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If the state is against Hashem's will, why did He give them success?


Dear Rabbi:

Please understand that I am asking this question respectfully, for information only.

If establishing a Zionist state is against Hashem's wishes, then why did He allow the state to be established at all, and why did He allow the Jews take back Yerushalayim?

Many times, Israelis have won wars agains the Arabs, against overwhelming numbers and odds.

Thank you.

Dear Jonathan,

Whenever people bring proof from the successes of the Zionists their successes in agriculture, in diplomacy or in battle they are missing an important point. Such arguments do have a wide appeal, for every Torah Jew believes that Hashem did, does and will do all things. The fallacy of the argument lies in the undeniable fact that there is evil in this world. Hashem allows people free will to choose to do wrong, and even to be successful in doing wrong on a large scale. The relationship between Hashems will and mans free will is explained by the Rambam (Hilchos Teshuva 5:4). Only historical amnesia could allow a person to pretend that the entire growth process of the Zionist State was simply willed by Hashem, and all the people involved were swept away by Hashems overpowering will. The truth is that Zionism was a movement of Jews with a powerful sense of purpose, who dedicated their entire lives and often gave their lives toward the effort of building the land and the state. Every diplomatic achievement and every military achievement came through the effort of these dedicated people. Why Hashem decided to grant their efforts some degree of success is one of the mysteries of our era. But the fact that they succeeded is no more a proof that they were doing the right thing, than is the fact that the Germans succeeded in killing six million Jews a proof that they were doing the right thing.

I am not a prophet and I have no clear answer as to why Hashem allowed them to succeed, but I will give you a few quotations that I have come across, written by individuals who lived long before the time of Zionism, implying that such a thing could, or would, happen (and some of the quotations attempt to explain the meaning of it).

1. The Zohar, Bereishis 54a, speaks about Adam's two sons Kayin and Hevel. Kayin came from the left side, from the side of tumah, and Hevel came from the right side, the side of taharah. The name "kayin" comes from the word "kein," nest, a nest of evil habitations demons and spirits from the unclean side. When Kayin and Hevel brought offerings, each brought from his own side:

Rabbi Shimon said: "And it came to pass at the end of days [Kayin brought from the fruit of the ground an offering to Hashem]" (Bereishis 4:3). What is "mikeitz yamim"? This is the end of all flesh. And who is this? The angel of death. And Kayin brought his offering from that "keitz yamim". There is a hint to this in the words, for it says, "mikeitz yamim" and not "mikeitz yamin". And therefore it says regarding Daniel (Daniel 12:13): "And you, go to the End, and stand by your portion." He said to him: To the keitz hayamim or to the keitz hayamin? He said to him: To the keitz hayamin. But Kayin brought from the keitz hayamim.

The Zohar seems to say that there are two Ends, one from the right, clean side and one from the unclean side. Daniel asked the angel which one he should go to, and the angel replied, to the one on the right.

2. The next quotation is from the Emes Leyaakov, a commentary on the Agados of the Talmud written by Rabbi Yaakov of Lissa (1770-1832), on Bava Basra 73b:

Rabbah bar bar Chanah said: One time we were traveling on a boat, and we saw a fish on whose back sand had settled, and a swamp of reeds had grown up on it. We thought it was dry land, so we went up and baked and cooked on it. And when its back got hot, it turned over, and if the boat had not been nearby, we would have drowned.

The Emes Leyaakov explains this as an allegory:

He (i.e. Rabbah bar bar Chanah) saw with holy inspiration that it will happen before the coming of Moshiach that Israel, which is under his dominion, will lift itself up over the other nations. And the nations are called "the fish", and this is what it means, "sand settled," for chalsa (sand) is from the word choleh (sick), so it means that this nation's power was weakened, and "a swamp of reeds had grown up on it", for agma (swamp of reeds) is a language of subservience and lowliness, as the Aruch says, from the words, "bowing the head like a reed" (Yishaya 58:5). In other words, subservience grew on the nation. "We thought it was dry land" in other words, they thought that their (i.e. the nations') hopes had dried up, "and we went up and baked and cooked" in other words, Israel wanted to lift itself up over them and rule over them. "And when its back got hot, it turned over" in other words, they (i.e. the nations) turned over and became stronger over them. "And if the boat had not been nearby we would have drowned" in other words, this thing will happen shortly before the redemption, and when they turn over and become very powerful over Israel, if not for the closeness of the redemption, we would have drowned.

