The Siege, The Story of Israel and Zionism
This morning September 6, 2014, I saw my friend Hart Hasten in Shul. I mentioned to him that I was reading the book, The Siege, The Story of Israel and Zionism, written by Conor O’Brien, an Irish diplomat. Hart Hasten mentioned that he brought in Conor O’Brien years ago to speak and that Conor O’Brien gave him a number of autographed copies of the book. I have to post the following essay I sent to Yair Hoffman on Parshas Eikev.
I read your Parsha Sheet on Eikav.
Shabbos morning I continued my reading of Conor O’Brien’s book titled, “The Siege, The Story of Israel and Zionism”. It is clear that the Jews were being kicked out of Europe. It started in 1881 with the Tzar’s decrees and pogroms. I have written about this on my blog.
How should the Jews have reacted in 1881 moving forward? Per Amos Elon, the Sfes Emes in 1903 said in response to Herzl that Mosiach can only come through miraculous means, clearly rejecting Herzl and by doing so rejects the Gra’s approach, the Besht, Reb Tzvi Hersh Kalisher, and my Zedi, the Pilaver Rebbe. Yes – the Gra believed that Moshiach could come via natural means, worked towards bringing Messiach, and sent his students to Israel to start the process. All these great leaders felt the Moshiach can arrive and probably will come through natural means. At the time of Ezra the Jews returned back to Israel by natural means and built the second Temple. Despite the chance to go back to Israel, a majority of Jews decided to stay in Babylonia, and of the Jews who went to Israel many had non-Jewish wives. We did have Ezra, who was a prophet.
It is easy to say, do Tshuva, and everything will be okay. It is easy for right -wing Orthodoxy to say blame the Jews for their own misfortune, after all they are sinners. This is the standard response of right-wing Orthodox Judaism; however, life is messy and complicated. The Jews of the Pale of Settlement were basically Frum, yet the Czar went after them with cruel abandon. We do not know Hashem’s considerations.
After reading some more of The Siege, I had to read through Eikav before going to Shul to find insight. I did not have any time to read through the Rishonim. I did not have the Sefer Menachem Tzion from Rabbi Menachem B. Sachs, son-in-law of Reb Tzvi Pesach Frank, for a Zionistic vort on the Sedra. No insight. Based on the Sedra, it would appear questionable as to how the Jews merited entering the land of Israel, the first and second Temples due to their apparent sins. A generation or two after entering Israel, some Jews worshipped idols. Moshe Rabbinu’s own grandson was a priest to idol worshippers.
Perhaps the insight is that the Jews are not perfect because life is complicated and messy. We do not know the ways of Hashem. Perhaps we have to be positive, optimistic, and look at everyone with eyes of Reb Avrohom Yitzchok Kook. We have to look at life with the approach of Amcha Kulum Kedoshim – your entire Nation is Holy. We have to be Lubavitch in America. Clearly the Jews were being kicked out of Europe. Perhaps this is what was missed.