And thus, all the nations will recognize God’s kingdom, and will accept His right and just laws and judgments. Faith and justice will be revealed in the world, and great joy will spread throughout the world. “Say among the nations, ‘The Lord has reigned.’ Also, the inhabited world will be established so that it will not falter; He will judge peoples with equity. The heavens will rejoice and the earth will exult; the sea and the fullness thereof will roar. The field and all that is therein will jubilate; then all the forest trees will sing praises. Before the Lord, for He has come, for He has come to judge the earth; He will judge the inhabited world justly and the peoples with His faith.”
Miracles and Nature
People with limited faith – a position which entails a certain degree of idolatry – believe that faith is mainly built on miracles – the more miracles occur, the stronger one’s faith will be. As a result, nature is problematic for them, because it interferes with their beliefs. Therefore, they try to describe everything as if it happened miraculously.
For example: “I was waiting for a ‘tramp’ (a hitch-hike), and was about to give up. No cars went by, and if they did, they didn’t stop. I had no idea how I was going to get to my destination. All of a sudden, miraculously, someone pulled up, and miracle-of-miracles, he had space for me, and by the grace of God, I made it on time.” Or, “I got to the store and all the cucumbers were almost gone, but miraculously, there were a few left – just what I needed, and even more… and with the grace of God, I bought them! Baruch Hashem, whose grace has not abandoned me, and has performed this great miracle of cucumbers for me!” This is limited faith. In their myopic, small-mindedness they believe that God is only revealed in things beyond nature, and therefore they attempt to invalidate the practical ways of nature. In truth, however, grave heresy emerges from their statements – according to which, nature is remote from Hashem, God forbid (see, Shabbat 53b, that it is easier to perform a revealed miracle than to change the set laws of nature).
Miracles, Science, and Medicine
Science is a big problem for people with limited faith, because in their opinion, it expresses the grandeur of nature’s wisdom at the expense of miracles. Consequently, sometimes we hear people say: “All the doctors said he had no chance of living, so we went to a certain kabbalist, and miraculously, he was healed. All the doctors were astonished, and on the spot, decided to become religious and wear a streimel…” Perhaps I over exaggerated a bit – the doctors didn’t decide to wear a streimel, and unfortunately, they also did not decide to become religious. And perhaps they really weren’t so astonished, because, from the beginning, they never said he had no chance of living – the fact is, they tried to find a cure for his illness. All in all, out of politeness, they agreed with the person who said a miracle had occurred, and maybe even agreed there was a certain amount of truth to it – because, after all, without God’s assistance, no medicine will help.
In addition to the fact that people who seek out miracles frequently over exaggerate the details of what actually took place, it achieves no benefit, but only disadvantages. For it was God who created the heavens and the earth; he is the one who gave man the wisdom to develop science and the medical profession – indeed, this is included in God’s mitzvah to Adam “to work it and watch it” (the Garden of Eden) – to extract the hidden forces in nature.
Indeed, because nature is logical, today some people are satisfied with limited explanations, without thinking about God and faith, and conversely, others attempt to emphasize miracles. Complete faith, however, views the whole of nature as God’s creation, and is not content with that, but, with the guidance of the Torah, aims to reveal the sacred value of everything found in nature.
The Mitzvah of Settling the Land of Israel
Thus, the importance and centrality of the mitzvah to settle the Land of Israel can be understood, since this mitzvah forces us to reveal all the values in the Torah in the physical world – with all its earthly, realistic considerations.
According to the limited view of faith, the mitzvah should be revealed without taking into account any realistic considerations – for if we are commanded to conquer the Land, indeed, we must conquer it without any considerations about our military capabilities or the forces facing us. Since this view is illogical and impractical, consequently, those advocating it claim the mitzvah can only be fulfilled with the coming of the Mashiach, and afterward, by means of a revealed miracle beyond all realistic considerations, we will conquer the Land.
