Parshas Eikev

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.

Binyomin Zev (Theodore) Herzl

Yahrzeit – 20 Tammuz 5664 (1904)

May 2, 1860 – July 3, 1904

This past Friday was the 110th Yahrzeit of Binyomin Zev – Theodore Herzl.    I did not know about Herzl’s Yahrzeit until Elykum Schwartz told me this past Shabbos.  I saw in Amos Elon’s book, Herzl, that in 1903 the Sefas Emes came out against Herzl and said the Messiah and settlement of Israel can only come from a miraculous event, not through natural means.  The Sefas Emes’s own cousin and the Vilna Goan did not agree with the Sefas Emes.  The Gra attempted to go to Israel and later sent his students to Israel over 100 years earlier in order to settle the land of Israel to bring the Messiah.  I would like to think that in the heavens the Sefas Emes taught Herzl Torah and that they are now learning together.

I just saw this picture in the July 3rd Jerusalem Post magazine.  This is the salon of Edmund James de Rothschild.

blog pic


As I look this picture, I see Theodore Herzl sitting at the table talking, cajoling, debating Edmund James de Rothschild about Herzl’s grand idea to buy the land of Israel from the Sultan of the Ottoman-Turkish empire.    Edmund James de Rothschild was the fifth wealthy Jewish individual Herzl approached to secure funding to buy Israel.  The previous four had not committed at all to Herzl.  Per Amos Elon each one of the five individuals, individually, had enough  money to buy the land of Israel from the Sultan.  Herzl thought that Edmund James de Rothschild would be most sympathetic because Rothschild, known as Hanadiv (“The Benefactor”) was engaged in philanthropy and settlement of Israel.  However, Herzl did not get the firm commitment from  Rothschild.  He got a lukewarm response to the effect bring me something of substance and I will consider it.  Herzl was forced to negotiate with the Sultan as a poker player.  Herzl had to make the Sultan believe that he (Herzl) had the financial backing to purchase the land of Israel, when he in no way had any money backing his grand idea to save world Jewry.

Tragic indeed.