How do you respond to Rabbi Yitzchak Brand's many books and articles on Zionism?
He used to be well in your camp, then rethought his position, and explained why in convincing detail.
His general site is here:
Thanks for the help!
I took a look at this Rabbi Brand’s site. There is not much there that we haven’t answered already in our q and a pages on the sugya of the Three Oaths.
But the fact that he is out there underscores the need for books and articles to be published and distributed that set the record straight.
We have to keep our bearings here because the undeniable fact is that the medinah is totally against how Jews in all generations have thought about the geulah. Jews say “because of our sins we were exiled from our land,” and it was taken for granted that Hashem would send moshiach to bring us back. Whatever arguments we are going to exchange with Rabbi Brand and others like him, it is clear that we have 2000 years of Jewish tradition on our side, and he is the innovator, the one coming to change Judaism.
Here is one example of something he writes: In his article against the Brisker Rav, Rabbi Brand does a comical thing: he attempts to argue on the Brisker Rav using the Brisker Rav’s own ideas. The Brisker Rav said that even if there is nevuah that there will be a medinah, it’s ossur to help it happen, as in the story of Chizkiyah, where Yishaya told him, don’t act on your nevuah, just follow the Torah and have children. Here too the medinah would be dangerous so it’s ossur. Rabbi Brand turns it upside down. According to nevuah we are waiting for moshiach, not a natural return. But according to Jewish law, he says, we are supposed to conquer Eretz Yisroel in every generation (he quotes the Ramban in sefer hamitzvos – see our response to this here http://www.truetorahjews.org/qanda/ramban2). He argues that even danger is not a reason to refrain from war, as the Brisker Rav once said to answer the minchas Chinuch’s kashya. SO therefore, he says, let’s fight a war and conquer even though it’s against nevuah.
Then he adds that when the geulah is b’itah, it’s supposed to happen naturally – of course making the common Zionist error that this natural, slow redemption can proceed without moshiach. He sets up the anti-Zionist shitah as a straw man, as a shitah that holds that everything will be miraculous. That’s totally not the case. We agree that if we aren’t zocheh it will happen b’derech hateva. But not without moshiach.
I really don’t have time to read everything he writes but you get the idea. One has to know the basic answers to arguments they have been raising for years, and a lot of Rabbi Brand’s foundations crumble.
The essay from Rabbi Brand you quote just happen to be related to the topic. For an honest appraisal of the full discussion one would need to visit the page titled Eretz Hakodesh here:
Yes, "because of our sins we were exiled from our land", but that only covers the ultimate reason, and does not explain the proximal cause of exile, nor the means for return. We were exiled for sins, but by hand of physical force. One might work for a living, but unless he deserves it, his efforts will not be fruitful. See Rabbi brand on the distortion of the verse "Kochi ve'otzem yadi" here:
Actually, the "undeniable fact" is that Jews have acted the same throughout most of history. Jews have tried endless times to restore Jewish sovereignty, "Yad yisrael tekifah". Some examples include Bar Kochba, Ezra, the Tiberius project by Dona Gracia,
which the Beis Yosef mentions in a letter, the many Nesi'im of Beis David, and much more.
The Jews also defended themselves from pogroms many times, see Orach Chaim 151:6, and historical exempla (I cannot find the footnotes at the moment). Your ideological opponents have doubtless compiled historical examples for the researcher's convenience.
These Gufei Tora were only partially forgotten some time before the righteous Rabbi Akiva Yosef Shlesinger (ignored on your site), excommunicated by your ideological ancestors for promoting Jewish sovereignty. (Any surprise, then, the state was brought about by the wicked instead?)
Mashiach is simply a Jew that succeeds at what all Jews are supposed to aim for. If he succeeds, we know he is the one. He starts out as legal king first, as the Rambam explains, but according to you we can only accept "Mashiach" as king. This point is explained further by Rabbi Brand here.
You say "we are waiting for moshiach, not a natural return". This is put to rest by the Gemara Meggilah 17b which precedes the returning of the exiles to the Sanhedrin and the downfall of the wicked.
Nor did you demolish the first contradiction in the Brisker Rav. War kills, see Shmuel 2:11:25. Antizionism causes even more death since it destroys confidence.
In a conversation with Professor Ze’ev Tzachor (President of the Sapir College) British intellectuals explained the reason for Israel’s loss of legitimacy in the world in a surprising manner: “We dreamed of a place where the new Book of Books would be written as we approach the redemption of the world. For you are, after all, a treasured nation. The world had expectations, and look what you have done.”
