Tag Archives: Zionism

Rav Kook’s Secret Writings

Rav Kook’s Secret Writings: A Drama In Several Parts
The Jewish Press, By Hillel Fendel – 19 Tishri 5773 – October 4, 2012

Rav Kook Painting

Clandestine photocopying of tucked-away documents in Israel’s National Library, hurried text messages of selected passages verifying their pristine, unpublished condition, and question marks surrounding the editing and possible censorship practices of trusted editors from eighty years ago.

These are some of the fascinating aspects of what many assume to be a straightforward phenomenon but that in fact has turned out to be a mysterious, complex and ongoing enterprise – the publication of the writings of the ultimate inspiration of the religious-Zionist camp, Rav Abraham Isaac Kook, zt”l.

Up until the mid-1980s, things were simple. One could barely find a self-respecting religious-Zionist home in Israel without at least some volumes of the “White Wave” or the “White Shas” – i.e., the fundamental works of Rav Kook, so named because they all featured a simple white dust jacket with a light-green border.

The books, such as Orot (Lights), Orot HaKodesh (Lights of Holiness), and the Siddur commentary Olat R’iyah became staples not only of philosophical yeshiva study for thousands of students but also the very basis for understanding the rich, profound and novel thought of the saintly and scholarly Rav Kook.

It was common knowledge that these books had been edited by Rav Kook’s two prize students: his son Rav Tzvi Yehuda and the Nazir, Rav David Cohen. The latter had been entrusted with eight of Rav Kook’s notebooks, from which he culled and edited the gems that would later comprise Orot HaKodesh.

Meanwhile, Rav Tzvi Yehuda was doing the same with some twelve other notebooks his father had given him, and produced from them (and partly from the other eight as well) many of his father’s other famous works – Orot, Orot HaTorah, and more.

Rav Kook barely wrote any books as complete, unified entities. Rather, he wrote in an almost stream-of-consciousness format on any and all topics, and he filled many little notebooks with short paragraphs of his deepest and most profound musings.

When Rav Tzvi Yehuda died in 1982, whatever hashkafic material remained in manuscript (not including writings such as commentary on the aggadic passages of Tractates Berachot and Shabbat, which became the four-volume Ein Ayah) appeared to be fated for oblivion. This, because the newly-established Rav Tzvi Yehuda Institute (RTYI) did not go out of its way to convince the Raanan family – direct descendants of Rav Kook and the owners of his papers – to allow them to be published.

Though it was known that Rav Kook had left many manuscripts behind, no publication date appeared on the horizon.

And yet, contrary to expectations, many books of Rav Kook’s hidden writings have been published over the past several years. Just last month, for instance, in honor of Rav Kook’s 77th yahrzeit on Elul 3, a work entitled Yesh Lach Kanfei Ruach – You Have Wings of Spirit – was made available to the public. Named after a line in one of Rav Kook’s poems, it is a compendium of his writings – some of which had not before seen print – on the topic of the confidence a believing Jew must have in himself and his ability to do good.

In short, with the holy writings apparently under permanent wraps, an entire series of Rav Kook’s writings have now seen the light of day. How did this occur?

The answer, it seems, is a man named Boaz Ofan.

Ofaz was learning in Yeshivat Ramat Gan a decade and a half ago when, he said, “we were a bunch of chutzpadik youths who decided the papers should no longer remain concealed.”

Though he is now willing to divulge much of how he came to fulfill this goal, he does not want to say how he actually received his first copies of some of the secret manuscripts. He collected a fair amount but then got stuck: He had too many to ignore, but too few to actually publish.

Knowing RTYI was reticent to publish, he unceremoniously informed the rabbis there, “I have photocopies of all Rav Kook’s writings. Either you publish what you have – or I will.”

They did – and thus was born the first “unedited” volume of Rav Kook’s works, known as Shemoneh Kvatzim, or Eight Collections – the unabridged series of manuscripts from which Rav Kook himself actually commissioned publication. (Another version of the story has it that Rav Yitzchak Shilat, the editor, was actually at work on the project before Ofan appeared on the scene.)

Asked to explain the source of his daring, Ofan told Neta’el Bandel of Olam Katan, “Mostly from the enthusiasm of the many who were thirsty to learn Rav Kook exactly as he wrote his thoughts. The books were grabbed up immediately upon being printed.”

This was not particularly good news for everyone. The students and rabbis represented by the Rav Tzvi Yehuda Institute felt the proper way to understand Rav Kook was by learning passages in the proper context, not free-style. Some say the order was given to buy out the entire printing so that it would not be widely disseminated.

Ofan and his colleagues at Yeshivat Ramat Gan did not hesitate. It took them four years to get it together, but in 2003 they re-published the work – in two volumes instead of three, with the same size and look. The new edition became known as the Ramat Gan Eight Collections.

The ball was now in RTYI’s court, and it published the heretofore unknown “Notebook 13.” However, several important passages – such as those on Spinoza, secular learning, the Divinity of Torah – had been omitted.

