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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Korach

Parashat Korach

Controversy in Orthodoxy

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Our Sages viewed Korach's revolt as a controversy (machloket) that was not for the sake of heaven. (Avot 5:19).

Over the course of the last century, however, there was a machloket which appears to have been leshem shamayim.. I refer to the issue of the proper Jewish response to the Zionist effort, to the opportunity afforded the Jewish people to return to Eretz Israel and rebuild Jewish society. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik saw a foreshadowing of this controversy in the conflict between the biblical Joseph and his brothers. He gives the following analysis:

With the founding of the Mizrachi movement in 1901, a bitter controversy engulfed Orthodoxy. The Religious Zionists sensed an ominous cloud on the horizon of the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, an impending cataclysm led by the forces of secularism and anti-Semitism. A storm called modernity was sweeping away all the obstacles that stood in its path. In this world, all professions would be linked to an academic education and the centers of Jewish life would move to America and Israel. However, the opponents of this approach were blinded by the status quo in which the synagogues and study halls were full and the traditional faithful constituted the bulk of the Jewish people. They saw only the dangers in modernity and none of its opportunities. Says the Rav: "In this controversy for the sake of heaven, between the biblical Joseph and his brothers, God ruled in accordance with Joseph that, ‘God did send me before you to preserve life’' (Gen. 45:5). In our own day, the Creator of the world has ruled like Joseph of 1901 who dreamed of a new land and new conditions. If the Joseph of 1901 had not paved the way to Eretz Israel it would not have been possible to transplant anew the world of Torah in the Holy Land."

Surely 56 years of ingathering and growth of the Jewish State should be enough to convince those of us still tied to the gilded ghettos of America that their rightful place now is at the side of their brothers and sisters in Israel. "Shall your brothers go to war and will you sit here?" (Num. 32:6).


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