Exile and Redemption:
The Torah Approach
An Introductory Exploration of Zionism,
and the Recent Dialogue With
the Nation of Islam
By a Friend of Neturei Karta
The booklet which the reader now holds in his hands will present ideas and advocate courses of action which are not often heard in the mainstream media. Unfortunately, the notion of a free and open exchange of ideas, something our society prides itself on, is very rarely realized. All too often power, money and intimidation as well as the natural human desire to conform, stifle perspectives which call into question the cherished assumptions of special interest groups.
Thus, we ask that the reader be patient and not quick to draw conclusions. The beliefs presented herein were not too long ago the mainstream position of all Jews and their leaders. Obviously history and the history of ideas are written by the victors. Yet, material victory is not always synonymous with truth.
Indeed, to this day, hundreds of thousands of Jews worldwide adhere to the notions presented herein. The fact that this is unknown to many readers is in itself testimony to the effectiveness of the strong forces arrayed against a fair presentation of dissenting viewpoints.
This booklet attempts to present, in all too brief form, the fundamental beliefs of the Jewish faith as they have been passed down throughout the centuries. Special emphasis will be accorded the teachings of the Torah concerning Jewish exile and ultimate redemption.
Once having addressed the proper Jewish response to exile, we will examine the Torah framework for Jewish-Gentile relations. It is the assumption of all that follows that Jews, by living sincere lives of traditional piety, can do more to alleviate anti-Jewish feelings than all the self-styled "defense" and "anti-defamation" organizations ever could hope to. It is also argued that these powerful Jewish organizations, by attempting to dictate to other nations, peoples and faiths what they may or may not say or do, are themselves the source of much of contemporary anti-Semitism.
In order to bring home the truth of this assertion we will highlight the recent much commented on series of dialogues between representatives of Neturei Karta and the Nation of Islam. This example is an especially potent one for it illustrates the ill will which powerful groups have created between Jews and others and how these negative feelings can be alleviated following Torah standards.
The haughty and ruthless methods of the mainstream organizations have not emerged in a vacuum. They have certain characteristics. All are devoid of spirituality. They never attempt to understand others on their own terms in their cultural and historical context. Consistently they ignore other peoples' fears and yearnings. This barren and haughty secularism is a direct result of Zionism in the larger sense of that term. It is this same Zionism which sought for a century to alter the Jewish people's self-perception and their approach to others. That alteration is a tragedy for Jewry and all mankind.
Lastly, a word about Neturei Karta. The words mean "guardians of the city." They are used in reference to a Midrashic tale. The story is told that Reb Ami and Reb Assi once visited a city. They asked the inhabitants, "Who are the guardians of the city?"
The people responded by pointing to the soldiers and police. To which the Sages replied, "These are not the neturei karta (guardians of the city). They are the destroyers of the city. The real neturei karta are the sages and pious men. In their merit is the city truly."
Historically, since the inter-war period the term has been applied to those who have maintained the traditional Jewish opposition to Zionism. There is no formal organizational structure to Neturei Karta. It is a designation which some anti-Zionists welcome and others reject. As will be explained in the pages to follow there are many sub-groups within Orthodox Judaism who remain steadfast in their principled anti-Zionism. The assorted Satmar and Toldos Aharon groups are prominent among Hasidic followings with this viewpoint. Among non-Hasidim there are the Brisker and many members of the Old Yishuv in Jerusalem, and the Eida Hacharadis Hasfardic, representing the Sfardic Jewry (Jews from Africa, Asia and some European Countries). The truth is a full listing of all the groups opposed to Zionism among Torah
Jewry would run to many pages. To this number must, for accuracy sake, be added those Jews affiliated with Orthodox groups who although opposed to Zionism in principle have decided to work with the Israeli State on a purely pragmatic basis.
In the minds of many Jews, who have unwittingly been influenced by the incessant propaganda of the past fifty years, the notion of Jews opposing Israel seems bizarre. Some have described it as, G-d forbid, self-hatred. It is important for the reader first exploring this topic to realize that the thousands of Torah sages and saints who battled against Zionism beginning in the latter part of the nineteenth century were profound lovers of the Jewish people. It was precisely this love which led them to struggle mightily against the Zionist movement. They believed that its effects would be both spiritually and materially disastrous for the Jewish people. They and their spiritual heirs would conclude, after having surveyed the events of the past hundred years, that their understanding has been born out by the facts.
A fatigue now stalks the Zionist movement. The Israeli left, openly questions the justice and righteousness of Israel's founders and wonders whether the moral high ground might not lie with the Palestinians. The right, which saw the State as an incarnation of ultimate Jewish redemption, now denounces it and its leaders in no uncertain terms. Indeed, it is the right which most frequently describes the state's leaders as "traitors." They are few who see a way out of the cauldron of hostilities, political and military, which the State is embroiled in.
This fatigue and hopelessness has planted doubts in the minds of many concerning the doctrines of this short-lived ideology.
Perhaps, it is time for a new look at an old alternative.
The Essence of Jewish History:
Exile and Redemption as Divine Decrees
The essence of Judaism is the Jewish faith as revealed in the Torah. It is based upon the personal experience of Revelation at Mount Sinai by the entirety of the "children of Israel." This event and the Torah there revealed, have been handed down from generation to generation till the present day. The Torah's doctrines and precepts are binding upon all Jews forever.
The laws of the Torah are many. Each is geared by Divine Wisdom to bring the Jewish people, individually and collectively, closer to G-d, thereby uplifting and sanctifying themselves and all of creation.
Alternative definitions of Judaism, which see the core of the people's existence as ethnic or cultural, are false. They are false historically because from Sinai until the Enlightenment no Jews anywhere saw themselves as anything other than a community of faith. And, they are false objectively because the Sinai revelation is an historical occurrence, verified by the unanimous testimony of millions of people and all their descendants. It is this testimony and the people's collective and familial recollection of having participated in the Sinai revelation, which yielded universal acceptance of Torah among the Jewish people until the dawn of the modern era.
