How do you understand Ezekiel (36:32) who says that exile is a chillul hashem?

Feb 10, 2008

How would you define the concept in Ezekiel 36 of "Not for your sake,
Israel, do I bring you back to the land of Israel, but (only) because of
the desecration of My holy name that I took pity on (do I bring you back to
Israel)?"

I think it means that even though we are not yet observant and therefore not
worthy and therefore not good religious Jews, eventually God still returns
our land to our sovereignty ONLY to prove to the nations that He is indeed
the all powerful God through Jewish power and prowess over His Land, thus
beginning a process that He is hoping we will culminate in the positive
ending (as opposed to deteriorating further or even just retaining the
status quo)? If you are to say that it means that, despite our
unworthiness, He will bring back only a small group of Jews to Israel to
settle the land, then how is a small group categorized and defined as
"sanctifying God's name on a national level in the eyes of the blasphemous
nations (whose desecration was to deny God's power)?" A small group of Jews
settling in Israel certainly does not prove to them that the God of Israel
is indeed "still alive" (so to speak). On a national scale, the gentile
nations (governments in particular) recognize "good and bad" in terms of
"raw, physical success and power versus failure and weakness." The nature
of the gentile soul is one that is different than that of the Jew at its
very root; they are attracted and impressed by physical concepts, such as
physical victory in battle, material success, and the like. If you don't
believe that, then just check out how much money and time the gentile world
spends on glorifying victory in sports battles, financial matters, and the
physical beauty of the human body. There are exceptions among them, but
that is the general rule, especially among governmental people who
obviously value governmental power and authority as being a positive proof
of one's prowess and goodness in this world, while a lack or weakness in
thereof displays the opposite in their eyes. That is the logic of the
gentile mindset. The Baal Hatanya explains the nature of the Jewish soul
versus the very nature of the gentile soul from its inception as being
created differently from each other in these terms (of course, he goes into
much more elaborate and deeper detail than I am here). So it cannot be that
what Ezekiel means is that God's name is sanctified on a national scale in
the eyes of the nations by way of just a small group of Jews returning to
merely live in the land of Israel. The latter would not impress them in the
least, so there is no national sanctification in that.

And should you say that "Not for your sake, etc." means that "Mashiach
will come and force (however you define "forcing" in practical terms) us to
do teshuva (however you define teshuva in practical terms) against our will,
and only then will we return to regain possession of the Land," I will
respond by saying that first of all, Ezekiel does not say "Not for your
sake, Israel, do I force you to do teshvua and bring you back to the Land of
Israel." Second of all, were we to say that it means that Mashiach first
has to force us to do teshuva before God "brings" us back, then that would
still mean we will have done teshuva. Teshuva, weather forced or not, is
still teshuva. And, as such, it would then become a case of God returning
us "for our sake" and not a case of being returned "not for your sake."
The moment we will have done teshuva, weather forced or not, one can no
longer say that it is not for our sake. Thus, I believe it makes a lot
more sense to say as I have explained it, that due to the long golus
history of national degredation and desecration via the nations viewing our
lack of sovereingty over the Land and their controling us and humiliating us
in their countries as a proof that the God of Israel is not the all-powerful
God, culminating in the biggest national degredation/desecration of His
power imaginable, the holocaust, that God reaches the point where He says
"enough is enough of the national degredation" and He begins a process of
returning us, via our apparent bechira, ultimately, to Torah true power and
prominence in the eyes of the nations via causing us to regain some form of
sovereignty over His Land. But such form of sovereignty is not for our
benefit; nay, it is evil as far as WE Torah Jews are concerned; but it is
a sovereignty that is ONLY for the purpose of showing the blasphemous
nations of the world that the God of Israel IS indeed powerful, since in
their eyes it doesn't matter what form of sovereignty or what kind of Jews
are ruling over the Land again, the point as far as they are concerned is
that JEWS are ruling over their Land again. The fact that such sovereignty
is in the form of Jews who may be Jews in name only and who do all manner of
evil, anti-Torah things, and the fact that the form of sovereignty is in
itself false, does not matter in the eyes of the nations. What matters is
that Jews, stam kacha, are ruling the Land which proves to them that the God
of the Jews has power. For two thousand years, the Christain church proved
to themselves and the world that they were "right." Their belief was that
the Jewish people had rejected the "true god" of the Christians, and as
such was being punished by losing their power over their land, and being
degraded under their rule in foreign lands. The fact that they could think
that way was a national desecration of His name. When the entire world
stood by and watched millions of Jews perishing and being degraded in the
most horrible of ways, that was a "proof" in their eyes that the Jewish God
did not have the power to save them from their might and/or from their
"gods," and as such the "Jewish God" was not really God as far as they were
concerned. And even a more benign golus is still a degredation in that it
appears that the gentiles who rule over us have the true power. That is the
true meaning, according to many commentaries, of the idea of one who lives
in chutz la'aretz is as one who has no God; and one who lives in chutz
la'aretz is as one who worships idols in purity. It is not meant literally
of course, because clearly there are many who are Torah observant who live
in chutz la'aretz. But what it really means is that the very physical
living in their lands, under foreign governments, has the appearance of our
acceptance of their authority over us as being the true power, as opposed to
the God of Israel actually having the true power when we dwell in our own
Land under Jewish authority.

