anti-Zionist position of the Rebbe of Munkascz:  “We may not rely on any natural phenomenon or on physical salvation by human means.  The principle remains to cry out to the Lord; we may not rely on any alternate source of action or salvation…”

 

 

2.   “Second, the knocking of the Beloved could be heard on the battlefield. The small Israeli Defense Forces defeated the mighty armies of the Arab countries. The miracle of “the many in the hands of the few” took place before our very eyes.”

 

On the analogy of Yetzi’at Mitzrayim—where Pharaoh hardened his heart and ended up with a worse deal than was originally offered him—the RAV considers the Arab attack a blessing in disguise. Had they accepted the partition plan as voted and not attacked, Israel would have had to settle for a state that excluded Yerushalayim, a large part of the Gallil and areas in the Negev.

 

Note:   Considering how few high-school students today have a clear picture of the enormity of the military success which Israel enjoyed during the Six Day War, we can learn a kal va-homer to their unawareness of how great a victory was won in the War of Independence—and at what a price. Don’t forego the opportunity to address this point.

 

 

3.     “Third, the Beloved began to knock as well on the door of the theological tent, and it may very well be that this is the strongest knock of all…All the claims of Christian theologians that God deprived the Jewish people of its rights in the land of Israel, and that all the biblical promises regarding Zion and Jerusalem refer, in an allegorical sense, to Christianity and the Christian Church, have been publicly refuted by the establishment of the State of Israel and have been exposed as falsehoods, lacking all validity.”

 

Christianity declared the Jewish covenant with God to be terminated–that is the real meaning of the term Old Testament (in Hebrew: ha-Berit ha-Yeshanah)—and declared themselves the “new” Israel. The powerlessness of Jews throughout the Middle Ages and the beginning of the modern period reinforced this impression. The RAV speaks of the particular pleasure he derives from references to “Israel” in Christian newspapers, and experiences a special delight upon reading in a United Press release on Erev Pesah that “the Jews will sit down tonight at the Seder table confident that the miracles of Egypt will recur today.”

 

4.     “Fourth, the Beloved is knocking in the hearts of the perplexed and assimilated youths. The era of self-concealment (hastarat panim) at the beginning of the 1940’s resulted in great confusion among the Jewish masses and, in particular, among the Jewish youth…Buried, hidden thoughts and paradoxical reflections emerge from the depths of the souls of even the most avowed assimilationists. And once a Jew begins to think and contemplate, once his sleep is disturbed—who knows where his thoughts will take him, what form of expression his doubts and queries will assume?”

 

The ability, almost mystical, of even a brief visit to the State of Israel to restore—to some degree–the Jewish identities of even the most alienated Jewish youth, is the stuff of which legends are made. [Think of the story line behind Mordechai Ben David’s “Just One Shabbos”!] The RAV thinks “it is good for a Jew not to be able to hide from his Jewishness.” Like Yonah, even the self-haters will find no refuge in the innermost depths of their respective ships. Like Yonah, again, when asked “Who are you?” they should answer “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven.”

 

5.   “The fifth knock of the Beloved is perhaps the most important of all. For the first time in the history of our exile, divine providence has surprised our enemies with the sensational discovery that Jewish blood is not free for the taking, is not hefker!”

 

Unapologetically, the RAV argues for the moral right and responsibility of the Jewish nation to defend itself. Even though the halakhah interprets “an eye for an eye,” figuratively, as monetary compensation, the RAV argues that, “With regard to Nasser and the Mufti I would demand that we interpret the phrase…in a strictly literal sense—as referring to the removal of the concrete, actual eye…Revenge is forbidden when it serves no purpose. However, if by taking revenge we raise ourselves up to the plane of self-defense, then it becomes the elementary right of man qua man to avenge the wrongs inflicted upon him.” The readiness of the State of Israel to unleash its armies against its enemies is the surest, and most effective, deterrent to the renewal of the venomous type of anti-Semitism which declares “open season” on Jewish blood.

 

Note:   The raid on Entebbe, conducted on July 4, 1976, serves as the most visible and potent reminder of the consequences of treating Jewish lives with callous disregard. In this context, the RAV also cautions against substituting the promises of “the three great powers” (i.e., the US, USSR, and Great Britain) for vigilance and self-defense. “A people that cannot ensure its own freedom and security is not truly independent.” You may use this opportunity to explore with the students their feelings about American guarantees of Israeli sovereignty and security in light of the concessions already made by Israel, and those which it is still be asked to make.