The Jewish people were granted by G-d in the Torah the privilege of living in and exercising sovereignty over the Holy Land.
However, this privilege was very far from unconditional. It was based solely upon the people's obedience to the Will of G-d. Should they fail in this task the Torah spelled out in painful detail that they would be horribly punished and exiled throughout the world.
Twice the people failed in their task. Each time as a punishment the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews were sent into exile.
The second exile continues till this day.
According to the Torah's prophets this second exile will end in miraculous fashion, via miracles and wonders.
And, it will usher in the era of universal peace among all nations and peoples. Hatred and resentment will end. All will join together in the joyous worship of G-d.
It is thus apparent that the condition of exile, although clothed in the outer form of political power and powerlessness, is ultimately capable of resolution only in its essence.
The essence of exile is: a) to humble our haughty spirits as stated in the Bible. After listing all the terrible punishments for our sins, including the present exile, the Bible states that, "perhaps then their unfeeling heart will be humbled and then they will gain appeasement for their sin" b) And to bring us to penance for sins committed, as all Jews recite in Mussaf prayer on holidays, "For our sins we were exiled from out land."
Thus, the only truly effective means to be used in order to end exile are spiritual. They are repentance and its attendant virtues namely prayer, torah study and kind deeds.
Military might and political pressure will not and cannot end Jewish exile. Military endeavors are irrelevant (and may well be injurious, as we will soon see) to the Jewish people's ultimate redemption.
Aggression against other peoples of the world will not and cannot hasten redemption. Indeed, by positing that a solution to the "problem" of exile is available on the temporal plane, the spirit of aggression has denied the spiritual core of Judaism and the Divine destiny of the Jewish people.
Jewish suffering throughout the ages was always seen as a Divine chastisement or test. It was not always comprehensible to the finite Jewish mind, but always, since emanating from G-d, totally just. And, at root, G-d's justice is forever merciful.
In the two thousand years of exile all the above was, at times, stated but always assumed by all Jews. Jewish prayers repeatedly referred to exile as a punishment for our sins. National days of mourning (such as the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av) were always viewed as a time for prayer and spiritual introspection. These were the traditional means to be used in order to undo the exile.
As the most renowned German Jewish leader of the nineteenth century, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote:
"We mourn over the sin which brought about that downfall (the Temple destruction -- author), we take to heart the harshness which we have encountered in our years of wandering as the chastisement of a father, imposed on us for our improvement, and we mourn the lack of observance of the Torah which that ruin has brought about. Not in order to shine as a nation among nations do we raise our prayers and hopes for a reunion in our land, but in order to find a soil for the better fulfillment of our spiritual vocation in that reunion and in that land which was promised, and given, and again promised for our observance of the Torah. But this very vocation obliges us, until G-d shall call us back to the Holy Land, to live and to work as patriots wherever He has placed us, to collect all the physical, material and spiritual forces and all that is noble in Israel to further the weal of the nations which have given us shelter. It obliges us, further, to allow our longing for the far-off land to express itself only in mourning, in wishing and hoping; and only through the honest fulfillment of all Jewish duties to await the realization of this hope. But it forbids us to strive for the reunion or possession of the land by any but spiritual means. Our Sages say G-d imposed three vows when he sent Israel into the wilderness: (1) that the children of Israel shall never seek to reestablish their nation by themselves; (2) that they never be disloyal to the nations which have given them shelter; (3) that these nations shall not oppress them excessively (Kesubos 111a)."
The purpose of our exile, in addition to that of punishment, is to test us. Nachmanides (1194-1278) writes that the ultimate redemption depends on the Jewish people remaining faithful and preserving their identity in all the lands of their exile. This is a difficult task. The forces of persecution and the enticements of assimilation have often proved all too powerful. Yet, despite all, a remnant of Jewry has always remained faithful and continues so, praise be to G-d, until this very day.
Thus, Jews are enjoined to perform a most precarious balancing act. On the one hand there is the obligation to act in an honest, empathetic, loyal and patriotic manner towards the nation in which they dwell. This obligation extends to Jewish relations with all peoples living within the nation. On the other hand, there is a need for spiritual and to some extent social isolation in order to practice the Torah and preserve Jewish survival. Inclining too far to either side of this dichotomy can result in much evil and confusion. In the proper balance, though, lies the fulfillment of Jewish destiny. And, combined with the yearning for the Messiah, it is the only recipe for the world's salvation.
Zionism: A Direct Assault on Divine Providence
The movement which has today become known as Zionism and is incarnated (although not limited to) the state of Israel is, at root, a denial of the spiritual essence of Jewish peoplehood and of G-d's Providence over the affairs of men.
It should in no way be confused with the just described millennia-old love of the Holy Land and yearning for Divine redemption. Prior to the late nineteenth century the retaking of the Land by force was unheard of and would inevitably have been shunned.
It was born of the frustrations of non-believing Jews such as Theodore Herzl.
They had grown tired of the Divine Decree of exile. They denied that it was part of a Divine plan. Most of them denied G-d altogether. Almost all of them denied the Torah.
Their solution was simple. Jews were to wage war, first politically and eventually militarily, in order to "end exile," "solve the Jewish problem" and "return to the land."
The movement is all of a century old. Yet, it impudently demanded that all Jews reject their ancient traditional understanding of exile and redemption.
It was willing to shed streams of blood in order to achieve its goals. It plunged many peoples (Englishmen, Arabs and Jews) into a spiral of bloodshed, which continues to this day.
Terror and counter-terror, dispossessions, war after war after war became the ordinary way of life for Jews and Arabs. Innocents -- all too often innocent women and children -- have been butchered. No end is in sight.
The repercussions of Zionism are felt around the world. The hatred of many Arab nations towards America and the West is rooted in Zionism. If America would have stayed out of the Middle East blood bath there would be no problem of Third World, anti-American, international terrorism. Yet, the tentacles of Zionism are both long and strong and their pressure is such that they have enlisted America and other Western nations as their lackeys, thus, transforming the conflict into a global one. This never-ending river of blood was also described by our Talmudic sages, as the unavoidable result of violating the conditions of exile.
