"Is Zionism the Will of God?" by Alexander Zephyr
Two Giants of Judaism
Was the end of the exile for the Jews and creation of the State of Israel in 1948 by the Zionists clearly approved by HaShem or it was in violation of His will?
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935)
Rav Kook was a master of Halakha, and at the same time he possessed an unusual openness to new ideas. He loved the Jewish people regardless, as to whether they were secular Zionists, religious Zionists, or traditional non-Zionist Orthodox Jews. He became the main ideologue of modern religious Zionism. Carefully, with love and patience, he built bridges of communication and political alliances between the various Jewish groups. He believed that the end of 2000 years of exile and establishment of a Jewish state of Israel in the land of Israel had profound theological significance, approved by the Almighty. All Jews taking part in this process were agents of a grand Divine Plan to bring about the Messianic Era, the final spiritual redemption of all Israel. Unlike other Zionist leaders, Rav Kook's motivations were based solely on Jewish Law, Biblical prophecy, and Judaism. In his opinion, being secular does not mean that the Zionists did not know the Bible, the millennia-old lodging for Zion, the dreams and aspirations of the Jewish people for the Redemption and the Messianic Age. These people have been the best visionaries, gutsy idealists and romantics the Jewish nation could offer. The real patriots, heroes of the Jewish nation, they had devoted their energy, money, health and even life to fulfill their goals-to liberate and gather the Jews from all over the world and bring them to the Promised Land, to the magnificent country they have organized and built, sacrificed their life for it, the Jewish State of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. To call them heretics and rebels against God, because they created the State of Israel before arriving of the Messiah, are baseless accusations. Such an attitude is in contradiction to Scriptures and Judaism. There is no justification for it.
Rav Kook's thoughts: "Secular Zionists may think they do it for political or social reasons, but in fact - the actual reason for them coming to resettle in Israel is a religious Jewish spark in their soul, planted by God. Without their knowledge, they are contributing to the divine scheme and actually committing a great Mitzvah. The role of religious Zionists is to help them to establish a Jewish State and turn the religious spark in them into a great light. They should teach them Torah with love and kindness. This would show the Zionists that the real source of Zionism and the lodging for Zion is Judaism. In the end, they will understand that the Laws of Torah are the key to true harmony and a Jewish state that will be a light for the nations and bring salvation to the world."
Everyday prayer of the Jews to God, "Bring us in peace from the four corners of the earth and lead us upright to our land," has finally been realized in the beautiful Land of Israel. The land of the Prophets, who brought to the world knowledge of the Creator of the Universe, the God of Israel, and His Torah with the highest values of human dignity, morality, justice, and law. "You shall posses it, and dwell therein," said the Lord (Deut. 11:31). God is the First Zionist before anybody. As our sages said, "Dwelling in the land of Israel is equal to all Commandments of the Torah," or "Said the Almighty: a small assembly in the Land of Israel is dearer to me than a full Sanhedrin outside the Land" (Palestinian Talmud, Sanhedrin 6:5).
Speaking of the "Lost" Ten Tribes of Israel in exile and their future destiny, Rav Kook wrote: "Those Israelites, who were assimilated in ancient times, as well as their descendants, have gradually become more suited to receive the Divine revelation of their Israelite identity. As time passes they will yearn and strive to reclaim their Israelite inheritance" (Shemoneh Kevatsim, Kovets 8:205). According to Rav Kook, God wants the children of Israel to return to their home in order to establish a Jewish sovereign state in which Jews could live according to the laws of Torah and Halakha and fulfill the Mitzvoth of Eretz Israel. Therefore, the settling of Israel is an obligation of the religious Jew and helping Zionists is actually following God's will.
Rabbi Yisrael Meir ha-Kohen Kagan (1838 -1933), known popularly as the Chofetz Chaim
He published twenty one books, which promote the Torah's wisdom, and was one of the most influential rabbis within Orthodox Judaism during the late 19th and early 20th century. During his lifetime, he was venerated by Jews and non-Jews alike. Orthodox Jews across the world viewed him as one of the 36 righteous people ever lived. The Chofetz Chaim's expectation of the immediate Messianic redemption was so strong that he would always carry special garments to change into once the redemption begins. However, his views on Zionism were absolutely opposite to those of R. Kook.
