שנת ההוצאה: 1989
בהוצאת: נאמני תורה ועבודה

תוכן החוברת:

religious zionism here and now


Rabbi Michael Nehorai

 Dr. Yehezkel Cohen

There have recently been many inquiries, both oral and written, concerning the principles guiding the movement known as Ne’emanei Torah va-Avodah ("Loyalists of Torah and Labor").   In the following pages, I shall attempt to demonstrate that these principles are identical with those which were inherent in the earliest, founding stage of the historic Religious Zionist movement. This movement, which acted out of a combination of national mission and religious sensibility, never formulated its ideology in a conceptual, philosophical manner, so that its fundamental principles came to be forgotten over the course of time.   Lacking a conscious sense of its own identity, it is difficult for any ideological movement to sustain a sublime and demanding vision such as that of a renewed and reinvigorated Judaic way of life in theLandofIsrael, which would be an authentic continuation of that which had been formed over two millennia.   Indeed, one cannot even speak of this sublime subject without challenging routine habits of thought and conventional spiritual moods.   Rabbi Kook already observed the difficulties involved in introducing new ideas within the circle of those motivated by warm emotional feeling based on a sense of fear of God: "If one proposes a certain thing, and it at times opposes the feeling of warmth within the heart, then it is immediately negated, even though great and holy things can be done by these very contents" (Iggerot ha-Re'evah, Jerusalem,1961, Vol. II, p.55).

Judaism Confronting a New Reality

But even if there were those who ignored them, the circumstances which led to the birth of Religious Zionism continued to exist, with even greater force.   Indeed, Judaism may have never before confronted problems similar to those which it must face today.   The shock involved in the encounters with Hellenism, Neo-Aristotelianism and German Idealism cannot be compared with that entailed in the revival of the national idea and the rebirth of the state in our own day.   Judaism, whose spirit has been manifested in religion alone since the loss of its national independence, successfully confronted new world views from outside.   Spiritual giants could always find appropriate support for their moral and philosophical affirmation of the Jewish way of life in the profound depths of the Torah;  by contrast, the challenge presented by the new national and political reality could not be met through intellectual acuity alone.   These figures encountered a new empirical reality, in which both the spiritual and practical life of the majority of the Jewish people had become based upon ideals which could be anchored in the classical sources only by means of a daring renewal of concepts, accompanied by a profound inner religious certainty.   In the past, reality had dictated that the Jewish world-view be focused entirely upon the shaping of the individual's religious life on its various levels, in isolation from the "secular" life associated with concrete national and political redemption.   In our own day, such a world-view implies a denial of reality, and is only an option if its proponents decide, consciously or not, that their heritage involves the sacred people and the sacred land only in the theoretical sense, but not its empirical reality.

There is no need to elaborate upon the point that the more the life of a religious sect becomes dynamic, the more its obligations towards the needs of the state are reduced, and that the existential needs of the state are utterly different from those of a religious sect.   One might add that, in our own day, a nation may exist without either a religion or a state.   According to modern thought, each of these three elements is a complete whole unto itself, and the existence of each is in no way dependent upon the other two.   Thus, Judaism has never confronted such a rapid and thorough-going change as have the people ofIsraelin our own day.

Religion, Nation and Land as Manifested in JewishIndependence

The Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) camp anticipated the alignment of forces likely to come about in wake of the Zionist enterprise, for which reason they rejected it in principle from the very beginning.   This camp does not see itself as permitted to introduce any new norms, as is necessitated by the above-mentioned confrontation.   Its own conception of Judaism being petrified, it saw its obligation in terms of the religious component alone.   The implications of this decision were no doubt expressed in the religious enthusiasm with which they transferred the style of life and spiritual mood of the Exile to the State of Israel.

By contrast, historical Religious Zionism developed a broader conception of Judaism, as demanded by the above-mentioned circumstances.   This conception was clearly an "innovation", reflecting a substantially different religious consciousness from that mentioned.   It not only rejected the implications of the accepted Ultra-Orthodox world-view, but its basic understanding of religious truth.   According to the underlying conception of Religious Zionism, Judaism is manifested in the fact that it presents the various elements – religion, nation and land – as interrelated.   Indeed, the words of the Torah clearly assume the inter-relationship of all elements of existence-  individual, people and land.   One who examines this subject in depth will even find it applied in the metaphysical realm, as the separation of essences in the physical world demands their separation in the spiritual realm – but this point goes beyond the present discussion.   In any event, it follows from this renewed idea that, not only is the unity of Judaism negatively affected when based upon nationality alone, but that even religious truth, if cut off from its national basis, is also incomplete, and that the two of them are in turn incomplete unless combined with one another in the State of Israel.   This argument is elaborated in the words of Rabbi Kook, uttered in another context:  "If a person wishes to state novellae concerning matters of Repentance in this time, but does not look towards the revealed end and the emergence of the light of salvation, he will be unable to direct anything towards the truth of the Torah" (Iggerot ha-Re'eyah, Vol. II, p.37).

