Zionism and Halacha
Question submitted to “Ask the Rabbi” by:
Name: Daniel Indyk
“I understand Halachic Judaism has a problem with Zionism and the state of Israel. How does one deal with this?”
Rabbi Tully Bryks responds:
One of the many beautiful aspects of Judaism is the concept of “Elu v’elu Divrei Elokim Chayim” (there is more than one legitimate way to connect to G-d). Meaning, no one has the monopoly on the right way to live as a Jew. So along those lines, whether someone chooses to serve our country through fighting in the Israeli army, learning Torah or doing Sheirut Leumi (National community service), these are all methods that each individual can choose to contribute to Israel in a way that is meaningful for them. And one can certainly argue that all thee of these approaches are necessary. The same principle would apply to the questions of eating rice on Pesach (Passover), or waiting 1, 3, 5.1 or 6 hours after meat before consuming dairy, or “stay-at-home moms” versus working moms and many more examples.
The Beis Hamikdash (Holy Temple) was destroyed due to “baseless hatred” among Jews. According to the Talmud, every generation in which the Temple is not rebuilt is as if we destroyed it. In other words, if the Mashiach (Messiah) has not yet come, it means that we are perpetuating that same hatred of our brothers that caused the initial destruction and exile!
And ironically, there is so much more that unites us all, than divides us. Yet many of us still manage to zoom in on our differences. And unfortunately, it seems that Hashem often needs to send tragedies our way, as those are often the only things that seem to remind us that we’re really all one family.
Going back to your question, there are many different Halachik opinions about Zionism, ranging from those who believe it is a terrible thing to those who believe it’s a great thing. And there are also those who will both support it and oppose it, depending upon how you define Zionism. But what is generally not disputed is that Israel is our homeland.
And regardless of what one thinks of the “modern state of Israel,” most Halachik opinions contend that even though we are still in exile, the land of Israel continues to maintain tremendous Holiness. Along those lines, there are many potential Mitzvos (commandments) that can only be performed in the Land of Israel.
So regardless of which path you personally follow, and regardless of whether you view “Yishuv Eretz Yisroel (Settling the Land of Israel) prior to the arrival of the Mashiach as an obligatory Mitzvah, an optional Mitzvah (Kiyum Aseh), a Hechsher Mitzvah (a critical step enabling one to perform a Mitzvah), a neutral act, or even a prohibited act, I believe that the most important lesson for us is to learn to still respect and love everyone else, even if they may have chosen a different path than I have.
May we learn to respect one another, and to treat each other like true brothers and sisters!
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