Friday, August 17, 2012

Parshat Re'eh: To State or Not to State

On Thursday I had the pleasure of talking about this week's parshah in our weekly Stand Up staff meeting. This is the quick and dirty of what I talked about, and I hope it gives you some serious food for thought.

First, I offered up a quick summary of what is offered up in parshat Re'eh:
  • Blessings & curses (shout it from the mountains!)
    • But what about bechira hofshi (free will)? Rabbi Akiva in Avot 3:19 said, “Though everything is foreseen by G-d, yet free will is granted to man.” 
    • Re’eh is singular -- "You see" -- putting emphasis on the individual.
  • Rules for living in Eretz Yisrael (centralized worship)
    • One note: When in mourning, you cannot physically harm yourself. 
  • Don't become a Canaanite (false prophets and idols are not cool)
  • Review of kashrut (you heard them at Sinai, so hear them again)
  • Tithing (that's 10 percent of one's annual produce)
  • Shmitah year (let the land rest, yo)
  • Laws of Passover, Sukkot, and Shavuot (pilgrimage and sacrifice -- according to your means)
Then I got into the meat of what either Matters to Chavi or is Bothering Chavi. I started with Devarim 17:14-15,
When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite. 
I tied this to something I actually posted here on the blog in this post from July 17 about the decision to make aliyah and the challenges I was facing.
There is a positive, biblical commandment to dwell in Eretz Yisrael, as it says, "You shall possess it and dwell in it" (Devarim 17:14, 26:1). (Sefer Chareidim, Mitzvot Asei HaTeluyot B'Eretz Israel, chap. I, sec 15.) 
Chazal (חז"ל acronym for Chachameinu Zichronam Livracha -- “Our sages, may their memory be blessed”) say that this mitzvah is equal to all the mitzvot of the Torah (Sifrei, Re'eh 28), and it is one of the 613 mitzvot according to the Ramban.

And then I posted The Big Question: What does this mean for the Land of Israel today? Are we rushing a good thing?

This question is based on the understanding of many Hasidic dynasties who have expressed anti-Zionist opinions because of the "Three Oaths" -- found in Talmud Tractate Ketubot 111a -- by which all Jews are bound.  This discussion comes from the book Vayoel Moshe written in 1961 by Satmar Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, who, by the way, was living in Israel at the time. The title of the book states very plainly the rabbi's stance in opposition to the State of Israel,
"And Moses agreed to stay ... an alien in a foreign land" (Exodus 2:21).  
Moses agreed to stay an alien in foreign land, so we should to, right?

So the "Three Oaths" discussion comes from a passage from Shir haShirim in which God made the Israelites promise "to wait for Him before arousing his love" as King Solomon pleaded -- three times -- with the daughters of Israel not to stir “his love” before the time is due. So what are the "Three Oaths" that dictate why we shouldn't have established a State of Israel (beyond, of course, the obvious statement that the State of Israel is a secular, heathen place failing in its Judaism):
  1. Do not ascend to Eretz Yisrael as a group using force
  2. Do not rebel against the nations of the world
  3. The nations of the world will not persecute the nation of Israel excessively (guessing PEOPLE/Am Yisrael)
So, what do you think? Are we rushing things? How do we reconcile the knowledge that the Torah tells us to possess and dwell in the land but that it was meant, perhaps, for the most immediate of generations (aka those that actually did enter and possess the land)? Do Hasidim have footing upon which to stand with the whole "we're rushing it, and this is the reason Mashiach hasn't come yet" argument?