Meanwhile, Ofan and a friend, Matanya Shai, had discovered yet another collection of Rav Kook’s writings; what it was doing in the National Library is a mystery in itself. Shai made his way to the library archives, where a librarian stood guard to make sure he wouldn’t photocopy them.

“When the librarian finally left,” Shai related, “I quickly texted my brother entire passages, one after another, and asked him to check if they appeared in any of the books, including the Eight Collections. Each time he said no, it wasn’t there. We had discovered a real treasure, larger than the previous one – and never before published!”

Much of what had been understood of Rav Kook’s philosophical and Kabbalistic thought was based on what he had written during a seven-year period (1912-1919) and which became Orot HaKodesh and other works – but it turns out he wrote in this style well before and after that, for more than three decades. The lion’s share of these spiritual riches had never before been available to scholars or students.

Without transgressing any laws – it is doubtful the National Library has the legal right to prevent photocopying – Shai prepared look-alike documents to keep in the archives while he photocopied one original after the other. Even with the help of friends, it took months.

They again proposed that RTYI publish the new material instead of them but were turned down, and once again a “pirate” version of Rav Kook’s writings was published. Titled Ktavim Mikhatv Yad Kadsho – Writings from His Holy Hand – it too has ignited the interest of Torah scholars and students of Rav Kook around the world.

The end of the story? There is none. Ofan says there are still more writings, but not enough to publish; some argue that the personal musings of even a great sage are not public property; and meanwhile the study of Torah continues, from generation to generation.



A sermon for Shabbat Atzmaut. Time to apologise?

A sermon for Shabbat Atzmaut. Time to apologise?

Rabbi Andrea Zanardo, Brighton and Hove Reform Synagogue, East Sussek, England, UK

Sat May 7, 2016

I have to apologise. On behalf of Reform, Liberal… in short: on behalf of Rabbis and educators. We failed. We have spent time in interfaith work, we have met with members of the Muslim community, we have dipped the bread of friendship into the same plate of hummus, we were proud to build bridges. And maybe, just maybe, we were also eager to see ourselves on the first page of next day’s newspaper, hand in hand with some Muslim leader, both of us smiling.

How many wonderful things we could build together. Just don’t mention Israel.

That sounded reasonable: after all, why should we allow international politics to interfere in this wonderful community building we are engaged in together?

And so we have conceded to their narrative, which is the same narrative peddled by the Guardian, by the BBC, by the mainstream media. A narrative according to which Israel is the root cause of all the problems between Muslims and Jews: had it not be for Zionism, for our emotional and irrational attachment to that piece of Middle Eastern land, what a wonderful place the world may be. How beautiful and easy it would have been to coexist here, in multicultural England, Jews and Muslims together.

The mainstream British media blame Israel for, well, everything; and at the same time relevant Jewish personalities, educators, Rabbis, lay leaders revelled in the Jewish media, hand in hand with members of communities, where the most horrendous antisemitic legends are believed. It is common sense in certain Muslim circles to assume that the State of Israel has been conceived in sin; that Zionism is a racist, supremacist movement; that Israel is an apartheid State; and so on, and so on. And we have allowed such a narrative to be told.

Some went to the point of waving the Israeli flag together with the Palestinian flag. As if the flag of a democratic State was morally equivalent to the flag of a political entity, whose constitution mentions Sharia as the main source of legislation. Yes, this is the allegedly secular “Palestinian Authority”, that of Abu Mazen: they have a constitution based on Sharia. Not so different from the explicitly antisemitic chapter of Hamas. But we have enjoyed the company of supporters of Hamas, and we have called it “interfaith dialogue” “social justice” “community building”.

And now, thanks to the interactions of politics and communication, now the extent of antisemitism is there for anyone to see. A whole generation of activists has found a political home in the Labour Party. There, some relics of the Cold War are willing to enforce with Marxist jargon peaceful messages such as:

“The Jewish race is doing in Gaza the same thing that Hitler did in WW2”;
“The Jewish race made a lot of money thanks to the slave trade and used their money to acquire power”;

“The Land of Israel has been given to the Jews illegally, because of the money of the Rothschilds”;

“Israeli Jews should be deported to the USA and the Middle East will find peace at last”

and of course “Hitler was a friend and a cooperator of the Zionist”.

This last one may not come from a member of the Muslim community; but it certainly comes from one who is friendlier to them than to the historical truth. And it is a lie widely believed in the Muslim world.

These are not odd statements that for some reason have ended up in the timeline of the social media of some naive local councillor. These are not legitimate truths expressed in ill-chosen language. This is, unfortunately, common sense for some part of the public opinion in this Country, among the most religious as well among the secularised. Survey after survey, research after research… we have been informed at length about anti-Semitism in the Muslim community. How can we claim to be surprised when we read that a councillor or an MP believes that “the Jews rule the world” (which always makes me laugh: I don’t even rule my home, as my wife can testify!).

Instead of teaching the pride of being Jewish, instead of educating the young Jewish generations to be proud to be part of the Zionist project, if not doing alya, at least supporting Israel in the Diaspora, we have been sharing the scene with enemies of Israel and antisemites of that sort. In name of “inclusion” we have granted credibility to leaders whose goal is to turn Israel into “a State for all citizens”, which will exclude the Jews, us.

