Sunday, April 27, 2008

Think Big

Isru Hag haPesah 5768

Rav Dawidh Bar-HayimI am not sure why I have not yet posted this article by my rabbi and teacher, Rabbi Dawidh Bar-Hayim. Rafi G., Tamar Yonah, and Akiva did, as did Arutz 7 (Israel National News).

Many people have commented on the article, and have ask me and other students of Rabbi Bar-Hayim various questions about it. My response to their questions is the same response to anyone who is reading the article for the first time here on my blog:

E-mail him at

The title of this article is "Think Big," suggested by the Arutz 7 editor Nissan Ratzlav-Ka"tz. Unbeknown to him, this was already on Rabbi Bar-Hayim's list of possible titles.

Yet, the original title was "Clueless Leaders: Going Nowhere Fast." I think you will see why, when you read the article below.


Think Big
by Rabbi Dawidh Bar-Hayim

Revisionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky once illustrated his criticism of mainstream Zionism with the following analogy: "I saw a man limping down the street, using only one leg, even though it was apparent that nothing was wrong with the other one. I turned to him and asked: ‘Why don't you walk on both legs?' He replied: ‘Is there something the matter with the one that I am using?'"

Jabotinsky's analogy referred of course to the policy of "one more dunam, one more goat", in which the Zionist Establishment focused on building up the land in piecemeal fashion and living from day to day. The most fundamental issues--what kind of state the Jewish people were demanding, the location of its borders, and the time frame in which it was to be achieved--remained elusive. Jabotinsky's insight was that the leadership preferred it that way, like a man who opts to limp on one leg rather than walk properly using two.

Thus the typical Zionist spoke fervently of the Jewish people's right to the Land of Israel but could not explain, where those borders lay or why. The philosopher Shabtai Ben-Dov observed that it was the acceptance of the 1948 armistice lines that "clarified" the boundaries of the Land of Israel for most Zionists. It was only "logical" that the former Education Minister Shulamit Aloni referred to Hebron--the city of the Patriarchs and where King David first ruled--as "Hutz Laaretz" (overseas).

On a political level, Israel lost its way not in 1967, but in the 20's and 30's before there was even a State of Israel. Our nation's leaders were guilty of thinking small, refusing to see the big picture, and of denying the Jewish nation its destiny. In short, they chose mediocrity over greatness.

A Vision of Exile or Redemption?

The same can be said for much of the Orthodox Establishment. Have you ever noticed how some religious Jews refer to themselves as "Lithuanians"? Or that there is a Jerusalem suburb named "Poland Heights"? These Jews remain unfazed the reality of over 5 million Jews living as a sovereign nation in the Land of Israel and see our presence in the Land of Israel as merely as a continuation of our baneful existence in Dvinsk, Minsk or Pinsk. They insist that all Jews in the Land of Israel must continue their customs and Halachic practices as if they were still in Warsaw, Sanna or Marrakesh.

Last year, the Beth HaWa'adh beth din (Jewish court) of Machon Shilo announced that all Jews in Israel could consume kitniyot (rice, corn, legumes etc.) during Pesah. While some thought that Machon Shilo was motivated by convenience, it was actually motivated by Halacha.

So what's the big deal about kitniyot and why would Machon Shilo even care? The problem is that the abstention from kitniyot focuses people's attention on a non-issue, a "little thing". And as more and more meaningless Pesah stringencies are promoted--such as avoiding quinoa and other things that merely look like kitniyot--the more Judaism loses its focus.

Human beings are limited. We cannot be two different people at the same time. We can either behave as if we're still in Exile or as if we've returned to our Homeland. We can either concern ourselves with maintaining our Exile-based identities and root out kitniyot or we can beseech Hashem to let us soon bring a Pesah sacrifice and work to actualize this goal.

Unfortunately the Orthodox Establishment is similar to the Zionist Establishment: it does not know who and where we are or where we are supposed to be headed. It is hesitant and uncertain and prefers the familiar comfort of the downtrodden, Exilic version of the Torah rather than the majestic, vibrant and uplifting Torah of the Land of Israel, of Abraham, Moses, David and the Maccabees.

Indeed it's not so incomprehensible to understand why the Rabbinical establishment had nothing to say when Jews regained control of the Temple Mount in 1967-other than to forbid all Jews from ascending to this holy place. They probably even breathed a collective sigh of relief when Moshe Dayan tossed it back to the Moslem Wakf like an unwanted bone.

Judaism lost its way not in 1967, but nearly 2500 earlier when the Jewish nation in Babylon declined the offer by the Persian emperor Cyrus to return to the Land of Israel. They were guilty of thinking small, refusing to see the big picture, and denying the Jewish nation its destiny. In short, they chose mediocrity over greatness, Galut over Geulah.

Today nearly a majority of the Jewish People has returned to the Land of Israel. And the choice is before us: we can think small--and be seen that way by our enemies--or we can think big and achieve greatness in the eyes of Hashem, in our own eyes, and in the eyes of the whole world.


Cross-posted on Stop Raping Israel.

No comments:

You Might Also Like...