The doctrinal errors of Zionism are many. They include:
1) The belief the Jewish salvation may be achieved via material means, and or through agression.
2) The sense that a strong political entity with an army is, in some way, adding to Jewish honor and should be a source of pride.
3) The "obligation" of all Jews to support this endeavor and the subsequent ostracizing of those who refuse to. And, the attempts to ruin Gentile politicians and writers who in some small way challenge its demands.
4) The notion that their will be no Divine retribution for violation of the terms of exile.
At root all the above are derived from one fundamental error. It is a frightening denial of the metaphysical core of exile and redemption. It is a denial of the intimate Divine Providence over Jewish history. It is a denial of the spiritual means for salvation. It is, in the end, a denial of G-d.
After the establishment of the state in 1948 there were those Orthodox Jews who believed that, ex post facto, participation in Israeli politics was a necessary evil in order to protect the interests of Judaism. This position is associated with the worldwide organization, Agudath Israel.
Others shunned participation in any form, even refusing the state's many financial benefits. They argued that participation implied recognition and was, therefore, forbidden. However, the espousers of both positions had for decades opposed the creation of the state and saw it as inherently evil. (Interestingly enough, it was in the Holy Land itself and especially in Jerusalem, where small numbers of pious Jews had lived throughout the ages, that opposition to Zionism was particularly fierce. Ironically, it is these Jews, perhaps because their families had lived in virtual peace with the Arabs prior to the late nineteenth century when settlers with political aspirations first arrived in the Holy Land, who have led the war against Zionism.)
Sadly, there were a tiny number of observant Jews who enthusiastically welcomed the Zionist movement. They mistakenly saw in it as the "beginning of redemption." Today with the state in retreat, with the gains of the Six-Day-War being given back to the Palestinians, these "religious Zionists" are in utter confusion. Most now condemn the state for having abandoned "true Zionism." In general, though, they are now debating among themselves what the proper approach of "true Zionists" to an Israel which has turned its back on them, should be.
Zionism: Poisoning Jewish-Gentile Relations
However, Zionism's harm extends far beyond the border of the Holy Land.
First, for many Jews around the world, it serves as a tragic substitute for their ancestral faith. Instead of having to confront and, with G-d's help, submit to the beliefs and practices of the Torah, they now have a far easier replacement. By equating Jewish support, financial or emotional for Israel with the essence of Jewishness, they feel they have discharged their obligation as Jews although devoid of loyalty to Torah.
Indeed, the Zionist pseudo-religion demands little. It is, thus, in stark contrast with the Torah whose statutes were made many by G-d in order to give us the possibility of coming closer to Him.
In the non-Jewish population today the lines are being firmly and clearly drawn between those of faith and those who embrace the secularist decadence which surrounds us. Israel provides Jews with a means of avoiding this decision, pivotal though it is to all our lives.
By replacing the Jewish faith with a secular nationalism, Zionism has completely changed the self-understanding of far too many Jews. It has replaced the warmth of G-d's closeness with the spiritual emptiness of mere national loyalty.
However, this nationalism is not merely G-dless. It is also aggressive and amoral.
It summons Jews to perpetual war against their Gentile neighbors throughout the world. It teaches that we must respond to all threats (real, perceived or self-created) with an aggression totally foreign to the Jewish people.
A host of Jewish organizations have sprung up seeking to encroach upon peoples, nations and religions.
They claim to be defending Jewish interests. In reality they endanger those interests on a daily basis.
They see themselves as protecting Jews. Yet, lacking the Torah's blueprint for real Jewish protection, namely, the faithful obedience to G-d's Will, they resort to the bizarre tactic of opposing the forces of religion and morality in society. With this construed notion, that in this maner they or protecting the Jews, so that no other religin or power shall encroach upon the "oppressed Jew". From there they stepped further into the abyss, that by supporting the "rights" of every form of social and media decadence and by battling against religious teachings and practices they feel that Jews will be "protected."
Some have the sole, self-appointed task of stripping society in general and education in particular of any vestige of religion and traditional morality. And, in the past three decades they have enjoyed much success. Of course, by so doing they created tremendous resentment amongst Gentiles who value their faiths and common decency.
Others have appointed themselves the role of "protecting" the rights of the entertainment industry to flood America and the world with a shocking decadence, unimaginable just a few decades ago.
Others are on the alert to dictate to racial and ethnic groups what they may or may not say or, in some cases what they may or may not believe. Endless calls for public humiliation and abject apology are issued. From popes to Baptists to black nationalists all must forever beg forgiveness for slights to Jews, real and perceived. Each attempt to placate these organizations brings forth the inevitable response that the "apology" issued was insufficient. Demands then begin for a better apology. The cycle seems never ending.
In addition to begging forgiveness from Zionist organizations, financial tribute is also frequently demanded. Many, such as Germans or Swiss are forever being harassed with ever more ingenious claims for "reparations" often with little regard for any actual financial damages suffered. If refused, the offending nation or religion is then threatened with everything from economic boycotts to diplomatic isolation.
In essence, what these organizations tell the Gentile is, "We will celebrate and proclaim our own particularity. If you Gentiles do this we will denounce and try to ruin you."
Still other groups are not solely content to bring social pressures in order to secularize society. They demand and achieve the assistance of the iron fist of government in forcing all manner of decadence (pornography, abortion and perversion) upon the populace via law and education.
Political groups target American politicians who are insufficiently loyal . . . to Israel (!) for defeat and defamation.
Boycotts and wars are urged upon the American people and their government, all based upon their importance for Israel.
Anyone who stands in the way of any part of this agenda is automatically subject to withering persecution. Pressures will be brought to have them fired from their jobs, their books banned and their lives ruined.
Where did the extraordinary and unprecedented arrogance come from which transformed the humble, G-d intoxicated, Torah-observant people into self-appointed aggressive dictators?
