Yesterday, a reader wrote YWN complaining about this past weeks Yated editorial – see HERE. The Yated has responded. Please read the following two articles, and submit your comments if you feel that the Yated preaches unity or divisiveness.
Article #1: Move To My Settlement, by Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz:
The period of Jewish, Zionist, settlement of Gaza has ended. There are no longer any Jews living in the Gaza strip. A basic tenet of religious and revisionist Zionism has been demolished. Eretz Yisroel Hashleimah is no longer seen as a viable national dream.
The man on which so many pinned their hopes spurned them, threw them out of their homes and snuffed out their dreams.
The media dispatches from Gaza are full of tears. Rarely are articles so replete with descriptions of emotional outpouring. Women cried, men cried, children cried, soldiers cried. Reading those articles, one senses something unusual. When was the last time articles about current events sought to capture and convey so much sorrowful, gut-wrenching emotion?
What were those tears all about? When did you last observe people crying so openly and unabashedly? After all, no one had died. It was not a funeral.
Let us probe the history of this sad debacle in an effort to understand what has happened. Decades ago, at great risk to their lives, the settlers moved to a forsaken desert. They made it bloom, building beautiful houses and farms. They believed that building Jewish settlements would help hasten the arrival of Moshiach. They felt they were keeping the enemies of Israel at bay by living in the midst of so many bloodthirsty Arabs.
Their savior turned on them, their celebrated hero decided to expel them from the paradise they carved out for themselves. In spite of herculean efforts, they were unable to stave him off. The gates of Heaven seemed to remain closed to their prayers. No miracle intervened to reverse the dreaded evacuation and to halt the people who carried out the prime ministers’ orders. The Tisha B’Av deadline came and went and then the soldiers were at the door, ready to carry them out of their homes.
The tears gushed as cameras snapped their shutters, their lenses recording the grief for posterity.
To be thrown out of your home is devastating; to be homeless is a nightmare. To have fought dearly for something and lost is very sad, but I think there is an even deeper dimension to the tragedy.
I think they were crying because their dreams were utterly destroyed. They were crying because their life’s mission, the very raison d’etre, was uprooted.
They cried because they believed they were doing G-d’s work and they think G-d turned them down. They were fighting for Zionism and they lost. In the words of one settler quoted in The New York Times as he was being dragged from his home, blue and white flag held high, “This is not about our house. We are fighting the battle for Zionism.”
The Mizrachi religious Zionist movement was founded in 1902 in a bid to work together with the secular Zionists to settle the Holy Land.
Talmidim of the Vilna Gaon and the Baal Shem Tov had preceded them by a hundred years, putting their lives at risk to settle the Land of Israel. Their followers who continued their dream of yishuv ha’aretz would have nothing to do with the secular Zionists.
The Mizrachi believed that it was possible to cooperate with the secularists and build a state to hasten the arrival of the Messiah. The Chareidi community, led by Rav Chaim Soloveitchik and the Lishcha HaTehorah, on the other hand, believed the secularists were driven by a desire to separate Jews from their religion and to substitute the state for the Torah. They fought them tooth and nail.
The old yishuv of Yerushalayim split with Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook over this issue, the vast majority siding with Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld.
The old yishuv did not see the need for a state headed by secularists who sought to strip the holy land of its special character. They refused to work with them and fought them every step of the way.
Following the wars of 1967 and 1973, followers of Rav Kook’s son, Rav Zvi Yehuda, saw an opportunity once again to help speed the arrival of Moshiach. They teamed up with the secular Ariel Sharon and planted settlements of Jews all across parts of Eretz Yisroel and Gaza which had been captured in the Six Day War of ’67.
The settlements exerted a powerful emotional pull and religious Jews in Israel and around the world supported the movement. In the wake of the demoralizing losses of the Yom Kippur War, the growing settlement movement infused new hope and optimism. The settlements morphed into complete towns, with yeshivos, factories and beautiful houses—like a gan eden in olam hatachton.
During the heady days of their founding, Rav Shach would speak against the settlement activity at almost every opportunity. He would say that we have no need for them. He would say that since the nations of the world were opposed to them, it was forbidden to establish them. When Menachem Begin annexed the Golan to Israel, Rav Shach said that we existed as a people for thousands of years without the Golan and our nationhood would not be diminished without the Golan.
Needless to say, his position was far from popular. He was vilified and ridiculed for it. Refusing to back down, he continued to speak publicly against the settlements.
A talmid of his couldn’t take the flak anymore and approached him, “Rebbe, why are you doing this? Why do you keep on repeating this mantra against the settlements; you’re not accomplishing anything,” he pleaded.
Rav Shach answered that he had no faith in the country’s leaders and knew that the day would come when they would relinquish the land they had liberated, and return it to the Arabs. The settlers invested so much religious zeal into those settlements that he said he feared their loss would be so devastating it would shatter their emunah.