It is clearly impossible to carry the burden of this great idea or to attempt its realization in practice unless one is inwardly convinced of its truth.   This is impossible without a theoretical basis in its fundaments and nature, just as one cannot achieve a true relation to God without knowledge of Him.   If one accepts that the renewal of the national and political entity is indeed a legitimate and immanent component of the spirit of Judaism, a concrete change is demanded in the spirit expressed by ones' adaptation of the religious way of life.   The traditional religious ideal was one of maximal separation from the life of this world, focused upon Torah study as the goal of life.   How can such an ideal be squared with that of the wholeness of Judaism in a modern state, expressed through military service, the study of science, and the acceptance of the authority of a democratically-chosen government?

Furthermore, the great idea of religious Zionism, if not viewed merely as rhetorical adornment, requires the expansion of the concept of "religion" to incorporate all three elements of Judaism, as follows from the axiom of the overall unity of the Torah of Israel, the people of Israel and the Land of Israel.   The far-reaching and detailed implications of this idea have not yet been worked out, and it can only be hoped that its dynamic – practical interpretation will be achieved in one way or another through the constant attempt to realize it in a way of life.   We mentioned earlier that such a challenge is likely to be rejected outright within the framework of a Judaism of warm religious feeling and piety.   It is at precisely this point that Religious Zionism's depth of conviction in the rightness of its own way is tested.   The views of those who understand Judaism as a religious sect cannot be changed, nor have we the right to do so;  for this reason, the entire challenge must concentrate upon the education of Zionist Religious youth itself.   The main thrust of the National Religious educational system must therefore be directed towards the creation of a psychological makeup which will encompass a warm religious feeling and sense of the fear of God, while applying those norms which follow from the perception of Judaism as including the entirety of all its components.   We may well anticipate that the advocates of this approach will be called upon, within the foreseeable future, to defend themselves against the charge that one cannot preserve this religious tension in the course of the attempt to bridge the gap between these different worlds.

 Rabbi Reines as Ideologue of Religious Zionism

As we have already mentioned, the historical Religious Zionist movement never formulated its theoretical principles in a systematic manner.   Nevertheless, these may be inferred from an examination of the way of life it developed, which not only entailed an external framework, but was also reflected in its value contents – i.e. a way of life that expressed an intuitive recognition of the fact that it is possible to serve God through practical involvement in the world, and that the awakening of the Jewish people in its historic homeland was directed towards this goal.   Worldly life is in itself a sacred mission, not only a passage-way to the next world.   The obligations towards the nation and the state incumbent upon a person as the result of human conscience are also commandments.   God's will is itself ethical, so that it is inconceivable that an act which appears good and necessary from a human viewpoint be proscribed for religious reasons.   Such a spiritual climate expanded the framework of religious intent and legitimized the natural human desire to be involved in all realms of cultural expression.   In particular, a religious dimension was given to the study of science and the concern for social justice as preconditions for full involvement in the life of the nation and the state. All these were natural consequences of the spiritual constellation of a society which experienced an integrated way of life in practice, and it is this very way of life which Ne’emanei Torah va-Avodah wishes to defend.   Rabbi Isaac Jacob Reines (1839-1915) the founder of Religious Zionism, was the first to offer a religious legitimization for change and variety in the Jewish way of life:

There are many parents who wish to prepare their children for trade or business and to provide them with the knowledge needed for this, such as knowledge of the Russian and German languages, accounting, correspondence, etc.   At the same time, they wish with all their heart and soul to implant in their (children's) hearts knowledge of the Written and Oral Torah, as well as of Hebrew and of the history of Israel, so that they may be both worldly people and Jews who know what is demanded of them by God and how they must behave.   But because of the lack of such schools among Jews, they send their children to other schools, where they become estranged from their God and separated from their people from childhood on.   For this reason, a special section ought to be opened in the yeshivah for those who wish to study the basic Jewish laws needed for everyday life, in which they will acquire proficiency in languages and other areas needed by them as merchants and practical people. Nor should we consider this as a thing of small worth, for in truth we need to be more concerned that the masses of merchants and house-holders be connected to Torah and the fear of God, loving the Torah and its scholars, knowing the Talmud at first hand and drinking deeply of the waters of Judaism, than we do to concern ourselves about the cultivation of Torah giants, expert in Torah and unique figures in their generation.   For when we reflect upon this matter clearly, (we realize that) its main cause is the lack of house-holders who study Torah, which brings in its wake the diminution of the image of the Torah scholars and the reduction of their numbers altogether, for what need have ignorant house-holders of great Torah scholars?… They thus began to relate to Torah scholars as people of corrupt character and intellect, and hated them intensely; and thereafter this hatred passed on to all levels of the people…

Our primary obligation is therefore to bear in mind all those who are to be the future merchants and men of business among us, to educate them concerning the written Torah and the Talmud as a primary source, so that they may be like a pillar upon which to build the entire House of Israel, including its rabbis and scholars.   For merchants educated in Torah will not allow Russian Jewry to collapse, but will introduce a flow of life and freshness, lifting up the honor of Torah and of those who study it.   Afterwards, they will also be among those who will provide us with scholars who are great in Torah and knowledge of Judaism. (Rabbi I. J. Reines, "Shenei ha-Maיamarot", memorial article in Sefer Shafar Bet, Pietrkow, 1912, p 13).