 

6.     “The sixth knock, which we must not ignore, was heard when the gates of the land were opened. A Jew who flees from a hostile country now knows that he can find a secure refuge in the land of his ancestors…Now that the era of divine self-concealment (hester panim) is over, Jews who have been uprooted from their homes can find lodging in the Holy Land.”

 

Current events have, again, validated the RAV’s insight. While he had in mind the mass migration of North African and Oriental Jews of the early 1950’s, we can add the recent, and equally massive, Aliyah of Jews from the Former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. In this context, the RAV also speculates on what might have been had the State of Israel come into existence before the Holocaust?

 

Note:   While “Monday morning quarterbacking” is often an exercise in futility, I believe that an analogy to the RAV’s rhetorical question can be made in the deliberations of the 6th World Zionist Congress (1903) over the British proposal to establish a Jewish homeland in East Africa (Uganda). Somewhat paradoxically, the resolution was supported by Mizrahi, the religious Zionist movement. Its delegates were committed, unconditionally, to the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael; however, they considered the advantage of an immediate haven for the tens of thousands of Russian Jews whose lives had just been turned topsy turvy by the Kishinev pogroms. What if the resolution had carried?]

 

 

BERIT GORAL: THE COVENANT OF FATE

 

When God issues His promise of redemption to Benei Yisrael in Egypt, He made a covenant with them, proclaiming: “I will take you for Me for as a people and I will be for you as a God” (Shemot 6:7). When the Torah was given at Sinai, a second covenant was made: “And [Moshe] took the account of the covenant…and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has cut with you by means of all these words’” (Shemot 24:7-8). [The second covenant was reiterated in Arvot Mo’av (Devarim 28:69), leading the Talmud (Berakhot 48b) to refer to the Torah as “given with three covenants.”]

 

Question:   How did the two covenants differ from one another?

 

Answer:   The obvious answer is that the first covenant was made while the Jews were still enslaved in Egypt, whereas the second was made after their liberation.

 

Question:   Can a slave enter into a covenant? What significance, or binding force, can a covenant have [it is, essentially, a mutually binding legal contract] when one of the parties is not able to act freely?

 

Answer:   The inability to act freely is exactly (although paradoxically) what “fate” is all about. The lowly status of the slave; the existential experience of “loneliness” and helplessness with which it is synonymous; these are precisely the prerequisites for a covenant of fate.

 

“When the Jew, with this sense of his special, unique fate, confronts God face to face, he encounters the God of the Hebrews, who reveals himself to man from out of the very midst of the experience of loneliness and necessity, from out of the very midst of the consciousness of the fate which seizes hold of an individual and overcomes him.

 

The God of the Hebrews does not wait for man to search for Him, to freely invite Him into his presence. He imposes His rule over man, against his will. A Jew cannot expel the God of the Hebrews from his private domain…He serves the God of the Hebrews against his will.”

 

Question:   What are the consequences of this covenant of fate?

 

Answer:   The RAV enumerates four positive consequences of the awareness of a shared fate:

 

1.      shared historical circumstances

2.      shared suffering

3.      shared responsibility and liability

4.      shared activity

 

 

Shared Historical Circumstances

 

As RASHI would say: peshuto ke-masham’o. The lowest common denominator of the covenant of fate is that, historically, all Jews have been regarded and treated alike. Neither exile, persecution, nor holocaust have bothered to discriminate amongst Jews on grounds of social status, economic privilege, or religious observance. In Mordekhai’s words to Esther: “Do not imagine that you, of all the Jewish people, can escape in the palace” (Esther 4:13). In the RAV’s words:

 

Haverim kol Yisrael: All Israel are knit together–We will all be pursued unto death or we will all be redeemed with an eternal salvation.”

 

Shared Suffering

 

A logical, and natural, consequence of the awareness of a shared predicament would be a commonality of anguish; the sharing by all Jews of each other’s suffering. To illustrate this point, the RAV utilizes a homily based upon the discussion of the legacy to which a man with two heads is entitled (Tosafot, s.v. O Kum; Menahot 37a).

 

Question:   Does he receive two shares, or just one; does he constitute two separate entities inhabiting the same body, or just a single entity with diverse appearances?

 

Answer:   The answer is to have boiling water poured on one of the heads. If it alone cries out in pain, then it is truly separate from the other; if both experience the agony, however, then there is but one.

 

 

“If boiling water is poured upon the head of the Jew in Morocco, the fashionably attired Jew in Paris or London has to scream at the top of his voice, and through feeling the pain he will remain faithful to his people.”