The answer is clearly Zionism, whose arrogance and insensitivity to the needs and wants of others, struts the globe itching for battles. "Never again", it proclaims. From now on we are no longer "ghetto Jews". "We're tough and we'll bully all mankind if we think them our foe."
Thus, the old Jewish agenda came to be replaced by secularist triumphalism. It was the old agenda of prayer, study and good deeds, which sustained and protected the Torah nation during two thousand years of exile. It was an agenda geared to create a shining image of what a Jew should be. It was a Kiddush-Hashem -- a sanctification of G-d's name. In certain circumstances traditional leaders have issued brief statements on issues of social concern but only to condemn the secularist decadence which envelops and threatens Jew and Gentile alike.
Unfortunately the enormous wealth and intimidating power of Zionism in all its forms makes it difficult for the message of true Torah teachings to get out.
This has resulted in ever-increasing animosity between almost every imaginable religious, racial and ethnic community in America and throughout the world and what they mistakenly perceive to be the Jewish people and their faith. In reality, the heated rhetoric and frequent aggressions against others have all been carried out by those influenced in whole or in part by Zionism.
The approach to non-Jews of "We will show you. We will fight you. We will stop you." -- has accomplished just the reverse of what it set out to do. It has shown Gentiles nothing other than Jewish insensitivity to their neighbors and their communal needs. It has not defeated anyone. And, it clearly hasn't stopped anti-Jewish feeling. In fact, it has inevitably exacerbated it.
In essence, Zionism, devoid of a positive program and having long since jettisoned Judaism, needs anti-Semitism to justify its own existence. And, where anti-Semitism doesn't exist, it will agitate until it has created it.
The Bible clearly states "Let not the land disgorge you for having contaminated it." Thus, we see in actual daily existence, Israel, which claims to be a safe haven for Jews, is in reality, the most dangerous place in the world for Jews. It has seen five bloody wars and endless terrorism. Bomb threats and scares are part of daily existence. The country is covered with an endless array of security and checkpoints. It is a garrison state and has been for five decades. Indeed, the Holy Land became a dangerous place for Jews precisely when and in accordance with Zionist agitation and immigration.
For the victim of materialist philosophies there is an understandable allure in the "macho-man" imagery of Zionism. "No more weakness. Now Jews are strong." Of course, in reality Jews are still weak. Numerically and physically we are an insignificant people. Our true grandeur lies only in Divine service. It lies in pursuance of the Biblical injunction to be a "kingdom of priests and holy nation."
The true lessening of Jewish-Gentile tensions will come to the degree that this Divine mandate is adhered to. When we will be absorbed in the holy tasks of our faith (study, prayer and acts of kindness), when Torah teachings on honesty and integrity will be observed, when we will stand in opposition to the decadence which envelopes the world, then and only then will we earn the respect and admiration of all.
As Rabbi Hirsch writes, "Picture every son of Israel a respectful and influential priest of righteousness and lover disseminating among the nations not specific Judaism -- for proselytism is forbidden -- but pure humanity....How impressive, how sublime it would have been if in the midst of a world that adored only power, possessions and enjoyment, there had lived quietly human beings of a different sort, who beheld in material possessions only the means for practicing justice and love towards all, a people whose minds, imbued with the wisdom and truth of the Law, maintained simple, straightforward views, and emphasized them for themselves and others in expressive, vivid symbolic acts."
This Divine-centered life (while not an absolute guarantee that exile will be totally free of travail) is the best means of maintaining Jewish "defense" and seeing to that we not be "defamed."
The Traditional Response to Zionism
As noted before, the opposition of Torah leaders to Zionism was almost universal. The literature on the subject is vast and encompasses all streams of Torah-true Jewry. It is beyond the scope of this work to quote extensively from this mass of writings and oral statements.
However, it is worth noting that many authorities whose names are not usually associated with anti-Zionism were, in fact, fervent opponents of the movement. And, it is particularly important to realize that this opposition was not based on the fact that the vast majority of Zionist leaders were not religious. It was an opposition to Zionism -- not merely Zionists. It was an opposition to the movement's philosophy of ending exile prematurely by any means. It was in opposition to the movements philosophy of bullying, attacking and ultimately totally antagonizing the nations of the world in the process.
As an example of the sentiments expressed we offer three quotes, each emanating from a different geographic and philosophical source.
Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Schneerson of Lubavitch (1866-1920), a universally revered Hasidic leader, wrote:
"Not via our desire did we leave the Land of Israel and not via our power will we come back to the Land of Israel. Our Father, Our King sent us out into exile and He
will redeem us. And He will gather us from the four corners of the earth and lead us upright with the Messiah, the righteous redeemer to the Holy Land."
Elsewhere, he wrote:
"Behold, even if these men (the Zionists) were to be perfect with G-d and His Torah and even would it be possible to conceive of them achieving their goal, we must not listen to them in this area to redeem ourselves with our own strength. Are we not forbidden to 'force the end' (even) by excessive prayer? And certainly by force and physical means? In other words we are forbidden to leave exile by force. And this means (force) will not result in our redemption and the salvation of our souls."
Rabbi Chaim Soloveichik of Brisk (1853-1918), the founder of the "yeshiva approach to Talmudic study," was frequently quoted by his disciples as saying:
"The Zionists do not make Jews heretics in order to have a state, they want a state in order to make Jews into heretics!"
Or, as he once wrote:
"The Jewish people have suffered many (spiritual) plagues -- the Sadducees, Karaites, Hellenisers, Shabbatai Zvi, Enlightenment, Reform and many others. But the strongest of them all is Zionism."
This hideous strength was later explained by his son, the Brisker Rav, Rabbi Velvel Soloveichik (1886-1960) as being due to the Zionists having "attacked the center point of Judaism."