We ought to mention here that Rabbi Reines enthusiastically defended the Zionist movement against the views of the leading Torah scholars of his day – the ge'onim Rabbi Yitzhak Elhanan Spector, Rabbi Joseph Baer Soloveichik, the "Hafetz Hayyim," and others.   His uniqueness lay in the fact that he not only presented an ideology, but adhered to it in practice.   Ignoring the prevalent mood of the Jewish world of those days, he established a yeshivah where, in addition to sacred studies, they studied Hebrew, Russian, German, mathematics, geography, natural sciences, and Jewish and Russian history – all this at a time when the yeshivah of Volozhin protested against the orders of the Russian government requiring instruction in the Russian language.   The upshot of this incident is well-known.   The yeshivah was closed, following the denunciation to the Czarist government both of it and of Rabbi Reines personally, and he was imprisoned (see the chapter concerning the Svencionys yeshivah in G. Bat Yehudah, Ish ha-Me'orot, Mossad Harav Kook, p. 35ff). Concerning our own subject, we may conclude that the founder of Religious Zionism did not distinguish among the various aspects of his consciousness. The recognition of the need for involvement in the modern world is meaningless unless accompanied by new patterns of behavior in the areas of education and in one's daily way of life.

The Ultra-Orthodox: Zionism is Essentially Opposed to Religion

As is known, the concept of Religious Zionism aroused the wrath of the majority of the great Torah scholars in Jewry, who opposed it both in name and in contents. In fact, their arguments reveal a profound understanding of the ideological foundations of Religious Zionism.   They divided this idea into its component parts, and pointed out certain inconsistencies which had not been thought through.   The following, for example, are the words of Rabbi Elhanan Wasserman:

… The national idea, which is none other than a new idol and is included under the rubric of idolatry, gave birth to a child called "national-religious."   This name in itself implies that the adjective "religious" is insufficient in itself, but must be complemented by the term "national."   The name indicates denial of one of the fundaments of the faith… If the national idea is considered as idolatrous, then the national-religious idea is considered as idolatry "in combination" (i.e., admixed with true religious doctrine).   ("Re-ein Hazon", Ikveta de-meshiha, p. 37).

Rabbi Wasserman expresses here the viewpoint of Exile Jewry, according to which the obligations deriving from the existence of an independent national entity cannot be incorporated within the framework of religion.   Indeed, the fact of the matter is that the Zionist idea entered the Jewish people from outside, and that the authoritative religious leadership not only failed to approve it, but rejected it outright.   Rabbi Kook and Rabbi Reines were both exceptions to this, each in his own way seeking to anchor the Zionist idea within Judaism,   That their viewpoint was unacceptable to the advocates of the above-mentioned approach is shown by the following remarks of Rabbi A. Gitlein:

The (essential) innovation of Zionism was the redefinition of Judaism.   FromMt.Sinaiuntil Zionism, Judaism had been understood as Torah, while it is now defined as nationalism… This change in the definition of "Israel" brought about by Zionism automatically encompassed other changes:  theHoly Landbecame the "national homeland", the Holy Tongue became the "national tongue", etc. … Great Torah scholars rejected Zionism, not only because its advocates were predominantly free-thinkers, but (because) this was in itself a result of the invalidity of the approach.   In other words, it was not by mere "chance" that the advocates of Zionism were predominantly free-thinkers, but this was inherent in the very nature of Zionism.   Zionism could never have been born… among that Jewry which was loyal to Torah, for it implied the absolute negation of the fundaments of the Torah outlook.   Had they listened to the voice of the Torah greats, Zionism would never have come into being. (Yahadut Torah u-Medinah, Brooklyn, 1959).

 Ne' emanei Torah va-Avodah as Carriers of the Religious Zionist Idea

We are witnessing today a phenomenon deserving of our attention. The same waves of criticism, with regard to both form and content, which had previously been directed against Religious Zionism as a whole, are today directed against Ne’emanei Torah va-Avodah – and justifiably so (from their point of view)!

Torah and Avodah was always the slogan of B'nai Akiva and of the National Religious Party in general, and only recently has it been taken over by the left-wing of the national-religious camp, who claim exclusive right thereto.   This slogan always aroused the criticism of Torah circles.   The placing of another value (i.e. Avodah) on equal footing with Torah unseated the latter from its position of supremacy, Labor being treated as a parallel ideal.   Those who negated this slogan argued that, if the Torah is the main thing, all of man's other needs and the components of his life are determined by what follows from it.   It would be inconceivable that one would advocate the slogan "Torah and Sick Fund" or "Torah and Cleanliness" – even though these values are also of great importance to the existence of the Jew…. The message implied by the expression Torah va-Avodah in our day, and the monopoly claimed over it by those within the NRP who hate the Torah world and have claimed this expression as their own, indicates that that which the great Torah scholars feared has come true, (ha-Modia. 1 Ellul 5747 [Sept 1987] ).