In the Progressive world “Israeli education” has become a codeword for teaching about the alleged failures of Israel; instead of educating our youth to tell the truth aloud when Zionism, and Judaism, are defamed and slandered. We should have been teaching the right of the Jewish people to self-determination: instead we teach to focus on the Israel’s alleged shortcomings in including the Arab population.

Even now, when the link between anti-Zionism and anti-semitism is clear and exposed, even now, there are those whose main fear is not the accuracy of the inquiry on the antisemitism in the Labour party. And we should be careful about that, since apparently some member of such a commission has already decided that there is no antisemitism in the Labour party at all. No, those delicate souls are rather concerned that their right to criticise Israel may be threatened. You know, it is so difficult to criticise the Israeli government, nowadays. No one really does it, do they? And if we focus too much on the antisemitism in the Labour Party we may lose our right to criticise the “Anti-Palestinian” policies of the Israeli government. What a tragedy it would be.

As I said, we failed. We have to apologise. I may not personally be guilty of that sin, but I have not been able to stop the trend. I, together with the many committed Zionists in the Reform world, and believe me there are plenty of them, have not been able to make our voices heard. Criticism to the Israeli policy has led to criticism of the Israeli government, and because Israel is a democracy we have been blaming the Israeli voters, rather than sharing admiration for the miraculous existence of a democracy in the Middle East. A democracy that manages to remain a democracy, despite being in state of continuous war since its foundation. Where else in the world you have that?

We have disassociated ourselves from the Israelis. Not so long ago a proposal circulated: to force all the English Jewish institutions to draw maps of Israel only according to the Palestinian narrative, transforming the Green Line (which is still subject to negotiation) into an international border. And then what? Forbid any participant on an organised trip to Israel, such as the Shnat, the gap year in Israel, to cross that line? And forbid them also to meet and socialise with the “settlers”, those Jews who are “not kosher” because they live in Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem? The proposal was voted down.

But you see, this is how this thing works. First we want to build connections with the Muslim community. Then we concede to the Palestinian narrative. And then we allow anti-Zionism to creep in our midst. And we disassociate from Israel: we care more about the Palestinian rights than the Israeli lives.

Now look at the Labour Party. That is anti-Zionism. That is where “criticism of Israeli policies” ultimately leads. “The creation of the State of Israel was fundamentally wrong, because there had been a Palestinian community there for 2,000 years”: this is Ken Livingstone, two days ago. “The post-World War II Jewish refugees should have been absorbed in Britain and America”: this is Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad. But it’s also Ken Livingstone, two days ago (same interview at Al Jazeera).

Now the question is: can this trend be reversed? Can we learn to teach a positive message about Zionism? Can we regain pride of being associated with Israel? Can we eventually learn that, in every dialogue, and even in interfaith work, there are red lines that must not be crossed? And Israel, the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish State, must not be questioned anymore?

I believe the answer must be: yes! Together with the fabulous team of teachers in our Cheder, we have been teaching exactly this to our students.

Our young adults met yesterday night for the music service, under these Israeli flags. Some enlightened mind in the peace camp would like that flag to change: it excludes the Arabs, you know. When will we learn to reply that we, British Jews, don’t feel excluded because in the Union Jack there are not one, but two crosses?

We will conclude the service today with HaTikvah. The same enlightened minds would like to change these words also. Because they don’t include the Arab population. Indeed: how terrible must be for an Arab citizen of Israel to live in a Country whose national anthem mentions the nefesh yehudi, the Jewish soul! When will we learn to reply that an atheist community flourishes in the UK, despite that its anthem mentions God?

For a strange reason, the noble souls among us do not want to change the Union Jack, neither the words of the English national anthem…. They care only about Israel. And among the many Israeli minorities there (Haredi, Russians, Mizrahim, Druze…) they care only about the Arabs’s sensitivities. When will we learn that this hypocrisy has nothing to do with the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam and it is, rather, conscious undermining of the Zionist project?

Let me state it clearly. In this synagogue we wave the Israeli flag, we are proud to be part of the Zionist project. And we celebrate Israel on Shabbat Atzmaut, today, and on Yom haAtzmaut, too. And later in the year, on Yom Yerushalaiim, we will celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people.

It’s not a secret that I have been shamed for what happens here. I was told publicly that I am a “divisive Rabbi” and a “Fascist”: me, grandson of Italian partisans. Why? Because all this Zionism – I have been told- would alienate the Muslim community. They will find difficult to accept that we are Zionists and therefore they will reject any dialogue with us.

To which my answer is: this must be their problem. Not ours.

We do not need any “dialogue” with anti-Semites or anti-Zionists, who are unpopular even in their own Party – thanks God. Whoever wants a dialogue with the Jewish community must accept Israel, must learn to respect Zionism, and must not try to divide us from our brothers and sisters who are blessed of living in the Land of Israel. It’s time for the Progressive Jewry to say it clearly and to say it aloud.