 

Note:   The anecdote is told of a Jewish immigrant who arrived on New York’s lower East Side and desperately sought the company of other Jews. Not knowing whom, or where, they might be, he went out into the street and shouted, in Yiddish: “Man schlogt Yidden!” (They are beating Jews.) Several people quickly surrounded him and demanded to know where this was happening. The man replied: “In my village in Russia; I only wanted to know whether anybody here cared.”

 

Another alternative might be to quote Shylock: “If you prick us [Jews] do we not bleed?,” and ask whether one Jew might/ought not bleed even if it is another who is pricked?

 

 

Shared responsibility and liability

 

Kol Yisrael areivim zeh bazeh.   “All Jews are guarantors for one another.” This is not merely a lofty philosophical aspiration, it functions, in halakhah, as a principle of law.”

 

Question:   Can you give an example of the halakhic application of this principle?

 

Answer:    The rule that anyone may assist another to fulfill a halakhic obligation even if he has already fulfilled it himself. If we were not inextricably linked to one another, we would not even care about one another–let alone manifest concern about one another’s discharge of responsibility.

 

Question:   What is the Torah source for this concept of Arevut?

 

Answer:   HAZAL (Sotah 37b) derive it from Devarim 29:28: “The hidden things belong to the Lord, our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, to observe all the words of this Torah.” As RASHI comments there: “When they crossed the Yarden and had the oath administered to them at Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Eival they became responsible for one another.”

 

 

Note:  The RAV notes that the language employed by the Torah (Devarim 29:12) in referring to the covenant of Arevut, is modeled upon the language used to describe the covenant in Egypt (Shemot 6:7–see our Preface).

 

 

The RAV extrapolates yet further:

 

“The commandment of the sanctification of the divine Name and the prohibition against the desecration of the divine Name can be explained very well in the light of this principle of shared responsibility and liability. The actions of the individual are charged to the account of the community. Any sin he commits besmirches the name of Israel in the world. The individual, therefore, must answer not only to his own personal conscience but also to the collective conscience of the people.

 

“If he behaves properly, he sanctifies the name of Israel and the Name of the God of Israel; if he sins, he casts shame and disgrace on the people and desecrates the Name of its God.”

 

Note:  The RAV, speaking in 1956, refers to the widespread association of Jews with “international Communism.” See if your students are familiar with the McCarthy hearings, the Rosenbergs’ trial, and their implications for American Jewry. You might, if time permits, use the reference to launch a discussion of the “bugaboo” of dual loyalty.

 

Shared activity

 

Question:   So far, all the consequences of shared fate have had a decidedly negative coloration. Are there no strikingly positive aspects to it?

 

Answer:   First of all, we have a proverb which states: “A shared predicament is a partial consolation” (Tzarat Rabbim Hatzi Nehamah). The mutuality of historical experience the reciprocity of anguish and the bearing of a communal burden are not entirely negative characteristics; they have obvious, and significant, redeeming value which the RAV calls: “a unifying consciousness in the field of social action.”

 

 

Note:  The RAV notes, for instance, that when the Torah commands us to provide financial assistance to the needy, it designates that other as an AH, a brother, rather than merely as a RE’A, a compatriot. Cf. VaYikra 25:35, and Devarim 15:7, 11.

 

 

He says, in conclusion of this part of the essay:

 

“We have stated that it is the consciousness of the fate imposed upon the people against their will and of their terrible isolation that is the source of the people’s unity, of their togetherness. It is precisely this consciousness as the source of the people’s togetherness that gives rise to the attribute of hesed, which summons and stirs the community of fate to achieve a positive mode of togetherness through ongoing, joint participation in its own historical circumstances, in its suffering, conscience, and acts of mutual aid.

 

“The lonely Jew finds consolation in breaking down the existential barriers of egoism and alienation, joining himself to his fellow and actively connecting himself with the community. The oppressive sense of fate undergoes a positive transformation when individual-personal existences blend together to form a new unit–a people. The obligation to love one another stems from the consciousness of this people of fate, this lonely people that inquires into the meaning of its own uniqueness. It is this obligation of love that stands at the very heart of the covenant made in Egypt.”

 

 

BERIT YI’UD: THE COVENANT OF DESTINY

 

As opposed to the covenant of fate, which was made with a slave people who had no free will to exercise, the covenant of destiny was made with a free nation which could, and did, make up its own mind. God did not simply impose the Torah on Israel, He offered it to them—via Moshe—and awaited their response of NA’ASEH VE-NISHMA’.