As for the Ramban on the commandment to conquer and dwell in the land of Israel, you referred me to your page here:
You confuse the lack of ability to observe a mitzvah given "ledoros", with an exemption. We are never exempt from any permanent mitzva, including building the temple and offering korbanos, yet we are not always able to do so.
There are two separate mitzvos, one to conquer and another to dwell. Saying kibush is only "hechsher" for dwelling is incorrect.
Even if it cannot be conquered, there is no lessening of the additional mitzvah to dwell in the land, and that is why the Ramban required additional proof after mentioning David. "Exile" is not a halachic exemption, but a reality. If it changes by Jews living in Israel as a majority, it is no longer "exile" at all.
And the Ramban did not "misquote the Gemara". The Gemara itself refers to David who LEFT Israel. This is called "paraphrase". I don't know how you or anyone else can invent a machlokes between the Midrash and the Gemara based on thin air. One may not leave, nor stay out of Israel. The Tosefta is explaining why this particular language is used against those staying out of Israel, as "keitzad", not reducing the prohibition to socialization – a separate problem often incurred by means of violating the first prohibition of ignoring the land of Israel.
And this "optional mitzvah" business is merely a poor limmud zechus by Rabbi Feinstein which fails. To take his example, once you have a four-cornered garment, you have no option but to attach Tzitzis. I can think of no examples of "optional mitzvos" anywhere in the Torah.
As for Rabbeinu Chaim in Tosafos on Kesubos 110b, the Chiddushim Ubiurim idem explain that at the time there were no scholars, so one could easily transgress the laws related to the land.
On the page about Bitul Shalosh Shevuos, Rabbi Brand does indeed bring the standard answers that “the San Remo conference and the UN resolution were a pekidah” and that the Ohr Somayach wrote that the fear of the oaths is gone. In our Claims and Facts page, as well as the response to Rabbi Aviner page (see links in my first email) we’ve dealt with this in depth. Briefly, the mandate was only a pekidah as far as permitting immigration, and that is all we see from the Ohr Somayach – not a medinah. And the UN resolution was not a pekidah since the UN weren’t the owners of the land as Koresh was. In the end the British just left it hefker for both sides to fight over.
He says that the fruits of Eretz Yisroel are a sign of the redemption. But if you plant them yourself and they grow, that’s not a sign of anything. How can the Zionists orchestrate a return to Zion and then prove that it was the right time to return from the fact that their fruits grew? Besides, before the Zionists came the fruits were also growing in those places that were cultivated. Ahad Haam came in 1891 and found that almost every piece of cultivatable land was already in use. Clearly, the Gemara is talking about fruits growing in unusual ways, and before the Jewish people return, not after.
He recycles the old claim of the oaths of the Jews and the nations being interdependent – see our answers to that.
And Rabbi Hillel of Kolomaya is only speaking about the oath upon the Jews not to pray too much for the redemption, which becomes null when the nations persecute us too much because now the exile has to end before its time and prayer for this is acceptable.
The Kisvei HaAri that the oaths are for a thousand years is talking about Hashem’s oath not to bring the redemption early – it’s dealt with already on our page. And listen to my shiur on Vayoel Moshe simanim 70-72
where I go through the Rabbi Chaim Vital inside and explain what it means.
Then Rabbi Brand claims the oaths were said only “shelo yaalu” – that they should not attack Eretz Yisroel from the outside, but once they are already inside it does not apply. He understands the Steipler’s comment to be saying this. But this is a misquote of the Steipler. All the Steipler said was that the Three Oaths don’t forbid voting because the state is already here and you are not voting on whether it should exist, only on which politicians should run it. He is not saying that once the state is here, it’s allowed to continue, and he’s certainly not saying that once the Jews are already in EY they are allowed to make a medinah.
Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro has dealt with this misrepresentation of the Steipler already:
In general, the problem with saying that the oaths apply only from outside and not from inside EY (by the way Rabbi Brand wasn’t the first to think of this, Rabbi Chaim Zimmerman writes it in Torah Leyisroel) that the oaths must be viewed as a central principle of Jewish faith, that exile is a condition imposed by Hashem, and that only Hashem will redeem us from exile. Therefore, technical distinctions between a state established from the inside or the outside are completely out of place.
Technical distinctions can only apply to technical law; thus for example, one can circumvent the prohibition on owning bread on Pesach by selling one's bread to a non-Jew prior to Pesach. One may carry a key on Shabbos by attaching it to one's belt and using it as a buckle. But can one worship an idol using a technical loophole? Certainly not. Similarly, one cannot "cheat" and establish a state from within Eretz Yisroel, in defiance of Hashem's decree of exile.
