Sunday, May 6, 2012

Yom HaAtzmaut – The Charedi Opposition

Rabbi Slifkin writes as follows:
As I mentioned above, though, all this only explains one very minor aspect of those who do not celebrate Yom Ha'Atzmaut. The main reason, especially today, has very little to do with halachic or religious positions, and a lot more to do with sociological factors… the notion of being a fully participating citizen of the State of Israel, and the very idea of incorporating a new entity (The State of Israel) into one's religious worldview, is entirely at odds with the isolationism and traditionalism of charedi society. They'd be uncomfortable with it even if the Ribbono Shel Olam Himself were to say that it's kosher.
In my opinion, this view is absurd. Within the context of the past several posts, I would like to advance a far more plausible explanation for the Charedi opposition to Yom HaAtzmaut.   

On May 14, 1948, the Jewish People's Council declared the establishment of the State of Israel. After a brief description of the Jewish Nation’s historical connection to Eretz Yisrael and the recent en-masse immigration of European Jewry, the Declaration states as follows:
In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.
This sentence speaks volumes about the nature of the State of Israel. Yom HaAtzmaut marks the creation of a secular state presided over by a secular government. The Declaration discusses the cultural, political and national interests of the State but nowhere is God mentioned, much less the Torah. In fact, the Declaration states that the State “will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture”.

The Charedi attitude to Yom HaAtzmaut is simple to understand. Yom HaAtzmaut is a secular holiday celebrating secular ideals. Was the founding of the State miraculous? Sure. Are we grateful to the men and women who fought for its establishment? Of course. But for frum Jews to respond to these miracles by standing hand in hand with their estranged brethren while they celebrate the formation of a secularist Sate is entirely inappropriate, regardless of their personal reasons for celebrating.   

Religious Zionists choose to celebrate YH because they attach religious significance to the State of Israel. They understand it as part of the ultimate redemption. But so do the secularists. The final chapter of the Declaration reads as follows:           
WE APPEAL to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream - the redemption of Israel.
Unfortunately, the “age-old dream” of the Zionist establishment is diametrically opposed to that of the Charedim, and in fact, to that of the Religious Zionists too. Charedim are surely grateful to Hashem for returning the nation to its ancient land but celebrating YH is no way to thank Him. Charedim are acutely aware of the fact that the Jewish Nation is still in galus regardless of where we reside. Downtown Tel Aviv is no different than downtown Chicago. Unfortunately, it is not yet time to celebrate.      

7 comments:

  1. I don’t really understand what you mean, regardless of the historical background, the bottom line is that all Jews, including charaidim benefit greatly from the state of Israel. Charaidim in Israel are protected by the army, have access to very good medical care etc, I don’t need to elaborate on all the amazing benefits that the state of Israel provides. Yom Hautzmaut is simply the day that we show gratitude for this blessing, yes there are huge problems with the state but does that mean we can’t show gratitude? And why does the fact that the secular Jews celebrate yom Haatzmaute mean that we cant? Yes there are some Israeli’s that will celebrate “freedom for religion” but do you really think this is what the average Israeli has in mind on yom Hautzmaut. As Rabbi Wein writes “Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman, the Ponevezher Rav, told me that he flew the Israeli flag from the roof of his yeshivah building in Bnei Brak on Yom Ha’atzmaut. When some locals complained about this, he answered them with the following: “I flew the Lithuanian flag on the roof of my yeshivah in Ponevezh on Lithuanian Independence Day. My friends, it is no worse here.””
    If you have time can you please explain this?
    Also what is your opinion regarding Yom Hazikaron?
    Thanks.

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  2. Danny,

    I don’t really understand what you mean, regardless of the historical background, the bottom line is that all Jews, including charaidim benefit greatly from the state of Israel… protected by the army, have access to very good medical care etc… Yom Hautzmaut is simply the day that we show gratitude for this blessing…

    Says who? Do you celebrate the fourth Thursday of November as a day of gratitude for all the blessings American Jews benefit from the U.S.? Do you say Hallel on that day because they are protected by the greatest army in the world? How about the second Monday in October? Do you celebrate this day along with all the rest of the goyim in Canada for all the blessings the Jews receive from Canadian citizenship? Do you say Hallel because Canadian Jews benefit from government subsidized medical care? Yom Atzmaut is a secular holiday conceived by secular people in celebration of a secular state. If you want to thank Hashem for all the benefits of Eretz Yisrael, that’s fine. But if you b’davka pick 5 Iyar as your special day of Thanksgiving, then you are guilty by association, regardless of your good intentions.

    I’ll give you a mashal. Let’s say someone would choose to wear a tattoo of a swastika on his arm. Now a swastika doesn’t necessarily mean Nazism. The swastika was a symbol used in ancient times. It was an emblem which demonstrated that you belonged to an ancient lodge or order. But if someone would wear a swastika today, we would automatically consider him a traitor to the Jewish people. Why? Because he demonstrates a connection, even superficially, with the Nazi regime. It doesn’t matter what his intentions are.