We have already quoted at length that paragon of German Orthodoxy, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. Here it is worth noting his comments concerning the plans of an early Zionist leader:
"He has written to me more than three or four times and sent me his writings and books in order to convince me to support his plans....In the end he has accused me of wanting to delay the redemption. I have requested that he leave me alone on this matter for that which he considers a great mitzvah (good deed) is to me no small aveivah (sin)."
And, again, in his commentary on the prayer book, Rabbi Hirsch writes:
"During the reign of Hadrian when the uprising led by Bar Kochba proved a disastrous error, it became essential that the Jewish people be reminded for all times of an important, essential fact, namely that (the people of) Israel must never again attempt to restore its national independence by its own power; it was to entrust its future as a nation solely to Divine Providence."
The contradiction between loyalty to the lands in which the Jewish people dwell in their exile and Zionism, was also explained by Rabbi Hirsch:
"This close connection with states everywhere is not at all in contradiction to the spirit of Judaism, for the independent national life of Israel was never the essence or purpose of our existence as a nation but a means of fulfilling our spiritual mission."
"Land and soil were never Israel's bond of union..."
"For this (Messianic -- author) future which is promised to us in the glorious predictions of the inspired prophets as a goal of the Galus (exile -- author), we hope and pray, but actively to accelerate its coming is prohibited to us."
We have already pointed out that after 1948 there were those who felt that the evil of the state was best combated from within. This is a perspective which we do not share. Yet, we hasten to add that it too was originally rooted in a principled opposition to Zionism and parts company from us only over the questions of recognition implicit in participation and whether participating in the state helps it to survive, thus perpetuating all the evil foretold in the past into the indefinite future.
However, historical objectivity compels us to add that over the past fifty years there have been some, whose participation in the state apparatus, has led them to precisely what was feared. It has muted or caused to be completely forgotten their initial and essential opposition to Zionism. They have forgotten the root of the evils which they often complain about. They have forgotten that the ceaseless wars in the Holy Land were promised in our sacred literature as punishment for violating the terms of the exile. They have forgotten the harmony which existed in the Holy Land between its original spiritual pilgrims (who throughout history would come in small numbers as a spiritual elite) and the Arab inhabitants. They have forgotten that Arab enmity was foretold by the Torah leaders in the Holy Land beginning in the 1890's. This tragic forgetting of first principles began slowly and has in some circles reached epidemic proportions.
We are not happy over this slow erosion of Torah axioms. And, "we told you so," serves no purpose today. What is worth noting is that it would be most educational for those representing these movements today to read again the words of their own early leaders and to compare them to current opinions.
Torah Jews and the Nation of Islam
In early 1999 the Iranian government arrested 13 Jews and charged them with the capital crime of espionage. Jews and humanitarians worldwide were deeply concerned about the possibility of securing a fair and speedy trial for the accused. Various attempts were made to learn more details of the charges. Assorted attempts to contact the Iranian government were initiated.
Contact was established with Nation of Islam representatives, who seemed far friendlier and receptive than media stereotyping would lead one to believe. Arrangements were made for a meeting at short notice. The delegation, which was led by Rabbi Yecheskel Gold (formally congregational Rabbi of the Satmar community in Monsey and now of Congregation Shaarei Chesed) and Rabbi Moshe Dov Beck (Rabbi of Congregation Bais Yehudi), numbered seven in all. Their reception in Chicago by Nation of Islam members and representatives was the epitome of hospitality. Unaware of the stringencies of kosher food law, a lavish breakfast had been prepared for the guests who were treated with utmost kindness throughout.
It didn't take long for the Chief of Staff Leonard Muhammad representing the Nation to promise that they would look into the matter of the Iranian Jews. The ensuing conversation was wide-ranging and covered many topics of concern to all participants. Inevitably the subject of the strained relations between the Nation of Islam and the Jewish community was raised. It was through this topic that the Monsey Rabbis and their assistants were able to convey to the NOI representatives the distinction between traditional Torah Jewry and the aggressive leaders of most "mainstream" and heavily Zionist influenced organizations.
The haughty indifference of Zionism to all who have stood in its path was described at some length. From an all too-frequent willingness to sacrifice European Jewry, especially the elderly, during the Second World War, to the murder of Dr. Yaakov Yisrael de Haan in 1924, to the ruthless terror conducted against British soldiers and their families, to the barbaric dispossession of the Palestinians, to the brutal internal war between the Haganah and the Lechi and Etzel terror organizations, this is a movement knee-deep in the blood of innocents, Jewish and Gentile.
As the hours passed it became clear that guests and hosts shared much mutual respect. The Rabbis were clear to distance themselves from the angry rhetoric which some Jewish organizations have directed in Minister Farrakhan's direction.
Unfortunately Minister Farrakhan himself was ill at the time and unable to attend the meeting. All involved felt that they were present at the inception of an important dialogue and relationship. Due to the sensitivity of the initiative the visit was not made known to the media or the general public.
In early November the Nation of Islam contacted the members of the delegation to inform them that Minister Farrakhan was now feeling better and would like to meet them personally. In fact, the Jewish delegation was told when they visited Chicago that Minister Farrakhan had given their meeting highest priority. He had instructed his staff to see to it that it took place as soon as possible.
And so it came to pass that on November 9th, 1999 the historic meeting between the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and seven adherents of Neturei Karta came to pass in the former home of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad (known as the National House) in the Hyde Park section of Chicago.
In welcoming the delegation, this time headed by Rabbi Beck, Minister Farrakhan graciously declared, "On behalf of the Nation of Islam, how honored I am and we are to have you here in the home of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad."
The meeting was seen as most significant by both sides.
Minister Farrakhan noted, "We have always believed all along that a day like this would come. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad hinted to us, long before we understood, in one of his writings, that the problem between the Jewish community and us in the United States, he felt, would be worked out. So we believe that this is not accidental. We believe this is a part of G-d's Divine planning for us."
He carefully explained that "We, the students of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, have always had a profound respect for Jewish Orthodoxy.... We know that those (Jewish people) who have been the closest to the Torah have always been favored by G-d."
