Herzog’s column

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    I don’t know much about Yitzchok Herzog. I don’t know how observant, if at all, he is. I have heard and read that he has a relationship with gedolei yisroel and has a lot of respect for them.

    What surprises me is that almost the entire column could have been written by a charedi. He quotes the famous teaching of rav saadya gaon that klal yisroel is a nation only by virtue of the Torah – this is the first time I’ve seen a zionist, religious or secular, mention it.

    Judging from his heartfelt words defending toraseinu hakedoshah, right before kabalas hatorah makes me think he’s on the cusp of being chozer beteshuvah.

    We nees a new Rav Uri Zohar; will it be Yitzchok herzog?


    I read the column too and I was almost laughing out loud the whole time about how an avowed anti-frum leftist has somehow come to the same conclusions that the frum oilon had been saying since the 1920s.


    Yserbius: herzog is an avowed anti-frum leftist? do you have any evidence of that? the truth is, an overwhelming majority of israelis are either observant or traditionalists who share the same love and respect for the torah. it is but a tiny fraction that have subscribed to the lieberman/meretz world view.

    ☕️coffee addict

    Avowed anti frum leftist?

    I don’t think you have the right guy


    You guys have some circular logic here: if someone is quoted and happen to confirm with your exact position, then he is a tzaddik gamur; if he disagrees with you on one item, then he is a rasha gamur. And you are confused if someone happened to say two things, one in each category. Why don’t you give some benefit of doubt to people with different views, try to see where they are coming from, and see how we can all live – and think – together.


    R Twesky Z’L brings a story that he heard from his father that seems relevant to all group-based judgments:
    a Chasidishe Rebbe was visiting Berlin. He prepared a grande kiddush, prefacing it with this speech: one really needs to make kiddush in Berlin. Kiddush is testimony, and you need testimony where there is a sofek. In our shtetl, there is no sofek, but here in Berlin, there is – and it is great to make a kiddush here!

    Then, he suddenly stumbled in his speech, sat down and was quiet for several minutes. Then, he got up and finally made kiddush.

    He then explained: I was ready to make kiddush but suddenly lost it. I realized that because I said inappropriate things about Jews of Berlin, my connection to Hashem got severed. So, I spent several minutes and resolved not to talk like that again, and got back the ability to day kiddush.


    He was saying rav saadya gaon. Just torah hashkofa. He wasn’t kimicing european nationalism, the same philosophy which spawned nazism. “Religious” zionism is just mixing religion with that accursed, foreign idea.


    Dear Avira,

    It’s very simple. You have not read much of the Religious Zionists. This was the core debate about Religionin Zionism. Your on the record here about knowing very little about Zionism besides for confusing it with Jewish Nationalism.


    Ok – show me where the founders of religious zionism define a jew as such only by virtue of the torah, and not by virture of it *and* a land, culture, language, and ancestry.

    That was rabbi kooks main problem. That you can be a “good” jew without torah and mitzvos as long as you are involved in building the land.


    You no nothing about Rav Kook’s understanding of anything. Not how he understood Torah, it’s people, or their destiny.

    This is not personal. And it’s not a debate. You just have no clue.

    Here is the history. Rav Kook was a giant of giants. Not necessarily the biggest Marbitz Torah, but a man who lived up to every Jewish ideal. He personified every aspect of Torah. Seeing him, was seeing a real yid. The fact of his life led him to reach out ‘ve every segment of Jews. This brought about a lot of bizarre results. He misunderstood a lot of the problems facing the Jews living in Arab lands. His outreach to German Jews missed the target completely. He could not get his message across in America. But these were all minor issues. Basically, the local leaders felt he was unhelpful. It should be noted, that when he was asked to not get involved, he didn’t. Except for one topic. He was right on the mark with the antireligious. He knew what their issues had been in Europe and what really motivated them to invest themselves in Israel. He became the religious leader of the antireligious. Which is the dream of every gadol in kiruv today.

    Traditional Jews all over the world were not pleased with this development. They say a struggle for the life of Judaism. Those who personally knew Rav Kook tried to debate with him. He was not that kind of leader. Not a debater. Not a politician. Not a care for his ego. He took all kinds of abuse as if he deserved it. His detractors write, that they would yell at him and he would say “of course your right.” As the new Zionists came in the second wave, he would take the blame for them doing whatever they wanted. Even when they gave him all kinds of guarantees to uphold the yishuv hayashan, he would personally take the blame.

