SINS OF THE SECULAR AND THE "ULTRA-ORTHODOX"

The below article, authored by columnist Jonathan Rosenblum, is reprinted from the Jerusalem Post Email Edition Opinion File of May 19, 2000. I agree with everything that Mr. Rosenblum says in his article. His indictment of secular Israel's progressive loss of will and purpose is right on point. However, I have a quarrel with that which Mr. Rosenblum omits from his article.

Mr. Rosenblum, a member of Israel's Haredi (-- in light of the following, inaccurately translated as "Ultra-Orthodox" --) population, which is overwhelmingly anti-Zionist or non-Zionist, fails to apportion at least some of the blame for Israel's loss of will to his own community, the growing Haredi sector, which enjoys a blanket exemption from, and -- with limited exceptions (one of them being Mr. Rosenblum) -- publicly denigrates service in, the Israel Defense Forces, and which has claimed for years that Israel's secular citizens sacrifice their lives for nothing when they defend the Land of Israel from its enemies. Every year it is becoming more difficult to convince secular youth that they should risk their lives for those who scorn and ridicule them.

Truth be told, both the secular and the Haredi citizens of Israel are equally remiss in their observance of the Mitzvot (Commandments) of the Torah. While the Secular may violate various personal Torah Mitzvot, such as keeping the Shabbat and observing Kashrut, they have fulfilled and (despite declining morale) continue to fulfill the important national Torah Mitzvot of taking possession of the Land of Israel and physically defending its borders from those gentile nations which seek to nullify the great miracle that God wrought in 1948 (Hebrew year 5708) by accelerating the great ingathering of the Jewish people which was then underway and by reconstituting a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, as prophesied in the Hebrew Bible (see Deut. 30:3-5; Isaiah 54:7; Ezekiel 36:18-35 & 39:28-29). The Secular thus perform a great Kiddush HaShem (sanctification of God's Name) in this respect.

While the Haredim may observe all of the personal Mitzvot to the smallest detail, they (with limited exceptions) not only ignore -- but they go even further by denigrating and ridiculing -- the very same national Mitzvot that God bestowed upon Moses and the Jewish people. A great Chillul HaShem (desecration of God's Name) is thereby created.

After all, in an action ratified by God Himself, Moses orders Joshua to assemble a strike force to attack the nation of Amalek (see Ex. 17:8-16); and, at God's explicit Command (see Num. 1:1 - 2:34), Moses takes a census of the tribes (other than Levi) and turns the Israelites into an organized military force that subsequently makes war against the Amorite kingdoms ruled by Sichon of Cheshbon and Og of Bashan (see Num. 21:21-35; Deut. 2:26 - 3:10) and against the nation of Midian (see Num. 25:16-18 and 31:1-20) -- and all this before the returning Israelites even cross the Jordan River in order to physically dispossess the Canaanite nations from the Land of Israel.

God, acting through Moses, also declares that Israel's enemies are, by definition, His enemies, thereby imposing upon the nation of Israel a national Mitzvah to physically destroy its enemies (-- "HaShem spoke to Moses, saying, 'Take Vengeance for the Children of Israel against the Midianites ...'", but: "Moses spoke to the people, saying, '... inflict HaShem's Vengeance against Midian.'" (Num. 31:2-3) --). By refusing to take up arms against Israel's enemies, the Haredim are, by definition, refusing to take up arms against God's enemies -- a great Chillul HaShem. In fact, so great is the Mitzvah of making war against Midian that God Himself grants to the participating troops a disproportionately high reward for performing it -- fully one half of the acquired spoils (see Num. 31:25-27), meaning that, on a per capita basis, each participant in the War received a much larger share of the spoils than did each non-participant therein; and -- as additional evidence of the high regard with which God views participation in the national Mitzvah of making war upon Israel's enemies -- the tribute required by God from the participating troops' share of the spoils (namely, two tenths of one percent thereof) is only one tenth of the tribute required by God from the non-participating populace's share of the spoils (namely, two percent thereof) (see Num. 31:28-30). Moreover, Moses issues a stern rebuke to those Hebrew tribes whom he suspects of shirking their national Torah obligation to join with their fellow tribes in seizing the Land of Israel from its Canaanite occupants. As the Torah relates: "Moses said to the Children of Gad and the Children of Reuben, 'Shall your brothers go to war while you stay here? Why do you dissuade the heart of the Children of Israel from crossing to the Land that HaShem has given to them?'" (Num. 32:6-7). And God Himself declares: "'... You shall not stand aside while your fellow's blood is shed -- I am HaShem. ... You shall love your fellow as yourself -- I am HaShem.'" (Lev. 19:16-18).

