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Is Zionism bad for religious Jews?


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Tevet 26, 5782
Is supporting midinat yisrael like supporting wicked Jews? What is the reason of why some rabbis opposed Zionism and why are don’t we agree with them?
I'm sorry but your question is grossly mistaken, so I'm very glad that you asked! The State of Israel which helps save Jews both physically and spiritually, was given by the God of Israel to the Nation of Israel, which is totally righteous ("and Your nation is all righteous" (Isaiah 60, 21), and not the private property of several politicians who may not be so religious. In addition, even the non-religious today are not considered wicked, but rather mistaken, for their lack of proper education. As the Sridei Esh explained, the State of Israel was God's answer to the 6 million holy victims of the Holocaust, who begged God to show us a sign that He is still around and that we are still the Chosen People. Some rabbis opposed Zionism because some of the Zionists were not religious, but anyone who has studied the sources knows that our sages teach that God sometimes brings redemption through surprising sources (Shir HaShirim Rabba 5, 1). Also, they were not religious because of modernism & socialism and not because of Zionism, which to the contrary, brought them back (!) to the Jewish people. In general, religious people, especially rabbis, are wary of new ideas. Rav Kook had to go out of his way to stress that Zionism isn’t a “reform’, but to the contrary, is a return (!) to the original (!) Judaism of Eretz Yisrael, as clearly seen in the Tanach, where the nation of Israel is meant to live in the Jewish Land, in a Jewish state, serve in the Jewish army, speak the Holy Language, works for a living, etc. Rav Yissachar Teichtel, one of the greatest rabbis in Hungary, was a strong anti-Zionist before the Holocaust. He writes in his introduction to Eim HaBanim Smeicha, that he had fiercely opposed it simply because he saw his rabbis did so, especially as a secular movement. He confesses that most rabbis, including himself, spent all their time on Talmud and practical halacha, and not on theoretical philosophy, aggadita (often skipped in yeshiva learning) or current events, which are inherently open to many alternative approaches. Only when he had to go into hiding, and was forced to analyze the practical and pragmatic actions demanded by the times, and had time to think through the issue, did he totally overhaul his opinion and became a religious-Zionist. He writes that although he had known all of the sources which he quotes by-heart (!) beforehand, only now did he really put them together systematically (p. 21). Similarly, Rav Yitchak Elchanan Spector, generally accepted as the leading posek of his era, was a staunch supporter of the Zionist movement, but nevertheless, his own brash secretary, Ya’akov Lifshutz, dared think that “he knows better than his own rebbe” and even forged letters against Zionism! In short, we are not talking about an opposition based upon sources, but rather based upon conservatism, wariness of new ideas, and of cooperating with secular Jews. Despite this, many great rabbis, like R. Spector, the Netziv (Rosh Yeshiva of Volozhin), the Avnei Nezer, Yeshu'ot Malko, and Rav Kook, actively supported Zionism, and surely wouldn’t be called wicked or heretics by anyone! After the Holocaust, the Chazon Ish himself cooperated with the Israeli authorities. Only the Satmar rebbe, who is militantly controversial regarding many issues, called even religious-Zionists: heretics and even gentiles, but in the words of Rav Yitzchak Hutner, “Rav Kook was 20 times greater than all those who opposed him combined” (heard personally by the eye-witness, his student, R. Eliezer Waldman zt"l, Rosh Yeshivat Kiryat Arba). Even though most Agudah rabbis warily opposed the State of Israel before the Holocaust, most changed their mind afterwards, for in a modern world which can kill 6 million Jews so quickly and efficiently, we have no choice but to have a Jewish State with a Jewish army to deter our enemies. Thanks again for your important question.
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