‘Religious’ Jews Against Israel Are Anything But Religious
Last Sunday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, 20,000 supposedly “religious” Jews gathered to attack the State of Israel. The film used to promote the event demonstrated, from the outset, that the event’s organizers are not truly religious Jews — since the entire film was a public lie. They used clips showing Israeli police aggressively arresting ultra-Orthodox men and youth, to suggest that they were being dragged off to serve in the Israeli army, where they would be forced to become irreligious.
And now the truth: those people were being arrested for violent attacks against police, IDF soldiers and women. And some more truth: not one Orthodox Israeli has ever been arrested and forced into the army. A few ultra-Orthodox young men have been arrested for not showing up to the draft board to receive their automatic deferment — which would enable them to study Torah. But even those individuals who serve a jail term for this offense are not forced into the IDF. They are subsequently released to do as they please.
No one has been forced into the army. That is the truth. And the blatant lies in this film — a public violation of the Torah’s command to “stay far away from lies” — demonstrates that the organizers of this event are far from “ultra-Orthodox.”
There are many more Torah traditions and sources that the organizers and participants at this disgraceful rally ignored, and I wish I could write about them all. But here are some.
First, let’s start with sources that they can study at their seudos this coming Shabbat, when they read Parshas Shlach:
1. Vilna Gaon: “This sin of the spies…hovers over the nation of Israel in every generation. … many of the sinners in this great sin of ‘they despised the cherished land,’ and also many of the guardians of Torah, will not know or understand that they are caught in the sin of the spies, that they have been sucked into the sin of the spies in many false ideas and empty claims, and they cover their ideas with the already proven fallacy that the mitzvah of the settlement of Israel no longer applies in our day, an opinion which has already been disproved by the giants of the world, the rishonim and achronim who determined that ‘settling the land of Israel is equal to all the mitzvos in the Torah.’” (Kol HaTor, Chapter 5)
2. Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal, Av Beis Din of Pishtian, Czechoslovakia in the 1920s and 1930s, and the author of the Eim Habanim Smeicha:
Who amongst us is greater than the spies The Torah testifies that they were proper individuals. Nonetheless, since they were influenced by their desire for authority, they rejected the desirable Land and led others astray, causing this bitter exile. … The same holds true in our times, even among rabbis, rebbes, and chasidim.
These zealots spread hatred and enmity throughout the Orthodox world against the group which devoted itself to building up our Land to its former glory. As a consequence of this, they also caused the desirable Land to be despised. They became entrapped in the sin of the spies, about whom it says: ‘They murmured in their tents… They despised the desirable Land.’ What was the result of the spies? They caused everlasting sorrow. Today’s ‘spies,’ as well, have added sorrow onto sorrow…
Aside from these sources about the spies, perhaps those “religious” Jews at Sunday’s rally could also teach the following in their yeshivos:
1.“Maseches Kesuvos” 110a: “One should always live in the Land of Israel, even in a city where the majority are idol worshippers, and not outside of the Land of Israel, even in a city where the majority are Jews. For anyone who lives in the Land of Israel resembles one who has a God, and anyone who lives outside the Land of Israel resembles one who has no God.”
2. “Shir Hashirim Rabbah” 8:9 bemoans that only 42,360 Jews moved to Israel from Babylonia when Ezra called for Jews to return from Exile: “Had Israel ascended from Babylonia as a wall, the Second Temple would not have been destroyed.”
3. Rav Yaakov Emden, in the introduction to his Siddur Beis Yaakov, writes:
“‘For Zion’s sake I will not be quiet’…and ‘for the sake of Jerusalem I will not be silent’… In truth, a strong question exists on the holy Jewish people. In every area, they are strict upon themselves with regard to some details of mitzvot which they took upon themselves, and they are extra careful about them, loosely spending a lot of money and going through great effort to fulfill them as completely as possible. So why do they disgrace and are lazy with this beloved mitzvah which is a peg upon which the entire Torah depends?”
“And because of this, every single Jew must make a commitment in his heart to go up and move to the Land of Israel, and to desire to merit to pray there before the Sanctuary of the King because even though it is destroyed, God’s Presence has not moved from there. … Therefore, listen to me my brothers who are living in lands that are not ours, on impure lands, remember this: remember God, and Jerusalem should enter your hearts…and don’t think to remain in the Diaspora, God forbid…this was the sin of our forefathers which caused crying for generations because they despised the desirable Land.”
“This is a warning that anytime the Jewish people, and especially the Torah scholars among them, don’t place their focus on their Land, their Torah study won’t truly last.”
4. Two stories involving Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel in the beginning of the 20th century.
First, an interviewer once asked Rav Yosef Chaim if it was true that he did not support new settlement in the Land of Israel. He replied: “God forbid! Am I not aware of the teaching of the Sifre, ‘Dwelling in the Land of Israel is equal to all the mitzvos,’ or the teaching of our Sages that ‘a small group in the Land of Israel is more beloved than the Sanhedrin in the Diaspora’? How many times have I begged and commanded that religious Jews in the Diaspora be told that whoever has the opportunity to move to the Land of Israel, but does not, will have to answer before God for his failure!”
Second, Rav Yosef Chaim’s grandson was offered a top rabbinic position in one of Europe’s most prestigious communities. It was a position that would have provided much needed support for his young family, while allowing him significant time to study Torah. Rav Sonnenfeld told his grandson: “My son, I feel that being a laborer in the land of Israel is greater than being a rabbi in the Diaspora.” The grandson rejected the offer, and stayed in Israel.
In light of the above, let’s not call Sunday night’s event at Barclays a gathering of “ultra-Orthodox” Jews. Instead, let’s refer to it for what it is: a group of modern-day spies and rebels against the classic Torah traditions regarding Israel.