The Torah, however, teaches us that in the Land of Israel we do not require miracles, because holiness is revealed in the Land. In contrast to the signs and miracles revealed in Egypt, in the land of Ham, and afterwards, in the revealed miracles in the desert – upon entering the Land of Israel, the miracles ceased – the manna and quail no longer fell, the people’s shoes and clothes started to wear out as normal, and the pillars of fire and cloud and the well no longer accompanied the camp of Israel. All the miracles that did occur in the Land of Israel were intended only to indicate certain ideas, but they are not the type of miracles one cannot live without.
Similarly, we have learned in the Book of Numbers that God commanded Israel to prepare for the conquest of the Land, and therefore commanded Moshe to count all those fit for service –men aged twenty years and older.
How He Sanctified God’s Great Name
We have also found in the Midrash: “There were four kings, each of whom requested different things…David said: ‘I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them: neither did I turn back until they were consumed’. God answered him, and he killed his enemies. Asa stood up and said: ‘I lack the strength to kill them; instead, I will pursue them, and You do what is necessary’. God said to him “I will do it”, and killed his enemies. Yehoshaphat stood up and said: ‘I do not have the strength either to kill them or to chase them; instead, I will sing, and You do what is necessary’. God said to him “I will do it”, and killed his enemies. Chizkiyahu stood up and said: ‘I do not have the strength either to kill them or to chase them or to sing; instead, I will sleep in my bed, and You do what is necessary’. God said to him “I will do it” (Eicha Rabba Petichta 30). People with limited faith might think that Chizkiyahu was the greatest among them, but the truth is the exact opposite. The Midrash expresses Israel’s terrible deterioration, from the days of King David until close to the time of destruction of the Holy Temple.
An Example from Our Forefather Avraham
We also find that that after our forefather Avraham made aliyah to Israel according to God’s command, there was a great famine in the Land, and he was forced to leave, and go down to Egypt. From this we learn something very important: this is the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz – a worldly mitzvah. If this was a miraculous mitzvah, even in a time of famine, one should seemingly rely on a miracle and remain in the land. But since it is a worldly mitzvah, indeed, when it is extremely difficult to live in Israel, one is permitted to leave. The mitzvah is to make an effort to settle the land in a manner that one can live here in a reasonably.
The Magnitude of a Mitzvah Fulfilled out of Realistic Consideration
Seemingly, if the realistic consideration is the deciding factor, it is no longer a mitzvah? But this is exactly the mitzvah – to remember the calling, and make every realistic effort to accomplish it. When, against our will, we are unable to fulfill the mitzvah, it is deferred until a time when it can be fulfilled; and then, we must immediately return and make an effort to conquer and settle the Land.
This is a mitzvah that must be revealed specifically in the land, with practical and realistic tools! Not like the hareidim, who are remiss in the need to fulfill this mitzvah in Israel, nor like the leftists, who ignore the importance of this great mitzvah.
The Divine revelation in the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz is deeper than in regular mitzvoth, whose actions are more pronounced in the Heavens. But through our efforts to fulfill the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz, physical reality is gradually transformed. True, it remains physical, but the big chiddush (innovation) is that, by Israel engaging in Torah and observing the mitzvoth in the physical world, everyday reality is increasingly blessed. Pathways are opened, and Divinity is revealed in the world. At that time, the entire creation will sing praise; all of it acting as a tool to reveal the word of God. Let the Lord rejoice in his works.
This article appears in the ‘Basheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.
The Wonder of Jewish Existence in Exile is Connected to the Vision of Redemption
The existence of the Jewish people for nearly two thousand years in galut (exile) is a huge miracle – unprecedented in the annals of the world. No nation survived more than a few generations outside of its land. On the other hand, the Jewish people survived and even revealed tremendous powers of vitality, evidenced in the continued deepening of Torah study. This is a great miracle, revealed through natural means. The fact that it occurred in a natural manner does not downplay the importance of the miracle, but rather, increases it. For a miracle that defies the laws of nature can occur in a particular place or a precise time, even as nature remains generally unchanged. However, here we are talking about a miraculous phenomenon which actually occurred for many years under natural circumstances, in the four corners of the world, and therefore, the miracle is infinitely greater.