Am Israel Chai.

Brighton and Hove Reform Synagogue, Shabbat Atzmaut 5775

Why Don’t I Criticize Israel?

This essay is a transcript from a podcast by Sam Harris, American atheist author, philosopher, and neuroscientist.

Dr. Harris He is co-founder of Project Reason,  and author of The End of Faith (2004), an atheist rejection of all forms of organized religion. He is not Jewish or a Zionist, but has a very logical and important message on why he stands with Israel against anti-Zionist/anti-Semitic attacks.

israel Jordan Mandate of Palestine 19221

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Why is it that you always take the side of the Israelis over that of the Palestinians? Now, this is an incredibly boring and depressing question for a variety of reasons. The first, is that I have criticized both Israel and Judaism. What seems to have upset many people is that I’ve kept some sense of proportion. There are something like 15 million Jews on earth at this moment; there are a hundred times as many Muslims.

…Whatever terrible things the Israelis have done, it is also true to say that they have used more restraint in their fighting against the Palestinians than we—the Americans, or Western Europeans—have used in any of our wars. They have endured more worldwide public scrutiny than any other society has ever had to while defending itself against aggressors. The Israelis simply are held to a different standard. And the condemnation leveled at them by the rest of the world is completely out of proportion to what they have actually done.

…The truth is that there is an obvious, undeniable, and hugely consequential moral difference between Israel and her enemies. The Israelis are surrounded by people who have explicitly genocidal intentions towards them.

The charter of Hamas is explicitly genocidal. It looks forward to a time, based on Koranic prophesy, when the earth itself will cry out for Jewish blood, where the trees and the stones will say “O Muslim, there’s a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him.” This is a political document. We are talking about a government that was voted into power by a majority of Palestinians. [Note: Yes, I know that not every Palestinian supports Hamas, but enough do to have brought them to power. Hamas is not a fringe group.]

The discourse in the Muslim world about Jews is utterly shocking. Not only is there Holocaust denial—there’s Holocaust denial that then asserts that we will do it for real if given the chance.

The only thing more obnoxious than denying the Holocaust is to say that it should have happened; it didn’t happen, but if we get the chance, we will accomplish it. There are children’s shows in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere that teach five-year-olds about the glories of martyrdom and about the necessity of killing Jews.

And this gets to the heart of the moral difference between Israel and her enemies. And this is something I discussed in “The End of Faith.” To see this moral difference, you have to ask what each side would do if they had the power to do it.

What would the Jews do to the Palestinians if they could do anything they wanted?  Well, we know the answer to that question, because they can do more or less anything they want. The Israeli army could kill everyone in Gaza tomorrow. So what does that mean? Well, it means that, when they drop a bomb on a beach and kill four Palestinian children, as happened last week, this is almost certainly an accident. They’re NOT targeting children. They could target as many children as they want. Every time a Palestinian child dies, Israel edges ever closer to becoming an international pariah. So the Israelis take great pains not to kill children and other noncombatants. [Note: The word “so” in the previous sentence was regrettable and misleading. I didn’t mean to suggest that safeguarding its reputation abroad would be the only (or even primary) reason for Israel to avoid killing children. However, the point stands: Even if you want to attribute the basest motives to Israel, it is clearly in her self-interest not to kill Palestinian children.]

Now, is it possible that some Israeli soldiers go berserk under pressure and wind up shooting into crowds of rock-throwing children? Of course. You will always find some soldiers acting this way in the middle of a war. But we know that this isn’t the general intent of Israel. We know the Israelis do not want to kill non-combatants, because they could kill as many as they want, and they’re not doing it.

What do we know of the Palestinians?

What would the Palestinians do to the Jews in Israel if the power imbalance were reversed? Well, they have told us what they would do. For some reason, Israel’s critics just don’t want to believe the worst about a group like Hamas, even when it declares the worst of itself. We’ve already had a Holocaust and several other genocides in the 20th century. People are capable of committing genocide. When they tell us they intend to commit genocide, we should listen.

There is every reason to believe that the Palestinians would kill all the Jews in Israel if they could. Would every Palestinian support genocide? Of course not. But vast numbers of them—and of Muslims throughout the world—would. Needless to say, the Palestinians in general, not just Hamas, have a history of targeting innocent non-combatants in the most shocking ways possible. They’ve blown themselves up on buses and in restaurants. They’ve massacred teenagers. They’ve murdered Olympic athletes. They now shoot rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas.

And again, the charter of their government in Gaza explicitly tells us that they want to annihilate the Jews—not just in Israel but everywhere. [Note: Again, I realize that not all Palestinians support Hamas. Nor am I discounting the degree to which the occupation, along with collateral damage suffered in war, has fueled Palestinian rage. But Palestinian terrorism (and Muslim anti-Semitism) is what has made peaceful coexistence thus far impossible.]

The truth is that everything you need to know about the moral imbalance between Israel and her enemies can be understood on the topic of human shields. Who uses human shields? Well, Hamas certainly does. They shoot their rockets from residential neighborhoods, from beside schools, and hospitals, and mosques. Muslims in other recent conflicts, in Iraq and elsewhere, have also used human shields. They have laid their rifles on the shoulders of their own children and shot from behind their bodies.