Rabbi Zimmerman and Rabbi Brand seem to think that the oaths are indeed a technical law, outlining how a Zionist movement may and may not act. Their takeover of the land must be carried out from the inside, not from the outside. They would argue that this provision, in effect, reserves the right to Hashem to decide when the redemption is to take place. We cannot initiate the takeover unless we get in peacefully first, and therefore we must wait for Hashem to inspire the nation ruling Eretz Yisroel to let us in.
The trouble with this sort of logic is that it reduces Hashem's role in the redemption so much that there is no longer any real proof that Hashem is involved. Let us say that one would take a man suspected of committing a capital crime and say, "We cannot prove that he did it, so let Hashem be the judge. We will flip a coin. If it comes up heads, he is guilty and we will execute him." Does the coin landing on heads prove that the man is guilty just because we said it should? After all, there is a good chance of it landing on heads. Similarly, does the British letting us into Eretz Yisroel prove that Hashem is giving the green light for the redemption, just because Rabbi Zimmerman said it does? Who knows if Hashem agrees to the premise of Rabbi Zimmerman's coin flip?
With a matter as serious as the final redemption of the world, we cannot mess around. We must be absolutely certain that Hashem has decided it's the right time.
Rabbi Brand continues and says that the oath not to rebel against the nations was only said when we initiate the war, but in Eretz Yisroel, it is they who rebel against us. The trouble is who is to say the Jews got there first? On May 15 1948 when the British vacated there was no state at all. (Standing in a room and reading a declaration does not create a state, or else I could create my own state right now in New York and then claim that the US army is rebelling against me.) The Zionists and the Egyptians, Syrians, Palestinians etc all came in and tried to take the land. The Zionist army (who, by the way, far outnumbered all the Arab armies put together) succeeded. Now who is rebelling against whom?
Then he says that whoever advocates giving up land in Eretz Yisroel is transgressing the oath that Hashem swore to give the land to the Avos. Now that’s a new one, I’ll admit. But how exactly can a human being transgress an oath that Hashem imposed on Himself? It’s His oath, not ours. And who are we to tell Him how to keep it? He will keep it at the time He sees fit.
He argues that the shalosh shevuos are not brought in the Rambam. See my first link above for the answer to that one. The Avnei Nezer says it is not halacha but rather Hashem imposed an oath on the root souls. He doesn’t quote the continuation of the Avnei Nezer where he continues that if the body does not listen to the soul it becomes cut off and left ownerless like the deer. Hardly something to play around with. Rabbi Brand just says without any basis that “if we see that the Jewish people want to go up, that is the proof that the oaths have become nullified.”
On the Knessia of 1937, he quotes the Hapardes as saying that rov gedolei yisroel were in favor of a state. But that’s not exactly what it says. It says, “Those saying yes were victorious.” That is Hapardes’s own assessment.
What actually happened was that this fierce debate could not be settled, so the Moetzes decided on a compromise: they produced resolutions that were against the Peel Commission's proposal for a Jewish state, but they did not say what the anti-state rabbis at the convention said - that any Jewish state is a denial of the coming of moshiach. Instead they spoke generally against an irreligious state and against changing the Torah's borders for Eretz Yisroel. The Hapardes calls that a victory for the pro-state rabbis.
The same vagueness was kept in the final resolution of the Knessia: “The Knessia Gedolah cannot agree to the establishment of a Jewish state as proposed by Lord Peel.” The pro-state elements in the Agudah saw the resolution as a demand for larger borders, whereas the anti-state elements saw it as rejection of a Jewish state.
The records of the Knessia do not tell us how the pro-state rabbis explained the Three Oaths, but we have on record a 1944 letter from Reb Yaakov Rosenheim, the founder and political leader of Agudah, that explains their position: "The agreement of Agudah to the establishment of a state before the coming of moshiach is based on the rulings of the Gedolei Torah. However, those rulings depend on two basic conditions, which are far from reality and possibility: 1) the state must be conducted in accordance with Torah and tradition; 2) there must be peace with the Arabs. The second condition is in order to fulfill the oath against going up as a wall (Kesubos 111a). This oath forbids us to take any military action or conquest of the land against the will of the Arabs and the governments of the world. The oath prohibiting rebellion against the nations refers to revolution by military force. Regarding the oath against forcing the end, there may be different opinions. In my opinion, there is no prohibition on founding a state without the Temple. I do not believe that under the current circumstances it is possible to have a state according to Torah law... I would consider the founding of a state to be a disaster and a misfortune." (Mikatowitz Ad Hei B'Iyar, p. 340)
So it seems that those in the Agudah who agreed to a state in theory held like the Ohr Somayach who permits peaceful immigration with the permission of the ruling power. It is not clear, however, how they got around the oath against forcing the end. Rosenheim says that in his opinion, that oath refers only to building the Temple, but there is no proof that the gedolim in the Agudah shared that view.