Dear Yissocher,

The verses in Yechezkel mean that G-d will send us Moshiach even if we don't deserve it, but Moshiach will still make the Jews do teshuva. Since the initial sending of Moshiach is something we don't deserve, the bringing us to Eretz Yisroel which results is also considered something we don't deserve.

Very hard and erroneous spin there, I believe. You are sticking a lot
of words into that Yechezkel that don't exist and are being explained
incorrectly, I believe. Because logically, if the entire concept behind
undeservant, unrepentant Jews going back to control the Land is ONLY for the
sake of God proving to the GENTILE NATIONS that He indeed is omnipotent,
which is what God's pitying of His Holy Name is about, and which is clear
from the context of what Yechezkel is talking about and the commentaries,
then the "teshuva" of the Jewish people is NOT the issue here at all as you
claim. Because, as I stated earlier, to the gentile nations it matters not
what kind of Jews regain control of the Land; what matters is that they are
Jews, even merely Jews in name only, PERIOD. In the eyes of the nations,
they view the power of the God of Israel purely in terms of strength,
prowess, and victory vis a vis our control or lack of control of the Land,
independant of what kind of Jews have such power, good, bad, or
indifferent. If the context of what Yechezkel was "forced teshuva" as you
claim, then there would be no reason to tell us the reason for God causing
unrepentant Jews returning was davka ONLY BECAUSE the NATIONS were mocking
God's innability to save the Jewish people from their power and strength.
It is not for our personal benefit at all, but only for His benefit vis a
vis His refuting the nations' false beliefs of their own power being
superior to His vis a vis their controling the Land and controling us in
their host countries.

Why do you say that undeserving Jews being favored by G-d and given victory is a kiddush hashem in the world? When the wicked succeed it makes people believe less in G-d, not more. If a Jew is a gang boss, a thief and a murderer and he becomes wealthy and successful, do you think the gentiles are going to say, "Look how powerful G-d is, that He gives success to His people?" No, they will either deny the existence of G-d, or else say that G-d is very racist and unfair. If, on the other hand, the Jewish people repents and become loyal servants of G-d, and then G-d grants them victory and success and gives them back the Holy Land, they will see G-d as just and fair, rewarding the righteous.

I want to add a word of explanation. I know you have many proofs that G-d grants success and victory to wicked Jews to prevent a chillul hashem. But many of those proofs are not relevant to today for the following reason: in ancient times, gentile nations worshipped idols, and Hashem was the G-d of only the Jewish people. If a wicked Jew such as Achav or Menashe lost a war to Moav or Ashur, people would say that the gods of Moav and Ashur are stronger than Hashem, so therefore Hashem gave them victory. If the Hashem had killed all the Jews after they built the golden calf, the Egyptians would have said He is weak, as opposed to the Egyptian and Canaanite gods.

But today all the major world religions believe in the same G-d, and He is seen by most gentiles as a universal G-d, concerned about all mankind. So if the Jews lose a war to the Arabs, people will not say G-d is weak, they will say that He favors the Arabs. If the Jews win, they will say that He favors the Jews. Now, if the Jews are not especially religious people, not especially loyal to G-d, and the world opinion is that in the Jewish-Arab conflict the two sides are about equally wrong and right, why is it a kiddush hashem if the Jews win? People might even say, as I wrote before, that if there is a G-d He is very biased towards the Jews for no reason other than their ethnic descent, and this would lead people to question their belief in Him.

* I
am not denying that walking in Hashem's ways was and is the preferred
course. And indeed, that is why God permitted an exile to begin with;
even if it were to have lasted but one day, it had a positive purpose of
trying to get the Jewish people to walk in God's ways. However, even
without us choosing to walk in God's ways, there reaches a climax point
where the nations of the world mocking God's people, yes even if those
people themselves on balance are wicked, where He says/said "Enough is
enough!" Yes, it is true, that a parent loves his child no matter what,
even if that child proves to be wicked in many ways. And should a bully not
from his family come along and beat and spit on and humiliate his child,
even if that child be wicked, the father would not be much of a father if
he stood by and said, "Well, my child is wicked, so just let the bully
continue to beat on him INDEFINITELY." All the more so our father in
heaven.