    So, nothing happened. The traditional leaders continued in the struggle to uphold their flock. There was nothing they could do. The amount of new oilim was drowning out their clout. Remember, that a large amount of European Jews were no longer Shomer Torah. The struggle was taking over everything. And money sent from Europe and America was crucial for the survival of the people. Yet, the frum leaders in Israel refused to denounce Rav Kook. He was That much of a tzaddik to them. Even though lives were at stake, they carefully worded letters to the diaspora, to only send money through reliable methods.

    When the controversy spilled to the other continents, every Rav who knew him personally was very careful with his honor. [One exception.] Those that never really knew him, specifically those who were on the receiving end of his failed outreach were aghast. They completely misunderstood the person and his goals. Rav Kook never responded to the personal attacks. Except to remind those close to him, that these were Rabbonim and their honor is very important for klal yisroel. With regards to the controversy itself, he would say let all the ‘Torah Scholars lead the Torah People. Leave the irreligious to me.’

    Rav Kook did not have a concrete vision of a State or any kind of Zionist enterprise. He strived to fit everything he saw as a constructive purpose of Hashem’s World. He had little need for communal struggle. What could be Hashem’s Purpose in that?

    In sum, Rav Kook entirely understood a nation as a nation only through Torah. And he understood the depth and breadth of Torah more than all of his very, very, very, great peers. There is nothing in any of his writings about replacing the Torah chas lmaymar. All though he worried about all Jews, especially the few remaining fully observant communities, he found that they all had competent leadership and he was either not needed or unwanted. Only the agricultural communists were completely bereft of a Torah Leader. He was talking to them. His own talmidim were not planting on shemitta. The rest of his following was not keeping anything for themselves anyways.

    The main point is, that anyone who really studies Rav Kook’s writings, has no need for Zionism. It’s all about Hashem. The modern day anti Zionist camp is putting together a philosophical world view, and they reverse a few points and put the words in the mouths of the early Religious Zionists. They are the ones who suffer from a lack of identity. They do not identify with the majority of Jews. Not today. And not throughout history. They do not feel their pain or see their losses. They do not realize the dilemma. All they care about is being right in a public demonstration. And the last thing they ever care about, is how the Torah thinks about these issues.


    I thought you didn’t care what others believe? Looks like you do when it’s not about Hashem, but rather about a controversial rabbinic figure.

    I’ve seen enough of rabbi kook’s works and his talmidim to know that he copied and pasted European nationalism, popular at his time, with judaism – he made no secret of his involvement in secular philosophy. Orot is full of the nation/land/language philosophy. He’s the father of the idea. He wrote that the secular apikorsim are holier than the frum(sic) because they are building up the land.

    “One who reads his books has no need for zionism”. Well, maybe his halacha seforim – maybe.

    I asked you if you can quote one religious zionist source who said that the only thing that makes you a jew fully, is Torah. That we are a nation because of the Torah alone. You went on a beautiful ad-hominem attack without quoting a single source, or sefer to the contrary, and just said that it’s all made up and that *really* everyone agrees to rav saadya gaon.

    When rabbi hershel shechter said Jewish lives need to he sacrificed because the state is the “lifeblood” of the nation and that sometimes you need to cut a limb off to save the body, was that not casting the jewish people as a nation by virtue of something other than torah? When eliezer melamed uses the arbitrary traditionalist israeli as a benchmark for conversion status, is that not saying that you can be a jew without torah, as long as you believe in the “umah”?


    Dear Avira,

    I don’t care what you or anyone think they should believe about Zionism or anything else. Personal business. And this is not a personal conversation. This is an historical discussion.

    Rav Kook was not a philosopher. He was not systemic thinker. You posted about ion and philosophy in the past. This is how I knew you had no clue about him. His outlook is in the form of describing historical events. Not explaining the directives. Something like Carlebach teaching through stories. All the nationalistic essays of George Orwell would be incomprehensible to him. He was writing about the nationalistic fever that he was witnessing. I have no idea how you could confuse this. Unless you have no background in philosophy.

    He was not the father of anything. He was more detached than Herzl. Almost no following. Wandered around between cities and continents.

    “One who…” I meant those who try to understand the depth of his messaging are not Zionistic about the State. Their realistic.

    If you need a direct quote, Your messing up your argument. Rav Reinnes is a great example of Torah talking absolute precedence over Zionism. And if was actually part of the Mizrachi Movement. Unlike Rav Kook.

