Dismissing the Claim "We are Still in Exile

I received a number of replies to previous articles, some of which I will now address.

Q: Everything you say about the importance of the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land of Israel) and criticizing the hareidim for not taking part in it, is based on the assumption we are in Eretz Yisrael, but the Gedolei Ha’Torah (eminent Torah scholars) say we are still in galut(exile), therefore what you say is null and void.

A: This claim is so absurd I don’t even know how to relate to it. What do you say to a person who lives in Israel, but thinks he’s in galut? This is similar to a person who gets up in the middle of the night and claims the sun is shinning…but it’s even worse, because it demonstrates an appalling thanklessness towards God, who mercifully returned us to our Land. In Sefer Tehillim, it is written: “Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and to triumph in your praise” (Psalms 106:47), and now when God has begun to gather us – we shouldn’t thank Him? A person who claims we are in galut is similar to someone who gets married, has children, but cries about still being single!

True, our present situation is far from perfect. The Holy Temple is destroyed; Torah students are estranged and in conflict, lacking the Sanhedrin and prophecy. The majority of the nation in Israel and in the Diaspora is not religiously observant, and correspondingly, the state of affairs in the Knesset, the government, and the courts reflects this. However, this situation cannot be corrected by hurling insults towards Heaven, such as “we are in galut”.

As Long as the Secular Govern – We are in Galut

Q: What people who claim “we are still in galut” mean, is that as long as the government is not run according to halakha, living in Israel is valueless, and there is no difference between living here or in galut.

A: This claim is also groundless. Concerning Israel, the land we live in, the Torah says: “It is therefore a land constantly under God your Lord’s scrutiny; the eyes of God your Lord are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” (Deuteronomy 11:12). Could it possibly be that when Jews lived in the land under the rule of the wicked King Ahab, or under the rule of the evil King Herod, they were not considered as having fulfilled the mitzvah ofyishuv ha’aretz?! Didn’t the Prophets and Sages warn them at the time that if they continued sinning, they would be punished by being exiled?!

It is a mitzvah to live in this Land even when it is governed by Gentile idol worshippers, as our Sages said: “One should always live in the Land of Israel, even in a town most of whose inhabitants are idolaters, but let no one live outside the Land, even in a town most of whose inhabitants are Israelites; for whoever lives in the Land of Israel may be considered to have a God, but whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who has no God” (Ketuboth 110b). This was said by the Sages in Tosefta as well (Avoda Zarah 5b), and Rambamdetermined this as law (Laws of Kings 5:12). How much more so is this true today in the State of Israel, which is not governed by idol worshippers, and does not chase after Torah scholars to kill them!

Criticism of Hareidi Journalists and Politicians

Therefore, all the journalists in the hareidi media who, in contrast to the Torah, equate living inchutz la’aretz to living in Israel, deserve to be harshly criticized. They glorify the communities in the Diaspora, as if there is no difference between living in Israel, New York, or Belgium. And those who portray the harsh European Diaspora in rosy colors – as “the kingdom of Torah and Hasidism” which existed in eastern European towns – totally forgetting the terrible humiliation and harsh religious crises that transpired – also deserve to be criticized. Such erroneous portrayals demonstrate ingratitude towards Heaven, as if to say God didn’t do us any favor by gathering us to the Land of Israel, and freeing us from the yoke of the wicked nations! The rabbis who are supposed to monitor these same newspapers are also guilty, allowing such false and heretical views to be printed without responding.

And when they fail to condemn, it is no wonder a foolish and ungrateful attitude such as “we are still in galut” can find room in the hearts of the na?ve.

It should be emphasized that the majority of the hareidi community acknowledge the importance of Eretz Yisarel – and undoubtedly, the genuine rabbis. This is also what a number of readers from the hareidi sector wrote me, informing me about important classes given in women’s seminaries on the praises of Eretz Yisrael, and on the process of kibbutz galiyot (Ingathering of the Exiles).

The question is, why the “rabbis” who monitor the newspapers fail to weed-out the heresy from the hareidi press?

My Attitude towards the Positions of Hareidi Rabbis

Many people asked, or attacked, in various ways, why I do not accept the authority of hareidi rabbis.

A: In previous articles I wrote about the definition of gadlute (greatness) in Torah, and with God’s help, I will continue to write about it in the future. At any rate, I obviously believe that the greatness and authority of Maran HaRav Kook and his disciples is more binding than all others. Nevertheless, it is clearly a mitzvah to honor talmidei chachamim gedolim (eminent Torah scholars), whose fear of sin precedes their wisdom, who educate students, and who write important books.

Is Leadership Based on Excellence in Torah?

