Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Monday, 9 July 2012

The Needed Merger

In his book on the history of Religious Zionism, aptly titled Religious Zionism, Rav Dov Schwartz notes that nowadays there are essentially two main streams of Religious Zionist philosophy.
The first is the mystical/messianic as exemplified by the writings of Rav Kook, zt"kl.  Rav Kook's followers see the return to Israel as the aschalta d'geula and the resettling of the Land as the fulfillment of the Divine promise of a return of our nation to Israel at the end of days.
The second is the halachic approach as detailed in the writings of Rav Joseph B Soloveitchik, zt"l.  Consistent with his style elsewhere, the Rav saw a return to Israel as necessary to create a fully functional halacha.  After all, there are many mitzvos that can only be observed in the Land of Israel.  There are many more than only become relevant when the Temple (may it be speedily rebuilt) is standing.  Therefore a return to Israel and a building of a Torah state is necessary to bring about the full flowing of Judaism.
According to Rav Schwartz, the Kook camp is currently ascendant within Religious Zionism.  Much of this occurred as a result of the Six Day War and the messianic fervour it unleashed amongst Rav Kook's followers, then led by his son Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, zt"l.  As anyone following the political history of Israel knows, however, this fervour for the settling of a Greater Israel has consumed much of the movement. Whereas once upon a time Religious Zionism was literally about that - Zionism done al pi halacha - it is now a movement based on, centred around and obsessed with the chalutzim of Yesha.
Why does this matter?  It is important to remember that for 1800 years Jews didn't not pray three times daily for the creation of a secular state in Israel that had a Jewish majority and some tokens of Jewish ritual in its public life.  We did not pray for the creation of a society in which religious Jews either be parasites living off the teat of the State while condemning its very existence.  And we did not pray for a country in which those who wish to see the rise of a Torah state would be confined to the edges of the political discourse and seen by the public majority as a fringe interest group.
Therefore, while the philosophy and influence of Rav Kook remains extremely important to the existence of Religious Zionism, it cannot by itself guide the movement into a thriving position.  Religious Zionism, remember, was supposed to be the national alternative to Secular Zionism.  While the latter posited creating a socialist state in Israel with a Jewish majority, the former was based on the idea of Jews returning to Israel to create a Torah state.
Is Religious Zionism in such a position today?  Is there a Religious Zionist party that is relevant to national discourse even in its own community?  Yes there is a party in the Knesset but tell me, what is its economic policy?  What is its foreign policy?  What is its environmental policy?  If it were to accidentally win the election tomorrow, how would it govern?
Is it any wonder that Religious Zionists vote for the Likud more than they do for their own party?  After all, the Likud is able to govern and Religious Zionists, worried about the State and life there, are more interested in supporting a party that can address many of their concerns than the poor Mafdal which only seems interested in Yesha.
And what exactly is the halachic approach of the Religious Zionist movement today?  As opposed to the practical definition of Modern Orthodox - not Reformative, not Chareidi but somewhere in the middle - Religious Zionism is all too inclusive.  From the chardalim on the right to the Shirah Chadashah crowd on the left, Religious Zionism seems to mean anyone who sees a value to the State other than just as an emergency lifeboat for the Jewish people.
But this is where my previous two posts come into the mix.  Both Modern Orthodoxy and Religious Zionism, while important movements each on their own, are missing something important.  For Modern Orthodoxy it's a connect to the deeper aspects of Judaism, the Chasidus of the matter as its were.  For Religious Zionism there is a global unifying worldview that is missing.
In other words, Modern Orthodoxy needs the depth and richness of Rav Kook's approach to Jewish thought and Shivas Tzion.  Religious Zionism needs a consistent halachic approach so that it can present a vision of a Torah society that is palatable and plausible for the population.  Each movement has what the other is lacking.
This is my vision, a counterweight to the strong Chareidi influence that is constantly working to overwhelming all other Orthodox groups and create a monolithic Torah-based society from their views and opinions alone. I even have a name for such a community: Navonim, as in the verse "Surely a wise and discerning people is this great nation!" (Deuteronomy 4:6)
Navonim because I believe that God, while He demands our respect and awe, does not so much want us to tremble at His world as to grasp at it, study it, understand it and apply it in the world He has put us in.  He wants an intelligent practice of Judaism that leads to a confident Jew who doesn't have to hide from the temptations of the world because he knows that the Torah puts us above all that.
A merger between the philosophies of Modern Orthodoxy and Religious Zionism would create such a Judaism.

4 comments:

Adam Zur said...

religious Zionism is adrift at sea. they need another rav kook.

JRKmommy said...

1. What would such a philosophy be?

2. What would it mean to support a Torah state in Israel, prior to the coming of Moshiach?

3. To what extent would religious freedom exist in such a Torah state?

Adam Zur said...

the three questions raised by JRKmommy were the exact questions that Rav Kook was trying to answer. I have the impression that he did not have a systemic answer. It seems to have been rather a cholent made up of Hegel, rebbi nachman the brining up the sparks of the arizal. If he had anything more systemic i have not heard of it. and anyway the Hegelian nationalism tendency puts me off. If anyone would want to come up with a better answer than Rav Kook I suggest it be based on natural rights and not nationalism.

Y, Ben-David said...

I do not accept your assertion that "all the Kooknicks and the MAFDAL care about is YESHA". First of all, the YESHA question is wrapped up in the whole question of the security of the state and the so-called "peace process". Those who worked to destroy the settlements also destroyed the security of the country. It is wrong to say that "the MAFDAL only cares about the settlements". They don't really care much about anything, not taking a strong stand on any subject INCLUDING the the YESHA situation. I stopped voting for them because they were wishy-washy on YESHA. It must be remmeber that they quietly supporte Sharon's destruction of Gush Katif all along the way. That is why they lost a lot of votes.

Regarding the Religious Zionist religious views....they are very broad ranging from what you call "Modern Orthodox" to Haredi, except the "Haredi" element adds the mitzvot of serving in the IDF and building settlements. There is a major struggle going on now by certain Religious Zionist Rabbis against the "New TANACH Studies" which have come out of the Herzog College/Yeshivat Har Etzion (utilizing new historical and archaeological information in addition to original interpretations of the text) and the new "Revadim" system of Talmud study. This in spite of the fact that both Rav Kook and the other Religious Zionists at one time prided themselves on having more open minds to modern science and research that sheds new light on the Torah and TANACH and halacha in general.
Thank G-d, each group seems to be holding its own so people in the Religious Zionist world can find a niche where they can feel comfortable no matter how they think about these controversial matters
It is also important to note that Religious Zionists are found now in all walks of life in Israel, science, industry, IDF, business, the media so I can tell you that this has had a massive impact on the non-religious population which is far more tolerant that it was when we first made aliyah 26 years ago. There is also a program to set up new "Torani" groups in cities throughout pre-67 Israel, particularly in the mixed Jewish-Arab towns like Akko, Ramla , Jaffa and Lod to strengthen the Jewish communities there. Thus, it is wrong to say that Religius Zionists are not making a major, positive impact on Israel society.