Consider the moral difference between using human shields and being deterred by them. That is the difference we’re talking about. The Israelis and other Western powers are deterred, however imperfectly, by the Muslim use of human shields in these conflicts, as we should be. It is morally abhorrent to kill noncombatants if you can avoid it. It’s certainly abhorrent to shoot through the bodies of children to get at your adversary.
But take a moment to reflect on how contemptible this behavior is. And understand how cynical it is. The Muslims are acting on the assumption—the knowledge, in fact—that the infidels with whom they fight, the very people whom their religion does nothing but vilify, will be deterred by their use of Muslim human shields.

They consider the Jews the spawn of apes and pigs—and yet they rely on the fact that they don’t want to kill Muslim noncombatants.

Now imagine reversing the roles here…. Imagine the Israelis holding up their own women and children as human shields. Of course, that would be ridiculous. The Palestinians are trying to kill everyone. Killing women and children is part of the plan. Reversing the roles here produces a grotesque Monty Python skit.

If you’re going to talk about the conflict in the Middle East, you have to acknowledge this difference. I don’t think there’s any ethical disparity to be found anywhere that is more shocking or consequential than this.

And the truth is, this isn’t even the worst that jihadists do. Hamas is practically a moderate organization, compared to other jihadist groups. There are Muslims who have blown themselves up in crowds of children—again, Muslim children—just to get at the American soldiers who were handing out candy to them. They have committed suicide bombings, only to send another bomber to the hospital to await the casualties—where they then blow up all the injured along with the doctors and nurses trying to save their lives.

Every day that you could read about an Israeli rocket gone astray or Israeli soldiers beating up an innocent teenager, you could have read about ISIS in Iraq crucifying people on the side of the road, Christians and Muslims.

Where is the outrage in the Muslim world and on the Left over these crimes?

Where are the demonstrations, 10,000 or 100,000 deep, in the capitals of Europe against ISIS? If Israel kills a dozen Palestinians by accident, the entire Muslim world is inflamed. God forbid you burn a Koran, or write a novel vaguely critical of the faith.

And yet Muslims can destroy their own societies—and seek to destroy the West—and you don’t hear a peep. [Note: Of course, I’m aware that many Muslims condemn groups like ISIS. My point is that we don’t see massive protests against global jihadism—even though it targets Muslims more than anyone else—and we do see such protests over things like the Danish cartoons.]

So, it seems to me, that you have to side with Israel here. You have one side which if it really could accomplish its aims would simply live peacefully with its neighbors, and you have another side which is seeking to implement a seventh century theocracy in the Holy Land.

There’s no peace to be found between those incompatible ideas.

That doesn’t mean you can’t condemn specific actions on the part of the Israelis. And, of course, acknowledging the moral disparity between Israel and her enemies doesn’t give us any solution to the problem of Israel’s existence in the Middle East…

… again, you have to ask yourself, what do these groups want? What would they accomplish if they could accomplish anything? What would the Israelis do if they could do what they want? They would live in peace with their neighbors, if they had neighbors who would live in peace with them. They would simply continue to build out their high tech sector and thrive.

What do groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda and even Hamas want? They want to impose their religious views on the rest of humanity. They want to stifle every freedom that decent, educated, secular people care about. This is not a trivial difference. And yet judging from the level of condemnation that Israel now receives, you would think the difference ran the other way.

This kind of confusion puts all of us in danger. This is the great story of our time. For the rest of our lives, and the lives of our children, we are going to be confronted by people who don’t want to live peacefully in a secular, pluralistic world, because they are desperate to get to Paradise, and they are willing to destroy the very possibility of human happiness along the way. The truth is, we are all living in Israel. It’s just that some of us haven’t realized it yet.

antisemitism for web anya

Respecting Jewish holy places in Israel

One of the ideas central to Judaism is that there are places holy to Jews.

Modern Orthodoxy respects the special theological status of Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, of Jerusalem, of The Temple Mount, Har Habayit, and of the Cave of the Patriarchs. Modern Orthodoxy also teaches practical, real-world respect for Klal Yisrael, and thus supports Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people.

The siddur of Modern Orthodoxy maintains traditional prayers in which Jews ask for the ingathering of the exiles back into Israel, and expresses the messianic hope for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, explicitly calling for the return of animal sacrifices within the Temple.

Zionism is the political manifestation of the radical notion that Jews should be free. Dig that.- Chloé Simone Valdary

Ultra-Orthodox Judaism has a more chequered history on the subject:  Theologically they greatly value Eretz Yisrael, Jerusalem, The Temple Mount, and the Cave of the Patriarchs. But while theoretically talking about Klal Yisrael, they long ago separated themselves from the rest of the Jewish community – condemning secular Jews, non-Orthodox Jews, and to a significant extent, even Modern Orthodoxy. Most of ultra-Orthodoxy opposed Zionism, until the 1980s. Even today many ultra-Orthodox groups are not Zionist, and without Zionism, Jews worldwide would be cut off from our holy places.

