This is the opening line in Dov Bar Leib’s new post at Kickoff to Last 9 Months of Olam Hazeh. Yes Reb Dov, it was a gruesome day today. But I think the kickoff was the Judge’s football verdict in the Azariya trial. But you are very correct that we are “totally alone with our G-D” and I only wish more Israelis would come to recognize and believe this.
We’re so busy screaming about the disgrace at the UN that we’ve forgotten how being “a nation alone” is really the map of our lives for eternity. What’s up to us is whether this is to be a blessing or a curse — whether we’ll be faithful to our destiny and reside alongside the nations in dignity, or try to mingle where we don’t belong and in the end, be despised.
Yes, we’re all angry at the Obama administration, and condemnation of its shameful betrayal of Israel is coming from all corners. Who would have thought that our greatest friend among the nations would stab us in the back at the UN, instead of standing by us once again and using the veto power we’ve become used to? But instead, the president — about to leave the White House with no small measure of frustration — took his revenge against Bibi Netanyahu, whom he detests. He displayed openly what we always knew was hidden in his middle name. He showed that despite the recent sale of stealth fighter jets to Israel, his heart is with the Palestinians.
It’s been pretty clear ever since that conciliatory speech he made in Cairo to the Muslim world, early on in his first term as president, and then archived by a photographer who caught him with his feet contemptuously up on his desk while in a phone conversation with the Israeli prime minister. And now, as a parting gift, he has incited the UN Security Council against us, enraging Israel’s politicians and pundits, who’ve been sparing no words of scorn toward the departing president for the maneuver that Netanyahu rightly called “a disgrace.” Adding insult to injury was the joyful applause of the Security Council members when it became clear that their anti-Israel resolution was about to pass, thanks to the US’s helpful abstention. They applauded like fans of the winning team at a soccer game.
But there’s a ray of light in all this as well. It could be that this disgraceful ploy by the US will bring forth something of benefit.
The basic error of secular political Zionism does not lie in its desire to settle Jews in Eretz Yisrael, or even to establish a state on this strip of land. Rather, as the Chazon Ish, the Brisker Rav, and other Torah luminaries have taught, the secular Zionists erred in seeking to make the Jewish People a normative nation — just one among the many peoples of the world, like the French, the English, or any other nation. An equal among equals and an integral part of the family of nations. In short, k’chol hagoyim Beis Yisrael.
Of course, this approach is the antithesis of the Jewish People’s purpose in this world.
It’s a massive mistake for which we have paid a terrible price. For no matter what our position in the world at any given time, we are never a regular nation like all the others. We are always “a people that dwells alone,” and the truth of that statement has never changed. It makes no difference if we have a strong sovereign state, famed for its cutting-edge high-tech industry. All that is just to aid us in carrying out our task as a people that is, by decree, spiritually isolated. From our island of Torah life, we are meant to be a light unto all the nations.
Remember the answer of the Oxford professors to the Israeli professor who asked them why British intellectuals felt such hostility toward Israel? Their answer was surprising indeed: “We thought that when the Jews returned to Israel, they would give the world a new Book of Books. You are the Chosen People! The People of the Bible! And look at what you’ve done!”
Because, in fact, the hostility of the nations doesn’t always arise from pure anti-Semitism, from the principle of Eisav sonei l’Yaakov. Sometimes it arises from disappointment — because the world expects better from us. It would behoove us to keep in mind what those English academics said, rather than habitually escaping to the nothing-to-be-done-about-it maxim of Eisav sonei l’Yaakov.
To bring this into sharper focus, permit me to quote a few lines from Dr. Yaakov Herzog z”l. He was a son of Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Herzog and served as secretary to David Ben Gurion. A Torah-observant Jew and a talmid chacham, Herzog penned an eye-opening pamphlet entitled Hein Am L’vadad Yishkon, in which he wrote, “Two years ago [at the time of the Six Day War], 15 Christian theologians were here. They’d been sent to the Middle East by the American government to report on the spiritual aspect of the various peoples of the region.
“They arrived in Israel, and we gave them the usual tour of the new factories on every kibbutz, and so on, as if they’d never seen such things before. They said,
‘This doesn’t interest us. We have factories in America, too. We came here to find out what this [i.e., the Six Day War, the liberation of Jerusalem, etc.] means from a spiritual and historical point of view.’ ”
Every time something happens on the international scene to prove just how alone we are in the world, we get sucked into that general atmosphere of rage, but perhaps it’s worth taking another look into the Jewish mirror to see things in their true proportions. These seemingly inexplicable events have profound meaning. In the words of the Netziv of Volozhin in Ha’amek Davar:
“And this is the form of the nation as a whole, and such is the Will of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, that they should so conduct themselves, as is written above in the song of Ha’azinu: ‘Hashem alone shall guide it, and there shall be no strange god with it.’ Rava said: I said, ‘And Israel dwelled secure and alone,’ but now, ‘How [Eichah] has she come to dwell alone?’ The explanation: The Will of HaKadosh Baruch Hu is that Israel be alone, and not mixed with the nations of the world, in honor and tranquility. Now that they have spoiled things and not preserved their form, and have mixed with the nations, they have been made to be alone in another manner; that is, the nations of the world separate from them, and that is how ‘she has come to dwell alone.’ ”
This is the map of our lives for all generations. We are to dwell alone, and whether that will be a blessing or a curse is up to us. We can be the despised ugly duckling or the beautiful swan in its natural habitat. We can be faithful to our destiny and alone, “with the nations of the world in honor and tranquility” (for aloneness does not mean cut off from all contact), or chalilah, not faithful, and then, “the nations of the world separate from us.”
The UN’s history of anti-Israel resolutions has repeatedly shown how sadly mistaken is the secular Zionist concept of Israel as a nation like all others. Who remembers how the delegates of the General Assembly walked out on Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir, leaving him alone at the podium with no one to speak to? Or the infamous “Zionism is Racism” declaration, with the underlying message that Judaism is racism. Those instances, along with the recent Security Council vote, bring home the truth to us: “And Yaakov was left alone on that night.” And as long as the night lasts, this is our situation among the nations. It’s best that we entertain no illusions about our big ally, for America, too, has given us another reminder that we are alone.
Those who believe that we are part of the family of nations may storm and rage, but we can remember that this was only to be expected. Let’s take a drink of water, calm down, and continue being a people that dwells alone, in accordance with the Divine program.