Seeing as the miracle is revealed in a natural manner, it is important to clarify how it occurs in practice. The explanation is that Israel’s vision of redemption is so huge and colossal that no exile or suffering can prevail over it. Or as our teacher Rabbi Kook ztz”l wrote: “The yearning for Salvation gives the Judaism of the Diaspora its power of stamina” (Orot, Eretz Yisrael 1). Indeed, the Jewish people referred to life in Diaspora as ‘galut’, in other words, a temporary and unnatural situation that has no intrinsic value, but is merely a stage leading to the return to the Land of Israel (as explained by Maharal in ‘Netzach Yisrael’, chapter 1).
The Vision of Redemption is Connected to Torah and Mitzvoth
However, the yearning for redemption alone is not enough, because without Torah and mitzvoth, the vision of redemption would dissolve, lose its character and sink into the depths, or deviate in directions of idolatry as happened in Christianity and Islam. Therefore, the people of Israel were compelled to continue studying Torah and observe the mitzvoth in the Diaspora, even though the main purpose of the mitzvoth is connected to Eretz Yisrael (see, Ramban, Vayikra 18:25). Or as our Sages said: “Although I exile you from the Land of Israel to the Diaspora – be excellent in [observing] mitzvoth, so when you return [to the Land of Israel] they will not be new to you. This is analogous to a king who became angry with his wife, and she returned to her father’s house. The king said to her: Continue wearing your jewelry, so that when you return, they won’t be new to you. This is what God said to Israel: My sons, be excellent in [observing] mitzvoth, so that when you return, they will not be new to you. This is what Yirmeyahu said: ‘Establish signposts for yourself’ – these are the mitzvoth in which Israel excels” (Sifre, Ekev 37). And on the verse “And you shall set these words of Mine” (Deuteronomy 11:18), Rashi comments: “Even after you have been exiled, make yourselves distinctive with My commandments: Put on tefillin and make mezuzoth, so that these will not be new to you when you return.”
The Terrible Crisis
In the modern era, we struggled with a terrible crisis. Within a few generations, the majority of the Jewish people stopped observing mitzvoth, accompanied by a willingness to assimilate amongst the Gentiles and forgo their Jewish identity. Before World War I, the vast majority of Jews still observed mitzvoth, whereas prior to World War II, a clear majority did not. In Western Europe, only 10% observed mitzvoth, while nearly half had already assimilated in practice. In Russia, which had already been ruled by communism, only a few elders continued observing mitzvoth devotedly. In Poland, where there were nearly three million Jews, approximately half of them had already stopped observing mitzvoth, while in Hungary, only about 20% still kept mitzvoth. Even among the Jews who emigrated to America, the percentage of religiously observant was low, and among the younger people, no more than 10% were observant.
What happened suddenly? What led to the crisis? The simple answer is that modern development caused religion to become insignificant in life. However, it seems that Judaism, along with its wide-range of values, should not have been impaired by this, as it possess the capability of turning modernity into a tool for its spiritual content, and to be a tremendous impetus towards tikun olam. The truer answer is: the loss of a vision.
The Loss of a Vision
When all the Jews anticipate and prepare for the day they ascend to the Land of Israel and return to live an ideal life, that carries the message of tikun olam – only then do they have the strength to endure and cope with all the terrible sufferings and tribulations, which no other people survived – continuing to study Torah and perform mitzvoth, in order to fulfill them completely in Eretz Yisrael. But when the vision was lost, the strength to face the challenges disappeared.
In recent times the gates of Eretz Yisrael began to open, until after the World War I, in accordance with the decision of the League of Nations, the British Empire was given the mandate to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael. Indeed, the immigrants still faced many challenges, but life in the Diaspora wasn’t simple either, and despite all the difficulties, aliyah was possible. Presumably, as public pressure for mass aliyah mounted, the barriers would have fallen, and the gates would have opened wide. But at that fateful moment, the vast majority of our people preferred to remain in galut, without even giving a thought to making aliyah in the coming years. At that moment, it seemed as if the vision of the future nation of Israel was lost. If after efforts of generations, only a few hundred thousand people had gathered to Israel – only about 3% of the Jewish people, with all the rest refusing to heed the Divine command – is there still a chance for the nation to be redeemed?