In any case, none of the gedolim at the Knessia would have dreamed of permitting what happened in 1948: the founding of a state by military conquest. They only discussed the question of a state founded peacefully.
So this idea of Rabbi Brand’s that “most of the gedolim agreed to a state” even if we revise it to read “half” or “some” is very misleading. Those who agreed to a state certainly would not have agreed to the state founded in 1948 through war and conquest.
And he, amazingly, makes the opposite argument: that those against would have changed their minds after the war when there was nowhere for Jews to go, or after the “miracles” of 1967. Halacha is halacha and it’s not affected by how you interpret Hashem’s will in world events.
You wrote that the prayer "because of our sins we were exiled from our land" is no proof against Zionism because returning to Eretz Yisroel is just like working for a living. You do your part but believe at the same time that Hashem decides whether you will succeed. Similarly, we have to keep trying to come back to Eretz Yisroel and if Hashem decides we are worthy, He will make it work, you say.
Of course, the Oaths teach us that it’s not the same. Working for a living is a permitted hishtadlus but conquering Eretz Yisroel is not a permitted hishtadlus. But you are right that without the oaths, the prayer “because of our sins” alone would not be a proof. I think my point is that proof or not, my way is the way 99% of Jews understand the prayer throughout history: Hashem sent us to exile, and Hashem will send moshiach and redeem us. Rabbi Brand says it himself on page 5 of the “Bitul Shalosh Shevuos” booklet: that whoever stubbornly insists on being against the medinah is someone who does not want to consider the matter himself but rather just sticks to what was thought in previous generations. As for me, if I think the way past generations of Jews thought, I’m on safe ground.
You say Jews have tried endless times to restore Jewish sovereignty. Bar Kochba was a messianic candidate so that has no bearing on our subject. Ezra was acting on a nevuah that Jews would return to Eretz Yisroel in 70 years, and the neviim of his time supported the return. Dona Gracia, Don Yosef Nasi and the like were simply projects to help Jews settle in Eretz Yisroel and have a source of income – nothing to do with sovereignty. Gracia was a governor under the Ottomans – the equivalent of a Jewish politician in America today.
Read and you’ll see it has nothing to do with Jewish sovereignty.
Rabbi Akiva Yosef didn’t promote Jewish sovereignty, only a Jewish farming community. He called it Kolel Haivrim. I have his sefer Chevra Machazirei Atarah Leyoshnah im Kollel Haivrim. I don’t see any there about a state or an army, just a community with by-laws. And there are conflicting stories about whether the Yitav Lev supported him or not. In Vayoel Moshe 2:108, quoting Rabbi Akiva Yosef’s own sefer, it seems that he didn’t.
You write “Mashiach is simply a Jew that succeeds at what all Jews are supposed to aim for. If he succeeds, we know he is the one. He starts out as legal king first, as the Rambam explains, but according to you we can only accept Mashiach as king.”
True, mashiach will try and if he succeeds, we know he is the one. But that doesn’t mean that someone not claiming to be mashiach can try. The Rambam says “if a king arises” because as he arises he will act as king, since he claims to be moshiach.
You mention Megillah 17b. The Malbim on Yechezkel 34:23 says that moshiach will come in stages. First he will be here, a spiritual figure, leading the Jews to teshuva. In that stage, the gathering of the exiles and the restoration of the Sanhedrin may happen. Later he will have sovereignty, build Jerusalem and his kingdom will spread. That’s what the order of the berachos refers to.
You say I didn’t demolish the first contradiction in the Brisker Rav: war kills. Why do you think the Brisker Rav said it is forbidden to sacrifice even one Jewish life for a state? Isn’t that normal for war? Obviously he held there is no milchemes mitzvah or milchemes reshus now, due to the fact that we are in exile.
Your explanation of the Ramban (that nowadays there is no kibush because it’s not possible) may fit into the words as well as mine (that nowadays there is no kibush because we’re in exile and it’s forbidden). But you’re forgetting the context of the discussion. The Zionists bring proof from this Ramban on Sefer Hamitzvos that the Ramban rejected the oaths as practical halacha. Their proof is that the Ramban says, "So we see that we were commanded to conquer it in all generations." I am showing that the Ramban didn’t mean all generations including nowadays, in exile. You are agreeing with me, only you are offering an alternative reason as to why – because it isn’t possible. But I have still done what I set out to do: show that the there is no proof from the Ramban that he rejects the oaths. It’s at least possible that he might uphold the oaths and mean as I have understood him.