Finally, the Torah declares the laws of military conscription and war in anticipation of the Israelites' imminent invasion of the Land of Israel (see Deut. 20:1-19).This Instruction follows the imposition by God upon the Jewish people in perpetuity of the following national Mitzvah: "'See, I have given the Land before you; come and possess the Land that HaShem swore to your forefathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.'" (Deut. 1:8). After the death of Moses, Joshua becomes the leader of the Israelites, and the entire Book of Joshua deals with the Israelite conquest and settlement of the Land at God's behest. And, finally, King David, progenitor of the Messiah, spends most of his life physically defending (and even expanding) the borders of the Land of Israel. Clearly, anyone who refuses to participate in the physical defense of the Land of Israel falsifies and denies the Torah and, by extension, the Author of the Torah. The religious Zionists understand this, and that is precisely why they carry the double banner of the Torah and the Sword.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that the early secular Zionists substituted belief in the Land of Israel for belief in the God of Israel, the Haredim, in reaction, spiritually distanced themselves from any reverence for the Land even to the point of calling the secular Zionists' love of the Land a form of avoda zara (idolatry and other deviant worship), when, in point of fact, the Hebrew Bible itself extols and mandates love of the Land: "HaShem said, '... a good and spacious Land ... a Land flowing with milk and honey ...'" (Ex. 3:8); and: "For HaShem, your God, is bringing you to a good Land: a Land with streams of water, of springs and underground water coming forth in valley and mountain; a Land of wheat, barley, grape, fig, and pomegranate; a Land of oil -- olives and date-honey; a Land where you will eat bread without poverty -- you will lack nothing there; a Land whose stones are iron and from whose mountains you will mine copper. You will eat and you will be satisfied and bless HaShem, your God, for the good Land that He gave you." (Deut. 8:7-10); "But the Land, to which you cross over to inherit, is a Land of hills and valleys; from the rain of Heaven shall you drink water; a Land that HaShem, your God, seeks out; the Eyes of HaShem, your God, are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year." (Deut. 11:11-12); and: "The commander of HaShem's legion said to Joshua, 'Remove your shoe from upon your foot; for, the place upon which you stand is holy.' And Joshua did so." (Josh. 5:15).

In response to the above criticisms, the Haredim usually respond that they do, in fact, protect the Land of Israel, and that they accomplish this monumental task more effectively than the secular and religious Zionists who risk their lives by serving in the Israel Defenses Forces. This they do by their full-time study of the Torah, the Talmud and other religious texts, and by their prayers on behalf of the Jewish people. While these spiritual activities are undeniably crucial for the continuity and well-being of the Jewish people, they are nonetheless insufficient in the Eyes of the God of Israel due to the fact that He requires from the Jew both action and prayer -- especially in situations where the Jewish people are in physical danger.

As the Torah relates: "HaShem spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the Children of Israel and let them turn back and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, before Baal-zephon; you shall encamp opposite it, by the sea. Pharaoh will say of the Children of Israel, "They are imprisoned in the land; the wilderness has locked them in." I shall strengthen the heart of Pharaoh, and he will pursue them; and I will be glorified through Pharaoh and his entire army, and Egypt will know that I am HaShem.' And so they did. It was told to the king of Egypt that the people had fled; and the heart of Pharaoh and his servants became transformed regarding the people, and they said, 'What is this that we have done that we have sent away Israel from serving us?' He harnessed his chariot and attracted his people with him. He took 600 elite chariots and all the chariots of Egypt, with officers on all of them. HaShem strengthened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he pursued the Children of Israel -- and the Children of Israel were going out with an upraised arm. Egypt pursued them and overtook them, encamped by the sea -- all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen and army -- by Pi-hahiroth before Baal-zephon. Pharaoh approached; and the Children of Israel raised their eyes and behold! -- Egypt was journeying after them, and they were very frightened; and the Children of Israel cried out to HaShem. They said to Moses, 'Were there no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the Wilderness? What is this that you have done to us to take us out of Egypt? Is this not the statement that we made to you in Egypt, saying, "Let us be, and we will serve Egypt"? -- for, it is better that we should serve Egypt than that we should die in the Wilderness.' Moses said to the people, 'Do not fear! -- stand fast and see the salvation of HaShem that He will perform for you today; for, as you have seen Egypt today, you shall not see them ever again! HaShem shall do battle for you, and you shall remain silent.' HaShem said to Moses, 'Why do you cry out to me? -- speak to the Children of Israel, and let them journey forth! And you -- lift up your staff and stretch out your arm over the sea and split it; and the Children of Israel shall come into the midst of the sea on dry land. And I -- behold! -- I shall strengthen the heart of Egypt, and they will come after them; and I will be glorified through Pharaoh and through his entire army, through his chariots and through his horsemen. Egypt will know that I am HaShem, when I am glorified through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen. ... On that day, HaShem saved Israel from the hand of Egypt; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the Great Hand that HaShem inflicted upon Egypt; and the people revered HaShem, and they had faith in HaShem and in Moses, His servant." (Ex. 14:1-30).

In order to establish His Omnipotence and to glorify His Name before the nations (and, as well, before the Jewish people), the God of Israel intentionally placed the Jewish people in a situation of posed vulnerability to induce Egypt to falsely believe that it was able to decimate the Children of Israel and return its survivors to slavery. As a result, the Jewish people, fearing for their lives, prayed to God that He save them; and in response, Moses assured the Jewish people that God would, indeed, deliver them from the approaching Egyptian army without requiring any cooperative actions on their part aside from their prayers. However, even wise Moses misunderstood God's Purpose, and he was harshly rebuked for his improper instructions to the Jewish people. For, when the Jewish people are in physical danger God demands that they engage in action as well as prayer, especially at a time in History when the Jewish people have returned to their homeland, and have military forces and other means of defense at their disposal. Since the God of Israel almost invariably chooses to implement His Will through the agency of human beings, God's Purpose in permitting modern Israel to develop a capable army is -- by virtue of the final and complete military victory to be effected by Israel over its numerous and powerful enemies at the End of Days -- only to establish His Omnipotence and to glorify His Name before the nations (and, as well, before the Jewish people). Clearly, the Torah obligation to engage, not only in prayer, but, as well, in action (through service in the army of the Jewish State) is incumbent upon all Jews, including the Haredim.

It is tragically unfortunate that the Haredim's disdain for Zionism is so great that it induces them to refuse to embrace certain national Torah Mitzvot simply because these Mitzvot are being performed on a daily basis by their secular neighbors (albeit not out of a desire to observe the Torah). If anything, the Haredim should see the Secular's performance of these national Mitzvot for what it really is, namely, common ground.

Mr. Rosenblum's article is a worthy read, but I think that it is largely directed at the wrong audience. He should also distribute it in Israelís Haredi communities.

© Mark Rosenblit

 

 

(c) 2000 The Jerusalem Post

--------------------------------------------------------

Wanted: A Churchill

By JONATHAN ROSENBLUM

--------------------------------------------------------

"Israel today has weapons and money, the Arabs have will... Israel has high capabilities and low morale; the Arabs have low capabilities and high morale. Again and again, the record of history shows, victory goes not to the side with greater fire power, but to the side with greater determination.''

So concludes Daniel Pipes's "Israel's Moment of Truth," in the February edition of Commentary.

Evidence of that low morale is all around us: in the glum responses Israelis give when asked their predictions for the Future, in the declining allure of elite army units, and in our youths' increasing retreat into forms of Eastern religion and music stressing passivity and detachment from the World.

