The Most Severe Problem – Unclear Goals
In addition to our deficiency when it comes to a heritage of
leadership, the religious-Zionist public has another problem, one
which is more serious: our fundamental goals are not well enough
defined. Despite the fact that, in many ways, ours is the best and
most balanced sector in the State of Israel, a smokescreen covers all
of our goals. The religious-Zionist community identifies with all the
important, Torah-related, national and universal values. We possess a
fundamentally positive view of both Torah and academic study, of both
Yeshiva students and those who work for a living. We esteem those who
devote themselves to the nation and the land via military service,
settlement, immigrant absorption, and the development of industry.
However, the manner in which all these values fit together is not
clear. How do we go about combining all of these praiseworthy and
important values? What do we do when two ideals conflict? How do we
determine which takes precedence? After giving precedence to one, how
do we nonetheless manage to give authentic expression to both ideals?
These questions have yet to be answered, and in such a state, it is
impossible to produce leadership. Leadership needs to have a clear
line of approach, and when the goals are not clear, it is impossible
to establish leadership.
Neither should one take this matter lightly, for the Talmud teaches
(Shabbat 119b): Rabbi Isaac said: “Jerusalem was destroyed only
because the small and the great were made equal, for it is said, “And
it shall be as with the people, so with the priest,” which is followed
by, “The land shall be utterly emptied” (Isaiah 24).
We see, therefore, that when there is no clear order regarding what is
“great” and what is “small,” i.e., which value takes precedence over
another, the entire value system crumbles and falls into ruin, and the
land is laid waste.
Torah and Science
Let us consider, for example, the relationship between Torah and the
sciences. Generally speaking, all students of Torah ought to take a
positive approach to the study of science, as explained in the Talmud
(Shabbat 85a). The Sages even enacted a blessing to be recited when
one sees an outstanding non-Jewish scholar: “Blessed are You O
Lord . . . Who has given from His wisdom to human beings.” The various
sciences, then, are considered God’s wisdom (and see Maharal, Netiv
HaTorah, chap. 14). Concerning this, the Gaon from Vilna, Rabbi Elijah
the son of Shlomo Zalman, says that whoever lacks the knowledge of a
portion of the secular sciences lacks a hundred portions of knowledge
of the Torah.
All the same, it goes without saying that Torah wisdom is preeminent
and superior to all other wisdoms.
Here the question arises: On a practical level, what sort of
relationship ought to exist between Torah and science? Should a person
begin studying sciences only after he has finished all of his Torah
studies? That is, at the age of about 700? Or should the student begin
combining secular studies with religious studies while still young?
And just how much should be incorporated? Perhaps this depends upon
the character of the individual? How do we determine this?
In practice, because these matters have not been clarified, a deep
rift divides the Yeshiva world and the world of academia, each side
pulling with all of its might in its own direction. And this tension
gives rise to strong, reciprocal criticism. However, if the two sides
would sit down and calmly discuss the problem, they would most
certainly agree that both the Yeshiva and academia are of great value.
However, it must be pointed out that compromise is not the key to
solving the essential problem. Profound clarification is called for in
order to combine Torah and science in an ideal manner, i.e., in a
So long as we do not carry out such a clarification, it will be very
difficult to provide a comprehensive vision for the religious-Zionist
public as a whole, a public which must produce Torah scholars,
scientists, business-people, professionals, etc. When such a vision is
lacking, it is impossible to establish a study program which will
provide a variety of possibilities for different people. When both
vision and means are lacking, it is impossible to produce leadership
which will act to realize and communicate this to the public at large.
Torah and Livelihood
The ideal relationship between Torah study and earning a living also
remains a question. Is it best for a person to study in a Kollel
(Yeshiva for married men) his entire life, as some Haredi, “ultra
Orthodox” rabbis advise, or is such behavior forbidden in light of the
ruling of the Rambam (Maimonides)? Should a Jew make do with as little
as possible, leading a life of poverty and dedicating most of his time
to Torah study? Or is there value in the fact that a person spends a
lot of time at work and becomes wealthy?
This issue has not yet been solved, and there are many who waver: on
the one hand, they admire and praise the dedication of one who does
not work for a living at all, but lives off of a Kollel stipend his
entire life. Yet, at the same time, they are angered by such a person
and say that, in light of the Rambam’s ruling, he desecrates God. It
is difficult to educate youth according to such an approach, and even
more so to lead a public and provide an ideal example of Jewish life.
The same goes for the relationship between Judaism and democracy,
Torah justice and the law of the state, Yeshiva study and army
service, and many other issues. And, again, when such issues are not
sufficiently clarified, it is impossible to establish a position and
strive on its behalf.
Leadership must set up clear goals and press forward to fulfill them.
We do not have leaders because we do not have clear goals, and we do
not have clear goals because we lack able leadership. We must
presently work towards developing a system of leadership and
clarifying the foundations of our outlook.