3. The Rambam at the end of Iggeres Teiman (in which he teaches the Jews of Yemen not to follow a certain false messiah) writes:

And these are things the prophets have already foretold, and they have told us about what I have told you, that when the time of the true Moshiach draws near, there will be many who lift themselves high and place doubts in people's minds, but their claims will not be born out, and they will perish and many will perish with them. And when Shlomo, peace be upon him, told with his holy inspiration, that this nation when it is sunk into exile will try to arouse itself not at its proper time, and they will die because of this and travails will come upon them he warned against this, and made an oath against this in an allegorical way, and said, "I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem&" And you, our brethren, our beloved keep his oath and do not arouse the love before it is desired!

Actually, the entire existence of the sugya of the Three Oaths implies that there was a real possibility that such a forcing of the End would occur. I only quoted the Rambam because he spells it out more clearly.

4. Now, the story of Reb Shmelka of Selish:

Reb Shmelka of Selish was once traveling with his student Reb Moshe Jungreis. The town of Selish was at the base of the Carpathian Mountains, and they passed through a certain forest. Usually Reb Shmelka was careful never to whip his horses, because he held this to be a violation of the prohibition on causing pain to an animal. On the uphill sections of road, he would get off the wagon and walk to make it easier for the horses. But as they passed through this forest, he told the wagon driver to whip the horses and make them go as fast as possible, until they were out of the forest. Then he began breathing deeply and heavily. "Why is the Rebbe so out of breath?" asked Reb Moshe. "Don't you know what was in that place we just passed?" said Reb Shmelka. "No," replied the student, "I saw nothing more than mountains and hills." Reb Shmelka then told him: "You must know that the forest through which we just passed was full of souls of the zealots from the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, who refused to listen to the Sages who told them to surrender to the Romans. They fought until the bitter end, thus causing the destruction of the Temple and the exile of Israel. To this very day, their souls have not been repaired. Therefore I told the wagon driver to drive fast, because it was a place of impurity and I could not stand the air there.

"And I heard the souls begging the Holy One, blessed is He, to let them come into the world again in order to rectify themselves. The reply was, 'I know that you will not do any better the second time, but since everyone is given free will, I am giving you the opportunity.' Reb Moshe, you must know that in forty years from now, they will come into the world again. You will be a rav then, and you must act wisely."

Later Reb Moshe Jungreis became rav of Kasho, and he told his congregation to notify him in advance when any public gathering was to take place. Once a group of Jews came to Kasho to raise money for a fund to buy land in Eretz Yisroel, which was then ruled by the Turks. The leaders of the congregation told them, "We cannot do anything without the rav's approval." They told the rav, and he immediately remembered what his rebbe had told him. He checked his records and found that it had been exactly forty years since that day. "No!" he said to the leaders of the congregation. "Heaven forbid to join them! We must keep the Rabbi Meir Baal Haness collection boxes and send our money to the kollelim of Jerusalem." And with that, he expelled the new group from the city. (Mishkenos Haro'im p. 193)

5. The following story was told by Rabbi Yaakov Teitelbaum, a rav in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens, New York:

Last summer I visited the Skulener Rebbe to invite him to our camp, Camp Agudah. The Rebbe was one of the few who risked their lives to save Jewish souls in Romania, and under the Communist government he would support hundreds of children to save them. In the end, the Communists put him in jail, and since Reb Elimelech Tress had a major role in saving him, we came to invite the Rebbe to come and eulogize Mr. Tress.

When I came to the Skulener Rebbe, he asked me to repeat before him what I had heard in the name of Reb Yisroel of Rizhin (1797-1850) about what will be in the future. I told him that my father told me that he had heard from his grandfather, who heard the following words directly from the Rizhiner: "Before the coming of Moshiach a pillar of fire will come down from heaven, as came down for Eliyahu on Mount Carmel. Jews, know that it will not come down for the true prophets but for the false prophets. And one will have to crawl up smooth walls in order to continue having faith."

The Rebbe asked me, "Did the Rizhiner say this would be in the Beis Hamikdash?" I replied that I do not know. Probably if he said "fire from heaven" it will be on the altar, just as that of Eliyahu Hanavi was on an altar. Then the Rebbe asked me to repeat the words again.

