Do True Torah Jews and Zionists respect the same Scriptures?

12/01/06

Dear Rabbi,

As a Christian, I wish to express my gratitude for this site and my prayers for your safety as you combat our common adversary.

I desire to understand the differences, if any, between what a Zionist considers Holy scripture verses a True Torah believer.

As a True Torah Jew when you refer to Torah, is this a reference to the Torah of the Holy Bible only or does this also include the Babylonian Talmud?

Also, does a True Torah believer give any credence to the Cabbalistic Zohar? Likewise, do Zionists typically find truth in this same book?

Thank you in advance for your answers. May G-d bless your people and keep you in your struggles.

Peter N.

Dear Peter,

Let me explain the relationship of the Torah and the Talmud, so you understand that they are both equally revered by all Orthodox Jews without exception. When G-d gave us the Torah, He also gave us an explanation of its laws, to be transmitted orally from generation to generation. For example, the Torah prohibits work on the Sabbath, but does not say exactly what "work" means. G-d explained to Moses orally that it means carrying objects in the street, lighting fires, tying knots, slaughtering animals and so on. The Torah says to take the fruit of the goodly trees on Succoth, but does not say which fruit. Oral tradition explains that it is the ethrog or citron. If you think about it, most of the laws in the Torah are impossible to observe without more explanation.

These explanations were passed down from teacher to student for about 1500 years, until around the year 200 of the common era. At that time the Sages became afraid that the laws would be forgotten, and they decided to write them down. This written work was called the Mishnah, and is the backbone of the Talmud. Even this Mishnah was written in a concise style and left much room for oral explanation, which went on being passed down for another 300 years. At that time it was written down, again out of fear of being forgotten, as the Talmud. All of Jewish law today is based on the Talmud, and is kept by all observant Jews. There have been breakoff sects in history - once in about 300 BCE and another in about 700 CE - who rejected the orally transmitted laws. But they are almost non-existent today.

All Orthodox Jews today give credence to the Kabbalistic works such as the Zohar, but they are never used as a basis to alter Jewish law; in that respect they do not have the authority of the Scriptures and Talmud. The Kabbalah is studied (by those who study it) more for academic reasons than for practical ones.

Zionism is a political movement founded more than 100 years ago by Jews who had already turned their backs on the entire Jewish religion, Torah and Talmud alike. They were joined by some religious Jews who wanted join them in building a state, while at the same time retaining the beliefs and practices of Judaism. Understandably, this required a good deal of manipulation of the texts to suit their purposes.

They use the pieces of the Bible and Talmud they want, and ignore the rest. There was a period in ancient history when Jews were permitted to fight wars, for example the period of Joshua, King David etc. The Torah has laws relating to war, and the Talmud, just as it explains all the laws of the Torah, explains these laws as well. The Zionists see these wars as their precedent. But they are ignoring the fact that these wars were fought by Divine command. From the year 69 and onward, when the Temple was destroyed and our exile began, Jews have been forbidden to fight any wars. The Talmud says that explicitly, but the Zionists ignore it. The Talmud says explicitly that Jews may not reconquer the land of Palestine. The Zionists ignore that too.

The Bible and Talmud have a lot of material on the final redemption, when G-d will bring peace to the world and restore the Jews to their ancestral land. The Zionists, through their ignorance of the sources, have misconstrued this as a political or military effort. However, the true Jewish belief, which Jews have held throughout the centuries, is that first G-d will send the messiah, a Jewish leader who will bring all the Jews to keep the laws of the Torah and will be recognized by the entire world as the messiah. Then the process of gathering the Jewish exiles will begin, peacefully, since the non-Jews will also agree that this messiah is a messenger of G-d. No one will be killed or forcibly expelled.

In short, secular Zionists have no respect for any Jewish text. Religious Zionists have respect for all the same Jewish texts that we respect, only they have perverted their meaning and ignored key passages. One of the major goals of Jews Against Zionism is to reach our fellow Jews who are ignorant about the subject and have been confused by Zionist interpretations of Jewish texts, and to show them the true meaning of those texts.

Thank you for your interest.