To this day, Haredi anti-Zionist preachers claim that the abandoning of religion was caused by Zionism, but the truth is the opposite. The majority of those who managed to stay alive and remain in the Diaspora after the Holocaust, distanced themselves from Torah and mitzvoth, and are in a process of accelerated assimilation.
When the hope of returning to the Holy Land was lost, religious life also lost its meaning, because the main motivation for keeping mitzvoth was “to remain a Jew”, but when it seemed to the Jews in galut that there was no more hope for national redemption – the dream became a universal vision, for example, communism or liberalism, which led to assimilation.
With all the dreadful pain involved, it appears that out of a penetrating, historical examination, an awful truth arises: The awesome shock following the Holocaust saved the Jewish people from destruction. Without the Holocaust, the process of assimilation would have continued, and all the large communities in the Diaspora would have fallen apart. The process of assimilation which began in Western Europe continued in full force in Eastern Europe, and had already started to reach the capital cities of Islamic countries, to the point where, from a realistic viewpoint, there remained no hope or vision for the Jewish people.
After the Holocaust, many people came to the realization that there was no other place for the Jews except Eretz Yisrael. The words of the Prophet were fulfilled in us: “And that which comes into your mind shall never come about, that you say, We will be like the nations, like the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone (in other words, to believe in all sorts of ideals people have invented). As I live, says the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with anger poured out, will I be king over you: and I will bring you out from the peoples and will gather you out of the countries in which you are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, with anger poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there will remonstrate with you face to face” (Yehezkel 20:32-35).
The Words of a Yong Holocaust Survivor
On the 10th of February 1946, nearly a year after the end of World War II, the joint Anglo-American Committee arrived at the Bergen-Belson concentration camp to check the condition of the refugees who refused to return to their home countries. In the camp, the members of the committee encountered a small, skinny, pale boy about nine years old. They asked him: “How old are you?” He replied: “I’m 13 years old.” They kneeled down towards him, and continued to ask: “Where were you born?” He replied: “I was born in Kielce, Poland; there, they murdered my entire family. My only uncle who survived Treblinka returned to his hometown, but the Poles killed him there, his neighbors. I am the only one left.” “Well then, where would you like to go?” the committee members asked. The boy replied: “I…I want to go home. My only home is Eretz Yisrael, what you call Palestine.” “And if you can’t go to Palestine, where would you like to go?” they persisted. The boy then raised his head, and said: “I’ve had enough wandering from place to place. If you won’t allow me to go home – send me back to Auschwitz…” (From the book “Tikva Al Pi HaTehom”, by Masha Greenbaum).
Establishment of the State
The Holocaust and the State of Israel which arose in its aftermath preserved the existence of the Jewish people. Millions of Jews flocked to Eretz Yisrael and, to one extent or another, maintain their Jewish identity – infinitely more than any other community in the Diaspora. As a result, the Jewish communities abroad were also strengthened, for the enormous challenge the Jewish people embarked on – to establish a state, arouses all Jews in the world to consider their Jewish identity to one degree or another. The Hareidi communities were also empowered as a result of the establishment of the State – giving them the strength and courage to argue, and present an alternative position. They were able to say, ‘If the general public could establish a State – we can also keep the tradition in the way we think is right’.
Survival opposite the Great Vision
Unfortunately, however, instead of the great vision inspiring the Jewish people to gather to Israel and establish a state, we fled here from the galut because the alternative was returning to Auschwitz. In the interim, we were drawn into the huge challenge of building a country to save the Jews, and this task replaced the vision for several decades.
However, we still suffer from the same terrible crisis of the loss of a vision. Though we already live in the country, we have not yet truly decided to come to Israel to be a ‘kingdom of priests, and a holy nation’ – to connect heaven and earth, values and action – in order to reveal perfect faith in the world, inspire all the nations with Torah and morality, and bring redemption to the world.
The Danger in the Lack of a Vision
Without a vision, it will be extremely difficult to withstand international pressures – political and cultural, alike.