I asked, "Why are you interested in hearing these words so many times?" He replied that he heard from reliable witnesses that when the Slonimer Rebbe, the author of Divrei Shmuel, was sick, and the sickness was serious, the doctors advised him to travel to Berlin, for there was hope of doing an operation there. The next morning, he decided not to travel, but he dictated a testament for the Jewish people: "Jews, know that unworthy people will travel to Eretz Yisroel before the coming of Moshiach, and will succeed with great victories, and they will build the Beis Hamikdash, and fire will come down from heaven in the Beis Hamikdash, as it happened in the First Temple. Know that this fire will not be from the Side of Holiness, but from the Other Side."

The Rebbe told me to publicize this testament in his name, and added, "If they ask me about the truth of this testament, I am ready to swear on it with a Torah oath." (Kol Yaakov, p. 192)

6. Rabbi Tzadok Hakohein of Lublin, Tzidkas Hatzadik 46 (written 1848, first published in 1913):

To the wicked, G-d says, Why do you speak of my laws? (Tehillim 50:16) On this all should be sad (cf. Kiddushin 81b) for one who transgresses a Rabbinic prohibition is called wicked (Yevamos 20a). But regarding this, the earlier commentators quoted the statement of Chazal, All that the host tells you to do, you must do, except for leaving (Pesachim 86b). And not for nothing did the Torah write the story of the mapilim (those who invaded Eretz Yisroel without Hashems permission) in Parshas Shelach. They already believed in the words of Moshe, so why didnt they listen to him when he said, Do not go up&? But the answer is that they considered this to be permitted under the clause except for leaving. And see the Zohar (3:161) which takes the entire story of the spies as a metaphor for Torah. The punishment [of Israel after the sin of the spies] was that they should not get it [Eretz Yisroel]. Therefore, they invaded, even though it was against the will of Hashem Yisborach, as Chazal said, Chutzpah is kingship without a crown (Sanhedrin 105a). {They derived this from Bilam, to whom Hashem Yisborach eventually agreed. For Bilam foresaw until the Footsteps of the Moshiach, and therefore he knew this secret.} The explanation is that, as known, kingship refers to Knesses Yisroel and crown refers to the root of the will of Hashem Yisborach, thus the meaning is a government on its own, without the will of those who want, and Knesses Yisroel drawing close [to Hashem] on their own. They did not succeed in this because they ate it too early, as Chazal said, In the Footsteps of the Moshiach, chutzpah will increase (Sotah 49b), for that is the time for it. {And in the future a woman will seek out a man, and this is not the time to discuss this at length.} Therefore, Moshe said to them, And it will not succeed the language implying that it is an idea, but it will not succeed. And note the word vehi (and it), from which Chazal always infer: it and not another. [In this case, it means] that there will be another time when it does succeed, and that is our time, which is the Footsteps of the Moshiach. (Words in squiggly brackets are Reb Tzadoks; words in round and square brackets are my additions to make it easier to read in translation.)

7. I am including the following story because it mentions a foretelling of the state in the Prophets and Kabbalah (however, I do not know what source the speaker meant). It also explains what the proper attitude to such a prophecy should be:

When the Zionists campaigned in the United Nations for permission to establish their state, the Agudath Israel lay leaders worked alongside them. The Brisker Rav, fearing the great bloodshed the state would bring about, tried to dissuade them from these diplomatic missions. "But," someone said to the Brisker Rav, "it says in the works of Kabbalah that before the coming of moshiach there will be a government in the hands of the eirev rav." "I don't believe that," said the Brisker Rav. The man persisted, "The words of the prophets, too, contain a hint that the Land will be partitioned and governed by a Jewish government before the coming of moshiach." The Brisker Rav replied, "The Gemora states explicitly that even when something is foretold by prophecy, it is forbidden to violate the law of the Torah. It says in Berachos 10a that Chizkiyahu foresaw that he would have wicked children, and because of this he refrained from having children. Why? If he saw prophetically that he would have children, it would happen no matter what, so why did he try to avoid it? The answer is, since - according to what Chizkiyahu held - it was forbidden to bring bad children into the world, he was obligated to make all efforts to avoid doing it, despite the knowledge that his efforts would fail and the children would be born anyway. So too here, it is forbidden to found a state, for it will cause bloodshed. Even if the prophets say it will happen anyway, it is forbidden for us to help."

The Brisker Rav gave another example to illustrate this point: "The Rambam writes that we can see the hand of Hashem even in the spreading of the major religions of the gentiles. These religions serve to prepare the world for the Days of Moshiach, by bringing belief in Hashem and the Torah albeit in a corrupted form - to the whole world. Does that mean that we should go and help spread these religions?" (Teshuvos Vehanhagos v. 2, siman 140)