Since rise of classical German Reform Judaism, in the 1800s, most Reform and Progressive Jews initially rejected Zionism, the land of Israel, and all of Judaism’s holy places. Only after the Holocaust did the Reform and Progressive movements adopt Zionism – and to their credit, by the time of the 1967 Six Day War, these movements had firmly become Zionist, respecting the land of Israel and city of Jerusalem. But their universalist philosophies had no place for respecting the Kotel, Temple Mount or Cave of the Patriarchs in practice opposed spiritual reflection in regards to this topic.

The siddurim of Reform/Progresive Judaism, from the 1800s until the 1940s, generally deleted all prayers for the ingathering of the exiles back into Israel, and rejected the messianic hope for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, especially rejecting any return of animal sacrifices within the Temple. From the 1940s until today, various newer Reform prayerbooks gradually restored elements of the traditional liturgy, in various ways.

Historically, the Conservative/Masorti Jewish movement has had a deep love of Zionism and Klal Yisrael, and their Zionist theology and politics were notably more prominent than other Jewish denominations.

Conservative Judaism respects the special theological status of Eretz Yisrael and of Jerusalem. But it essentially overlooked respect for the The Temple Mount itself, Har Habayit, הַר הַבַּיִת‎‎. , and the Cave of the Patriarchs, מערת המכפלה.

The siddur of Conservative Judaism maintains traditional prayers in which Jews ask for the ingathering of the exiles back into Israel, and expresses the messianic hope for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, while editing the text in regards to the return of animal sacrifices: While the tefilot call for a Temple rebuilt, the sacrificial services are recalled, but not asked for.

Rabbi Elazar said: Doing righteous deeds of charity is greater than offering all of the sacrifices, as it is written: “Doing charity and justice is more desirable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3).
– Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 49

     Rabbinic views on forgiveness without Temple sacrifices

Kotel Temple Mount Jerusalem DAVID SILVERMAN and GETTY IMAGES

David Silverman/Getty Images

The Western Wall, HaKotel HaMa’aravi – or just ‘Kotel’,  הַכֹּתֶל הַמַּעֲרָבִי . This is second holiest site in Judaism. This wall is the last remaining part of a once larger retaining wall; it was built as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple. It is the location closest to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem that Jewish people traditionally had access to for the past 2,000 years, and has been a site of pilgrimage and prayer ever since.

The Temple in Jerusalem, Beit HaMikdash, בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ. The central point of ancient Jewish worship, located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. These successive Jewish temples stood at this location. For 2000 years all siddurim have included prayers asking for the rebuilding of the Temple.

The Temple Mount, Har Habayit, הַר הַבַּיִת‎‎. The place where the Holy Temple in Jerusalem once stood. It’s Hebrew name literally means “Mount of the House [of God].” This is the holiest site in Judaism.

Rabbis Leon A. Morris and Rabbi Joel Levy write:

For many modern Jews, sacrifice is an anathema. Those ancient forms of worship seem primitive and outmoded. The notion that God is to be found in one central place alone is objectionable. Yet we may not want to discard the conceptual basis for the Temple — that proper human action allows God to dwell among us, while sin distances us from God’s presence.

Furthermore, the texts and liturgy centered on the Temple and its sacrifices loom large in classical Jewish sources. From the names of our daily, Shabbat and festival services, to our table rituals such as netilat yadayim, the memory of the Temple ritual remains central.

That centrality has allowed us through an expansive interpretive tradition to ascribe the importance that sacrifices once had to prayer, to study, and to eating a meal. Imbuing those more ordinary sorts of acts with sacrificial import requires keeping alive the memory of the Temple.

The interpretive and imaginative possibilities for our own age rely on the very concrete referent of the Temple as a focus of our present religious lives.

Strains within Orthodoxy paint a vivid and real picture of their messianic vision for the Temple Mount – a vision which is chillingly supremacist and anachronistic. But that should not cause us to turn our backs on the Temple as a religious image, but rather to redouble our efforts to paint a messianic vision for this country that actually reflects the values that we know to be true.

What might a Temple look like that was the focal point of our yearning for human dignity, equality and compassion?

– Haaretz, We Cannot Give Up the Western Wall to ultra-Orthodox ‘Forces of Darkness’, 6/27/16


Antisemitism on college campuses

Will our children have to endure anti-Semitism in college?  Will they be surrounded by students who say that Islamic fundamentalists have the right to celebrate murdering Jews? Told that Jews are the only people with no right to safely live in their indigenous homeland? Will their teachers harass them by proclaiming that our kids are “maintaining a system of domination by Jews” ?  People need to know how widespread this phenomenon is, because we can not effectively counter it without knowing it’s extent.


Some important resources

The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” Now the nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agency, ADL fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.