    “Beautiful…” Thanks! It would be great to write another hesped on a less controversial gadol.

    I wasn’t trying to negate your critique, as much as I was trying to demonstrate that the controversy was about supporting the irreligious. Not what the approach of the Torah True should be to their own tasks. Nobody then was telling boys to leave yeshiva and in work for the betterment of secular society. Unlike today. By the frummest of the frum also.

    Rav Shachter was discussing the halachic allowance of the State to fight wars, even though Jews will die. Maybe I have the wrong quote.

    Melamed is discussing an issue of statehood. How should they accept the non religious as citizens? You could say they shouldn’t. But then there will be more assimilation in the diaspora.


    “Melamed is discussing an issue of statehood. How should they accept the non religious as citizens? You could say they shouldn’t. But then there will be more assimilation in the diaspora.”

    He’s talking not about making them Israeli citizens(they are already), he’s talking about letting them convert to Judaism. His judaism incorporates nationalism, and to him, someone who’s Israeli and keeps a few things should be enough to call them Jewish


    I asked a simple question. Name a religious zionist rabbi or writer who affirms that judaism is a religion and only a nation, solely because of the Torah, and nothing else.

    Instead, you go on and on in an impassioned narrative justifying rabbi kook and ignoring his clear nationalism in his writings.

    Does rabbi kook say anywhere that the Jews are a nation only because of the Torah? It would undermine his ideas that secular jews are an integral part of klal yisroel, because they build up the land.

    As for rabbi shechter – again, you’re missing my point. If the state doesn’t have implications for Jewish identity(because only the Torah makes us a nation and only it is worth dying for) then why sacrifice Jewish lives? It’s only because the state (whether religious or especially if it’s secular) is a part of the Jewish nation – i e., The nation has an element of its composite besides the Torah.

    His nationalism made him make the biggest mistake of his otherwise very accomplished career in psak. It shows how bad hashkofos impact halacha.


    I agree that reines believed in supporting zionism for political reasons; he bought in to the idea that it would improve our situation in the world. That’s because he was before rabbi kook. Rabbi kook introduced the idea of nationalism; or at least popularized it.


    Then we disagree with him. As would almost all religious Jews. What do you think Herzog’s opinion is?


    Most religious jews who are dedicated solely to learning and serving Hashem would disagree with rabbi kook, correct. Some, calling themselves “chardal”, charedi dati leumi, straddle zionism with proper adherence to halacha – they’ll probably end up dropping the DL part soon enough if they’re truly sincere about wanting to only follow the Torah without self interests and ta’avos. I wish them well

    As for most religious zionists; they definitely believe in the state of Israel, hebrew, and the land of eretz yisroel as qualifiers for jewish nationhood. Just ask some of the posters here.


    I don’t know what Herzog’s full views are, if he has formulated complete views that is. I can only tell by his article that he is talking in ways that are identical to torah jewry.


    If you meant disagreeing with melamed – yes, most of the religious zionist community disagrees with converting without kabalas hamitzvos. But the fact that someone thought of as a senior posek can say that, reveals where zionism leads. It’s only a matter of time before his ideas become more mainstream; what was considered reform became conservative, and what was conservative became fringe MO, and that effect continues until people return to authentic Torah and drop alien garbage.

    Religious zionism has varying levels of how much nationalism affects their halachik pronouncements. I have yet to encounter one whose zionism has not impacted their psak at all – perhaps rabbi willig in YU; I’ve not heard anything from him that shows nationalism contaminating halacha.


    “He [Herzog] quotes the famous teaching of rav saadya gaon that klal yisroel is a nation only by virtue of the Torah – this is the first time I’ve seen a zionist, religious or secular, mention it. ”

    There were [and still are] many religious Zionists going back to the late 19th century who expressed similar perspectives but added a duality of needing to provide an economic and national security framework wherein those dedicated to limud torah could coexist with a secular population. In those days it wasn’t as much of a binary choice between secular and frum.


    Gadol – you’re missing my point. I’m discussing the definition of a Jew. The need for hishtadlus and how to provide for the community is a different discussion, of which views can differ.

    I’m asking what makes a Jew. The Torah answer is that the Torah makes us Jewish, and nothing else. The secular zionist answer is that land, ancestry, languags, culture and a history make us Jewish. Religious zionists mostly believe it is a combination of the two.

    That’s why rav elchonon calls it idolatry mixed with religion.