In the opinion of the author of this article, there is an essential contradiction between the religious way of life demanded by the Torah and that which follows from the needs of a political entity. Indeed, one could hardly expect a student involved in a broad range of humanistic and scientific studies, who performs active military service and sees his future in terms of practical, concrete work, to adhere to the overall outlook characteristic of most yeshivah students.   Religious Zionism taught that it is precisely this way of life which is demanded by the Torah, and it itself came into being in order to cultivate this human type and transform it into a model for the Jewish people as a whole.   The alternative to this type within the overall national framework is not necessarily the "Ben-Torah" whose main occupation is Torah study, but more typically the well-known native-Israeli type – the "Sabra."   The problem confronting us is not whether one is to prefer one or the other, but how to preserve both.   It is on the basis of this vision that Ne’emanei Torah va-Avodah operates today.

There seems no doubt that, underlying the attacks upon Ne’emanei Torah va-Avodah – which one sometimes hears within the Religious Zionist camp itself – is the above-mentioned objective difficulty concerning the principle of the unification of the two realms composing the world of "Religious" "Zionism".   This difficulty led to a failure to recognize this conceptually, and the resultant loss of self-identity.   These divergent components require mutual adjustment – not only of Zionism to religion, but also of religion to Zionism.   The absence of clear principles, formulated in a systematic, conceptualized fashion, weakens the ability and daring to confront the serious problems entailed in the attempt to create an Israeli religious ethos.   As not enough was done for the adjustment of the different components of our being to one another, they remained in opposition.   The results were not long in coming:  the "statist" element overcame the "religious" one.   It is in the nature of things that in this situation there would be parents who would react by saying:  we shall first of all worry about educating our children to a life of Torah and mitzvot, and let others worry about those mitzvot connected with the existence of Zionism.   The present call for the formulation of the principles of Torah va-Avodah is the result of events which occurred in the wake of certain manifestations of secularization in the State-Religious Educational system. Nevertheless, this demand has a positive side to it, as it may finally bring about a serious theological confrontation with the nature of Religious Zionism as such, and from that to the image of Israeli Judaism in general.

It is in the nature of things that first the body develops, and that thereafter the spiritual nature can also become clearly defined.   Historically, Religious Zionism achieved physical maturity without commensurate maturity of its theoretical ideas.   It did not articulate the great goal intended for it by history – to unify in action, through its way of life, the full scope of the Jewish spirit.   But a great idea such as this, which is connected with the true rebirth ofIsrael, must have a natural existence, even if only as a challenge or a metaphysical entity.   Therefore, there will always be those who will adopt it and will loyally continue in the attempt to realize it – if not consciously, then by the power of intuition.   Even if not all of the activities of Ne’emanei Torah va-Avodah are beyond reproach or criticism, one must credit it with the fact that it has brought about a revival of the original principles defining the identity of Religious Zionism.

The Fourteenth "Principle of Faith"

 Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik

A second fundamental truth upon which our movement is based may be expressed in a fourteenth "principle of faith".   What is this principle?   It may be formulated in the simple declaration: "I believe in perfect faith that this Torah has been given to be fulfilled and realized in every place and every time, and in all social, economic and cultural frameworks; under all technological circumstances and in all political conditions". … This "principle" rejects two approaches, which at first glance seem to be mutually exclusive.   On the one hand, it implies the rejection of the experiments of religious reformers. … However, the principle of "for this thing is very close to you, to do and to observe" (Deut. 30:12) equally implies the rejection of another approach – namely, that the only way to fulfill the Torah is by withdrawal from the world.   In other words, the advocates of the approach of total separation and isolation covertly agree with the religious reformers that, within the context of the modern social-cultural constellation, the observance of mitzot and study of Torah are almost impossible….

 We reject the approach of separatism as dangerous to the survival of the (Jewish) nation. … As a result of this approach, there is a concrete danger that we will become reduced to a small sect, which cannot long survive.   We solemnly declare that the principle of the eternity of the Torah assures us that it is possible to study the Torah and to fulfill it, not only in the House of Study and in the ghetto, but in every place in the world, be it in the modern home, laboratory, campus or factory; in private life or in sovereign existence.   We do not make light of the difficulties and complexities involved in leading a life of holiness within modern society, but we believe that "Let us surely ascend… for we shall overcome it!" [Num. 13:30].

 — from "The Second Principle: ,'It is Not in Heaven'" (Hebrew), in his Hamesh Derashot,Jerusalem, 1974, pp. 111-113.

The New will be Sanctified and the Holy will Be Renewed

Dr. Yehezkel Cohen

 Unlike the decisive majority of religious Jewry inEurope- indeed, in direct and striking contrast to it – the advocates of Religious Zionism and, specifically, of the ideology of Torah va-Avodah (Torah and Labor), sought both to leave the Exile and to remove the Exile from the Jews.   They realized that it is possible to live in theLandofIsraelin accordance with the same world-view which guided the nation in its Exile;  however, their dream was to build a natural society and an independent state, with all that implies, and not just a religious sect.