Camera – the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America – is a media-monitoring and research organization devoted to promoting accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East. CAMERA takes no position with regard to American or Israeli political issues or with regard to ultimate solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

CAMERA on Campus

StandWithUs is dedicated to informing the public about Israel and to combating the extremism and anti-Semitism that often distorts the issues. We believe that knowledge of the facts will correct common prejudices about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and will promote discussions and policies that can help promote peace in the region.

Stand With Us: Supporting Israel Around the World


Singling out Israel is a very modern antisemitism
By Vernon Bogdanor, Professor of Government at King’s College, London
May 6, 2016
In the late 20th century antisemitism mutated. Nineteenth century antisemitism began by singling out Jews for the deprivation of civil rights. It climaxed with the Holocaust.
Modern antisemitism begins by singling out Jews for the deprivation of the right of self-determination. Its final aim is the elimination of Israel, or perhaps, as with the suspended Labour MP, Naz Shah, the transportation of Israeli Jews elsewhere. The older antisemitism insisted that Jews had no place in the national community. The new antisemitism insists that Israel has no place in the international community.
The central theme of the new antisemitism is the delegitimisation of Israel. The country’s enemies know that she cannot be defeated on the battlefield, nor by terrorism. But she can be defeated, so they believe, by turning her into a pariah state.
… the virus also seems to have infected the universities, in theory citadels of dispassionate thought, but all too often repositories of unthinking prejudice. In 2015, the National Executive Committee of the National Union of Students voted to boycott Israeli companies, while rejecting a call to boycott Daesh [ISIS, The Islamic State]….
…The new antisemites claim that “the Jews” or “Zionists” seek to shut down “criticism” of Israel by labelling it as antisemitic. If that is the aim of the Zionists, they have been remarkably unsuccessful, since university campuses are replete with such criticism.
In fact, the people who are being intimidated or censored, as pointed out by Alex Chalmers, the non-Jewish former chair of the Oxford University Labour Club, are the Jewish students who feel that they must distance themselves from Israel to avoid arousing hostility.
While a few pro-Palestinian meetings have been met with hostile demonstrations, there has been nothing comparable to the disruption of meetings addressed by Israelis; and it is not Palestinian academics who are threatened with boycott, but Israelis, even though they are as little responsible for the policies of their government as British academics are for the policies of the British government.
It is not the “critics” of Israel whose right to free speech is threatened, but the free speech of those seeking to support the Israeli government, or even the existence of the Israeli state. It is a mistake to underestimate the importance of the new antisemitism. After all, the “final solution” did not spring unaided from Hitler’s head. The ground had been thoroughly prepared by 19th-century cultural icons such as Schopenhauer, Nietzche, Dostoevsky and Wagner. It is ideas which, for good or ill, determine history.


Anti-Zionism Is Anti-Semitism. Get Over It.
Recent campus debates teach us an important lesson about bigotry and how to deal with it
By Liel Leibovitz

Is anti-Zionism any different from anti-Semitism? The question is probably the most accurate seismograph we’ve got to measure where one stands on the ever-tremorous political grounds we all walk when we talk about Israel…. The debate we’re having, true to our times, is both dumber and more malicious, and it was on display this month as at least two of our finest institutions of higher learning, Stanford and Oberlin…. Out west, a member of the school’s student senate argued that it was not anti-Semitic to argue that Jews control the media, the banks, the government, and all other social institutions. And in the Ohio enclave of righteousness, several Jewish students published a letter in a student newspaper defending a disgraced professor who had posted similar allegations on her Facebook page about the Jews’ malevolent omnipotence.

…At Stanford, the portentously named Gabriel Knight, a junior on the school’s student governing body, claimed that it was, like, totally cool to talk about how the Jews control the world. “Questioning these potential power dynamics, I think, is not anti-Semitism,” sprach Knight. “I think it’s a very valid discussion.”

Not to be outdone, the Oberlin crew, five Jewish students strong, produced a manifesto that ascended from the declaratory into the definitional.

“We are deeply troubled by the persistent conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, which is not only ahistorical and unfounded but also plays a central ideological role in the attempt to undermine legitimate criticism of the state of Israel…This conflation leaves us, as anti-Zionist Jews, without a community to turn to when we do experience anti-Semitism. We agree with the definition of anti-Semitism laid out by Aurora Levins Morales, a Jewish pro-Palestinian activist; she writes that anti-Semitism—writing about European Jewry under Christianity—functions by creating ‘a vulnerable buffer group that can be bribed with some privileges into managing the exploitation of others, and then, when social pressure builds, be blamed and scapegoated, distracting those at the bottom from the crimes of those at the top.’”

It’s an argument not even a Deconstructionist could love: Anti-Semitism isn’t the historic hatred of Jews, consistently documented for millennia and rooted in ancient theological fissures, but merely a conspiracy by unnamed rich Christian Europeans to elevate the Jews into disproportionate positions of power and influence merely to blame them later when the oppressed wise up and revolt.

… Arguing at first that anti-Zionism isn’t anti-Semitism, the enlightened left has now taken to arguing that even anti-Semitism isn’t anti-Semitism but, to put it in academese, a permissible form of discourse about power and privilege.