    On this a torah jew cannot accept “other viewpoints” when they are sl decidedly foreign and contrived.


    I can understand someone saying that a state run by halacha is necessary for infrastructure, to maintain the community, etc. I disagree with it, but that’s not an issue that anyone would say is heretical.

    When that state becomes part of how you define “jew”, then you have left normative judaism.


    I am confused – melech David was able to fight for a Jewish state, but somehow a modern Rav supporting that is an apikoires?

    Our petty concerns about non-religious Jews in Israel, about zionists not funding our schools as much as we ask for, about clown scenes in Knesset obscure a miracle of massive Jewish settlement, including religious life, in EY – after several catastrophes, both military and spiritual.

    If you were to say to, say, Ramban, that at the place where he was trampled by a knight, there will be Jewish police standing post, would he be upset?


    The rambam, along with every other remotely Torah jew in his time, would recoil in horror at tel aviv, at nightclubs that blast lewd music that can be heard on the way to the kosel (, I’ve heard it myself), at a government that calls itself Jewish but doesn’t keep halacha and defends toevos… What would the rambam think of the pride parades?

    Just because someone is Jewish doesn’t make him celebrated. He’d be much happier speaking Arabic as he did), than fake Hebrew spoken by harlots and criminals.

    Dovid hamelech fought for Hashem. Zionists fight against Him in promoting secularism, chilul Hashem in claiming to be true Jewish representatives, and let’s not forget the 3 shavuos that are broken routinely.


    “I’m asking what makes a Jew. The Torah answer is that the Torah makes us Jewish, and nothing else. The secular zionist answer is that land, ancestry, languags, culture and a history make us Jewish.”

    This is an oft propagated idea of the anti-Zionists in the frum community. But I honestly think that it’s the opposite. The Torah says that if someone’s mother is Jewish he is Jewish. This makes our religion very ethnic and nationalistic. Even people far removed from Yiddeshkeit such as Spinoza, Einstein, Freud, and Marx are considered Jewish because of this. The Torah contributes to identifying Jews in an ethnic instead of a religious way. Zionism would not be possible without the Torah already putting forth the idea that people completely removed from Yiddeshkeit are still Jewish based on their ancestry alone. The Torah’s definition of a Jew is not the polar opposite of Zionism’s despite protestations that it is.


    “odt propogated idea”

    Propogated by gedolim as diverse as rav elchonon, who devoted an entire sefer to the concept, rav hirsch, who eschewed nationalism, the chazon ish, brisker rov – as herzog quoted, it hearkens back to rav saadya gaon and open pesukim jn chumash “today you are to me a nation” was said in the midbar, not eretz yisroel.

    Rav elchonon stresses that gerus shows that we’re not a nationality, but a spiritual construct. That’s why it’s passed down by the mother and not the father – yichus, nationhood, lineage, is always paternal – in every culture. The fact that the Torah chooses matrilineal descent is but one more example of its status as a religious community, with spiritual differences between us and goyim, and not just a nationality like any other.

    One who does not keep the torah is treated as a non-jew. The din lf a yisroel is the “mahus”, not just a part, but the entire being of the person. The kuzari says that after the 4 levels of creation, a 5th is yisroel – it’s a new category of existence. The tanya is maarich on the spiritual differences between jews and goyim. We have different souls, entirely.

    None of that has to do with land/culture/language/ancestry, because you can be a jew in spain speaking Spanish, wearing spanish jewish garb, eating Mediterranean cuisine, and be born non-jewish but converted, and you’re 100% as jewish as a ben acher ben of dovid hamelech.


    “odt propogated idea”

    ““today you are to me a nation” was said in the midbar, not eretz yisroel.”

    Yay, I always wondered about that too, we weren’t a nation in Mitzrayim? That doesn’t fit will with the pesukim in shemos, just for example:
    וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־משֶׁ֔ה בֹּ֖א אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה וְדִבַּרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו כֹּֽה־אָמַ֤ר יְהֹוָה֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י הָֽעִבְרִ֔ים שַׁלַּ֥ח אֶת־עַמִּ֖י וְיַֽעַבְדֻֽנִי:

    Who’s עַמִּ֖י if Klal Yisrael is not a nation yet?

    “One who does not keep the torah is treated as a non-jew. ”

    Crucial point is that he is considered a non-Jew for certain halachos, but is still Jewish.

