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From The World of Rabbi Kook:
“G-d blesses Israel, making their leadership devoted to their people. He imbues that leadership with the same love that they feel for their own families. Yet their love for their people becomes even stronger, just as the entire nation’s welfare transcends the welfare of the individual family.”
(Olat Re’iyah II:287)

Rabbi Dov Begon – Founder and Head of Machon Meir
Message for Today: “We Have Come to the Land that God Swore to Our Fathers to Give Us.”

When a Jew brings the first fruits to the Temple, he “goes to the priest officiating at the time, and says to him, ‘Today I am affirming to God your Lord that I have come to the land that God swore to our fathers to give us’” (Deuteronomy 26:3). Rashi, in a few words, encapsulates the purpose of bringing the first fruits: “He shows that he is not ungrateful.” In other words, he shows that he does not spurn the good that G-d does for him (Siftei Chachamim). As long as the Israelites were busy with their compulsory war to conquer the Land, as long as the Land had not yet been partitioned amongst the tribes, as long as Israel had not yet reached their final goal, it was hard to remember G-d’s goodness. As the folk saying goes, one does not show the fool a half-finished job for only a wise man can see forward to what will result. Only he can rejoice on seeing even just half of a job done, while anticipating a better future. Of this it says, “The righteous man shall live by his faith” (Chavakuk 2:4).

Today, our generation resembles that of Joshua who conquered the Land. We are still at the height of the Land’s reconquest. We haven’t yet reached our final goal. True, G-d promised us and our ancestors the entire land by way of a covenant and an oath. He promised that we would drive out all its inhabitants, as it says, “On that day, God made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I have given this land’” (Genesis 15:18), and when G-d promises something, it is as good as done (Rashi).

Yet we have not yet completed the work of conquest, and the main reason for this is the mistaken idea, held by Sharon and other prime ministers who preceded him, that peace can be achieved by dividing up the land and establishing an Arab state in the very heart of Eretz Yisrael. Not only will this misconception not bring peace, but it is liable to bring a terrible war. It is possible to bring peace – and we pray for it to come – but it will only come when the State of Israel is united and spiritually strong. At that point, when Israel is economically and militarily strong, and when its leaders know that Eretz Yisrael belongs solely to the Jewish People, and are pleased with that knowledge, peace will be attainable (Rashi on Bereshit). Our spiritual strengthening can come about only by our returning to our sources, our Jewish heritage and our holy Torah. “G-d will give strength to His people. G-d will bless His people with peace” (Psalm 29:11). Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
“Changing Course”

Question: Our struggle has failed. I reject the formula that we enjoyed a “spiritual victory,” that we lost the terrestrial Gush Katif but won the spiritual Gush Katif. We do not live in the spirit world but here on earth. The Torah was given to us here on earth, and here on earth we failed. We have to admit the truth and not live in a dream world, for surely, similar struggles await us. Enough with gifts and prayer! The time has come for war! Henceforth it will be so hard to beat us that it will be engraved in their memories forever. Then we will make use of all means available, barring violence.

Above all else, we must cut ourselves off from this country. I understand that it is not practically possible to establish an alternate state and to avoid the army, yet we shall no longer be the country’s patsies. We shall no longer jump into the mud to push the Messiah’s wagon. Henceforth, we shall sit conveniently on the fence, waiting for them to pull the wagon out of the mud and to invite us to climb onto the wagon in a dignified manner. I do not identify with the Haredim [ultraorthodox] who see no value to the army or the state. I in fact view these as having enormous value, but not this state and not this army. I feel like a woman whose husband has betrayed her. We, Religious Zionism, forged a covenant with Secular Zionism. We loved and honored it. Yet it has betrayed and battered us. I am therefore withdrawing from it. I shall cease to embrace it. I shall cease to engage in all sorts of face-to-face dialogues. If they want me, let them repent and come looking for me.

There are two ways to assess our situation. (A) Indeed, Secular Zionism has failed terribly and Religious Zionism has suffered a terrible blow, but we mustn’t exaggerate. There are always crises and setbacks. This is no reason to despair and to throw in the towel. Rather, we must constantly move forward. (B) Red lines have been crossed. It is impossible to be dismissive and to carry on as though nothing has happened, as we might have done a year ago. We must regroup, especially with harsh struggles awaiting us further down the path.
Both approaches are legitimate, although I modestly prefer the second approach, even if the first approach is correct as well.