According to a World Health Organization study, Israeli teenagers are the world's least happy, though they live with economic affluence undreamed of by their parents' generation and have never known a major war. Israel is today the first country in history to systematically educate its youth not to identify with their country or their people. Imagine, for comparison, that the dispossession of the Indians was the main subject taught American students in American history classes. Jews have the longest recorded history of any people. Yet Israeli world history texts now start with the Greeks. A common law and language allowed Jews to conduct complex financial transactions with one another around the world. Yet the new textbooks stress not the forces binding Jewish communities over time and space, but rather the influences of the surrounding gentile society. Even the Holocaust has become only a subsection of World War II, as if the Nazis' fiendish desire to totally exterminate the entire Jewish people, using all means of modern technology, did not exist in a realm completely apart from the military history of the war. David Rubinger's photograph of the bareheaded paratrooper staring up at the Kotel [Western Wall of the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem] in 1967 has been purged from the new history books. Our students are, in any event, too removed from their past to even comprehend the sources of that awe. Having cut ourselves off from the past, we seem increasingly incapable of thinking about the future. We live only in the immediate present. Long-range planning -- in such fields as the environment, transportation, water resources, and land usage, for example -- is beyond us.

NOWHERE has this short-term thinking had more profound consequences than in the realm of security. Only now, on the eve of withdrawing from [Israel's security zone in southern] Lebanon, are we waking up to the fact that the result may well be a bloodbath far worse than anything we have endured in recent years. In negotiating with the Palestinians, we increasingly resemble a man fleeing from a lion, who keeps dropping hamburger meat in the lion's path to delay him. We forget, however, that there is only so much meat. Having lost our love of the Land, we cannot conceive that another people has not. Having lost our sense of ourselves as a people, we cannot comprehend that another people has not. The cry "Slaughter the Jews," heard recently at [Israel's] Haifa University [emanating from Israeli Arab students], thus comes as a complete shock. Desiring only to be left alone to enjoy our new toys in peace, we convince ourselves that the Arabs seek the same, and that if we only keep the atmospherics favorable with enough presents, all will work out. We refuse to confront the existence of enemies who still think in terms of victory, not reconciliation. Hilal Khashan's poll of Arab students at Beirut University [in Lebanon], drawn from a cross-section of our neighbors, reveals that 69% do not want peace with Israel, 79% reject business contacts with Israelis even after a total peace, and 87% support attacks by Islamic groups against Israel. The emblem of the Palestinian Authority shows all of Israel as Palestine, and the PA [Palestinian Authority] continues to educate students in their duty to retake all the land. The Khashan poll and studies of Palestinian textbooks would destroy our illusions, and so they are ignored by the Israeli media. The Arabs, by contrast, see the Future as theirs. The dramatically escalating Israeli Arab irredentism reflects the belief that the goals of Palestinian nationalism are no longer beyond reach. Whatever we may pretend to ourselves, warns the incoming deputy chief of General Staff, Maj.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, the Arabs view the retreat from Lebanon as proof that Israel cannot absorb casualties and that force works. The current Palestinian rioting, carefully orchestrated by [PA head Yasser] Arafat, proves the truth of his words. In our moment of truth, Israel desperately needs a leader who recognizes the crucial role of the spirit in human affairs. We need a leader who can restore a sense of pride in our country, our people; a leader who can communicate a vision of the future that calls upon the abundant resources of idealism of the Jewish people still waiting to be tapped. Our challenge is one of the spirit, not of tactics. We cannot afford a technocrat [Prime Minister Ehud Barak] whose perpetual smug, Cheshire-cat smile fairly screams, "I'm so smart.'' We need a leader who can stir our souls, not a prime minister who huddles with a few cronies and insists that we trust him.

We must believe again that our leaders are animated by principles, by some vision beyond their own retention of power. Recent evidence is not encouraging on this score. Unfortunately, we also need a leader capable of preparing us for War. Failure to do so will only make war more likely by encouraging our enemies to believe that we have no more will, and that victory will be theirs -- if not today, then tomorrow.

In short, we need a Churchill. Based on the evidence so far, we have only a watchmaker.

The writer is a biographer and contributing editor to the 'Jewish Observer.'

(c) 2000 The Jerusalem Post

["You ask what is our policy? I will say it is to wage war, by sea, by land, by air, with all our might and strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark lamentable catalogue of human crime. This is our policy. You ask what is our aim? I can answer that in one word. Victory; victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival."-- British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in a speech to Great Britain's House of Commons, on May 13, 1940.]

[All parenthetical additions are mine and form no part of the republished article -- Mark Rosenblit]

 

Return to main page