Beit Midrash

  • Family and Society
  • Domestic Financial Laws
קטגוריה משנית
To dedicate this lesson
Translated by Hillel Fendel

Question: Do the hareidi public and religious-Zionist public truly observe the mitzvot differently, or is the perceived difference merely because of their differences regarding the State of Israel?

Answer: Allow me to state at the outset that questions of this nature should be discussed at length in a face to face manner, whereas this format does not facilitate lengthy and careful explanation. Keep in mind, too, that what I write here applies in general - but there are always exceptions. 


The religious-Zionist public extends great efforts to fulfill the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel, which demands that the entire Land should be in our hands, with no area left uninhabited by Jews (as Nachmanides explains). 


It is of course true that one who lives in Bnei Brak or Tel Aviv or anywhere else in the country fulfills the commandment to live in the Land of Israel. But given that residence in Judea and Samaria is generally harder and more demanding, it is an even greater mitzvah to live there than elsewhere. It can certainly be said that the religious-Zionist public has chosen, in large numbers, to devote itself to this ideal, despite the inherent difficulties. The same can be said about serving in the IDF: this sector views serving in the Israeli army as the great mitzvah of fighting an "obligatory war," a war of defense on behalf of the land and its inhabitants.


Regarding the mitzvah of Ahavat Yisrael, love of all Jews, we can see a difference between the sectors. As [Bet El Rosh Yeshiva] Rav Zalman Baruch Melamed has written: "This commandment means loving both the community and the individuals of Clal Yisrael. The hareidi sector purposely keeps itself separate from the rest of the nation. It concentrates on itself, and does not view itself as a partner with the rest of the public in the building of the Jewish state. Yes, it participates in the elections, but its purpose there is to ensure the interests of the hareidi sector. The national-religious public, on the other hand, is part and parcel of the public in general, and strives and works together with the entire public to strengthen the State. The national-religious public goes to the army and contributes in all areas. Of course, we know that there is much to criticize and rectify in the State from a religious standpoint."


[Ed. Note: Rav Melamed has explained elsewhere that the hareidi sector built a figurative wall between itself and the general public to protect its members from being educationally and spiritually damaged by the seeming attractions of secular society. He said that this approach has a measure of truth, but that it comes with a price. The Rav said it will be of great benefit when all sectors are connected and when hareidi Torah scholars who have learned in yeshivot for 5-10 years but who are not suited to become yeshiva instructors or rabbis, go out into society with their great reservoir of Torah traits and knowledge. They will have a great influence wherever they go, leading to a possible spiritual revolution.]


Some of the differences in the way the two sectors observe the mitzvot stem from the above factors. For instance, they observe the laws of shmita [Agricultural sabbatical year] quite differently: The national-religious sector believes, on the whole, in technically "selling" the land so that the agricultural economy not suffer, while the hareidi sector relies more upon foreign elements [sometimes including Arab interests] to supply fruits and vegetables. There are of course exceptions on both sides. 


In some cases, the religious-Zionist public believes in halakhic leniencies in order to promote the ideal of maximum involvement with Clal Yisrael. For example, this sector is more likely to strive to integrate Torah and work so that the State can be more developed, even though this will come at the expense of full-time Torah study.  


Interestingly, different approaches exist within the religious-Zionist public as well. Some are more lenient and some are stricter. Unfortunately, as in every population sector, including the hareidi public, there are those who require encouragement and strengthening in the careful observance of mitzvot. It is incumbent upon everyone, in every sector, to try to influence those around him in a positive manner. Thank G-d, the national-religious public is advancing in these areas from year to year: sixty years ago, there were very few yeshiva students in this sector, whereas today it boasts many yeshivot, growing and flourishing, that have a strong impact on the Torah world.

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