A manual of Jewish belief (a guide to real Judaism) for the thinking individual.
Copyright © 1977 by R' Avi Shafran
[Web Page Last Revised: Tuesday, June 29, 2004 02:34 PM ]
Chapter 20. The Holy Land and the State of Israel
It should not come as a surprise to the reader that a physical place on earth should be designated by the Torah as having a spiritual "nearness" to G~d and that there should be an advantage to fulfilling the commandments there.
It must have occurred to the reader by now that it is a bit strange that the fulfilling of almost all the commandments consists of physical actions in this physical world. This seems a mite out of place since a major premise of Jewthink is the unimportance and dreamlike nature of this world, all absolute and real concepts reserved for the next.
However, such is the attitude of Real Jewish thought, that this world does have a great importance all its own.
The secret to striking a correct Real Jewish outlook and understanding of religious concepts lies in the drawing of lines. A concept may be good but usually only up to a certain point. There one must draw the line. From that point on it is bad. A concept may be true, but again only up to a point, after which it is false. This idea is essential to the understanding of every facet of Judaism, the unimportance of this world no exception. This world, as we have repeatedly stated, is temporary and trivial, only a long dream in comparison to the ultimate reality we will experience in the next world.
There is a line to be drawn here as well. The reader will recall the quote from the Talmud we mentioned in chapter 12 which cautions that today is the time to fulfill the commandments, not tomorrow. Tomorrow is reserved for reaping the rewards, exclusively. The Talmud also allegorically compares this world to a corridor leading to a beautiful chamber, the next world. The chamber is the object of the journey, but the corridor remains an inevitable and essential pathway.
This world is important in its own way. It is the world of doing, of achieving and of earning the reward which will be paid in due time. Only in this world can we do; once we leave here there is no more doing since there is no more physical substance to do with and no physical distractions to prevent us from doing.
This then is the fact: The achievement of G~d's will, though repaid in a spiritual way, can only be accomplished by physical means, actions with physical, worldly objects.
Let us return now to the topic of this chapter. Since all commandments have a connection to actions and things in this physical, tangible world, so are there places which have a special religious significance and which play an important role in Real Judaism.
The Holy Land is G~d' s promise to the Jews in this world, a land to call their own. It is, as the Bible relates, a land with a peculiar topography and climate, very dependent upon natural rainfall and winds, as regulated conspicuously by G~d. The significance of the constant direct control of these factors and the implications thereof for the people who live in the Holy Land can easily be realized by the reader if he has read the end of chapter 12 well.
There is a statement in the Midrash to the effect that the whole Torah is really meant to be fulfilled only on the soil of the Holy Land, and that though we are required to keep the commandments outside of the Holy Land as well, the reason for this is only as a sort of practice, in anticipation of the true fulfillment of the Torah's laws, in Eretz Yisroel. The specific implications of this statement and their exact intention do not concern us at the moment, but it would be correct to assume that this quote expresses in a very simple way the general attitude of Real Judaism towards this very special place on earth.
An elaboration of all the points pertaining to the special nature and exact location and boundaries of the Holy Land would destroy the brief style of this book and so will be reserved for a later volume, G~d willing.
To avoid the confusion which exists in the minds of many well-meaning Jews, let us make clear once more that the foregoing refers to Eretz Yisroel, which is a geographical entity endowed by G~d with a special holiness. It does not pertain to the State of Israel which is a political entity presently exercising authority over the biblical Holy Land.
The present State of Israel does not possess any holiness. To the contrary, it is a secular authority often inimical to Torah Judaism. It is the realization of secular Zionism which, though its religious backers in this country will shout otherwise, places the State above G~d in the roster of priorities and disregards His laws in the process of carrying out the Zionist dream – the secularization of the Jewish people. Even though many people, especially in America, are naively sincere in their total support of Zionist "efforts" to create a "religious homeland" for the world's Jews, ignorance is no excuse when the survival of Judaism and the sanctity of Eretz Yisroel are at stake. All who profess to be truly religious and truly Zionistic never seem to succeed at either. It is the case of denying their Jekyll in favor of their Hyde, and their Hyde for their Jekyll, ending up as half-hearted traitors to both their convictions.
Strong words, these. However the truth cannot be avoided.
Political Zionism is an anti-religious ideology, and its representatives in the State of Israel are pursuing this ideology in their running the day-to-day affairs of the State.
Thus the Real Jewish attitude towards Israel is perforce one of ambivalence. On the one hand, we should hope, pray and make every effort for the security and survival of Israel amidst her barbaric neighbors. On the other, we should vigorously protest and fight with every means at our disposal all attempts of turning Israel into a secular state, of forcing impoverished religious immigrants to live in irreligious settlements and of denying religious education to their children.
Not antagonism to the existence of a Jewish homeland, rather our deep love for this land – the material bond between our Creator and us – causes us to be concerned with and full of anxiety over the way in which it is governed. As individuals, we must take a close look at ourselves above all, and see whether we are fulfilling the will of our Creator while living outside of Eretz Yisroel. If we can accomplish the same amount of good or more by residing on holy soil, then there is no excuse for remaining away from home and one should make sincere and great efforts to return to Eretz Yisroel.
A growing number of Real Jews going on aliyah will, with G~d's help, result in religious inhabitants outnumbering the anti-religious, making a change of national policy imperative. The stage will then be set for the real Redemption.
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