After emphasizing that honesty must be the byword of the dialogue on both sides even if it might result in disagreements he held forth great promise for what might ensue. "We believe that the integrity of our visits with one another must be guarded very closely because what could result from this could be so good for the Jewish community, for the Nation of Islam, for the black community, for America and really for the world."
Rabbi Beck, through his translator Rabbi David Weiss, began the meeting with a blessing, "It is stated in the Tana Dvei Eliyahu that Elijah the Prophet proclaimed, "I call to witness this day the heavens and the earth that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, man or woman, manservant or maidservant if an individual does the Will of G-d then in keeping with the deeds performed, the Divine Presence rests on him.' May the Honorable Minister be blessed with health and long life in order to continue his good works and to teach justice, morality and modesty."
To which the Minister responded, "I believe that anyone who does the Will of G-d will be a blessed man or blessed women."
Rabbi Weiss describes the "opportunity" to dialogue as wondrous. He went on to present Minister Farrakhan with a plaque, which was inscribed in Hebrew and English, "May G-d bless you and keep you. May G-d illuminate His countenance for you and be gracious to you. May G-d turn His countenance to you and establish peace for you." (Numbers 6: 22 - 27)
What followed was a wide-ranging discussion of the basic principles of Judaism and the nature of exile and redemption. Rabbi Beck made sure to point out the false teachings of those who advocate aggressive actions against any nations or peoples. He clarified how Zionism is at war with the teachings of the Torah concerning proper Jewish behavior in exile.
Another member of the delegation, Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Freimann, explained the traditional Jewish view is that the State of Israel is illegitimate. The Rabbi has served as the Neturei Karta representative at the United Nations where the group is accorded Observer Status. He also attended the Madrid talks between Israel and the PLO as an Official Advisor to the Palestinian Delegation. His purpose in so doing was to "rebut the Zionist Prime Minister that he is the representative of the Jewish people."
"I am overwhelmed," Rabbi Freimann said, "by the terrible crimes committed by the Zionist occupation and settlers in the Holy Land."
He added that, "I have no doubt that through our contact and our communication that all ill feeling will be totally dissipated and be shown to be just a misunderstanding precipitated directly by the media which thrives on such misunderstandings and especially the Zionist lobby which seek to promote anti-Semitism in order to strengthen their position as the defenders of Judaism."
Frequently throughout the afternoon the Jewish delegation emphasized that Zionists and non-religious Jews were inappropriate spokesmen for the Jewish people. Those who reject the teachings of the Torah cannot represent Jewry. They may use the name "Jewish" or the term "Israel" but they stand, in fact, in opposition to the essence of Judaism which is faith in the Torah of Moses.
The delegation added that the attacks against Minister Farrakhan by certain members of the Jewish community were shameful and should have been publicly denounced by Orthodox leaders. In Rabbi Weiss' words, "We were seething inside when we heard how some Jewish leaders spoke against you. We should have done more. As you said there were times when you reached out and they repelled you. We believe in repentance. That's why we are here. Therefore we are very happy that we are here. Perhaps you can let the world know of the everlasting brotherhood we have. We are sure that any statements you may have made in the past were directed against the actions of Zionists not Torah Jews."
A sense of regret and reconciliation emanated from both sides. After having heard throughout the afternoon the sentiments of the Jewish delegation, Minister Farrakhan said, "I will tell you this. I did make a mistake. You know it's a terrible thing to say Jews and not make clear who you are referring to, because if I, in the attacks that I have received, say 'the Jews did this against me', that is an error or a mistake. It's unintentional. But it's a mistake because all Jews did not do that to me. And I have to make clear in my language that there are Jews that I know I can respect, honor and love. And those are not the Jews that have said that I have a romance with Hitler; that said that I said Hitler was great man. I did say that. But I said he was wickedly great."
Minister Farrkhan further stated that in the future he will state clearly, that he is not talking about "the Jews" and "that's a promise"
Finally, the hour became late. The delegation's departing flight was soon to leave. Last farewells and blessings were exchanged. The Rabbi invited Minister Farrakhan and his staff to visit Monsey at some future date.
The visit was returned on December 28th when Nation of Islam Chief of Staff Leonard F. Muhammad and a delegation of officials visited the home of Rabbi Yecheskel Gold in Monsey, New York. This meeting featured further discussions described by Mr. Muhammad as a "harmonious dialogue" and by Rabbi Weiss as "dialogue based on mutual respect in a spirit of reconciliation." It also featured a tour of Monsey synagogues, Jewish schools and shops in which the NOI representatives were shown the basic institutions of the Jewish community. The day ended with the guests breaking their Ramadan fast at Rabbi Gold's home.
What seemed to both sides as a positive encounter, was condemned by others.
Abraham Foxman of the ADL was quoted in the Jerusalem Report as describing Farrakhan to be "cynical and calculating" to pick "those elements in the Jewish community who have cavorted with the enemies of Israel.
In the Jewish Week he went a step further, describing Neturei Karta as a "sect, who are the pariahs of the Jewish community for their condoning and support of the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people."
A statement by Rabbi Weiss was issued in rebuttle.
The statement was as follows:
In a recent article describing our efforts towards Black-Jewish reconciliation Anti-Defamation League national spokesman, Abraham Foxman described the Neturei Karta as "pariahs of the Jewish community for their condoning and support of the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people." Although we understand the limited knowledge of Jewish history and theology which produced this bit of unmitigated nastiness, it is still necessary to set the record straight. 1) Opposition to the establishment of the state of Israel was, from the inception of the Zionist movement until 1948, nearly universal among Torah Jewry. Those expressing themselves ranged from Rabbi Chaim Soloveichik and the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Eastern Europe (R. Sholem Dov Ber Schneerson) to Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch in Germany, to Rabbi Shlome Eliezer Alfondri from Morocco. After 1948 hundreds of thousands of Jews continued this tradition of total rejection by a principled refusal to participate in the state and accept its many financial benefits. Their ranks included Misnagdim such as the Brisker and yishuv ha-yashan and Chasidim including Toldos Aharon, Satmar and Breslav.