 

Note:   The Aggadah (Shabbat 68a) that God threatened the Jews with extinction if they rejected the Torah should be understood in the context of several other Aggadot which state that if the Torah had not been accepted, all of creation would have reverted to chaos. God, then, was not coercing the Jewish people into its acceptance; He was essentially reminding them of an axiom: Existence itself has no purpose without Torah.

 

Question:   What is the difference between fate and destiny?

 

Answer:   Fate is uncontrollable, destiny can be directed.

 

“Destiny in the life of a people, as in the life of an individual, signifies a deliberate and conscious existence that the people has chosen out of its own free will and in which it finds the full realization of its historical being.”

 

Slaves merely exist; they anticipate no change in their reality. Free men, on the other hand, expect movement in their lives; they aspire to forward and upward movement. The Torah provides the Jewish nation with a road map to its destiny; Jewish history is the benchmark of the extent to which that road has been properly followed.

 

Question:   Is this difference reflected in the Torah’s forms of address?

 

Answer:   Yes. There are two pairs of corresponding Hebrew terms which embody this distinction. The first is ‘AM: GOY, and the second is MAHANEH: EIDAH.

 

As a people (‘AM, coming from the word ‘IM meaning “with”), the Hebrews had no way to determine their own fate; as a nation (GOY, related to the word GEVIYAH meaning “body”), however, they have the ability to forge their own destiny. At Sinai, God offered His nation the opportunity to become a goy kadosh. Whether they take up the challenge and execute it properly is their choice—and their destiny.

A MAHANEH (camp) designates a coming together for protection and self-defense; it is a product of fate. An EIDAH (congregation, from the same root as ‘EID, a witness), on the other hand, is created as result of the recognition of a shared past, but also of mutual aspirations: a common destiny.

 

“The congregation is a holy nation that has no fear of fate and is not compelled to live against its will. It believes in its own destiny, and it dedicates itself, out of its own free will, to the realization of that destiny. The covenant in Egypt was made with a people born from a camp; the covenant at Sinai was made with a holy nation…The ‘am hesed, the people of lovingkindness, was raised on high and became a goy kadosh, a holy nation. Holiness, which expresses itself in the form of an authentic mode of being, is the very foundation of the shared destiny of a nation.”

 

 

CIRCUMCISION AND IMMERSION:

THE CONVERSION FROM FATE TO DESTINY

 

Question :   The actual departure from Egypt merely freed the Jews from slavery; what transformed them from a people into a nation and gave them control over their destiny?

 

Answer:   According to HAZAL, they underwent a process of conversion (GIYYUR) which included both of the prerequisites for contemporary conversion: circumcision (MILAH) and immersion (TEVILAH).

 

A mahloket exists amongst the Geonim and Rishonim whether both Milah and Tevilah were required for everyone before both Yetziat Mitzrayim and Matan Torah. The alternatives, which the RAV discusses at great length in a 4 page footnote (no. 23), relate to the different status of men vs. women and Levi’im vs. the remainder of the Israelites. The RAV, as usual, takes the side of RAMBAM whose opinion in this matter is summed up in Hilkhot Issurei Bi’ah 13:1-3:

 

“Israel entered into the covenant by way of three rites: circumcision, immersion, and sacrifice. Circumcision took place in Egypt… Immersion took place in the wilderness before the revelation of the Torah…”

 

A mahloket similarly exists regarding the question of which procedure,  Milah or Tevilah, takes precedence over the other, whether that is an absolute precedence, and what relationship these processes bear to the overall requirement of KABBALAT OL MITZVOT; accepting the yoke of the commandments. The RAV again cites chapter and verse in RAMBAM (op. cit. 13:7):

 

“A convert who was not examined or who was not informed about the commandments and the punishments [for transgressing them], but was circumcised and immersed in the presence of three laymen [i.e., as opposed to a formal beit-din], is deemed a [valid] convert.”

 

Question:   Does this imply that a convert does not have to accept the mitzvot? Does this imply that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and its supporters have been holding out for what amounts to a stringency [HUMRAH] in the law and not something essential?

 

Answer:   Absolutely not! The RAV continues to explain (op. cit. n. 24): 

 

“I once heard from my father and master [R. Moshe Soloveitchik], of blessed memory, that Maimonides does not mean to say that a person who converted with the intention of not observing the commandments is deemed a valid convert. Such a notion would subvert the entire concept of conversion and the holiness of Israel, which exhausts itself In our obligation to fulfill God’s commandments.

 

“Maimonides’ position is that the acceptance of the commandments, unlike immersion, does not constitute a distinct act in the process of conversion that would require the presence of a court. Rather, acceptance of the commandments is a defining feature of the conversion process that must be undergone for the sake of fulfilling the commandments.