Rabbi Shmuel Hayyim Landau (Shahal, 1892-1928), one of the leading theoreticians of Torah va-Avodah, clearly articulated this longing:

A nation which has separated itself from natural life, whether willingly or under duress, and which lives by the will and grace of others; such a nation, with all its unique spiritual qualities and the nature of its soul, with all its genius and talents, is not "a nation" as such.   Parasitism, of the individual and of the group, has become second nature to it …

In itsExile,Israelceased to be a nation or, to be more precise, a living nation… For a "nation" encompasses more than just a "folk"… A "folk" takes into account only the qualities and characteristics of the soul and of the spirit… while a nation encompasses the full scope of life, taking into account everything, including concrete, material considerations and needs, its status and stance, its labor and economy, ("Towards the Clarification of our Approach" (Heb.), in Kitvei S. H. Landau, Warsaw, 1935).

The theory of Torah va-Avodah attempted to influence the shape of Jewish society in theLandofIsraelin accordance with the spirit of Judaism, by involvement in its practical life and through a feeling of responsibility towards the society, and not via isolation intended for the study of Torah and the observance of mitzvot in a closed, sectarian environment.

 This approach was opposed by what is known today as the Haredi, or "Ultra-Orthodox " community.   The term Haredi refers, not to punctiliousness in the observance of mitzvot – i.e., "one who fears the word of God"-  but to a community which, from a religious-social-cultural perspective, identifies with Agudat Yisrael; which refers to itself by the term Haredi; and which claims for itself greater religiosity and a monopoly upon the path towards God.   This approach – which has in the past been opposed to Zionism and argued that "whoever ascends to theLandofIsraelcommits a sin" – preaches isolation from non-Orthodox Jewish society in the context of the State of Israel, as a means of protecting its own way of life, and out of concern for its own spiritual and material needs.   It has engraved on its banner the slogan, "What have I to do with effort on behalf of the public? … peace upon you, my own soul." (Tanhuma, Mishpatim. sec.2; Taanit 11a). Both of these approaches are anchored in halakhah and Jewish thought and both have support in the classical sources, in the sense that "These and these are the words of the living God".

Based upon the assumption that allIsraelare responsible for one another, and that all ofIsraelare partners and, despite their profound differences of ideology and principle, are together responsible for the continued existence of the Jewish people, the teaching of Torah va-Avodah emphasizes the following principles:

1.   Torah study is an important value, and considerable time ought to be devoted to Torah study.   However, the ultimate goal of the Jewish people is to live a natural, earthly life according to the Torah – whether within the private framework of the individual or as active participants in the life of the state and society.   Therefore, Torah study cannot be one's exclusive occupation.   Hasidism, and other movements which preceded Torah va-Avodah, argued that Talmud Torah is not in place of everything else.   In the dispute between Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai, we are followers of Rabbi Ishmael:

Our rabbis taught:  "And you shall gather your grain" [Deut. 11:14].   Why does the Torah say this?   Because, as it says, "This book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth", (Josh, 1:8), one might think that this is meant literally.   Therefore, the Torah says, "you shall gather your grain – behave with them as is the custom of the world"; these are the words of R. Ishmael.   R. Simeon bar Yohai said:  "Can it be that a person shall plow at the time of plowing, sow at the time of sowing, reap at the time of reaping, thresh at the time of threshing, and winnow at the time of the wind?   What then shall become of the Torah?   Rather, whenIsrael performs the will of the Place (i.e. God), their labor is performed for them by others".   Abbaye said: "Many followed the words of R. Ishmael, and they were successful; (the words of) R. Simeon bar Yohai, and they were not successful".   (Berakhot 35b).

Regarding this matter, we base ourselves upon Maimonides'words:

 They led people to think in utter foolishness that it is obligatory and desirable to aid the sages and their students and those people who engage in Torah and whose Torah is their occupation.   All this is error, for nowhere in the Torah or in the words of the sages does one find anything that confirms this, nor any basis to rely upon it whatsoever. (Perush ha-Mishnayot, Avot 4:5).

Whoever thinks that he shall study Torah and not do any labor, but that he will be supported by charity; such a person has profaned the Holy Name, and shamed the Torah, and extinguished the light of the Law, and brought evil upon himself, and lost his portion in the World to Come.   For it is forbidden to derive benefit from words of Torah in this world.   (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Talmud Torah 3:10).

 2.   Science and positive aspects of general culture ought to form a part of the spiritual world of the religious Jew. We cite the words of Rabbi Kook:

Because of their smallness of faith, it seems (to some people) that whatever human beings do in order to strengthen their position… to acquire knowledge, strength, beauty, order – that all these are outside of the Divine contents within the world.   For this reason some people, who think of themselves as relying upon a Divine basis, look askance upon any worldly progress and hate culture and science…But all this is a great error and a lack of faith.   (Arpelei Tohar, Sect. 47).