    “None of that has to do with land/culture/language/ancestry, because you can be a jew in spain speaking Spanish, wearing spanish jewish garb, eating Mediterranean cuisine, and be born non-jewish but converted, and you’re 100% as jewish as a ben acher ben of dovid hamelech.”

    Theoretically, if you took away the Torah you would still have people identifying as Jewish and feeling a connection to a “Jewish nation”. I’m not saying that is the Torah’s definition of the Jewish nation but sometimes I hear anti-Zionists say that there would be no Jewish nation at all without the Torah even in a secular and cultural way. That is ridiculous.


    Avira > Dovid hamelech fought for Hashem. Zionists fight against Him

    Ok, this makes sense. But before you were assigning guilt by association: chilonim are wrong, thus R Kook is wrong by associatign with them; Reformim are wrong, thus oilam does not need tikkun, etc, etc. The problem with this approach is that it takes you on a subjective route – you can easily accuse anyone you don’t like by association: MO are associated with Bible criticism; scientists with college parties; baalei tzedoka with communism; baalei batim with heartless capitalism; anti-zionists with anti-semites; Torah scholars with Nazarenes; etc, etc. You can choose any of the above just based on your own biases: some choose part of that list; others – the other part and none will be wiser.


    A good question, whether Rambam would live in Tel Aviv … On one hand, he suggests emigration and even desert if you are in a bad community (as Chazon Ish quotes him); on the other hand, he moved several times himself: from crazy kind of Muslims in Spain to Fes, a place of the first dual-track school (medrasa/university); then to Mitzrayim under Muslims with who he interacted daily, and with Karaims. None of these places had perfect communities at the time, and he did not go to Sahara. Maybe, he was satisfied by having some community in the location? So, he might be able to find a minyan in Tel-Aviv or even in Bnei Braq (if he were to accept modern psak allowing shanda of taking some else’s money). Need to look more into this.


    Marx, that’s what rav saadya et al is coming to go against. It’s not “ridiculous”. We were called a nation in some level because of avrohoms choices to serve Hashem, but it was contingent on our acceptance of the Torah. If we wouldn’t have accepted,we wouldn’t be here, as Hashem said “shom tehey kevuraschem” by har sinai. The name yisroel is based on yaakovs righteousness.

    Not only that, but Hashem would have destroyed the world and started all over again to have a nation of torah, because that is who we are – nothing further and nothing less.


    What i find ridiculous, is that frum people have become so enamored with the presence of non frum jews that some think it’s still within the parameters of “jew”. Until a little over a hundred years ago, jew was synonymous with devotion to Hashem. Indeed the very name Yehudah means to thank Hashem…

    Some think “well, if we didn’t have the Torah, we’d be like Israelis..” that’s because the zionists have succeeded in supplanting the definition of a jew with that of a nation-state.

    Many old nations spoke Hebrew, it’s the language of the “other side” of the yarden. Lashon kodesh, says the ramban, is the way the Hebrew language is used. Many goyim were from Shem. Our Hebrew script that we use currently is called “ksav ashuris”, because it came from the Assyrians. Many current day aramaic speaking goyim can read fluent Hebrew.


    “What i find ridiculous, is that frum people have become so enamored with the presence of non frum jews that some think it’s still within the parameters of “jew”. ”

    They are. Get over it.

    “Some think “well, if we didn’t have the Torah, we’d be like Israelis..” that’s because the zionists have succeeded in supplanting the definition of a jew with that of a nation-state.”

    I disagree. There were Jews before the Zionists who were already identifying as Jews without any religion.


    Marx – there definitely were not. There were apostates, sure, meshumadim, intermarrying jews, etc…but they no longer called themselves jews. Even the reform originally eschewed the title jew and called themselves “germans of hebraic persuasion”

    Name one group or even one individual jew before zionism who was not at all observant but called themselves jewish. THERE WERE NONE. it was invented ad hoc by zionists.

    “Get over it”
    My point is that it’s not within the parameters of the definition of jew. There are men who think that they are women. They are outside the true definition of women, so they’re fantasizing. There are people who call themselves jewish, who have jewish souls trapped in sinful tamei bodies, who think and act in ways that have no bearing on the title Jew.


    Avira, you are right that Zionists have their Jewishness at the center of their agenda, while other non-religious Jews did not. Still, many Bundists, Socialists considered themselves Jewish. Also, even many German Jews who converted did this out of convenience and felt some affinity to Jews and often married other Jewish converts. From Henrich Heine to Fritz Haber, they experienced their Jewish affinity at times of trouble.

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