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Exile under Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel

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Question: Publication date: 22-01-2006
Title:   Exile under Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel
Content:   Dear Daat Emet,

I hope I can use you to clarify a subject which bothers me, as a citizen of Israel who belongs to the Jewish people. Does the outlook of the Jewish religion oppose a sovereign state for the Jewish people?
Does religion champion diaspora on principle?

Aaron Ohev-Shalom

Answer: Publication date: 22-01-2006
Title:   Exile under Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel
Content:   Dear Aaron,

The Jewish religion, like all human creations, puts on and takes off various forms, in accordance with how its followers understand reality. The Talmudic (Oral Torah) Jewish nation was not identical to the Scriptural Jewish nation. I will deal with your question only in relation to the outlook of Jews from the destruction of the Second Temple to the establishment of a state for the Jewish people. How did the Jewish nation, in exile under foreign rule, see the reality of a diaspora -- as an ideal situation (an act of Divine will) or as a situation which should be changed (an act of man)?
Is the situation in which the Chosen People are in physical and spiritual exile part of the process which fulfills the goal of Creation, advancing its ultimate purpose?

The answer to this question is simple and clear -- the Jewish people were meant to live in exile (due to its sins) and that is their natural and appropriate state until G-d redeems them. In the Talmud this is explicitly stated:
The Jewish people must wait for the end of days and redemption, as is written, "Though he tarry, wait for him." Should you say, "We look forward [to his coming] but He does not," the Scripture says, "And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you" (Isaiah 30:18). But since we look forward to it, and He does likewise, what delays [his coming]? -- The Attribute of Justice delays it. But since the Attribute of Justice delays it, why do we await it? -- To be rewarded [for hoping], as it is written, "Blessed are all they that wait for him" (Sanhedrin 97b).


The state of exile is the appropriate state for correcting Israel's sinning ways, and hopes for a speedy redemption are merely hopes which every day are proven futile. It is as though they said that the state of exile is without end, so one should each day hope for redemption merely to receive reward in the World to Come for maintaining the hope.

To deal with a physically and ideologically/theologically painful and troubling reality, the rabbis supported the state of exile by saying that even the Divine presence had gone into exile with the Jewish people.
"Come and see how beloved are Israel to the holy One, blessed be He. For wherever they were exiled, the Divine presence was with them. They were exiled to Egypt -- the Divine presence was with them…They were exiled to Babylonia, the Divine presence was with them…And when, in the future, they will be redeemed…the holy One, blessed be He, will return with them among the returning exiles (Megillah 29a). This is because "Wherever the righteous go, the Divine presence goes with them" (Bereshit Rabbah parasha 86).
Even though the Lord's house was destroyed and the Temple worship ended, the Children of Israel still fulfill the Divine purpose, and so "The study of Torah is greater than the daily sacrifices" (Eiruvin 63b). To prevent fantasies and an arrogant desire to shake off the bonds of exile, the sages ruled that, from a religious standpoint, one is forbidden to rise up and shake off the exilic state to establish a sovereign state:

There were three vows taken after the Children of Israel were exiled (Ketubot 11a):
1. Israel swore not ascend to Israel in one mass, as though surrounded by a wall.
2. The holy One, blessed be He, made Israel swear that they would not rebel against the nations of the world.
3. The holy One, blessed be He, made the nations of the world swear that they would not oppress Israel overmuch.

This is what a contemporary rabbi, a citizen of the United States, wrote. [A summary of his book appears on our site under the title How the Charedi Deal with Exile Under Democratic Regimes.
We are forbidden to use force in rebelling against the nations; we must accept the reality of exile with humility and solemnity because the state of exile saves us from utter annihilation. In other words, all of our strength and existence is based on our being separate and humiliated. Woe to us if we are in the position of being the pursuers, for then we will have no renewal at all" [Pamphlet -- "On the Exalted Nature of Israel and Understanding Its Exile" by Rabbi Saadya Grama, Lakewood, NJ, USA, 5763].

We will support our words with the writings of two researchers from two different camps (secular and religious):
Prof. Weiler's book holds, as its central thesis, that the Jewish religion and the establishment of this state are diametrically opposed, and therefore there is no possibility of a state which is Jewish.
This book presents ideas which coalesce into a scientific theory, in the strictest sense of that term -- it can be refuted experimentally. If, for example, an appropriate halachic institution would announce that the Israeli Knesset is the supreme legislative entity for the Jewish people in Israel and that the country's law courts are not to be considered external judicial systems, I would see that as a refutation of the theory presented in this book. (Jewish Theocracy, Gershon Wieler, Afakim Library - Am Oved, 1976, Tel Aviv.)

This is what Prof. Rivitsky writes:
"Traditional Jewish sources knew, as a rule, two polar, dichotomous opposites -- absolute exile on the one hand and messianic redemption on the other. All Jewish existence since the destruction [of the Second Temple] was seen solely in terms of this mirror" (Aviezer Rivitzky, The Revealed End and the State of the Jews, Am Oved/Ofakim Library, pg. 11).

From this deeply rooted world view held by the religious did the State of Israel spring, founded by those who shook off the fulfillment of Torah and the commandments. This leap from exile to independence set reality on its head. Those Jews who had to reconcile their historic faith with the new reality had several theoretical options available to them:
1. Ignore the reality of the existence of the State of Israel (Neturei Katra, Satmar).
2. Accept the political reality, but ignore the idea of Zionism, seeing the state as exile under Zionist sovereignty (Agudat Yisrael, the Chasidim and Litvaks).
3. Treat the reality as part of a Divine process which serves the goals and purposes for which the Jewish nation were created (Gush Emunim).

Sincerely,

Daat Emet


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