Pity the poor Chareidi leadership. Today was supposed to be their big day, their Million Man March (no women, of course!) in Yerushalayim to protest the demands of the nassssty Israeli government that their participate in their civil duty. The warnings of mass chaos have been heeded, public transportation has been cancelled, hundreds of thousands of people have been inconvenienced.
And what happens? Russia goes and invades the Crimea. Really, who's going to pay attention to the screaming of the Jewish community's perpetual spoiled brats while real world events are happening?
One of the interesting things about the demonstration is that there are apparently certain Religious Zionist rabbonim, among them the important Rav Shlomo Aviner, who are intending to participate. One might think this quite odd since Religious Zionism is very much for participating in Israel's national life including the army. However, this is no contradiction and, in fact, highlights the area where Religious Zionism needs to act in order to bring unity and purpose back to the movement.
On one hand there is a problem with defining Religious Zionism. It's more of a political definition and less of a religious one. For example, both Shirah Chadashah with their partnership minyan and Rav Shlomo Aviner who is Chareidi in many ways except for his kippah can both be members since being a Religious Zionist is not about observance but about giving the State of Israel a religious significance. Therefore there is no real contradiction to Rav Aviner showing up at the rally today. On one hand he is very much a student of Rav Kook, zt"kl, in his belief that today's Shivas Tzion is heavenly ordained. On the other hand he can appreciate the Chareidi community's angst and appreciate its claim that this government initiative is one that will wreak havoc amongst its members.
This is where I believe he might be missing an important point. One of the overarching corrolaries of believing that we are now in the first stages of our final redemption is accepting that Judaism must undergo a metamorphosis, a reversal of the one that occured when the Second Temple was destroyed (may it be speedily rebuilt). What we have called Judaism for the last 1900 years is a truncated form of true Torah observance which, in addition to personal and community rituals along with a limited set of civil rules, lacks any truly national character. True Judaism is based on such a character, one in which Jews are not coreligionists but fellow citizens participating in a joint national project.
What does this mean? If one sees Judaism from the golus perspective things are easy. There is a standard set of observances with no real "big areas" to deal with. The shailos and teshuvos are all variations on a handful of themes. There is no real learning and chidushim are derived from smaller and smaller areas of halacha. It is a familiar and comfortable model, the only one we've known for centuries and therefore, for those with strong intellects but little imagination, the only one that has ever been and must ever be.
If one sees Judaism from a geulah perspective things are quite different. Suddenly there are all sorts of questions that need to be asked that either haven't been asked in 1900 years or have never been asked at all. What is the Torah approach to a modern national economy? How does shemitah get properly observed in today's agricultural scene? What should the proper structure of the army be and what should the roles of men and women be within it? What is the Torah approach to foreign relations and international trades? The environment? Natural resource extraction? For people with strong intellects and great imaginations this is an amazing area to bring the halacha into and see what the Torah has to say about the issues. Such people, unfortunately, seem to be in short supply.
And this is what I believe Rav Aviner is missing. The Chareidi protest in Yerushalayim today will hopefully proceed peacefully, make its point and end without undesirables incidents but the whole reason for the protest is what should separate the Chareidim from the Religious Zionists. For us Judaism is about geulah and those who insist on limiting Judaism to its golus applications have to be confronted, peacefully of course. Just as the Chareidim are passionate about maintaining Judaism the way they think it has been for centuries as a matter of religious principle Religious Zionism needs to see Judaism from its geulah perspective. For us this rally promotes the wrong kind of Judaism and it avoids the obvious hand of God in history bringing us back to our home to rebuild our national life. Leading Religious Zionist rabbonim need to be challenging their Chareidi counterparts to join in the endeavour.