2. We can regroup in one of three ways:
a. Vengefulness. We all admit that that is not the way, and that we will not fall so low. True, we shall neither forgive nor forget the prime minister and his circle of friends. That does not mean, however, that we will engage in vengeance, let alone towards the broader spectrum of our people.
b. Standing on the sidelines and cutting ourselves off from the state. This is your suggestion. It represents a middle-road between revenge and carrying on as per usual. Yet this, as well, is a path of weakness, bearing within it the incidental assumption that we lack strength, that we are battered wretches, traumatized, damaged by loss of wealth and honor. Being such, we are angrily withdrawing from the race. Such an approach constitutes cutting off our nose to spite our face. That is no solution, but only self-flagellation (see Orot, Orot HaTechiyah 20, in which Rav Kook comes out against the approach of Agudat Yisrael of setting themselves apart). In any event, this approach does not constitute warfare as you seem to think, but flight from battle. It means further defeat in addition to the one we have already suffered. It is true that it is sometimes legitimate to flee from battle, for there is no mitzvah to commit suicide. Sometimes the best we can do is to regroup. Yet the stronger we are, the more we must storm the ramparts, even if we have initially suffered a blow.
c. We must therefore fight fiercely. If we do, we will return from battle with great wealth. We mustn’t capitulate and perpetuate our status as wretches, when the real wretches are those who carried out this terrible act against us. Neither does it suffice for us to confront the situation, overcome it and return once more to our previous situation. That too constitutes valor, but if so, why did we endure such suffering if we weren’t going to gain anything from it? Rather, we have to go to war. Obviously, I am not referring to civil war, to a military putsch or to nonviolent civil disobedience – almost all agree that the latter is immoral and unbeneficial. Moreover, it turns us into sad sacks crying out over our pain, which serves precisely the purposes of our ideological rivals.

3. Rather, we have to remove ourselves from our sectoral, National-Religious, settler entrenchment, and we must take responsibility for the entire country. After all, we see that Secular Zionism is at an impasse, and that our prime minister is leading the country to destruction and ruin. Whoever thought until now that we should make due with a secondary role should wise up. Whoever thought we should engage in log-rolling, in “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” should wise up. Whoever until now has been seeking secular approbation for Religious Zionism should wise up. Now is the time, as so many of our public demand, for us to disengage. Yet we must disengage in the true sense of the word. We mustn’t be dependent on what is said about us. Rather, we must know our truth, we must shout it loud and strong. Raise your voices! On Yom Kippur “we are allowed to pray with sinners,” but we needn’t respect their criminal thinking. (Igarot HaRe’iyah 2:172). Quite the contrary, we must take responsibility for the country.

4. Obviously, we have no illusions that overnight we will become the decision makers in this country. Yet we must develop a long-term strategy consisting of three tiers: a) achieving a profound understanding of our present situation; 2) defining goals; 3) determining the way-stations and pathways for how to arrive at our desired destination.
For the most part, we have displayed much talent in short-term tactics, since we possess energy, might and a healthy sense of relying on tomorrow to work itself out. We carry out operations of great intensity and energy, designed to make great waves, and we rest up between each. Yet that is the wrong approach! We have to set long-term goals, dictated by a great vision, and we have to define way-stations of five, ten, twenty and fifty years, etc. We must fix yardsticks for measuring progress. We must construct a flexible model with various alternatives, as in the army, where every plan is the basis for an alternative, and where even the unexpected is part of a still more comprehensive plan.

5. Towards that end, we need leadership. We don’t need an amalgam of leaders, in which “all are beloved; all are valorous; all are holy and in fear and reverence perform the will of their Maker; all of them open their mouths.” Rather, we need a special leadership. A vital, irrevocable condition is that the entire “Knitted Yarmulke Camp” must unite. All must cease shutting the mouths of others in the camp, and all must cease disqualifying one another. Rather, they must all unite around their common ground, which is very broad indeed.

Some fear the rift in the nation, but no less than that we must remove the rift amongst ourselves. Sometimes, we tend to quarrel amongst ourselves more than with the other side. First and foremost, there must be rabbis from all the various streams. We all know that some rabbis do not talk with others, that some ridicule others, that some disqualify others, that if one joins another will leave. The resulting profanation of G-d’s name is indescribable. We have to stop excommunicating those who follow a different path towards bolstering the Torah and the Land. Torah scholars, be they more religiously strict or more liberal; more militant or more moderate, more loyal to the state and the army or more circumspect in that regard, must learn to “bear the yoke with their brethren” (Avot 6). The public will be moved by the great tidings that their spiritual leaders have learned how to work together, how to limit controversies and misunderstandings, how, as much as possible to come to a meeting of minds, at least in the practical realm, and how to lead the public based on a clear faith-based vision. As we all know, there are already youth who are saying, “We have no faith in all those rabbis,” besides their having already lost their faith in the political and settlement leadership. Obviously, I am not talking about mere tactical unity, but about the great ideal, per se, of unity. As stated, these will be great tidings, and the self-confidence of our public, which has been so badly smitten, will be remarkably rehabilitated.

