In the summer of 1821, more than two hundred ADMO"Rs (Hassidic Rebbes) from all the great Hasidic courts of Poland, Russia and Galicia were in the midst of hasty preparations to travel to a small town called Uściług (now Ustyluh, Ukraine) for what would become the greatest wedding in the history of Hasidism.


For the grandfather of the groom was none other than the ADMO"R Avraham Yehoshu‘a Heshel of Apt, the eldest and most profoundly respected of ADMO"Rs of his generation, whereas the grandfather on the bride's side was Reb Motele of Neshkhiz, a renown Hasidic master himself. 


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But not only the wedding was on the minds of the Hasidic courts. In fact, the wedding would only serve as a backdrop for the real event that would take place in Uściług: the trial of Reb Simcha Bunim of Pshiskhe. For Reb Bunim's court had veered off from the basic principles that universally guided Hasidism till then: it was a court of elitists where Hasidism encouraged populism; its emphasis was on inner truth whereas mainstream Hasidism conformed to Halacha (for instance, Pshiskhe Hasidim would not pray until they felt they were spiritually ready, even though the Halachic time for prayer would already pass); Reb Bunim preached to practice the commandments in secret, arguing that public observance can never reach a true level of veracity, when the individual is at least partially, even unconsciously, focused on his public image.


Reb Bunim had sent five disciples to defend his case. His disciple, Reb Yitchok Meir of Gur impressed the Rebbe of Apt so much that the elderly ADMO"R immediately pronounced Pshiskhe as kosher and free from heretical suspicion. Pshiskhe would become the most influential school of thought in Poland, and Reb Yitchok Meir would eventually found Gur Hasidism, one of the largest in the world today. The Great Wedding of Ustyluh would become the matter of Hasidic legend, and a turning point in the development of the Hasidic movement.


Fast forward to today. Channel 10 broadcast yesterday a video of a wedding where Jews stabbed a picture of the burnt 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh, while chanting songs of revenge. Bentzi Gopshtein of Lehava has called to ban Christian "vampires" from Israel. This in the midst of an ongoing investigation of the Dawabsheh murder, in which five Jews were arrested and interrogated, four of them sons of Rabbis.


The severity and public impact of these acts deny Religious Zionism the benefit of shrugging off such behaviour as lone "bad weeds", as was done in previous cases. The condemnations from the entire spectrum of views of the Religious Zionist movement show that the movement has realized that its fringes have become a problem that must be actively dealt with.


However, a serious complication lays before the right wing movement.


With the fracturing of the central Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva, all semblance of ideological unity has crumbled. Today, there are three main ideological splinter groups in Religious Zionism. The classical remnants of Merkaz HaRav, the ideological purists of Har HaMor, and the more liberal Har Etzion Yeshiva, influenced by the teachings of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveichik, without counting many minor independent groups. The ideological, religious and Halachic differences are immense.


Today's typical Yeshiva student will easily know the Halachic ruling in a case of one's bull goring a another's cow, or two people fighting over one Talit. But general questions such as the role of the Jewish people, Jewry's relationship with gentiles and other religions or the place of women in religious society are simply not discussed, and if discussed - then anecdotally. The vaccuum caused by the splintering of Religious Zionism's society has frozen its ability to present at least a general vision to its adherents. And in that vaccuum, bad weeds will grow.


Just like the Shulchan Aruch unified the Jewish Halacha, so Religious Zionism desperately needs to compile its own Shulchan Aruch, its own wedding in Ustyluh, to lay down its rules and boundaries. To cite additional historic examples, the second Vatican council comes to mind. And of course, the original Sanhedrin, but let us stay realistic. The leaders of Religious Zionism must unite to address the aforementioned issues, amongst others. They need not agree on everything. A general proclamation of the principles that guide the movement will suffice. Without such a proclamation, it will not be able to sincerely purify itself, to say "Our hands did not spill this blood".

But the Rabbis won't meet. Har HaMor won't talk to the liberals. Merkaz won't talk to Har HaMor. And thus, the cycle of hate and suspicion prevents us from culling the weeds. But the weeds don't wait. They grow. They grow big.

Our sages teach us that the Second Temple was destroyed because of hate. Then too, the multiple divisions and sects within Judea paralyzed its leadership and caused its eventual disintegration. Let us not repeat that. Let us be brave enough to define clearly what we stand for. Then we can start arguing all over again.

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