Sunday, September 13, 2009

R. Aryeh Klapper on Religious Zionism & Medinat Israel
I think that the feeling of gratitude which lies at the center of Religious Zionism, and which makes Religious Zionism necessary, can be sustained without claiming that Hashem miraculously intervened to create the state, and that we can deny miraculous intervention without stripping either the state or Jewish History in general of meaning.
When G-d exiles the Jews, he places us in a condition known as hester panim, hiding of the face [though He is indeed omnipotent and is capable of affecting what he wants in Creation, He limits Himself, by contract, with us and Creation {in Bereshit}]. He makes us subject to a lesser degree of Providence. Perhaps we deserved worse - perhaps He should have watched over us and made sure we never gained sovereignty again, or at least until we fully repented. But He chose not to, and this is cause for gratitude.
Furthermore, that we live in a time of hester panim does not prevent us from correctly feeling that we owe G-d gratitude for all the good things that happen to us, and our gratitude is greater for jackpot lottery tickets than for found dimes..
And statehood is not merely a national jackpot lottery ticket - it is qualitatively different. The greatest gift Hashem ever gave us was the Torah, and more than anything else, statehood enables us to truly experience, and hopefully fulfill, the responsibilities of the Torah. For me, the attraction of aliyah has never been the sanctity of the Land but rather the realization that halakhah can only be real when it relates to a society and not merely to individuals, when it must make possible police and industry and social order.
If we live up to these responsibilities, and bring the Messiah, he will have less to do when he comes - but in this view the state is in no sense Messianic. It merely affords a perhaps greater chance for our community to become Messianic.
And In this view we can judge the state not by its virtue relative to the past, or to the ideal, but as it stands. Here I recollect Rav Lichtenstein\ normally an outwardly controlled person, shouting in the midst of his sichah the shabbat after Operation Solomon, the Ethiopian airlift -
ועור אטום הוא הרי היום המדינה בזכות מכיר שאינו מי כל !
We can celebrate the mere fact that we have more opportunity to exercise our responsibilities than we have had for several thousand years. And we can celebrate the extent to which we have lived up to them, even as we acknowledge that we have not yet merited the end of hester panim.

I think he's echoing similar voices current in modern Orthodoxy that themselves seem to be reapproachments (finally!!!), towards classic Mizrachi thought - such as that of R. Reines and others, before the onset of Messianic Religious Zionism;

[the Zionist idea] "carries no note whatever of the idea of redemption, nor does it in any way touch anything that relates to it. In all the actions and endeavors of the Zionists, there is no hint of the future redemption...Ramban did not intend to say that conquest [of Eretz Yisrael] by war is a positive command, for the people of Israel stand under oath through all the days of exile to keep far from a planned rebellion and trespass, heaven forbid..."
(Sharei Orah veSimchah, pp.12-13, p.36)

Granted certain qualifications I believe R. Reines would give at least some weight to, in light of what God has allowed that we achieve. Note also R. Yehudah Henkin's "The Strength to Repent" on the place of even pagan kings over Israel and God Blessing whom He Blesses.


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