Tag Archives: Religious Zionism

A Zionist Paradigm Shift in Parashat VaYera – Stop Talking "Security", Start Talking "Destiny"!

Sometimes, when reading the Parsha, a political message jumps right out at you. At the end of Parashat Shmot, Moshe relays the people’s complaint to Hashem and accuses Him- “why have you done evil to this people?” i.e. from the time I came to Pharaoh… he did evil… you did not rescue your people!”

Hashem’s answer at the beginning of Parashat VaYera has an interesting effect. Moshe who, up to this point, was reluctant has no more doubts whereas the Jewish People who, originally, had no problem believing in Moshe’s mission suddenly “did not heed Moshe because of… hard work.” What changed?

The first time Hashem explains Moshe’s mission, he states the following as the reason for the redemption: “I have seen the affliction of my people… I shall rescue them… bring them to a good land…” (Shmot 3:7) But the second time, after Moshe complains about worsening conditions, Hashem clarifies, adding an important component: “I established my covenant with them (the Avot) to give them the land of Canaan… and also I heard the groan of Israel…”. Meaning, originally everyone was led to believe that the Redemption was just about salvation from hardship. That’s why the people listened so easily at first.

Now, when Hashem reveals the real goal of the Redemption – the fulfillment of a divine destiny of The Jewish People in The Land of Israel – they lose their wind, as it was too lofty a goal to grasp due to their hardships.

The message is this:

  1. Redemption is a mixture of both yearning for safety and a deeper call to a divine destiny
  2. The former (plight) will capture people’s attention and imagination more so than the latter (destiny)
  3. Exclusively physical salvation will “run out”, forcing an emergence of a deeper understanding of Redemption

I believe this paradigm shift holds the key to understanding practically all of Jewish History in the past 120 years, especially our struggle with the Arabs since Israel’s establishment. I leave you to draw the many, many parallels and conclusions but will sum up – “We Are Being Forced to Stop Talking Security and Start Talking Divine Destiny”! (I actually think the shift has already begun. Join in!)

Thomas Kuhn’s Paradigm Shifter
What do you see?
Now – Paradigm Shift!


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Modern Orthodoxy vs. Religious Zionism (part 1)

Modern Orthodoxy and Religious Zionism are not the same thing. There is a lot of overlap but they are not the same.

Modern Orthodoxy, as I understand it (and possibly even practice it), answers the question: “How can I be an Orthodox Jew and also be a Modern person?”, or, in it’s more sophisticated version “How does Modernity and the changes it brings with it impact Orthodoxy?”.
Being a Modern Orthodox person means understanding that developments of Modernity can and should impact us as Orthodox people as they too are part of how Hashem “speaks to us”. That means that the shift in the role of women in society should impact Jewish thought and practice. It means that the role academia plays in modern life should impact the way we view general studies. It also means that the development of Zionism and The State of Israel – also products of Modernity – should impact our religious outlook and observance.
But, at the end of the day Modern Orthodoxy is dialectical. It is constantly trying to balance conflicting ideals and resolve contradictions. “Torah vs. Science”, “Rights vs. Obligations“, “Individual vs. Communal”, “Consumerism vs. Idealism“, “Self Actualization vs. Self Sacrifice”, “Universalism vs. Particularism“, “Heteronomous Morality vs. Autonomous Morality“, etc…
Modernity and Orthodoxy are separate, dialectical entities, which need to be reconciled and many a time this split manifests itself in a schizophrenic religious identity. This also accounts for Modern  Orthodoxy’s continuous decline in the US; it is too indecisive, too contradictory, too unsure of itself as all to often by trying to be “also this and also this” it ends up being not enough of either.
The question Religious Zionism is answering, on the other hand, is “How does Modernity serve as a vehicle for the realization of Judaism?”
Religious Zionism, is not at its core, dialectical. I can best describe it in the first person.

I don’t know myself as a Jew without Zionism and I don’t know myself as a Zionist without Judaism. I don’t know myself as a Jew without Zionism, as the return of Am Yisrael to history and the rebirth of the State of Israel serve as one of the foundations of my belief in Hashem and Jewish commitment.
I don’t know myself as a Zionist without Judaism, as Torah and 2000 years of Jewish prayer and observance serve as the justification for our return to the land, for what has been – and still needs to be – achieved.
The two are so intertwined that they are one in the same and – for me – indistinguishable.

