In this week’s election in Israel, the vehemently anti-religious party, Shinui, became one of the leading political forces in Israel. It seems to me their whole platform is based on a hatred of Torah Judaism. I can understand why they are against draft deferments for Yeshiva students, but their animosity seems to go deeper than this single issue. Can you clue me in on what’s behind this venomous phenomenon?
In his book Orot, Rabbi Kook describes the three camps that comprise the Jewish People:
"The first camp is the Orthodox which carries the banner of holiness, and proclaims with bravery and zeal in favor of Torah and mitzvot, in faith and in all that is holy in Israel. The second camp is the new nationalism that fights for everything that the national tendency aspires to, including within it much of the pure aspirations of a revitalized nation….The third is the liberal camp that carried the banner of enlightenment in the not too distant past, and still does in many circles of the populace. This camp does not enter the national format and demands the universal, humanistic content of enlightenment, culture, morality and more."
The Shinui party, and others like them, represent the third camp of the Jewish People. They stand for individual freedom, universalism, the equality of all peoples and creeds. Their animosity to the religious camp stems from two basic sources. First, to their way of thinking, Judaism stifles life, freedom, and the aspirations of the individual man. To them Judaism is a mass of cumbersome feudal armor that hampers man's essential vitality and freedom. To them, Judaism is just a different brand of Christianity which comes to stifle free expression in order to keep human passions at bay. Like Marx, they believe that religion is the opium of the masses.
This is true of Christianity. And it seems true of the Judaism that they perceive in its truncated Diaspora expression which was imported to Israel with the ingathering of exiles in our time. They rightly sense the infiltration of Christian elements in the outward appearance of the Ultra-Orthodox world. It seems to them to be a world closed to change, advancement, enlightenment, idealism, and active concern for the plight of mankind as a whole.
Rather than reacting with shock and distress to this onslaught of hatred, we must rise to a higher vision that understands this comes to inspire the religious world to purge the dross of foreign elements from its midst.
The second reason for their animosity stems from an aversion to the moral failings they discern in the Orthodox world. They see that many Yeshiva students avoid army service; that many religious Jews fail to pay income tax; that religious leaders milk the political system for endless funding. They are repulsed by the lack of morality that they perceive in Orthodox circles.
Once again, instead of being alarmed, we can see this as a Divine call for the Torah world to refine its moral stature and improve its relationship to the general community. The Talmud states: "A person who studies Torah and learns the Mishna, and serves Torah scholars, but whose dealings are not honest, and his words are not spoken in peace with people, what do others say about him? Woe is so-and-so who has studied Torah; woe to his father who has taught him Torah; woe to his rabbi who has taught him Torah…see how bad his deeds are and how ugly are his paths."
Instead of attacking the secular opponents of the Torah, we should hear the voice of G-d calling out to us with the rise of the Shinui party to heighten our religious vitality and to purify our moral foundations.
1. 1. Orot, Lights of Revival, Ch.18.
2. Tal Hermon, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Pg. 309-312.
3. Yoma 86A.