THE VISION OF RABBI AKIVA
By Rabbi Moshe Kaplan
Rabbi Moshe Kaplan
In previous essays we presented a few sources which support the view that our time is indeed the “beginning of Redemption.” We also presented a few explanations of why the Haredi world refuses to accept this understanding. Unfortunately, in my discussions with Torah Scholars who hold steadfast to the Haredi viewpoint that only the coming of Mashiach can usher in the beginnings of Redemption, I discovered that no matter what sources you cite, they will not budge from their fortress-like beliefs. As Rav Teichtal stated in his book, “Eim HaBanim Semeichah,” which he wrote in Budapest during the Holocaust, “Those people who have previously determined beliefs on this matter will not see the truth and will not concede to our words. All the evidence in the world will not affect them, for they are smitten with blindness and their inner biases cause them to deny even things which are as clear as day” (Eim HaBanim Semeichah, p.49). Seeing beyond the external, secular facade of Modern Zionism requires a higher perspective, like the all-encompassing vision of Rabbi Akiva. When the other Sages cried upon seeing the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, Rabbi Akiva laughed, envisioning Israel’s certain future Redemption (Tractate Makkot 24).
Admittedly, the government we have today in Israel is not the ideal Torah State of the future, but, as we explained, the Redemption of Israel is a gradually developing process, like the dawning of a new day. Even though it is not yet complete, that does not mean it has not begun. We need to look at modern history with “Rabbi Akiva eyes” in order to appreciate the incredible progress the Nation of Israel has made in the past 100 years. The secular reborn State is like an infant who will ultimately grow up to be a great Torah Scholar, but who presently cannot even read or write. He goes through stages, from physical, motor development to intellectual and spiritual prowess. Unaware of his future role, he sometimes uses his developing energies in undesirable directions or even destructively. With the patience of faith and wisdom we have to appreciate what G-d has given us so far and thank Him for giving us this long-awaited baby.
Every year, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, head of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva, would repeat this teaching to his students:
“Secularism does not lessen the essential holiness of the State. In the Gemara, our Sages explain that all of the material used in building the Temple became sanctified only after it was set into place. We build with the secular and sanctify afterward. Rashi explains that when they were constructing the Beit HaMikdash, they would buy all of the building materials with non-holy currency; or they would take all of the building materials on credit, and after the construction was finished, they made everything holy (Meilah 14A and 14B). This was because our Sages realized that during the construction, workers would sit in the shade of the building to rest from the sun and thus improperly benefit from something which had been dedicated exclusively to the use of the Sanctuary. The Beit HaMikdash was built in this fashion, and this is the way the Redemption of Israel develops, in gradual stages, little by little (Jerusalem Talmud Berachot, 1:1). Just as the stones used in building the Temple were not immediately sanctified, so too, the building of Eretz Yisrael is accomplished by every segment of the Nation – by the righteous and by the less righteous. We build with the profane, even though this causes complications, and, slowly slowly, all of the various problems will vanish, and the Sanctification of Hashem will appear in more and more light.”
In conclusion, we cannot judge the religious significance of the State of Israel only by what is presently revealed, for the Rabbis have taught us that the generation of the Mashiach is “bad on the outside and good on the inside” (Tikkunei Zohar, Tikun 60). We must develop the all-encompassing vision of Rabbi Akiva to see the inner good of our times and to guide it to fuller expression, viewing the continuing developments which are unfolding before our eyes as stages in an ongoing process towards complete Redemption, may it come speedily in our days, Amen.