Who knows, perhaps we are once again in a similar situation to that of a hundred years ago, when our people were called to realize the vision of the redemption, and the negligence was disastrous.
May we merit, with God’s help, to participate in the great challenge of setting a vision worthy of the State of Israel, and I hope to write about this in my future columns.
This article appears in the ‘Basheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.
Treatment of Animals in Judaism
Nevertheless, we remember that the in the ideal situation, before the sin, Adam was commanded not to eat animal products. And therefore we know that in the future, after the world will be corrected, heaven and earth will be renewed, the nature of man and animals will change and become more spiritual; at that point, we will revert back to that ideal moral sensitivity, according to which it will be forbidden to kill animals to eat their flesh (Rabbi Kook, The Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace, 2).
Compassion for Animals
For our purposes, we learned from the words of our Sages, that we should develop the natural feeling of compassion toward animals, and even though today we are accustomed to eating their flesh, we should know that this is not the ideal situation, and we should try to alleviate the sorrow of animals. In the future, when the world is corrected, we will rise to the level of Adam, and will not have to harm animals to eat their flesh.
Not to Educate towards Vegetarianism
Therefore, a person may slaughter animals to eat, and as our Sages said (Kiddushin 82a), all creatures were created to serve man, and in the current moral level of the world, this means one is allowed to eat them. Moreover, if we were to become overly concerned with educating towards compassion and love for animals, it could lead to dreadful human relations, for some people on a lower moral level might say to themselves: “Since we are not careful about killing animals and eating them, we can also kill people who stand in our way, and maybe even eat their flesh”. Others would express their kindness only towards animals, and given that in all evil there is also a spark of morality and good, after appeasing their conscience, would have no problem stealing, robbing and killing other people, for in their hearts, they could boast about their compassion towards their pets (Vision of Vegetarianism 6:11). Therefore, the Torah instructed us not to refrain from eating meat; this is the custom of almost all the Gedolei Torah, and only a few radical idealists refrain from eating meat.
In the future, however, the world will be morally elevated, and as the Kabbalists say, the animals will also progress and evolve to the point where they will talk, and even their moral virtues will change completely, and as the prophet Isaiah said “וגר זאב עם כבש, ונמר עם גדי ירבץ, ועגל וכפיר ומריא יחדו, ונער קטון נוהג בם. ופרה ודב תרעינה יחדו ירבצו ילדיהן, ואריה כבקר יאכל תבן. ושעשע יונק על חור פתן ועל מאורת צפעוני גמול ידו הדה. לא ירעו ולא ישחיתו בכל הר קדשי, כי מלאה הארץ דעה את ה’ כמים לים מכסים”. “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the basilisk’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9) At that time, all will understand that it is not fitting to kill animals to eat their flesh. In the words of the prophet Hoshea “וכרתי להם ברית ביום ההוא עם חית השדה ועם עוף השמים ורמש האדמה, וקשת וחרב ומלחמה אשבור מן הארץ” “And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground; and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the land, and will make them to lie down safely (Hoshea 2 20). (Rabbi Kook, Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace,12:32).
Special Righteous Customs Regarding Eating Meat
Accordingly, we can understand our Sages when they said, that from a moral point of view, an am ha’aretz (an unlearned person) should not eat meat (Pesachim 49b). The reason is that a person without Torah and good morals, who despises Torah scholars and people of worth, is not considered to be superior to the animals, and therefore has no right to kill and eat them.
That is generally our Sages view on eating meat in our times. Although, there are some individuals who have a fine moral sense in their hearts, and have taken upon themselves not to eat meat at all, even though according to the Kabala, it is appropriate to eat meat in a seudat mitzvah. In any case there, were Kabalists who saw this in a positive light, in order to be extra pure, (“Sdei Hemed” Ma’arahat Achila, ‘eating meat’), and Rabbi Kook calls them radical idealists. But the general instruction for a person who desires to be blessed and serve G-d, is to occupy oneself mainly with correcting moral behavior between man and his fellow neighbor, and to eat meat at a seudot mitzvah.