It is informative for readers to know that Rabbi Chofetz Chaim vehemently opposed Zionism. He instructed his students not to join the Zionist movement and not to be involved in its politico-national goals of immigrating to the Promised Land and establishing there the independent State of Israel. He taught that the Zionists political struggle contradicts principles of the Torah and cannot be supported by God. He was convinced that the coming of the Messiah is imminent and preached to his followers, including the Zionists, to quit its political activities and patiently wait for the Messianic redemption. He was of a strong opinion that resettling the Land and creating the State of Israel possible only with a special authorization by God and revealing of the Messiah. His writings and leadership in this regard caused deep divisions and hatred among Jewry, mainly in Orthodox communities, where some radical Torah Jews of the Naturei Karta cult proclaimed the Jewish State of Israel and Zionists enemy #1, and have since done everything in their power to dismantle (or destroy) the State and send the Jewish population back to the countries of their exile, where they are suppose to wait for permission from the Almighty to end the exile and be redeemed. It is they who deny the legitimacy of the State of Israel and the rights of the Jewish people to end the Exile and emigrate to the Promised Land without special permission from God and arrival of the Messiah.
Rabbi Chofetz Chaim was not alone to propagate these ideas. The Satmar Rebbe (1887-1979) built a relentlessly irreconcilable position against Zionism and the State of Israel. "It is the Zionists", he said, "who are guilty of the Holocaust and it is because of them that six million Jews were killed." I will elaborate on this statement a minute later.
Now we have to answer on very important question: "Was the end of the exile for the Jews and creation of the State of Israel in 1948 by the Zionists clearly approved by HaShem or it was in violation of His will?" For an answer we have to go to Scripture and learn what God and His prophets have said in this regard.
Let us begin with this passage: "Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem. Shake off your dust, rise up, O Jerusalem. Free thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion" (Isaiah 52:1-2). The Almighty is not only asking or trying to persuade the Jewish people to come back to the Promised Land (not even mentioning the prohibition!); He encourages and demands for them to free themselves from the bondage of the Exile, proclaim their liberty and return to the Land of their fathers.
The prophet Zephaniah (2:7) declares: "And the sea coast shall be for the remnants of the house of Judah. For the LORD their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity." This 'sea coast' is the exact geographical location where the State of Israel was created in 1948 with the permission of the United Nations in its decision to partition Palestine in 1947. The Prophet here strictly speaks of Judah, not Israelites of the Ten Tribes. The 'remnants' indicate the tragedy of the Holocaust during WWII when 6,000,000 European Jews were killed by the Nazis. That the Jews will return in small, insignificant numbers, who somehow would have managed to stay alive after the Catastrophe, speaks the Prophet Joel 3:5: "For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those that shall escape."
The Jewish people will be ingathered to the Promised land before the Ten Tribes of Israel, as predicted by many prophets of God: "Also, O Judah, He hath set a harvest for thee, when I returned the captivity of My people" (Hosea 6:11) or "For behold, in those days and at that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem" (Joel 3:1). That God sets no time and no limit for the Jews to return and really wants them to come back, may be seen from Prophet Zechariah 2:7: "Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon." In the prophecy of Micah (4:8) God promises to the Jewish people to restore statehood which shall resemble a continuation of the glorious Kingdom of Israel in the time of David and Solomon, "And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem." This prophecy found its fulfillment in 1948, when 'the daughter of Zion', the Jewish people, after 2000 years of exile established the Independent Jewish State of Israel in the Promised Land.
Many critics, especially the Satmar group, the Torah Jews against Zionism, and the fanatical Orthodox sect called Neturei Karta, have blamed the Zionists for creating what they saw as an atheistic State, in which Torah and Judaism have no part, and whose government is not theocratic. They claimed that the Zionists had acted against the will of God, therefore the State of Israel should cease to exist, the Jews have no rights to their homeland without permission from God, and the Holy Land has to be given back to the Palestinians.