It is (a sign of) our sacred obligation to give strength and encouragement to the Divine spirit which dwells upon His people, and to raise the banner of Torah and mitzvot by acquiring all of the cultural potentialities present in the world.   (Iggerot ha-Ray"ah, Vol, II: pp. 79-80).

In light of the present situation, this prohibition (i.e., against secular study and the study of foreign languages) is like an iron yoke around the necks of the God-fearing…   Their eyes see that it is impossible to exist or to maintain oneself in the circumstances of the time without language and science…    The children of those parents who are connected with the sanctity of the Torah and of faith are overwhelmed in their way of life.   (Iggerot ha-Ray"ah, Vol. I: Sect. 139).

Ignorance of science and general culture not only deprives one of an important spiritual dimension of one's humanity and harms one's own Judaism, but also prevents the religious public from occupying positions of importance and influence in the state and in society, leaving the shaping of our society in the hands of the secularists alone.

 3.   Woman as a person of dignity in her own right.   As such, she is entitled to and deserving of intellectual and cultural, as well as full religious development (i.e. Torah study).   True, Rabbi Eliezer said, "Better that the words of Torah be burned and not given to women" (Jerusalem Talmud, Sotah 3d) while Maimonides ruled, "Every woman is required to wash her husband's face, hands and feet, to pour his cup and make up his bed, etc." (MT, Ishut 21:3),adding that "Any woman who refuses to do (for her husband) those labors which she is required to do is forced to do so, even by beating" (Ibid., Sect. 10).   However, Maimonides' remarks are based upon the social structure of his own time, while the rulings of halakhic authorities from more recent generations, being rooted in the social reality of their own day, differ.   For example, the Hafetz Hayyim, writing about Torah study for women, distinguishes between "the earlier days" and "our time" (Likkutei Halakhot, Sotah 21), with all that implies.   The same is true of Rabbi Hayyim David Halevi, who writes that: "In the earlier days, when a woman was exclusively a housewife and the girls did not study at all… but in our day, when they engage in general studies with great seriousness, why should Torah study be inferior?"   (Aseh lekha Rav, Vol. II: p. 193).

4.   The participation of women in public life and in the shaping of society, sharing both in the privileges and obligations implied in such.   This implies the existence of a mixed society.   Those who reject this tendency in the name of sexual modesty argue that the choice is between modesty, attained by woman staying at home, and licentiousness, resulting from woman's involvement in society.   The advocates of Torah and Avodah believe that the principles of modesty, as opposed to the specific details derived from the life situation of previous generations, both can and do exist in a mixed society.

One frequently hears the demand, aggressively directed towards our circles, that one follow the laws of modesty as formulated in the Mishneh Torah. the Shulhan Arukh. and similar halakhic codes.   This is the reason offered by those who advocate the division of B'nai Akiva into two separate movements for boys and for girls.   Yet those who make these demands, and the Ultra-Orthodox public generally, themselves fail to observe a number of regulations of the Shulhan Arukh concerning this subject.

 There are sections formulated by later halakhic authorities, whether intended ab initio or after the fact, which are ignored by the Haredi public, despite the fact that the halakhah remains unchanged.   The following are several examples;

Both the Shulhan Arukh (Even ha-Ezer 22:20) and Maimonides (Issurel Bi'ah 22:13) contain halakhic rulings, based upon the Mishnah and the Talmud, stating in a clear and unequivocal manner that a woman or an unmarried man are not allowed to engage in teaching, for reasons of modesty and mixing between men and women.   Yet the entire Independent Educational system of Agudat Yisrael (Hinukh Atzma'i) is built upon female teachers, while unmarried men likewise serve there as teachers.   What happened to the principle of modesty?   This problem is articulated in the comments of several later halakhic authorities:

It is the accepted custom for a bachelor to serve as a teacher, and one does not prevent him (from doing so), because this is an ordinance which people are unable to observe in these days, for were it not so one could not find teachers as needed. (R. Hayyim Benveniste, Kenesset ha- Gedolah, Yoreh De'ah, Sect. 245).

What can we do, for it has already become a widespread custom that women teach young children, both male and female… so we say "Let Israel be."   (Apei Zutrei, Even ha-Ezer, Sect. 22).

The Shulhan Arukh rules that "A man must separate himself from women very greatly" (Even ha-Ezer 21:1).   How does this explicit halakhah square with the fact that, in offices, shops and the like, one finds Haredi women working alongside men, including non-religious men?   Maimonides rules that:

It is shameful for a woman to go about constantly, sometimes out of doors and sometimes in the streets.   A husband is to prevent his wife from doing this, and not allow her to go out except once a month or several times a month.   (MT, Ishut 13:11).

How many Haredi families observe this law?

