In Part One of this letter, I cited the following teaching of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch regarding the “Shema” – the daily proclamation of the Divine Oneness and Unity:
“You must comprehend your life with all its diversity as proceeding from this One and you must direct it towards this One, in order that your life may be a unity just as your God is One.”
As we discussed in previous letters, the Word Zionist Organization became dominated by leaders who sought to have nationalism replace the spiritual path of the Torah as the raison d’etre of the People of Zion. According to their nationalistic ideology, having our own land is not a means to a higher spiritual goal, but an end in itself, and we cited the following example of their view from the writings of Jacob Klatzkin, a leading Zionist thinker:
“In longing for our land we do not desire to create there a base for the spiritual values of Judaism. To regain our land is for us an end in itself – the attaining of a free national life.” (The Zionist Idea by Arthur Hertzberg).
Our land is Zion; thus, the term “Zionism” became the name of the nationalistic ideology which viewed Zion as “an end in itself.” The term “Zionism” does not appear in our Sacred Scriptures, and it was coined by Dr. Nathan Birnbaum, who became the Secretary General of the World Zionist Organization. He later returned to Judaism, and he became the Secretary General of Agudath Israel, a Torah-committed organization.
There are some Jews who think that it is possible to have two ideologies – Judaism and Zionism – guide their lives, since both ideologies recognize that Zion is our homeland. When I began to explore my Jewish roots, I tried to understand both Judaism and Zionism, and I discovered that there were major areas of conflict between these two ideologies. I wanted to have a unified life, and I realized that I would need to decide which ideology would be the unifying truth which would guide all areas of my life.
Given my desire to have a unified life, I was greatly influenced by the following teaching of Judaism: The human being was created as a unity of body and soul, as it is written:
“And Hashem God formed the human of dust from the ground, and He blew into his nostrils the soul of life; and the human became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)
The body was created to serve the soul, and Rabbeinu Bachya, a noted sage and biblical commentator of the 13th century, writes:
“When the body assists the soul, both are united in the service of Hashem, the Blessed One.” (Kad HaKemach – Atzeres)
When the human being was created, the body and soul were united in the service of Hashem; thus, after the creation of the human being, the nature of this sacred service is revealed:
“And Hashem God took the human being and placed him in the Garden of Eden to serve it and to guard it.” (Genesis 2:15)
From where did Hashem take the human being? In a previous letter, we discussed the tradition that the human being was taken from Mount Moriah, the site of Zion’s future Temple, for Zion was the place where the human being was created as a unity of body and soul. And the unified being that was created in Zion was given an altruistic mission – to serve and protect God’s Garden.
Judaism teaches that this altruistic mission is a prototype for all the mitzvos of the Torah path. The Divine call to “serve” the Garden is a prototype of mitzvos aseh – the mitzvos of the Torah which call upon us to engage in actions which nurture and elevate the world, including ourselves; moreover, the call to “guard” the Garden is a prototype of mitzvos lo sa’asay – the mitzvos of the Torah which prohibit actions which damage and degrade the world, including ourselves. (Tikunei Zohar 55)
Judaism also teaches that when we, as a nation, fulfill the Torah in the Land of Zion, we return to the ideal state of the Garden of Eden. This return will take place in the messianic age; thus, the Prophet Ezekiel mentions that those who witness the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies regarding Zion will say:
"This very Land, which had been desolate, has become like the Garden of Eden!" (Ezekiel 36:35)
According to the nationalistic ideology of Zionism, our life in Zion is an end in itself. According to Judaism, our unified life in Zion is to lead us, all humanity, and all creatures back to the Garden. In this spirit, the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed the following vision of the messianic age:
“Then a wolf shall live with a lamb, and a leopard shall lie with a kid; and a calf, a lion cub, and a fatling will be together, and a small child will lead them. A cow and a bear will graze and their young will lie down together; and a lion, like cattle will eat hay. A suckling infant will play by a viper’s hole; and a newly weaned child will stretch his hand towards an adder’s lair. They will neither injure nor destroy in all of My sacred mountain, for the earth will be filled with knowledge of Hashem as water covering the sea bed.” (Isaiah 11: 6-9).
The above teachings led me to the following realization: A land which is an end in itself is a “dead end”; however, a land which leads us back to the Garden through a unified life is a “live end.” I therefore chose the path of Judaism, for I am seeking the “live end” for all life!
With Blessings for Life and Shalom,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen