Rabbi Naftali Hermann Adler, Chief Rabbi of the U.K. (1839-1911)

These words come from a speech given by Rabbi Adler in English on November 12, 1898, in reaction to the then-new Zionist movement. It can be found today in the book Ohr Layesharim:

“I ask myself: Was there ever a movement similar to this in the time of the prophets? When the Jewish people went into the Babylonian exile, there were among them some who found no rest under the enemy government, and their only thought all day long was to return to their land. The false prophets among them told them to rebel against the king of Babylon.

“At that point, Yirmiyahu the Prophet wrote a letter from Jerusalem to the elders, Kohanim and Levites who had already gone to exile. The letter said, ‘Thus said Hashem Tzevaos, G-d of Israel, to all the exiles that I exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, give your daughters to husbands, let them have sons and daughters, increase there and do not decrease. And seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you, and pray on its behalf to Hashem, for with its peace you will have peace. For so says Hashem Tzevaos, G-d of Israel: Do not let your prophets and sorcerers fool you; do not listen to their dreams, with which they answer your queries. For they prophecy to you falsely in My name; I did not send them, said Hashem… And you shall call Me, and go to pray to Me, and I will hear you. And you shall seek Me and find Me, if you seek Me with all your heart… and I will restore your captivity, and gather you from all the nations, and from all the places where I have scattered you…’ (Yirmiyahu 29:4-9).

“The prophet’s letter is indeed long, but very fitting for this movement. And I say: In the Babylonian exile they had a well-known and short time limit of seventy years, yet Yirmiyahu found it necessary to warn them so much with the word of Hashem to stay put and not take any action on their own. Now that the end is hidden and sealed, and we are forbidden under oath from taking any action, certainly we must not deviate from the words of the prophet in his letter that he sent to the exiles.

“My brothers! I look at this movement with worry in my heart, since I see it as opposed to the Torah of Hashem and to politics. There is a great danger involved in it. That is why I don’t see in it the great quality of love of Zion...

"They ask me: If you are opposed to the idea of a Jewish state, and you don't believe in settling millions of Jews in the Holy Land, how is this consistent with all the prayers in which we express our hope and desire for the return to Zion and the cities of Judah? How can you say the words, 'may it be Your will that You bring us up in joy to our land and plant us in our border,' if you do not believe in the movement that seeks to fulfill these words?

"I reply: The books of the prophets do not say that the return to Zion depends on our efforts, and will occur whenever we want it to occur. It is stated explicitly that our redemption will come by the hand of Hashem, whenever He decides to send us His moshiach. Then all the nations will join hands to bring back our scattered brethren to the land of our fathers. Are there any faint signs of moshiach now?

"Scripture says, 'I, Hashem, will hasten it in its time' (Yishaya 60:22). When the time for the redemption arrives, I will hasten it. On the verse in Shir Hashirim 2:7, 'I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem...' Chazal explain that Hashem made the Jewish people swear three oaths not to force the end before its time...

"The hope which the Torah implanted in our hearts cannot lead us into intrigues, diplomatic maneuvers, rebellion or fighting in order to inherit the land of our fathers and found a kingdom there. On the contrary, our faith teaches us to seek the welfare of the nations under whose protection we dwell, to take part in their national efforts and work for their success, and to wait silently for the day when the words of the prophets will be fulfilled.

"And if there be a group of enthusiasts who succeed in conquering Palestine by force of arms, or buying it up from its owners, we must not consider this to be even a glimmer of our future hope. This is the path that the leaders of the Jewish people received by tradition throughout history: only to wait, without taking any action."