Thursday, July 5, 2007

Proud to be a Zionist

I held back, hoping that the David Klinghoffer’s essay entitled Why I am Not A Zionist ,, May 28, 2007 would be appropriately answered. As of yet I haven’t read any response to his essay other than some comments. When I was a T.A. we used to say that the most dangerous students are sophomores because they think they know it all. A freshman is still in shell shock from his first year in college. A junior is just coming to the realization that he knows so little and a senior has been humbled by in anticipation of graduate school where hopefully he will again some knowledge. D.K. unfortunately reminds me of that sophomore.

Rereading his essay for the third time he reminds me of the baal teshuva who has become obsessive compulsive about the ritual without having the broad contextual knowledge and understanding of our tradition. Until he grows in understanding he is at the stage where he is mimicking, making the right moves, wearing the right clothes saying the right things, quoting the right gedolim all in order to fit in to his new culture.

D.K. believes “that Zionism, in making a pedestrian and foreign 19th-century-style nationalism so central to contemporary Jewish culture, has caused us to neglect the higher mission God has in mind for us.” Which Zionism is D.K. referring to? Is he referring to that of Herzl or perhaps that of Achad Ha’am. I don’t mean to be pedantic but the two are very different. The distinction is important because the former represents a political emphasis while the latter emphasizes culture.

If D.K. has a problem with political Zionism he surely should support a variation of Achad Ha’am which advocated the cultural development of the Jewish people, highlighted and focused in Israel.. Achad Ha’am, some would say was in the great and venerable tradition of our Rabbis and sages who developed our prayer book. After all, D.K. I’m sure you recite the tefilla “ki metzion taizeh torah, ud’var hashem meyerushalayim”. How do you suppose that this tefillah could ever be fulflled with the absence of Zion and Yerushalyim and the Zionist entity. How would we be able to fulfill these prophetic words D.K? The great Yeshivot of Ponovez and Mir, the chassidic courts of Belz, Gur, Vishznetz and others, the sephardi chachamim and mikubbalim do you suppose all these are pedestrian?

You go on to say that you “don’t see any holiness in Jews squabbling and voting in a Knesset that happens to sit on top of the Holy Land.” If you weren’t Jewish I’d think you were an anti Semite. Jews don’t squabble in the Knesset any more than congressmen and senators squabble in Congress. How dare you insult our lawmakers with your arrogance that borders on blatant ignorance? Many of those “squabbling” lawmakers happen to be Jewish scholars, talmedei chachamim who are concerned with the physical and spiritual welfare of the Jewish people. Luminaries such as Yosef Burg, Zerach Warhaftig, Haim Meir Druckman, Avraham Ravitz, and Meir Porush, to list but a few were not ever squabbling in the Knesset, they were legislating in the best interests of Am Yisrael. There is holiness in legislating our own lives rather than leaving it to your Christian friends. It was by virtue of an independent State that we were able to save the Jewish communities of Yemen, USSR, and more recently of Ethiopia. What if there had been a Jewish state in 1939?

Holiness is defined as something that has sanctity or godliness. You don’t only find holiness in the synagogue or Beit Midrash. The greatest form of holiness is when we can sanctify the profane. When we transform our lives from the profane to the sacred that is holiness. Sitting in the Discovery Institute as the token Jew isn’t holy, certainly not, when you, in the employ of the Christian institution take cheap shots at our national institutions.

It is because of our Kenesset that there is a national and political value to halacha. Great Justices like Chaim Cohen were determined and intent on creating a legal system that reflected halacha, what modernist call the “mishpat haivri”. Today every law student in Israel must learn the mishpat haivri, because much of the legal system has morphed from British and Turkish to include also the mishpat haivri. That may be pedestrian to you, but very profound to me.

D.K. goes on to say that “Zionism has tragically distracted us from the historic role of the Jewish people…” What is the historic role of the Jewish people? Is it to sit in Galut? I understand Christian theology is most comfortable with that image of the Jew- punished for our part in killing Jesus Christ, destined to wander the planet in perpetual exile, until we repent by accepting him as our Lord. Never. Our theology never echoed those sentiments. Our theology always praised Hashem, with faith that one day we will be restored to our rightful place. It’s there if you understand what it is you are davening. The prayer “V’techezenu” said three times a day gives testimony to our everlasting faith and belief that Zion is the center of the Jewish universe, never to be abandoned.

D.K. also contends that our preoccupation with Zionism “has caused us to neglect the higher mission God has in mind for us”. How would you know what that mission is? Has your vanity and pomposity no limit? Where do you get the hubris and temerity to assume that you know of God’s intention? None of us can read God’s mind, none of us have a crystal ball. At best we have the sacred Tanach which is our spiritual map that can give us some clues. But as you may know there is much discussion in our sources and texts as to the meaning and understanding of our Tanach. We are not fundamentalists like the evangelicals (by the way traditional Jews and Evangelicals do not share the same reading of the Bible. They have made numerous mistakes in the translation) and approach and understand the Bible very differently than our Christian neighbors. We interpret text and search out meaning in the tradition of Pardes.

I never thought I would read an essay by a Jew, a religious Jew as I have from D.K. It’s the kind of writing I would have expected from the far right, the far left or from the Neturie Karta. In spite of all the detractors over the years whether it is from Norman Finkelstein or Noam Chomski I am a Zionist and am proud of it, you D.K. should be ashamed of yourself!