It is difficult not to mention that in actuality, the hareidi community is not led by its gedolei Torah. Leadership is not determined according to gadlute b’Torah, but rather according to the extent of suitability for leadership in the opinion of the askanim(functionaries). For example, figures such as Rabbi Yehezkel Abramsky ZT”L, (author of ‘Chazon Yehezkel’), and Rabbi Yisrael Ze’ev Gustman ZT”L, (author of ‘Kuntresei Shiurim’), whose greatness in Torah was no less than any other Lithuanian leader, but theaskanim ignored their views. Today as well, important rabbis are pushed aside, because their views are incompatible with either the positions of the askanim who make the decisions, or with the fanatical rabbis who are small in Torah, but big in intimidation. And in the Hassidic communities, leadership is transferred through inheritance, which ensures the stability of the community; however leadership is not determined according to greatness in Torah.

Many times, someone acknowledged as being a great leader, is a talmid chacham who tends to draw away from dealing with public issues in depth. This type of leader is suitable for the askanim, because he examines the narrow, halakhic side of issues, but in other areas, tends to accept the position of the askanim as if they were experts on public matters, despite the fact that may of these questions are of the highest, ethical importance.

For example: Rabbi Yehoshua Yogel ZT”L, the former head of ‘Midreshet Noam’, told me that the nasi of the Council of Torah Sages, and the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Ponivitch, HaRav Shach ZT”L, told him that if it was within his power, he would establish a vocational yeshiva for youth who are not apt to becoming Torah scholars. This was the position of other rabbis, as well. The question is: What prevented them from initiating the establishment of such institutions? If they are the leaders, why weren’t such institutions founded?

Recently it was published in the media that, on the orders of Rabbi Nissim Karelitz shlita, a kollel designed for hareidi people who work, was closed. I must first say that I am obligated not to believe this loshon ha’ra. Rabbi Karelitz is known to be a talmid chacham muvhak (Torah scholar par excellence), a dayan (judge), who is familiar with the ways of the world and the needs of the community, and the author of important books (‘Khute Shani’). It is unlikely he would thwart the existence of such a kollel. But the question remains: Who is the leader of the community that caused the closing of this kollel?Could it be Gedolei Torah?

A Government without Hareidim

Q: Rabbi, are you pleased that the hareidi parties were left out of the government?

A: No. I find it very distressing.

Q: Rabbi, do you think this will cause the hareidim to be alienated towards the settlements in Judea and Samaria?

A: I am very worried about this. True, the present government coalition can solve certain problems, but if, God forbid, it initiates a withdrawal from parts of Eretz Yisrael, then any possible successes will be dwarfed compared to the disaster. Here, it should also be noted that among the members of the hareidi parties, there were those who significantly helped the settlement movement in Judea and Samaria, for example MK Meir Porush, and MK Eli Yishai. Accordingly, in the discussions leading to the formation of the government, settler representatives consistently worked towards including the hareidi parties, and it may yet succeed in the future. Although, to be precise, this was not the primary goal among the settlers, just as helping the settlers was not the primary objective of the hareidi parties. In actual fact, because the hareidi parties were ready to join the government without the ‘Bayit Hayehudi’ (Jewish Home) party, it was impossible to demand from them one-sided loyalty to the hareidi parties at the price of political suicide.

Attempts should continue to be made to find ways to include the hareidi parties in the government, while at the same time, searching for agreed solutions to problems on the agenda. There is no doubt that in this manner the problems will be solved in the best way possible.

The Current Debate with the Hareidim

Many people asked: Why do I confront and criticize the positions of hareidi society specifically now, when they are already feeling attacked and persecuted?

A: Recently, a number of fundamental issues came to public attention, such as points of view towards Torah, work, army, and secular studies, and seeing as various opinions were expressed in the name of the Torah, I found it necessary to clarify the matters correctly, as the readers expect from me.

I will tell reveal another reason. Lately, individuals who feel it would be advantageous for me to acquaint myself with the mood among hareidi society began bringing me hareidi newspapers. I flip through them, reading a variety of reports and articles, and I am infuriated by the various distortions of divrei Torah, and incensedat the slander and ridicule written about the National-Religious public, its rabbis, and representatives.

It is well-known that public controversies provoke intense debate, and members of the religious community have also harshly criticized the hareidim. However, it appears that in this case, we are speaking of hostility and a dismissive attitude, way beyond the usual. This attitude existed before the current arguments. It’s as if there are some people whose faith depends on defaming the religious community.

And yet, I still cannot decide: Perhaps it’s better to stop looking at the hareidi newspapers, to ignore the “holy” and “hareidi” contempt of genuine talmidei chachamim, and avoid intensifying the arguments. But then, once more, I feel obligated to respond, because in the eyes of many hareidim, what is said in these newspapers is considered pure, Torah truth – given that rabbis monitor whatever is written in them.

And therefore, the individuals who bring me these newspapers in order for me to respond are correct. As our Sages said: “Whoever can protest but does not, is seized for the same sin” (Shabbat 54b). Likewise, they said: “’Many strong men have been slain by her’ — this refers to a disciple who has attained the qualification to decide questions of law and does not decide them” (Sota 22a).

With God’s help, through these clarifications of Torah, true peace will come upon Israel.

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