Yair Davidiy, remarkable author of many books on a subject of the Israelite Tribes, commented: "A Portion of Judah will be the first to Return. This is the present State of Israel. The prophecy says that part of Judah would return to the Land and begin to build it up before appearing of the Messiah. Then the Lost Ten Tribes would return in two stages together with the remnant of Judah. The first part of this process is well on its way. Judah must seek to bring the Lost Ten Tribes back. God makes the participation of Judah in the process of returning the Lost Ten Tribes a prior condition for the rehabilitation of Judah herself! The complete fulfillment of the Prophecy of reconciliation will only happen in the time of the Messiah."
The Ramban, R. Kalischer, and R. Kimchi (Radak) explained that before the final redemption, there will be a preliminary Jewish immigration to the land of Israel with the permission of the gentile nations. Rav Kook supplicated the Jewish people: "Come to the Land of Israel, pleasant brothers, come to the Land of Israel, save your souls, the souls of generations, the souls of our entire nation." Strong words to Jews in Diaspora issued by Rabbi Atiya (1885-1970) in his book Lech Lecha:"Wake up, dear brothers, rise up and come to Zion while the gates are still open, and God forbid, do not remain with those who tarry, lest it be too late and you will cry out, but not be answered."
Indeed, Judah has to return and prepare the Land for the vast multitudes from the Ten Tribes, "Also, O Judah, He hath set a harvest for thee, when I return the captivity of My people" (Hosea 6:11). 'A harvest' here is directly connected with the Ten Tribes when God ends their exile and under the leadership of the Messiah they will come home to the Promised Land. Judah, as the host, will organize their settlement and accommodation. First of all, Jews had to save their lives by escaping from hostile countries and bloody persecutions; then to settle and cultivate the wasted and desolate land, that "the wilderness will be a fruitful field" (Isaiah 32:15); to build defense forces and establish a secure environment; to create a western type economy, communications and infrastructure; to prepare the way for multitudes of their brothers and sisters of the House of Israel, who will join them soon in the final stage of the redemption, "The Lord God which gathered the outcasts of Israel saith, yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him" (Isaiah 56:8). This is understood that God first will gather to the Holy Land the remnants of Judah, and then, when the appropriate time comes, He will gather the rest of the Ten Tribes together with the rest of the Jews in Diaspora, "But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel; for they are at hand to come" (Ezekiel 38:8). They will do everything possible to accommodate needs of those hundreds of millions of their brothers of the Ten Tribes of Israel whose imminent coming to the Promised Land is 'at hand'. The return to Zion is a dream comes true. This return was partial because not all of Israel was involved and not all the Land of Israel taken. Anyone, who denies or undermines this return of the Jews to the Holy Land as a will of God, will be accountable for it before the Almighty.
So, where do you see the prohibitions for Judah to end the Exile and return to the Promised Land in the Bible's passages like these? The Return of the Jewish people by the will of God has been described with great clarity. It has not been confined to any particular condition or with the advent of the Messiah. The Scriptural facts are that it is not against the will of God to end the exile, to immigrate to the Promised Land and build there a State of Israel. The verses of the Bible predict, approve, and bless the creation of the State of Israel and the presence of the Jews in the Holy Land and in Jerusalem in order to fulfill the prophetic Word of God. The Almighty not only predicted and allowed the Jews to establish their State in the Land of Israel prior to the arrival of the Messiah as the first stage of the final redemption, but He also blessed them and protected them (miraculous military victories in the wars against the all odds!). The final stage of reunification and redemption will come to its conclusion with the coming of the Messiah according to the famous "two sticks" prophecy of Ezekiel (37:22). And the fact that the Jewish Democratic State of Israel exists and flourishes today is undeniable evidence of Rav Kook's righteous position in his loving support for the State of Israel and Zionism.
Editorial Note by Yair Davidiy.
It is important to keep in mind that followers of Rabbi Kook have been criticized for (in some cases) being over-duly tolerant of Non-Religious Secular Zionism. There is something to this. It is not all idealism. Among the Secular Jews exist modernist atheistical forces against belief in the Torah and against Religious Jews. During the Holocaust they restricted the number of Religious Jews who could reach the Land. After the Holocaust they forced a portion of the new immigrant children to become non-Religious as well as greatly influencing the majority of Jews in Israel to stray in the wrong direction. These secular anti-Religious forces are in a minority among the Zionists in general but they exist and in some ways are very influential. The Torah itself IS NOT TOLERANT of Secular Ideology. A lovey-dovey approach is not always the right answer!