If Meir Lansky or some other no-good person who happened to be born
Jewish were threatened of beaten upon because he was a Jew, yes I would
deem it right to protect him...not because I thought that Lansky was
anything more than a rotten person, but because to the gentile what matters
is that Lansky is a Jew. If a group of gentiles went out and wanted to
cause problems for a reform temple, yes I would say it is correct to try to
defend that temple; not because I think the temple is anything about
Judaism, but because to the gentile it does represent Judaism.

I'm sure your point about appearing racist would have been applicable in
the time of Joshua just as well. Expelling gentiles from the Land? What
does the first Rashi say? It says that the gentiles (no, not just the
Canaanites, but all of the gentile world...) will call us "Thieves!" for
stealing what they believed to be other peoples land! Now that's racism my
friend if ever there was racism.

No, it is not racism, because the Jews were not chosen to displace the Canaanites because of their race; it was because the Canaanites were wicked and the Jews, while they may not have been exceptionally righteous (see Devarim 9:5), were at least not wicked, and were expected to be righteous. And the Jews were warned numerous times that if they would be wicked like the Canaanites, they would have no more right to stay in the land than the Canaanites ("that the land not vomit you out as it vomited out the nation that was before you"). So this is not G-d preferring one race over another, but G-d preferring one lifestyle over another. Still, if it were not G-d doing it, it would be robbery. Just because I am more righteous than someone else doesn't mean I have the right to kick him out of his house and take the house for myself.

Other classic
examples that show a distinction between the concept of "moderate
oppression" versus "major oppression" are the cases of torture committed
against Samson, and the mere potential of torture against King Saul. In
both of those leaders cases, the normative halacha of it being a SERIOUS
AVEIRA of committing suicide was overtaken by the consideration of the
humiliation of the leaders of the Jewish people, who in turn represent the
Jewish people, who in turn represent God's power. Were either of the cases
lacking torture, but "merely" involved the threat of ordinary death or
potential death, then committing suicude to pre-empt that death from
happening would not have been permitted. However, since in Saul's case he
knew that the ways of the Philistines was to commit torture, a greater form
of humiliation (of the God of Israel whom he represented), and in Samson's
case who was already being tortured, they were both permitted to commit the
otherwise heinous sin of suicide ONLY in order to abort the mocking of God's
power and ability. You see here, again, the mocking of God's attribute of
power supercedes all else when it comes to weighing one sin versus another,
or one sinner (the bad Jews being granted power, in our discussion) versus
other sinners (the nations torture and murder of the Jewish nation
throughout history, particularly in the holocaust).

You are confusing two things. In Samson's case, a sin was permitted to prevent the mocking of G-d's power an aveirah lishmah. Such a sin is not really a sin because it is the right thing to do in that case. Samson didn't get punished in the Heavenly Court for his suicide. But you want to argue that sinners, who have sinned in the past, not for a good reason, should be given victory in order to show G-d's power. This is a totally flawed argument.

As an analogy, imagine someone arguing as follows: one may commit a sin and violate Shabbos to save a Jew's life. So therefore, if a Jew violates Shabbos, beis din should not execute him, because human life supercedes the observance of Shabbos.

Chushim ben Dan clubbed Eisav to death. The issue over which he did it
was the denigration of his deceased father's burial. His father, though no
longer living, was still a representative of Am Yisrael as a nation, and
Eisav and his men were stalling the "Jewish people" of that time. This was
not a case of murdering Jews, just a bit of degredation. And from Eisav
and his men's standpoint, it had nothing to do with "the god of Edom vs.
the God of Israel." It had to do with a debate over burial rights that
tangentially humiliated the Jewish people. Thus, even though the intent of
the gentiles in this case was not to prove that their god was more powerful
than ours, still in real Torah terms the Jew Chushim understood that is
what it is.

You are trying to prove from Chushim ben Dan that it's a chillul hashem for a Jew to be degraded simply because he is a Jew. But the difference between Yaakov and Esav was not merely that Yaakov was a Jew. Yaakov was a tzaddik and Esav was a rasha. It is a chillul hashem for a tzaddik to be degraded by a rasha, even if they both worship the same G-d (which Esav probably did).

Rashi on Ezekiel 36 says, explicitly: "The degredation of the Jew IS the
desecration of His name." He does not say "The degredation of the Jew is
the desecration of God's name only IF the gentile nation doing the
degredation recognizes it as such." The point is that we as Jews should
know and understand this concept, regardless of how the nations understand
it."

So you are saying that the whole "vekidashti es shmi hagadol hamechulal bagoyim" means only kiddush hashem in the eyes of the Jews themselves? This doesn't seem to be the pshuto shel mikra. Also, up till now your point was that the benefits of golus are outweighed by the importance of kiddush hashem in the eyes of the nations who don't know the difference between observant Jews and secular Jews. But if you're switching and saying it is kiddush hashem in the eyes of the Jews, you can't say that we don't know the difference between observant Jews and secular Jews.