He said that though his message was having no immediate effect, he felt compelled to repeat it so that when that future time arrives, the settlers would remember that there was once an alter Yid in Bnei Brak who stood and darshened that the Jewish people don’t need settlements— and that the settlements were not destined to last. Let them remember that, and when the day of betrayal comes, they will not be entirely disheartened and won’t forsake their faith in the religion of our forefathers who clung to their belief through all the travails of the Diaspora.
Alas, that day has come. The day the alter Yid foresaw and worried about arrived. And now it is our duty to stand up and call out to our sorrowful brothers who were turned out of their homes.
With brotherly love, with sympathy and compassion, we cry out to you to come home. Come over to our settlements. Come see what we have built and join us. The settlements of Ponovezh, Mir, Brisk, Chevron and Slabodka are ready to absorb you. The settlements of Bnei Torah reach out to you with hearts full of love, urging you to rejoin us. You’ve seen how the secularists treat you; you’ve seen where their path leads. Part ways with them, once and for all, and come over to our place.
Let us join forces. Join the army of the yeshivos; we can work together building Torah communities. Help us reach out to the tinokos shenishbu and bring them to lives of Torah.
Our hands are outstretched. We are not triumphal.
You who have seen and experienced the bitter truth of the Brisker Rov’s words, that the Tzionim zenen chashud oif retzichah, should join with us to help bring Moshiach through other means.
We empathized with you as you battled for your homes. We felt your pain, we sympathize deeply with you. But now that you have been unceremoniously dumped across the country with nothing but the clothes on your backs, while your homes are bulldozed into oblivion, perhaps it is time to take stock on where this partnership has led you. Perhaps the state and its army do not deserve the religious awe and respect you have honored them with.
The Zionist dream has failed the Jewish people; it has neither ended anti-Semitism nor engendered respect for our nation.
Your blood, sweat and tears mean little to Sharon and the secularists; your years of army servitude and sheirut leumi are spat upon. You are vilified and mocked. You are coddled as long as you are useful to their cause. Oorah, wake up and realize that following the path of Torah-only without cooperation with the secularists-will lead us to the redemption.
The words of Rav Saadya Gaon echo: “Ein umaseinu umah elah b’Torah,” Torah is what binds us and defines us, not land, not a flag, and not the settlements.
We live in historic times; Moshiach is knocking on our doors. Can’t we join together and do what needs to be done to let him in?
Article #2: Praying For The People Of Sharon, by Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz:
As the Gaza disengagement was coming closer people wanted to know what the Gedolei Yisroel say about it. I had the occasion to discuss the matter with my Rebbi, Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, and what he had to say was most enlightening.
Gedolim have a way of looking at things differently than most people. That is why we turn to them when there is a tough decision to make and we are confused by competing arguments and opinions. Even when we think we have everything figured out, they are always able to dig deeper, analyze sharper and offer an entirely fresh and enlightening perspective on the issue at hand.
When I brought up the topic, Rav Shmuel remarked with a pained expression how awful it was for the people living in Gush Katif to be evicted from their homes and that we must all feel their pain. “Bochoh sivkeh balaylah,” he quoted from Megillas Eicha, noting how applicable to the present situation is that poignant passage.
The settlers believed that their moving to Gaza would hasten the arrival of Moshiach. They think that the State of Israel is “reishis tzemichas geuloseinu – the beginning of the dawn of the messianic period.” This awful situation ought to awaken them.
Rav Shmuel went on to say that during the Gezairos Tach v’Tat, the devastating pogroms against the Jews in Poland and Russia that wiped out 100,000 of our people, the Tosfos Yom Tov said that the reason for the terrible persecutions was revealed to him from Shomayim. He said that the Jews of that period did not show proper respect for shuls and botei medrash. He aroused the community to awaken to the Divine message, and wrote a special prayer on behalf of those who would pay heed to the call and restrain themselves from talking during davening.
If shuls and botei medrash are blown up and the Jews who frequent them are chased from their homes, it carries a message for us akin to the one the Tosfos Yom Tov divined during the Gezeiros Tach v’Tat.
When Anwar Sadat made his dramatic visit to Yerushalayim, the debate over returning the majority of the Sinai desert to the Egyptians was fierce indeed. The memories of the wars with Egypt – of the endless infiltrations by the blood thirsty terrorists and of the toll in human lives paid for every inch of that blood-soaked expanse of burning sand – were simply too fresh to allow us to appreciate the historic opportunity before us.