One could cite many other examples, but these will suffice.   How are we to understand all this?   An answer may be found in the remarks of Rabbi Saul Yisraell who, in his discussion of National Service for girls, observes that:  "It seems that the limits of (the principle), 'All the honor of the king's daughter is within' depends upon local custom" (Rabbi J. L. Maimon, ed., ha-Torah veha-Medinah, Vol. IV: p.226).   The late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, who was one of the leading poskim of the Haredi world, makes similar remarks in discussing whether or not one is allowed to recite Shema or other sacred texts in the presence of a married woman with uncovered hair:

This is no longer a law of indecency pertaining to Shema and words of Torah… for it is the practice of most women to go about with uncovered hair, so that even though it is forbidden to do so, it is not considered indecent with regard to the recitation of Shema and words of Torah, which depend only upon the [social] reality.   (Iggerot Moshe, Orah Hayyim, Sect. 43).

Thus, both in theory and in practice, the Haredi community acknowledges that the border-lines of modesty have changed.   However, they insist that the parameters of this change are to be determined exclusively by the reality of their own lives and their socio-economic goals.   Only those changes which they have made (e.g. women teachers, women mixing with men in workplaces, etc.) according to their own needs are legitimate, while other changes based upon our world-view (e.g. mixed youth movements or service to the state and the society) continue to be treated as severe prohibitions.   In other words, the demand addressed towards us is that we live, not according to the Shulhan Arukh in its original form, but to the "improved and corrected" version as formulated by the Haredi public.

5.   Personal responsibility for and participation in the burden of national and state obligations.   The religious public is not a group enjoying special privileges.   Therefore, all young men and women are obligated to serve in the various frameworks available to them.   The mitzvah of Torah study does not exempt one from other mitzvot, including that of military service:

"And you shall gather your corn" (Deut. 11:14).   It is as if one were to say, "I will not wear tefillin because I am studying Torah".   Similarly, a person may not say, "X will not gather in my corn because I am engaged in Torah".   (Hiddushei Hatam Sofer: Sukkah: Perek Lulav ha-Gazul).

Military service is certainly at least as important – if not more so-  than gathering in one's corn.

With regard to the question of national or military service of young women, modesty is important, but it may not be used as an excuse for the avoidance of service:

1 have seen that it is possible for the daughters of Israel to participate in the building of the land without any decrease in their level of modesty or morals…   For if the urgency indicates the need for their participation, and the Law allows, indeed requires their participation… there is no effective argument for one to rule (it out) against the halakhah… (simply) because one fears that by this they will come to stumble.   (Rabbi Y. T. Stern, "National Service for Women," in Maimon, ed., ha-Torah veha-Medinah, pp. 7-8).

6.   Emphasis upon the mitzvot between man and his fellow.   The teaching of Torah va-Avodah does not accept the widespread fallacy according to which the observance of mitzvot is identified with the observance of those between man and God alone.   There are customs of doubtful origin applying to the realm between man and God which have become very important, while there are explicit mitzvot of the Torah applying to the interpersonal realm which are commonly ignored and neglected.   (See, for example, the remarks of Rabbi H. D. Halevi concerning the custom of kapparot, in Aseh Lekha Rav, Vol. Ill: pp. 62-68). In describing Halakhic man, Rabbi J. B. Soloveitchik writes:

 Halakhic man… looks about and sees, listens and hears, and publicly protests against the oppression of the helpless, the defrauding of the poor, and the plight of the orphan. … The actualization of the ideals of justice and righteousness is the pillar of fire which halakhic man follows… as a rabbi and teacher inIsrael…   No religious cult is of any worth if the laws and principles of righteousness are violated and trampled upon by the foot of pride… Iniquity prevents man's prayer from being accepted on high.   The anguish of the poor, the despair of the helpless and humiliated outweigh many many commandments. (Halakhic Man, trans., L. Kaplan (Philadelphia, 1983, p. 91).

Rabbi H. D. Halevi has recently made some unequivocal statements on this subject;

Generally speaking, one accounts a person righteous or wicked according to the commandments (he performs) between man and God. But in truth the opposite is the case:  the weight of the sins between man and his fellow far outweighs those between man and God…. In principle, it may well be that, if an individual is not careful concerning the commandments between man and his fellow, those mitzvot which he performs between man and God are of no value whatever, and are considered as if they do not exist.   (Aseh lekha Rav, Vol. III: pp. 53, 54, 58).

  1. The slogan, "the Holy Rebellion" (ha-Mered ha-Kadosh).  This slogan was the original one of Torah and Avodah, and entails a certain paradox.   On the one hand, it is the very nature of a rebellion to destroy the holy things of the past while, on the other hand, the word "holy" implies affirmation of the heritage of the past.   The teaching of Torah and Avodah implies both a rebellion against the past and its total acceptance.   In other words, one lives according to the halakhah in a spirit of independent thought and personal responsibility, rejecting those approaches in which the individual abnegates his personal responsibility in favor of one or another halakhic authority.   Judaism implies personal responsibility for the sanctification of life, accepting the tradition on the basis of independent and critical thought.