Others following the Agudah world view (as explained by Rabbi Reuven Grozovsky in his Bayos ha-Zman) decided to make the best of a tragic mistake by participating in Israeli politics in order to support Torah interests. Thus, principled opposition to Zionism is very far from a "pariah" viewpoint.
As to "supporting enemies of the Jewish people" this slanderous canard almost deserves no response. The record of love of all Jews evidenced by Neturei Karta leaders such as Rabbi Amram Blau and Rabbi Aharon Katzenellenbogen (of blessed memory) is well known. It was real love delivered amidst the poverty of Jerusalem where their ancestors had lived (incidentally, at peace with their Arab neighbors) over the decades long before Zionist aggression created anti-Jewish hostilities. As should be obvious our efforts to meet with Arab leaders (before it became politically correct to do so) and with Minister Farrakhan are intended to decrease anti-Jewish sentiments. And we'd be willing, any day, to compare our results at achieving good will to those achieved by ADL denunciations and intimidation.
May God grant true peace among all peoples.
Rabbi David Weiss
For the Neturei Karta representatives the Farrakhan initiative had been and continues to be a resounding success. They have reached out in a spirit of piety and humility to an individual who has been portrayed by "mainstream" Jewish organizations and the media as a "Jew hater." By so doing they have helped to defuse existing tensions and also have taken a small step in the direction of general improvement in Black-Jewish relations.
As the reality of the good will reaped by this reconciliation begins to permeate the media it can only be hoped that all Jews will realize the simple axiom that good will and piety plus adherence to the terms and spiritual realities of exile can only produce positive results. It should make one and all question the assumptions of Zionism with its insensitivity to other nations and peoples.
The Anti-Defamation League has conducted an extensive campaign to portray Minister Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam in an extremely negative light. Its "fact finding" and "research reports" routinely carry titles such as Financing Farrakhan's Ministry of Hate, The Nation of Islam: The Relentless Record of Hate, The Other Face of Farrakhan: A Hate Filled Prelude to the Million Man March. Due to the power and financial clout of the ADL, this image, fed by a media interested in shocking cliches rather than understanding perspectives, has become imbedded in the minds of many Americans.
Before responding to this image it is worth stating that traditionally, in accordance with Torah teachings and precedent, Jews have not shied away from meeting with their enemies. Obviously one seeks to make peace with one's enemies. One has peace already with friends. The Torah teachs us the ways of exile by stating how Jacob brought gifts from "your servant Jacob to my master Esau" and Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai's honoring of Vespasian. It is first and foremost a spirit of reconsiliation rooted in humility. Indeed, precisely with our "enemies". This has prompted Jews from ancient days to seek communication and dialogue with those who were, indeed, Jew haters. To declare that it is wrong to seek peace with one's enemy is patently absurd. Who desires enmity? What has transformed Jewish attitudes on this matter? What has led so many Jews to conclude that the first approach to an enemy is to fight, rather than seek reconciliation?
The answer is fairly clear. Once again the culprit is Zionism writ large. The notion that we can and should fight, first, last and always, is fundamental to a movement which has relied on force and dispossession from its inception.
(Indeed, even among non-Orthodox Jews there were many who challenged Herzel's famous comment that Zionism asked for "a land without a people for a people without a land" by pointing out that the land did, in fact, have a people. These critics argued that the first step for an ethical as well practical Zionism would be to achieve a meeting of the minds with the indigenous Arab population. Yet, the leaders of the movement rejected this advice.)
Zionism, aside from the aforementioned reasons of heresy in G-d's constant providence over us, is very much akin to a posturing bully, always intent on proving his machismo. This stance is at root also predicated upon a deep sense of embarrassment, bordering on revulsion, at the so-called "ghetto Jew." This Jew, who humbly and piously went about his business, whether in Vilna or Jerusalem or Frankfort or London, was intent solely on serving G-d and living in peace with his neighbors. His example was a shining testimony to the glory man can reach when immersed in G-d's service.
To the Zionist mentality he was shameful. Where was his gun, fist and boot?
This is not a mindset capable of reaching out to and understanding the other. It cannot achieve peace because it does not desire it. It is far more intent on heroic postures than on piety and respect.
However, it is our belief that the case of Minister Farrakhan is quite a different one. Firstly he does not qualify as a "Jew hater" and secondly he is more than interested in eradicating whatever negative feelings may have arisen in the past.
Toward the conclusion of his meeting with Rabbi Beck, Minister Farrakhan observed, "We have much to discuss, much to dialogue on, but still this has been a noble beginning. We are not as far apart as the enemies of truth would make us believe.... And as we begin to dialogue with each other, then all the fear that people have, due to the imagery presented in the media, leaves. Then, constructive cooperative efforts can be made for the good of both communities."
The Zionist forces would have us believe that these sentiments are a smoke screen for hatred of Jews and, they intimate, a desire to harm them. What is the truth?
As the dialogue with the Nation of Islam continued, Rabbi Weiss of the Neturei Karta delegation was frequently quoted as saying that statements attributed to Minister Farrakhan by the press and the ADL have been torn out of context. Unfortunately none of the papers which reported this took the time to investigate the facts.
The two examples which we will present here, are indicative of the true agenda of Zionism. It is to foster hatred in order to emerge as Jewry's protector. Here are the surprising facts.
In the 1984 election campaign a situation arose which has had an effect on Jewish -Nation of Islam relations to this day. Then presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, in a private conversation with a black reporter, referred to New York City as "Hymietown." The reporter chose to publish this off-the-cuff remark in the thirty-ninth paragraph of an article which appeared in the Washington Post on February 3rd. Jewish reaction was swift. Full page adds denouncing Jackson appeared in major newspapers, death threats were called into his headquarters and attacks against him were launched by assorted "mainstream" Jewish leaders. On February 26th Jackson issued an apology.
