Letter by a Poshete Yid

It is reported that the Satmar Rebbe of Kiryas Yoel, Rav Aaron Teitelbaum shlita was said to have recently bemoaned that some of his chassidim were celebrating the “Zionists’” success. “They will not be among those who will receive the Moshiach when he comes,” he said, adding that “If the chareidi representatives in the Knesset do not succeed in bringing in a new law, fifty thousand talmidei yeshivos will be drafted into the army.”

I am not a Rebbe, nor the son of a Rebbe, not even the grandson of a Rebbe. I am a poshete yid, a simple Jew, who would like to explain why, although I am not a Zionist, I do celebrate Israel’s success. And I find his words very surprising, as I hope to explain.

When the concept of a secular Jewish state was first considered in the late nineteenth century it was opposed by nearly all the Gedolim . Many opposed it even if the state would be run according to halacha, but since there was no chance of that, the idea was an anathema. Then, in the years before the Second World War, some Gedolim looked at the looming threat from Germany and changed their view.  But still, a majority were opposed, particularly Reb Elchanan Wasserman, Hy”d.

After the Holocaust, however, the situation had changed again, dramatically. Six million Jews had died, huge numbers of frum communities with their Rebbes and their Rabbonim had been wiped out. Half a million survivors waited in Displaced Persons’ in Europe camps for some kind of future, but no country was prepared to admit them. The Zionists were determined to create a state, come what may, leaving the spiritual survival of those who were already living in Palestine at their mercy. In this most forlorn of situations, the surviving Gedolim had to decide what to do. Then the Zionists, for their own reasons, asked the Agudas Yisroel to join them in pushing their case for a State. The Aguda insisted on certain conditions — independent religious education, Shabbos should be a rest day (so that religious Jews would be able to get jobs) and kashrus would be observed in public places. The secularists reluctantly agreed. The Gedolim of Aguda decided, that in this situation, supporting the concept of a State, even a secular State was the best option. In 1948, Israel was established, and the half a million survivors including many religious people were allowed in. Most of the religious community followed the decision of the Aguda to work within the system. They sent representatives to the Knesset and began fighting, if not to win over the majority, at least to maintain their own rights and be able to live as religious Jews. The early years of the State were grim; as the secular leadership was determined to create “the new Jew” devoid of religion or any connection with the past. Sadly they had many “successes.”

Now let’s turn the clock forward seventy years. The old Zionists leaders are no longer and a vast majority of the so-called secular public are observant to some extent, for instance fasting on Yom Kippur. From tiny beginnings, the religious community has grown enormously with tens of thousands of boys and men studying Torah full-time. The secular President of Israel recently said that the idea of the early secular leadership to create “a new Jew” was a mistake. To be called a Zionist today is regarded  by secular people as an insult. Yes, they are happy that they have a State to live in and enjoy, for the most part, normal lives, without being hounded by anti-semites, but they have no ideological ambitions. Their goal is to earn a living and bring up a family like most people in all countries do. And they are increasingly drawn towards the lifestyle of the religious people whom they see wherever they go.

Miraculously, despite continuing security threats, from an economic and political point of view, Israel is an outstanding success. The country is smaller than New Jersey or Wales but is a world leader in many areas including agriculture, water purification and cyber-technology. The Jewish population has grown to over six million and political leaders from all over the world queue up to meet the Prime Minister.

Now I can come back to my first point. I am fervently against the Zionist philosophy as espoused by the secular leaders of seventy years ago. We went along with the creation of a State not out of love for it. It was with trepidation, and only because of the catastrophic situation we found ourselves in after the Holocaust. But we followed the leadership of the Chazon Ish, the Steipler Rov, Rav Shach, Rav Eliyashiv, Rav Steinman etc who put all their efforts into promoting Torah learning for all those who can, supporting the ever-increasing religious communities, guiding kiruv organisations and instructing their representatives in the Knesset to safeguard Jewish values as much as they could. Miraculously, Hashem has helped Israel survive numerous wars and continues to send amazing blessings of prosperity and success. We are happy with these successes, mainly because they have given us the security and wherewithal to live in peace, leading full Jewish lives.

Why does Hashem give so much success to those who publicly profane the Torah? I believe the answer can be found in Kiddushin 36a. “Instead of saying they are not My people, tell them that they are the children of the living G-d.” (Hoshea 2:1). Say Chazal, “Even if they serve avoda zara, they are still My children as it says, “Bonim atem L’Hashem Elokeichem” (Devarim 32:1). And a Father loves His children.

Does the Satmar Rebbe want Israel and all the Jews who live here to be defeated militarily, with the resultant second Holocaust that this would bring about? Does he want us to be economic failures with our children going to bed hungry? Strangely, he forbids his chassidim to vote but looks to the religious representatives to fight against their secular opponents. If it were not for our Gedolim, there would be no-one to fight the secularists. If the Satmar chassidim would vote, especially in local elections, we would have more strength to fight and likely enjoy more successes. Why did they vote for Hilary Clinton when she had already pocketed the bribes of the Arab nations who want to destroy us? And why do they deride President Trump when he supports us?

The Rebbe may believe that for the Moshiach to come, the Jewish People have to be scattered around the world with no State, as the late Rebbe, Reb Yoel, wrote in his sefer Sholosh Shevuos. This obviously requires the dismemberment of Israel and apparently he is working to this end. However I do not believe that most Gedolim are of that opinion. On the contrary, even Reb Moshe Sternbuch shlita, a renowned anti-Zionist, has written recently how imminent the coming of the Moshiach is. We are waiting for him, here, ready for him to come at any moment.

A Poshete Yid