    Now of course Nazism is an extreme example but I chose it in order to try and get you to understand the issue of “association”. The secularists in the Israeli government are avowed enemies of the Torah. Ditto for the Supreme Court. The secular Israeli media is one of the greatest sources of anti-Semitic literature in the world. The ideologies of the Torah are undermined at every step of the way. So what do you want from Charedim? The very notion of celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut is repulsive to them. From their perspective, anyone celebrating YH – even with good intentions – demonstrates that he is indifferent, at best, to the terrible spiritual ramifications engendered by the actions and attitudes of the secular Zionist establishment.

    yes there are huge problems with the state but does that mean we can’t show gratitude?

    Sure you can show gratitude. Just don’t choose YH to do it. I’d like to add something here. My personal reaction to the celebration of YH is indifference, not opposition. Why? Because there are many frum Jews who do celebrate it with good intentions in mind. And although I believe they are misguided, I am loathe to condemn a whole group of frum Jews for anything. We have enough detractors in the world. We don’t need to add to the situation. But this post is dedicated specifically to explaining the Charedi opposition to YH so I need to put my personal considerations aside and present their point of view as best I can. The only thing I personally would insist on is not to say Hallel!

    continued in the next comment

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  3. continued from the previous comment

    As Rabbi Wein writes “Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman, the Ponevezher Rav, told me that he flew the Israeli flag from the roof of his yeshivah building in Bnei Brak on Yom Ha’atzmaut. When some locals complained about this, he answered them with the following: “I flew the Lithuanian flag on the roof of my yeshivah in Ponevezh on Lithuanian Independence Day. My friends, it is no worse here.””

    You are bringing up a sensitive issue. There is something you must understand Danny. Although the Ponevezher Rav was a great man, his attitude was not reflective of the vast majority of gedoley Torah. How do I know? Because Ponevez is the only Charedi yeshiva that flies an Israeli flag on YH! (I think…).

    As far as the Ponevezher Rav’s reasoning (I flew the Lithuanian flag on the roof of my yeshivah in Ponevezh on Lithuanian Independence Day. My friends, it is no worse here), I will tell you this. My rebbe also flew a flag. Every July 4th the American flag flew in front of Bais Yisroel on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. It was his way of demonstrating solidarity with his country of residence. But I’m sure he would strongly oppose the flying of the Israeli flag on YH. Why? Simple. America is a gentile land established by gentiles. There’s nothing wrong with demonstrating solidarity and support for a host country. But Israel is the Jewish homeland. “Because of our sins, we were exiled from the land” (Musaf on Yom Tov). 2000 years later we were given a chance once again but it was hijacked by Jewish Nationalists, Socialists, Atheists and Assimilationists. The Jewish State looks no different than any other secular state. This is a spiritual tragedy of unparalleled proportions. Flying an Israeli flag on YH is a de facto sign that one identifies with the State at least on some level. This was, and is, unacceptable to 99% of the Charedi gedolim.

    Also what is your opinion regarding Yom Hazikaron?

    My rebbi says as follows. There have been many pogroms in the past. For instance, a million Jews died in the war of Betar alone and yet we do not have a Yom Zikaron for them. Why? Because Tisha B’Av is the overall day of mourning for the Jewish nation and it is meant to include all of its tragedies.

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  4. "Do you say Hallel because Canadian Jews benefit
    from government subsidized medical
    care?"

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but is hallel not recited on YH because it is seen as miraculous? It does not really have anything to do with benefit.
    If you meant to ask why I don't celebrate the canadian independents day, the answers are simple, firstly the actual state of israel, has enabled more Torah to be studied since ancient times. The State of israel funded me personally to go learn in a yeshiva in israel. (Through a project called musa).
    I can go and live in israel anytime I want to, no questions asked, will canada welcome me with open arms?
    I live in South Africa, in 1994, when I was 8 years old I remember my mother buying hundreds of tins of canned food, and other basic things for survival, in fear that after apartheid the county would completely fall apart, and all the whites would be kicked out there homes and even killed. And there were El-El planes waiting, in South Africa to take the jews in south africa to israel (charaidi Jews included) should things have gone nasty, guess who sent those planes? The State of israel.
    "If you want to thank Hashem for all the benefits of Eretz Yisrael, that’s fine.But if you b’davka pick 5 Iyar as your special day of Thanksgiving,then you are guilty by association, regardless of your good intentions."

    I think you are mistaken, YH is not always celebrated on 5 iyar, it is sometimes pushed forward so that people don't brake shaboss (so much for YH being a completely secular holiday) but for those that say hallel on YH (I don't believe it or not) it should still be said on 5 Iyar, this was the Psak of Rav Ahron Soloveichik.

    By the way your sentence should have said "If you want to thank Hashem for all the benefits of the STATE of Eretz Yisrael, that’s fine"

    "Because
    he demonstrates a connection, even
    superficially, with the Nazi regime. It
    doesn’t matter what his intentions
    are."

    Folowing from your moshal, you are saying that someone who celebrates YH is demonstrating a connection to secular values. demonstrates to who? In my country, at least, the most passionate celebraters are Mizrachi and bnie akiva, if I had to ask the average joe what he thinks about some one how celebrates YH he will not say "he must be somehow connected to secular values"

    "The secularists in the
    Israeli government are avowed
    enemies of the Torah"
    What about the religious parties?