You hardly need a Ph.D. to know what all of it means. It means that it’s now OK for the students and professors of our finest universities and colleges—and, by extension, for all of polite society—to entertain vile stereotypes that, as recently as five or 10 years ago, were on display nowhere outside the Sieg Heil! fringes of the rabid right.

The first lesson is that it’s time to do away with the anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism debate. Whatever its intellectual merits are, or were, it’s largely irrelevant in an environment scorched by the flames of prejudice masquerading as thought. To ponder minute differences when students are fulsomely supporting the sort of stuff that would’ve made Henry Ford blush is like debating nautical safety long after the iceberg has been introduced to the Titanic’s hull.

…Those who believe Jews control the media and the banks, or that it’s OK to respectfully debate whether or not they do, make no distinction between the good, enlightened Jews who wash their hands of Israel and the bad ones, who have the temerity of adhering to their faith and their nationality like any other normal people in the world. And those Jews who believe that their liberal sophistication will somehow save them from the wrath of bigotry should strongly reconsider: Never send to know for whom the anti-Semites troll; they troll for thee.



Why Are Jews the Only Minority We Don’t Protect On College Campuses?

– Michael Sitver

Last week, some students at University of Chicago, where I attend, proposed a resolution to our College Council to divest from Chinese weapons manufacturers, in protest of China’s severe human rights abuses and its long-standing occupation of Tibet. Members of the council were quick to condemn the resolution, and for good reason. The members noted it was political, and disrespectful to Chinese students. Other members noted that Chinese students should be given time to respond to the presenters with a counter-presentation. One representative even suggested that the College Council issue an apology to Chinese students for even considering the resolution. The resolution was tabled indefinitely.

Curiously, when a few weeks earlier the same College Council passed a nearly identical resolution condemning Israel, no one suggested an apology. These same representatives argued why it was their moral imperative to condemn Israel. …Over the past few weeks I have been told that Jews “don’t count” as a minority. I have been accused of using anti-semitism to justify oppression.

All I want to know is why my campus doesn’t treat anti-semitism with the same rigor with which it treats any other forms of bias. When Jews stood before the council, and asked that it recognize the Jewish right to self-determination, a basic right for all people, people in the room laughed. One representative noted that “If we were to affirm the right to Jewish self-determination … it takes away from the intent of the resolution”.

Students in the room that day called us racists and murderers and “apartheid supporters”, for even thinking we, as Jews, could have a voice in the discussion over the one small state we call our own.

A Jewish student was chided “You are racist and you are against me and my family’s existence”… At one point, a student questioned the presenters, members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), about their organization allegedly holding a moment of silence for Palestinians who were killed while trying to murder Jewish civilians. One of the presenters confirmed the moment, then responded without missing a beat “Palestinians have a right to honor their martyrs”.

If the killing of any other ethnic group had been celebrated, the University would make grief counselors available. It would send out mass emails of condemnation. They would suspend the organization responsible, and possibly the students involved in it. The organization would certainly not have any credibility to present to the student government.

Since the victims were Jews though, their celebration of murder went unchallenged.

On the third slide of the presentation in favor of the resolution, presenters claimed that voting against the resolution would mean “maintaining a system of domination by Jews”.

The presenters were relying on one of the most common, long-standing, overtly anti-semitic tropes to make their case, and our representatives said nothing.

…Their coldness in minimizing the struggles of Jews, living with a legacy of being expelled and exterminated, was mind-boggling to me.

This week is Yom Hashoah, which commemorates the six million Jews that were murdered by the Nazis during World War II. On this day of remembrance, we say “Never forget. Never again”. Yom Hashoah also commemorates an international commitment not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Sadly, fifty-three years after this day was first honored, we seem to be forgetting those lessons. As a campus we’re remarkably tolerant of gender, race, and sexuality in general. Why is it that we’re so uncaring about this one, very real form of racism?


Abraham Isaac Kook

Are you familiar with Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935)? He was the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British Mandate for Palestine [pre-state Israel] Simultaneously an Orthodox rabbi and an unabashed radical- today he would be considered heterdox.

Rav Kook was a mystic and Kabbalist – which usually isn’t quite my thing – but perhaps Rav Kook is the exception which proves the rule  His mysticism speaks to yearnings of the Jewish heart. Today he is highly regarded by Jews of all denominations/streams.

This book, from the Classics of Western Spirituality series, is a great collection of his thought: It includes complete English translations of Orot ha-Teshuva (“The Lights of Penitence”), Musar Avicha (“The Moral Principles”), as well as selected translations from Orot ha-Kodesh (“The Lights of Holiness”) and miscellaneous essays, letters, and poems.

The Lights of Penitence, the Moral Principles, Lights of Holiness, Essays, Letters, and Poems: at Amazon.com

Kook The Lights of Penitence Book

* founder of the Religious Zionist Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav

* known in Hebrew by the acronym HaRaAYaH or simply as “HaRav.”

* one of the most celebrated and influential Rabbis of the 20th century.


Rav Kook’s Secret Writings: A Drama In Several Parts
By Hillel Fendel – 19 Tishri 5773 – October 4, 2012