Friday, September 15, 2006

Post-Zionism: Torah Style

Earlier this week, we discussed the inevitable return to the ghetto evident in secular post-zionism. However, it is important to note that even the Torah does not necessarily view Jewish vindication as the ultimate purpose of the redemption process. Rather, Jewish Philosophy sees the ultimate redemption of all of Creation as the climax of history.

In Sukka, 55b, Rabbi Yochanan bemoans the irony accompanying the destruction of the altar. The nations of the world all received atonement for their sins while the altar service was in effect. By destroying the Temple, the Romans unknowingly destroyed the very mechanism by which G-d forgave their sins! Evident here is a new facet of the tragic destruction. In the future, Isa. 66:23 prophesies, all living creatures will come to the Temple periodically to serve G-d. It is clear that the redemption of the Jews is only part of a larger picture. There will be universal recognition of G-d, and, subsequently, a universal grace in which all nations, indeed, all of creation, find the perfection which has eluded them throughout history.

In one of Rav Kook's pieces of poetry, his 'שיר מרובע' he describes the passage of a man from his concern over his personal redemption, to an interest in Jewish National redemption. From there, the protagonist finds a higher plane of redemption, that of all Mankind. Finally, he ends by finding the ultimate redemption, the redemption of the Universe, and the validation of Creation.

Zionism emanates from the second level, one where a man loses his personal ego, and attaches to the spirit of Israel, and concerns himself with the redemption of his nation. However, Rav Kook points out, this nationalism still contains streaks of ego. At the appropriate time, this negative must also be traded for the perfection of Mankind, and eventually, the world entire.

We must choose how to view our nationalism. Is it an end in itself? If so, it is doomed to fail, because it does not resolve to the perfection of all creation. However, if we see our nationalism as a segue to a world which is 'full of knowledge of G-d', then it serves an important purpose.

On Sukka 52a, Rabbis argue over a eulogy given in Zech. 12. Is the eulogy given for the Evil Inclination, or for Messiah of Joseph? (Messiah of Joseph symbolizes throughout Jewish thought, the precursor to Messiah, son of David. He prepares the physical situation of the Jews, preparing them for the spiritual perfection of the Messiah of David (Judah). And so, Rabbi Kook saw the return to Zion and Secular Zionism as possible representatives of this pre-Messiah, the Messiah of Joseph.) Perhaps this talmudic discussion aims at the question of how we view our nationalism. If we view our nationalism as an end in itself, then the Messiah of Joseph dies. However, if we use this nationalism to attain the universalism of the ultimate redemption, then the Messiah of Joseph will not die. Instead, we will eulogize the destruction of Evil.

The Gaon of Vilna said that during the blessings asking for redemption in our daily prayers, we must fervently beg G-d to spare the life of the Messiah of Joseph. We must do all that is within our power to bridge the gap between the beginning of the redemption and its ultimate purpose, when, 'all creatures will come to serve our G-d in the rebuilt temple' (Isa. ibid.).

With Rosh Hashana in a week's time, we recall that the new year is not just the day of Judgement for the Jewish People. 'היום הרת עולם', today is the birthday of the entire universe. The Talmud states (R.H. 16a) that every creature is judged on this day. May this year truly be a year of redemption, and may we, by following the Torah, and with valiant trust in G-d, usher in a time when peace is the way of the land, and G-d reigns supreme: 'ביום ההוא יהיה ה' אחד ושמו אחד' (Zech. 14:9).