    "This is a spiritual tragedy of unparalleled
    proportions. Flying an Israeli flag on
    YH is a de facto sign that one
    identifies with the State at least on
    some level."
    Sorry to be blunt, but how on earth can yeshvais that have this view accept funding from the state? This is like accept cash from drug dealers or idol worshipers. How is this not hypocritical? Please tell me I sincerely want to understand this.

    Thanks for giving your time.

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  5. Danny,

    Sorry to be blunt, but how on earth can yeshvais that have this view accept funding from the state? This is like accept cash from drug dealers or idol worshipers. How is this not hypocritical?

    I have no idea what you mean.

    First of all, if you own, say, a grocery store, and someone who worships idols comes in to purchase something, would you throw him out of your store? If you would, I advise you never to go into business, at least not in predominantly Christian countries. According to Rambam, Christianity is a form of idol worship! There’s nothing wrong or hypocritical with taking money from ovrei aveira. In fact, the way I see it, the more money you take, the less they have to spend on idol-worship. :-)

    Second of all, you are betraying your sentiments. The secular establishment doesn’t own the State! The money is not theirs! Chareidim are just as much citizens as chilonim. As far as Yeshivot, Ben Gurion (a chiloni!) was the one who established the status quo re students of Divinity. Many countries recognize the need to support students, not just Israel. This is standard fare in the U.S., Canada, and I’ll bet in Australia too! Besides, there are plenty of frum people that pay taxes in Israel. Why should their money go to secular Zionist causes? Why shouldn’t some of the money be diverted to the Yeshivos?

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  6. Firstly let me say after giving it some thought I can understand how if some one believes that YH is a symbol for seculasim and atheism that they obviously would not want to acknowledge it, I don't see YH that way nor do a lot of other people, but I can see why someone might say this.

    But you seem to be saying more than this, and to be honest I don't really understand what you are saying, and that's why it seems to me that you are contradicting yourself.

    Let's assume I thought YH was a symbol for secularisim, I would still value the STATE of Israel and appreciate the good in it. As you write "The secular establishment doesn’t own the State!"

    But you seem to be saying, that the actual state of Israel is illegitimate. "Flying an Israeli flag on YH is a de facto sign that one identifies with the State at least on some level"
    if someone believes this than accepting money from the state is like accepting money from someone that got the money from selling drugs, it is like the drug dealer is using his drug money to buy your product, I would not do that. The reason I say this is because it is a function of the state to provide money to institutions, it is almost like a "siba", to use the yeshivish term, of a state, do you see why I don't think your moshal works, it is not a sign that someone is an idol worshiper if they go shopping but it is a sign of a state to give money to its institutions, thus one is showing a connection to being part of the state by accepting money.

    But I'm very confused, your write "The secular establishment doesn’t own the State! The money is not theirs! Chareidim are just as much citizens as chilonim" exactly! So when we acknowledge the state we are acknowledging the chareidim as much as the seculars!

    So is the current state of Israel legitimate? Can chareidim be a part of it? If you did not think that YH is a symbol for secularisim would you celebrate it?

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  7. Danny,

    Firstly let me say after giving it some thought I can understand how if some one believes that YH is a symbol for seculasim and atheism that they obviously would not want to acknowledge it,

    Gevaldic! I am grateful for your comment and am pleased to see that I succeeded in presenting the Chareidi position in comprehensible terms.

    I don't see YH that way nor do a lot of other people,

    This – as I wrote in an earlier comment – is precisely why I personally do not make a big deal of it. I am not in opposition, just indifferent. To be clear, I’m not saying that the reasoning behind “opposition” is faulty; on the contrary, I, like you, can easily understand it. I just don’t think it’s worth fighting about. But you should understand something. If one chooses to publicly celebrate YH, he runs the risk of labeling himself un-“yeshivish/chasidish/heimish” (in American terms) or “not chareidi” (in Israeli terms). This might not be nogeah to you right now but when you have children in shidduchim, labels become very important. Just giving you a heads up…

    But you seem to be saying more than this…you are contradicting yourself….Let's assume I thought YH was a symbol for secularisim, I would still value the STATE of Israel and appreciate the good in it…But you seem to be saying, that the actual state of Israel is illegitimate….But I'm very confused, your write "The secular establishment doesn’t own the State! The money is not theirs! Chareidim are just as much citizens as chilonim" exactly! So when we acknowledge the state we are acknowledging the chareidim as much as the seculars!

    You’re conflating two distinct issues. Israel is a “State’ in the sense that it is comprised of a defined geographical territory upon which is exercised internal and external sovereignty. It possesses a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other like states. In this sense, its citizens possess any and all of the rights and privileges granted by “the State”. But all “States” are not alike. Each one has its own character, its own self-defining principles. Israel is no different. It too possesses a character. It too was established based on certain specific values and beliefs. YH is a celebration of the latter connotation (of the term “State”) at least as much as it is the former.

    I hope this clears up your confusion.

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