 

“Therefore, if we know that the convert, at the time of immersion, is willing to accept the yoke of the commandments, the immersion effects conversion even though there was no special act of informing the convert about the commandments and his consenting to fulfill them, since the convert intends to live the holy life of an observant Jew.

 

“It would appear, however, that the view of the Tosafot, cited earlier, is that the acceptance of the commandments is a distinct element in the conversion process and, consequently, that the law necessitating the presence of a court refers to the court’s presence at the act of acceptance. Only this act of acceptance—and not immersion—requires the presence of the court…”

 

 

FATE, DESTINY, AND “SHIVAT TZIYYON:”

The Obligation of Torah Jewry to the Land of Israel

 

Question:   Have the expectations of Zionism been met with the creation of a Jewish state?

 

Answer:  Not entirely. The RAV observes that the political and geographical integrity of the State of Israel would be enhanced immeasurably by the increased colonization of the Land of Israel. “Desolation, from time immemorial,” he writes, “endangers political tranquillity…The fact that Jews conquered the Negev does not suffice; the main thing is to settle it.”

 

Question:   What of the particular goals of Religious Zionism?

 

Answer:  Statehood, per se, was never the goal of Religious Zionism which yearned for a return to the Torah of Israel along with the return to the Land of Israel. It is not even enough for Religious Zionists just to settle in Israel, they must use their presence in the country to increase the devotion to Torah of its citizens and their leaders.

 

Question:   To what does the RAV attribute the opposition between religious and secular Zionism?

 

Answer:   According to the RAV, secular Zionism erred in espousing and advocating “normalcy,” the doctrine (often called the niheyeh ke-khol ha-goyyim syndrome) which projects the goal of Zionism as the complete sameness of Israel with all other national states.

 While intended, in part, to reduce those dangers of anti-Semitism which emanate from hostility towards “others” and to reduce the Jewish feeling of isolation from the world, it stands in sharp contradiction to both the concepts of GORAL and YI’UD.

 

“If you were to ask me: What is the task of the State of Israel? I would answer: The mission of the State of Israel is neither the termination of the unique isolation of the Jewish people nor the abrogation of its unique fate—in this it will not succeed!–but the elevation of a camp-people to the rank of a holy congregation-nation and the transformation of shared fate to shared destiny.”

 

Question:  In the RAV’s estimation, has Religious Zionism met this challenge?

 

Answer:  No.

 

“Let us be honest and speak openly and candidly. We are critical of certain well-known Israeli leaders because of their attitudes to traditional values and religious observances. Our complaints are valid; we have serious accusations to level against the secular leaders of the land of Israel. However, are they alone guilty, while we are as clean and pure as the ministering angels? Such an assumption is completely groundless!

 

“We could have extended our influence in shaping the spiritual image of the Yishuv if we had hastened to arouse ourselves from our sleep and descend to open the door for the Beloved who was knocking. I am afraid that we Orthodox Jews are, even today, still sunk in a very pleasant slumber. Had we established more religious kibbutzim, had we built more houses for religious immigrants, had we created an elaborate and extended system of schools, our situation would be entirely other than it is. Then we would not have to criticize the leaders of other movements so severely.”

 

Question:  Has the RAV a prescription for remedying the situation?

 

Answer:   Yes; his prescription is HESED.

 

“Our historic obligation, today, is to raise ourselves from a people to a holy nation, from the covenant of Egypt to the covenant at Sinai, from an existence of necessity to an authentic way of life suffused with eternal ethical and religious values, from a camp to a congregation.

 

“The task confronting the religious shivat ziyyon movement is to achieve that great union of the two covenants—Egypt and Sinai, fate and destiny, isolation and solitude. This task embraces utilizing our afflictions to improve ourselves, and it involves spinning a web of hesed that will bind together all the parts of the people and blend them into one congregation, “one nation in the land”; and the readiness to pray for one’s fellow, and empathy with his joy and grief…

 

“One great goal unites us all, one exalted vision sets all our hearts aflame. One Torah—the Written Torah and the Oral Torah—directs all of us toward one unified end: the realization of the vision of solitude, the hvision of a camp-people that has ascended to the rank of a holy congregation-nation, bound together its fate with its destiny…”

 

Note:   In this conclusion, the RAV utilizes all of the key concepts which we have developed (Egypt, Sinai; fate, destiny; people, nation; camp, congregation). Use the opportunity to review them with the students and check for comprehension.