Most people viewed the return of the Sinai with dismay, but Rav Elozar Menachem Shach zt”l led our community in embracing the concept of peace with Egypt. Prominent voices railed against the “withdrawal,” against the so-called capitulation to our fiercest enemy. In our world, voices were raised challenging the da’as Torah of Rav Shach and the gedolei Eretz Yisroel. Arguments raged in many botei medrash. It was not a period of great harmony amongst Jews. But we held fast to the vision of our Torah leaders and put our trust in their judgment.
Today, the Egyptians no longer attack us. Their murderous terrorists who had regularly invaded moshavim and kibbutzim, killing and destroying, have not been heard from. Countless Jewish lives have been saved. Indescribable suffering has been spared.
Are we facing a similar opportunity today? Will the pullout from Gaza ring in a period of tranquility? Can we support the relinquishing of fertile acres of Eretz Yisroel in the same way we took leave of the sand dunes of the Egyptian Sinai desert? It is not likely that the Palestinians will maintain anything close to the “cold peace” Israel has with Egypt. On the Israeli side, there are few who look to Sharon as they did to Begin.
In a small corner of the country, in an area abutting the largest concentration of Arabs in Israel, and in Arab-populated portions of the West Bank, Sharon and his followers created what would become known as “facts on the ground.”
His plan was simple. No one ever really believed that the State of Israel would be allowed to keep all the Arab areas conquered in the war of 1967. Some pundits point to the demographic nightmare looming on the horizon. With millions of Arabs living in Israel it is only a matter of time before they start voting in elections. Before long they could be dictating policy and opening the front door to the same enemies who have been trying to get in the back door for more than half a century.
Sharon’s plan was to complicate the eventual givebacks by creating large settler blocs. By urging people to settle in places like Gush Katif, the day of reckoning would be delayed or even avoided entirely. I remember him showing me maps over ten years ago and proudly pointing to places he had helped establish all along Yehuda, Shomron and Azza to ensure that no leftist government would ever be able to return that land to the Arabs.
The pawns in this chess game, the people who settled formerly barren areas and built up homes and communities, have known terrible suffering. The one and a half million Arabs of Gaza never stopped trying to attack Gush Katif. Katyushas and other flying bombs fell in a steady rain for close to three decades. Good people, people who put their lives at risk in the name of an ideal, made the ultimate sacrifice. Hashem yinkom damam.
And then, after all they went through, after their mesiras nefesh resulted in beautiful communities with shuls and mosdos – with bustling businesses and breathtaking landscapes – the roof fell in. They were betrayed. The very Sharon who stood behind them all the years, and pointed with pride at their towns and cities, forced their hapless evacuation.
While we love Eretz Yisroel with much passion, we realize that Moshiach has not yet come. Even in Israel we are in golus.
We put Jewish lives ahead of nationalist agendas.
But there is the pain.
It was very hard for us to stand by and witness the despair of our brethren in Gush Katif.
Yes, they bought into a lie and then were forced to pay the price, but they are our brothers and they were heartbroken. And when our brother is down, we are down.
On Yom Kippur, when the Kohain Gadol emerged from the Kodesh HaKodoshim, he said a special prayer. He prayed for Klal Yisroel. He asked Hashem to grant us a year of plenty for all. He asked for good health and happiness.
And at the climax of his prayer, he davened for Anshei HaSharon – the people who inhabited the Sharon plain. “Shelo t’hay botayhem kivrayhem.”
The Kohain Gadol begged Hashem to watch over the people of the Sharon lest their homes become their burial places.
The commentators in Yerushalmi Yomah 5:2 discuss the unique situation in Sharon. It seems that the ground underneath the homes became unstable due to the force of the rains that ran off the mountains and converged on the plains. This required the people to rebuild the foundations of their homes twice within every seven years.
The obvious question is: Why did they continue to live in such a dangerous place?
Chazal did not answer that question for us. And I think I now understand why.
There is a lesson to be learned from the tefilla of the Kohain Gadol. It does not matter if the people of Sharon have chosen to live in a dangerous place. The only enduring point is that they are our brothers. We care for them. We care about them. And we pray for them.
Avrohom Avinu underwent ten tests of loyalty to Hashem. One of those trials was the command “Lech Lecha, Go forth and relocate.” The Brisker Rov posed the following question: What test was inherent in such a welcome command? After all, at home, Avrohom was busy arguing about the idols in his father’s store. Didn’t he welcome the opportunity to finally get away from that environment?
“The answer,” the Rov declared, “is that to leave one’s home is never simple.”
We are not sure that living in Gush Katif was ever a smart thing to do. We don’t know how wise it was for the people who moved and lived there to endanger themselves, their families and so many soldiers. But as they stood on the threshold of expulsion, as they held their heads in agony contemplating the wasted lives sacrificed on the altar of Sharon’s lie, our hearts went out to them.
We pray that Hashem should watch over the people who believed in Sharon.