A few weeks ago I came across a brief article in a religious- Zionist publication
by a rabbi touted as one of the prized students of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook and a
leading figure among the “kavnikim” (from the Hebrew word “kav,” or “line”;
referring to hard-liners who adhere strictly to the teachings of Rabbi Avraham
Yitzchak Hakohen Kook).
The article was ostensibly about the proper
attitude of publicly appointed rabbis and religious leaders toward the general
population. However, not only did the article fail to address this issue, the
author demonstrated lack of vision regarding the direction of religious Zionism
The rabbi insisted on two points, the first and most
important being that rabbis must ensure that the land of Israel is not
compromised; they must staunchly oppose any proposal suggesting that any portion
of the land can be compromised and must “wage war” against a government which
advocates such policy.
He then contended that religious leaders must seek
the advice of the rabbinic assembly, who would impart the laws of the Torah in
all areas of life, so that ultimately political decisions become religious
The main problem with this rabbi’s response to such a crucial
question is the failure to understand the need for religious Zionist leadership
to focus on and address the distinctiveness and Jewish identity of Am Yisrael,
the people of Israel, just as much if not more than focusing on Eretz Yisrael,
the land of Israel.
As a religious-Zionist rabbi and lecturer for the IDF
I value the meaning of Eretz Yisrael, its spiritual attributes and inherent
holiness. I espouse the importance of protecting its borders and sustaining its
entirety both from a political standpoint and more importantly from a religious
Yet were I addressing the significant role of rabbis for today’s
generation, first and foremost would be the need to impact society, all walks of
society, including of course the secular public. I would try to impress upon the
comprehensive Jewish community in Israel the meaningful attributes that Judaism
has to offer and the advantages of adopting Jewish values and identity as a
progressive lifestyle as opposed to a rigorous system which appears to be
coercive and all too often judgmental.
This past week the Torah portion
was about Noah, who is described as righteous and whose life was spared from the
cataclysmic flood. Yet Noah is never ascribed the task of leadership; he is
denied that status in the annals of Jewish history because he made no attempt to
influence those around him. It is for this reason that he is called “ish
ha’adama,” a man of the ground; he focused on the land, as opposed to its
Abraham, on the other hand, the prototype of faith, was not
only a man who admired and honored the land, as demonstrated by his pioneering
response to God’s directive to leave his home and settle the land of Canaan, but
was genuinely concerned with the populace both physically (as demonstrated by
his praying to God to spare even Sodom and Gomorrah) and spiritually, as he
invited people to learn about the truths and beauties of what would become
It is important to remember that the vast majority of the
population which Abraham encountered were idolworshipers – yet he revealed to
them these doctrines in a genuine and unthreatening fashion.
society across the board is thirsty for Jewish knowledge and Jewish values and
the time is ripe to renew the mission of our forefather Abraham.
fastest-growing institutions in the Zionist world today are pluralistic
pre-military academies whose students, religious and secular alike, may not be
as interested in being religious as they are in learning about the foundations
of the Jewish religion. Across the country there are organizations such as Atid
Bamidbar and Kollot Banegev, that are promoting learning seminars for people of
all denominations to converse and study the texts of the Torah together in a
forum that allows them to express their thoughts.
Limmud, an educational
format which was started in the United Kingdom, prides itself as being dedicated
to Jewish learning in all its variety. It strives to create collective and
communal experiences to strengthen and develop Jewish identity. Today there are
six Limmud conferences which take place in Israel at varied
Limmud proclaims on its website that it will take you one step
further along your Jewish journey; it is frustrating that religious Zionist
leadership in Israel does not comprehend the opportunity it has to partake in
and affect this journey, which can potentially broaden Jewish horizons and
facilitate the Jewish future.
The Talmud analyzes the order of the
blessings found in the Amida prayer, which is recited daily, and explains that
the blessing regarding the land of Israel must be recited prior to the blessing
regarding the people of Israel.
Rabbi Kook explained that the Talmud is
expressing the formula for the successful redemption of the Jewish nation. First
there would have to be Jewish autonomy within the land of Israel and then there
must be a resurgence of Jewish identity within the people of Israel. We have
been blessed to witness the first blessing beginning to come to fruition, and it
is now time to heed the example of the first religious Zionist, our father
Abraham, and facilitate the foresight of the most influential religious Zionist
of our time, Rabbi Abraham Hakohen Kook, by ensuring that the second blessing is
realized as well.
The writer is a lecturer on Jewish identity and
ideology for the IDF Education Branch and Machane Meshutaf of the IDF Rabbinate.
He also serves as an educator for the Menachem Begin Israel Government Fellows
in Jerusalem and is a guest lecturer for communities throughout the Diaspora
including the United States, United Kingdom, South Africa and