6. We must therefore declare war, not a war against an enemy, but a kulturkampf and a struggle for political control, for the sake of our beloved brothers. There are four battles that we must win, by pleasant means: the battle over the army, the media, the legal system and politics. We must establish four long-term planning authorities, and we must enlist all the various stripes of the “orange” population, each in accordance with its own interests.
a. Thank G-d, in the army we have already started the work, and we are achieving admirable success. We just have to continue with even more energy. If there are those who would like to cut us down, then quite the contrary, “the more we are persecuted the more we will thrive.”
b. The media is a very powerful educational tool, and we mustn’t abandon it. Here is not the place to discuss tactics about whether it is best to establish an alternative media, to be integrated more and more in the existing media, or to do a bit of both. Obviously, I am not talking about sectoral media for our own selves but about a media that belongs to the entire nation.
c. The legal system constitutes a great profanation of G-d’s name that we have a duty to correct. Here as well, this is not the place to discuss tactics. It may be better slowly to penetrate the existing system, obviously in accordance with the rulings of the great rabbis of the generation regarding the extent to which it is permissible for us to participate in a non-Jewish legal system. Alternately, perhaps we have to strengthen the parallel legal system of the Rabbinic courts. Or, perhaps we must do some of both.
d. Politics. First of all, we must unite amongst ourselves. Our public long ago lost faith in our national-religious parties. From this standpoint, there is no difference between them. The Yesha Council [i.e., the Council of Judea and Samaria] has likewise lost support, without going into whether that loss is justified or not. Matters are even worse now that these bodies are being portrayed as losers both regarding Torah and Eretz Yisrael. The public mood is low. The public have lost faith in themselves after what was done to them, and the situation is dangerous. They are looking for a strong, united party that will cease its power struggles. A serious council consisting of persons who have earned the public trust, rabbis, academicians and communal figures, armed with a number of kinds of authority, will be able to have decisive influence in the topics at hand, and will provide a catalyst for change.
As stated, we must first unite all of our religious parties, and not just in advance of elections, since once again, that is just tactical. Rather, right now, they must unite to lead the public. They mustn’t be petty. Rather, they must perform a great act of unification that will attract the public.

8. Yet it is not enough to unite broken fringe parties and thus to remain on the fringe. As stated above, we are not worrying just about ourselves, but about the entire nation. Obviously, we cannot have a decisive influence on the country’s fate without a party that is large and subsequently strong. Even if all the national-religious parties unite, they will still only amount to about ten mandates, a negligible number in the Knesset, although one can hope that uniting will bring about significant expansion. Rather, we must strive to become a party of leadership. For that, we need at least forty mandates. A priori, this need not be a hallucinatory dream, since Labor and Likud have brought about an ongoing decline in numerous realms such as security and education. They have brought the country to the brink of disaster, and the nation is disappointed with them. Obviously, we do not at this moment have a candidate for prime minister, and even if we did, he would not be elected. Rather, we must join up with a party that has the particulars to enable it to take control, or we must establish a broad people’s party built upon principles close to our own. It must include not just people with knitted yarmulkes, but also people with a black yarmulke and people who pull out a yarmulke to say Kiddush. Towards that end, we would need a very broad platform with far-reaching compromises. It would follow the example of Mapai, founded in 1930 from a combination of the Labor Unity Party and the Zionist Workers’ Party, amidst painful compromises. By such means, over the course of time, Mapai became the ruling party. Better we should have a large, strong party in power, with our own ambitions fairly close, than a narrow party, precisely faithful to our ideals, but lacking influence. As noted, all this requires compromise, but in the end, all will profit greatly since they will be in power.

True, the prime minister will not be a man of Torah, but a person who respects the Torah and loves Torah and is in synch with men of Torah who surround him. Therefore, the party’s platform must refer to the people, the Land and the heritage of Israel in the broadest sense. This will attain the agreement not only of the national-religious parties, but of Shas, the ideological core of the Likud, and others. At one time we were small. Now we have power. We have an enormous population, full of talent and devotion, like the heroes of Gush Katif who fulfilled the mitzvah of loving G-d “with all their soul and all their might” – i.e., all their worldly wealth, the hundreds of thousands of shekalim that they were ready to sacrifice. We have youth full of strength and valor, who yet know how to fix limits for themselves in complicated situations. Obviously, when I talk about compromise, I am not talking about compromising on ideals and on vision, but on practical conduct. In other words, I am not calling for concessions, but for patience. Moreover, even within that large party, factions will still remain, each with its individual uniqueness.

9. Likewise, we are not aiming for a state run by Jewish law in the sense of a coercive theocracy. Rather, we want our spirit to spread amongst the nation, that same spirit that the Jewish People dwelling in Zion, suffering from instability of values and the lack of a moral rudder, are so hoping for. That same spirit will provide the ideological platform for the entire practical program. Certainly it does not suffice to have a “spiritual Gush Katif”. Rather, we need Gush Katif here on earth. Yet when a person dies, we mourn his body, not his soul. The soul is eternal and shall rise to rebirth. In the same way, we mourn the terrestrial Gush Katif, but we know that the spirit remains alive. From its strength we will be able to conquer the entire country. In mundane warfare, you need both a ground and an air attack, and one without the other will not suffice. We as well, in parallel to our practical struggle must wage a spiritual battle and must exalt the people’s spirit.
For this we must increase the light of Torah in our midst and amongst the entire nation. We must engage in face-to-face dialogues of all sorts, with all kinds of people. We must remember that millions are careening in the dark towards the spiritual abyss. They are our brothers. We must remember that Gush Katif, and Gush Dan [the Tel Aviv area] do not contradict each other, but complement each other. We must increase light everywhere and we must exalt the Jewish People higher and higher.

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