The yearning and motivation to return to the Land of our Forefathers, to be sovereign and have a national identity there, are not a product of Modernity, just expedited and executed by it.
The relationship between “Religious” and “Zionism”, therefore, is not dialectical rather that of synthesis. They inform, enhance and empower each other as they are one in the same.
The Modern Orthodox Jew finds himself torn between two worlds while the Religious Zionist Jew lives in a (philosophical) state of unity.

Based on all this, a Modern Orthodox Jew, by definition, would be a Zionist but a Religious Zionist would not necessarily be of a Modern orientation.
As stated at the beginning of this post, there is a lot of overlap between the two philosophies. People can comfortably prescribe to both and many do, as they are by no means contradictory.
That have been said, understanding the differences between them can explain many of the tensions and issues being debated in the public sphere of these communities both in Israel and North America. I hope to expound on them in a future post.
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Are you a Refrigerator Zionist?

“Refrigerator Zionism” is an approach which likens Zionism to purchasing a refrigerator. A refrigerator is an appliance which certainly possesses pragmatic and instrumental value and their invention may even spark Halachic discussion (e.g. may it be opened on Shabbat?) But by no means does the possession of a refrigerator penetrate to ones inner religious experience or impact his beliefs. There is no difference between a Judaism with a refrigerator and a Judaism without a refrigerator. To some people, Zionism is no different – there is no difference in their observance, beliefs or religious experience with or without the existence of the State of Israel.  
On the other hand, one may view the coming into being of the State of Israel as similar to that of having a child; not merely a technical addition to our religious lives, rather the development of a new facet of our identity that impacts on a profound level. With the birth of a child, a parent defines himself differently, fundamentally changing the way he evaluates himself and his surroundings. 
So too should we relate to the State of Israel as redefining our religious identity and experience: We are home. We are together. Our fate as a people is once again in our own hands, we can define for ourselves our relationship with the world and with history. We are better able to discover our capabilities and realize our full potential. In this sense The State of Israel is the child of the Jewish people.
Nevertheless, it is important to recognize, that those voices in the Jewish and Halachic community that relate to the State of Israel as no more than a mere instrument have value as well; they serve as a constant reminder that though we have come a significant way in the redemptive process, there is still much to amend, to perfect and to strive for.
In the meantime, let us be joyous and thankful for the gift of life given to us and inspired and motivated towards its continued growth. (250+87)
חג עצמאות שמח!!

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Post Modernism and Jewish Legitimacy

There seem to be a lot of arguments, especially within Orthodox circles, regarding what is and isn’t a “legitimate” Torah opinion. I find myself increasingly perplexed in face of these discussions. In a social reality where everyone chooses for themselves what, how, when to do things and the concept of identity so individualized and fluid, what relevance does the term ‘legitimate’ even have any more with regard to religious belief and practice (other than societal association)?
You may say – the discussion is “what is Halachically legitimate”. Here too, the variety of opinions on so many major issue are so great that – (and this is a key element in this argument) without a Sanhedrin or other centralized Halachik authority – the term seems to loose its meaning.
There are attempts to draw general lines between those who are “out” and those who are “in” but that, too, is an illusion – depending on who you ask, the border of the consensus shifts drastically.
If Rav Nachman said that people who learn Guide to the Perplexed “have an image of idol worship on their face”, Rav Elchanan Vaserman said that Religous Zionism is “joint idol worship” (עבודה זרה בשיתוף), Rav Shach called Chabbad a “cult similar to Judaism” and in return was identified as a force of ‘The Other Side’ (סיטרא אחרא) and let’s not even start on what some rabbis – through the ages – said about Kabbala, I find it futile to speak of a consensus.
Even Rambam’s 13 principles of faith have been disputed and interpreted to such extent that make them mute as a binding creed and the Shulchan Aruch expounded upon to the point that we no longer have (if we ever did) a unifying code of normative practice.

One can argue for or against this reality but it does little good to act as if there is still such a thing as “THE Halacha” or “THE Jewish opinion”.
Even if many Torah Jews (think they) have escaped post modernism, Torah and Judaism have not. (250+90)

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