When Secular Nationalism Replaces the G-d of Israel
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
by Eytan Kobre
The headline reads, “Obama Breaks with Decades of American Policy to Declare Western Wall ‘Occupied Territory’ at the United Nations.” How ought a Jewish columnist write about this story?
A Jew knows that G-d runs the world, and a Jewish writer strives to suggest ways in which Jews can see that more clearly. It’s well known that when Rabbi Alexander Rosenberg z”l headed the OU kosher division in the ’60s and ’70s where he reshaped the modern kashrus system, he had a favorite question he’d pose when someone would approach him with what seemed like a shady business proposal:
Uhn vos zogt G-t? And what does G-d have to say about it?
So in a similar vein, let’s dispense with all the standard political analysis, opining on the actions and motives of the players in this drama, implications for Mideast peace, Israel’s future and American politics. From a Torah perspective, that’s all largely irrelevant. There are no “implications” —
there’s only the Divine will, with all else merely a distraction from the lessons we’re intended to draw that are truly relevant to our lives.
In seeking to identify such lessons, we begin with two premises about how Hashem interacts with His world, and in particular with His chosen people. First, that in His great kindness, He employs the tool of *middah k’neged middah to make it easier for us to discern His message in a world bereft of prophecy and direct Divine communication.
Second, that a particular application of the middah k’negged middah principle that recurs throughout history, from Bilaam to Haman to Hitler and beyond, is that
the things anti-Semites say and do are tools of instruction for us, often in uncannily corresponding ways.
They may be wicked, but they sure aren’t stupid, and, indeed, they often have an unerring sense of who we Jews are and what we ought to be. And even when they don’t, Hashem uses them to achieve His ends, which are to return us to Him.
When Ner Israel rosh yeshivah Rav Aharon Feldman shlita was asked by a prominent secular Jewish leader to explain the strange phenomenon of a Palestinian people that is a historical fabrication yet has materialized to wreak terror upon Israel and gain the sympathy and support of the world, the Rosh Yeshivah simply reached for a Chumash and opened to the primer on Jewish history known to us as Ha’azinu (Devarim 32:21):
“They [the Jewish People] angered Me by believing in a non-god, and I will anger them by means of a non-nation.” The non-god is the secular Jewish nationalism that replaced the G-d of Israel, and the non-nation is the one in today’s headlines.
For decades now, the world community’s treatment of Israel can be summed up in two words — double standard. Forget about the murderous kleptocracies populating the UN’s “Human Rights Commission.” Even democracies like ours ( the U.S.) hold Israel to ethical standards of military conduct that they themselves violate with impunity.
But of course, the Jewish People’s entire raison d’etre in this world is to exemplify the higher ethical standard that comes with its calling as a mamleches kohanim v’goy kadosh. And thus, a thought:
Could it be that the Ribbono shel Olam whipped up the entire Security Council firestorm so that two statements would reverberate in the ears of His beloved nation?
First, courtesy of a messenger named Kerry (see Vayikra 26:23-24), comes the truth of
“a fundamental reality… Israel can either be Jewish or democratic — it cannot be both….”The man is right, and ironically, he echoes the murdered hero of the Israeli extreme right who never tired of making precisely this point, referring to the irreconcilable contradiction at the heart of a “schizophrenic document,” Israel’s Declaration of Independence. They’re both right in their diagnosis, but deeply wrong about the necessary course of treatment, which is neither a two-state solution nor an annexation to create a Greater Israel, but a return to Hashem’s embrace.
Second, courtesy of His marionettes on the Security Council, comes the first-ever declaration that the “Western Wall is occupied territory.” This, just as for the first time, too,
Israel’s Supreme Court, in collusion with its government, the heterodox movements, and the “Open Orthodox,” is preparing to declare the Kosel precisely that — “occupied territory” — and to rip it away from the faithful Jews who are its “occupiers.”
The crucial question for us is:
Can we put aside for a moment our disgust with the malevolent messengers and focus on the possible Divine message they may be transmitting?