 The Mizrachi movement arose at the beginning of the century in sharp confrontation with the decisive majority of the yeshivah heads and the Torah world of the time.   The movement rejected the unequivocal halakhic decisions of that Torah world concerning two central issues:  1) Aliyah to theLandofIsraeland participation in the Zionist enterprise;  2) A positive attitude towards science, technology and positive elements within the secular, non-Jewish cultural orbit.   In analyzing this conflict, Rabbi Soloveitchik concludes:

Joseph of1902  (i.e., the Mizrachi) felt that it was forbidden to rely upon the status quo, that great changes were about to take place in the life of the Jewish people, and that we must be ready and prepared for these changes… In our day, the Creator of the Universe has ruled that the halakhah follows Joseph of1902  (against the entire yeshivah world of that time!).   (״Joseph and His Brothers", Hamesh Derashot,Jerusalem, 1974, p. 23).

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In recent years, at the initiative of certain circles within the National-Religious public, a degree of erosion has taken place in the principles and way of life of Torah and Avodah, toward the direction of those of the Ultra- Orthodox community.   Some examples of this erosion are:  the circle associated with Yeshivat Merkaz Ha-Rav has estabished a religious high school for girls whose students are forbidden to belong to mixed youth movements (i.e., B'nai Akiva or Ezra), as well as a heder which limits secular studies to the absolute minimum.   In the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, a new youth movement was established, in which there is absolute separation of boys and girls.

Had these things been done in order to meet the legitimate needs of those who do them and members of their circle, we could accept them.   However, those who advocate these changes openly declare that it is their intention to make their way that of the entire national-religious public (see, for example, Moreshet, No. 3, p. 71).   We believe that one should relate seriously to these phenomena, both as a beginning and as a sign of future intent.

One manifestation of this tendency is to be seen in the fact that one finds today, in our own milieu, yeshivah students who "postpone" their military service for many years, while others already in their early twenties substitute a few months of service for the normal three years.   The same applies to those who are militantly opposed to the implementation of the Law of National Service for girls.   These acts of omission and commission express the "Haredi" world-view.   This view has halakhic sources, just as the path of Torah and Avodah is based upon the halakhah.   Halakhic pluralism within Orthodox Jewry is a fact that cannot be denied (from the dispute as to whether or not a wig is to be considered a valid hair-covering for a married woman, through to the argument about relinquishing portions of the Landof Israel).   This has been the case for thousands of year.   Rabbi Ya'akov, Ba'al ha-Turim, wrote of his own period;  "There is not a single halakhic ruling over which there are not different opinions"   (Introduction to Tur. Yoreh De'ah).   The situation at the time of Rabbi Joseph Caro was no different:  "The Torah has been made, not into two Torahs, but into an innumerable number of Torahs" (Introduction to Bet Yosef on Tur, Orah Hayyim).   R, Zvi Hirsch Hayyes writes:

 After the Temple was destroyed and the Sanhedrin disbanded and the Great Court removed from the Chamber of Hewn Stone… these laws no longer apply to us with the force of (the commandment) "do not turn aside" (Deut. 17:11;  i.e. the prohibition against violating the edicts of the rabbis), as the Sages themselves disagree with one another, and we ourselves do not know to whom to give preference, or to listen to…   Perhaps the words of the other are more correct. (Torat ha-Nevi'im, Ch. 3).

As in most areas of the halakhah, there is more than one halakhic opinion applying to the subjects which we have discussed.   Therefore, one must choose between conflicting halakhic interpretations – something that most of us do frequently, but without thinking about the significance of this act.

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 There are those who argue that the only alternatives are drugs or Ultra-Orthodoxy:  that is, if we do not educate towards a closed religious posture, the alternative is secularism. In the absence of any other viable option, they claim that one must prefer fanatical self-isolation and ghettoization.

We argue that the choice is among three alternatives:  secularism, Ultra-Orthodoxy and the path of Torah va-Avodah.   This path is more difficult than that of closed-mindedness, because it does not evade the obligation to participate in the burden of society and state, and because it applies the Torah to far more realms of activity than does the path of Ultra-Orthodoxy.

 The Eastern European style of closed Ultra-Orthodoxy is the option of flight, of weakness and of writing off most of the Jewish people and, despite its halakhic legitimacy, it is a recipe for failure.   The truth is that the decisive majority of the older secular and even anti-religious public are the product of the Ultra-Orthodox path, which they rejected over the past generations in favor of secularism.   One of the leading halakhic authorities of the last generation, Rabbi Yehiel Yaakov Weinberg, wrote about this matter:

The great rabbis of Germany were knowledgeable and expert in the art of education, and therefore succeeded in their attempts to raise entire generations which were both God-fearing and had secular culture, while the geonim and gedolim of Lithuania and Poland did not succeed in doing so because they did not know how to guide education in accordance with the conditions of the time.   (Seridei Esh, Vol. II: Sect. 8).

People tend to forget or to deliberately ignore these facts when they speak in high and solemn tones about the "proven recipe" – that is, Ultra-Orthodox education and way of life.   Let those who believe in the Haredi path live in their faith. We appeal to those who believe in the principles of Torah and Avodah and of Religious Zionism to act on behalf of strengthening and solidifying our camp, its faith and way of life, so that those who are uncertain and seeking the way, both in the religious and the secular camp, may find their way to us.