Yet, the attacks did not cease. The ADL published a "dossier" on Jackson accusing him of being anti-Semitic. Hundreds of death threats rained into Jackson's campaign headquarters.
On Savior's Day, Minister Farrakhan defended Jackson, saying that Divine retribution would follow if Jackson was harmed. "We are not making idle threats. We have no weapons. We don't carry so much as a penknife. But I do tell the world that Almighty G-d Allah is backing us up in what we say and what we do, and we warn you in his name -- leave this servant of Almighty G-d alone. Leave him alone. If you want to defeat him defeat him at the polls. We can stand to lose an election. We cannot stand to loose a brother."
In response the ADL's executive director Nathan Perlmutter denounced Farrakhan's "bearhall demagoguery" (an obvious reference to Hitler). Nat Hentoff of the Village Voice openly called the Minister a "black Hitler."
To which Minister Farrakhan responded on a March 11th radio broadcast from Chicago. This text should be carefully read as it and a later press conference form the basis of the accusation that the Minister harbored some affection for Hitler.
". . . So I said to the members of the press, "Why won't you go and look into what we are saying about the threats on Reverend Jackson's life? Here the Jews don't like Farrakhan so they call me a 'Hitler.' Well that's a good name. Hitler was a very great man. He wasn't great for me as a black man but he was a great German and he rose Germany up from the ashes of her defeat by the united force of Europe and America after the First World War... Now I'm not proud of Hitler's evil toward the Jewish people, but that's a matter of record. He rose Germany up from nothing. Well, in a sense you could say there is a similarity in that we are rising our people up from nothing, but don't compare me with your wicked killers."
And at a press conference in Washington on April 11th the same thought was expressed:
"I don't think you would be talking about Adolph Hitler forty years after the fact if he was some minuscule crackpot that jumped up on the European continent. He was a great man, but also wicked -- wickedly great."
It is abundantly clear that the Minister was praising Hitler's economic achievements while condemning, on both occasions, in clear terms the totality of the man. Each time he referred to him as "wicked." These two references to Hitler as "great" yanked out of their context have formed the basis for what is now sixteen years of vilification. If asked, the average American would probably maintain that Minister Farrakhan had said that Hitler was a "great man" in a positive sense. Thus have organizations, supposedly devoted to lessening anti-Semitism and group tensions, actually heightened them.
We are often told by those who would lesson "defamation", that Minister Farrakhan called Judaism a "gutter religion."
Here is the relevant quote as delivered on June 24, 1984:
"Now, that nation of Israel, never has had any peace in forty years and she will never have any peace because there can never be any peace structured on injustice, thievery, lying and deceit and using the name of G-d to shield your dirty religion under his holy and righteous name."
The media widely reported that the Minister had referred to Judaism as a "gutter religion." This error (or distortion) was deeply troubling to the Nation of Islam. The reason was that in Minister Farrakhan's vocabulary the phrase "dirty religion" had a particular meaning. It referred to adherents of a faith who sinned against the tenets of that faith. The "dirty religion" is the distorted faith which emerges from its manipulation by hypocrites or sinners. Hence, the Minister has frequently referred to Muslims, Christians and even NOI members as practicing a "dirty religion" when they do wrong in its name. The following is one example among many:
"The commander-in-chief of the Nation of Islam is the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. We have no other commander. All of us are stand-ins. As long as we recite his commandments, we are worthy to stand-in for him. But when we begin to use his name to shield a dirty religion and then begin to impose self made commands in his name, then the FOI must be wise enough to reject such commands because they didn't come properly.
The use of "dirty religion" in the Minister's lexicon could have been discovered by any researcher interested in generating light instead of heat.
Yet, there is no denying that at times Minister Farrakhan has, by his own admission, used heated words towards Jews as a whole after being incited by wild criticisms. We believe his regret over this is sincere.
Moreover, it is important to remember how important the Nation of Islam's teachings were and continue to be to many American blacks. For a people torn from their ancestral homeland by the brutality of slavery, the teachings of the Nation, supply a sense of racial pride, communal order and dignity. One black writer described her first visit to an NOI meeting by exclaiming, "I had never seen such dignified looking black men!"
This teaching of pride and self-reliance combined with a deep spiritual discipline has yielded astonishing results in the black community. As Professor Derrick Bell would have it:
"Unlike those conservatives, black and white, who only preach self-help as a crowd-pleasing abstraction, Farrakhan's formulas emphasize the Nation of Islam's experience in educating black children, rehabilitating black prisoners, ridding black communities of drug dealers, and rebuilding respect for the self -- the essential prerequisite for individuals determined to maintain the struggle against the racism that burdens our lives and, unless curbed, will destroy this country."
The attraction of Minister Farrakhan was revealed to a stunned media when the Million Man March brought close to that number of blacks to the nation's capital thus illustrating the importance and relevance of Farrakhan's message to his people.
Part of the Nation's message is one of self-reliance. They want to manage and control their own affairs. They do not seek outside influence or direction. And so it should be. Thus, they resent deeply what is, at best, the condescending paternalism of "mainstream" White organizations and Zionist organizations and often, as in the case of the ADL, the resort to hatred, harassment and lies.
Only good can result from black Americans following the morality and discipline taught by the nation.
We, as Orthodox Jews have broad disagreements with the Nation's theology as we do with other faiths. However this by no means eliminates the possibility of dialogue and respectful relations, living peacefully together in friendship and respect, and seeking the good of each other's communities. All of the above is as commanded to us by G-d.
Neturei Karta is dedicated to a Torah true philosophy, to a life which includes living peacefully and with respect towards others. This must inevitably lead to a lessening of anti-Jewish feeling wherever it may surface. They desire nothing more than to live in peace with all nations and peoples.
They do not see this agenda as extreme or bizarre.
In fact, it is those who would antagonize the world and its peoples who are extreme, callous and strange.
To this end Neturei Karta leaders and followers have established friendly relations with Palestinians in the Holy Land and throughout the world. These efforts have gone a long way to defusing Arab anti-Jewish sentiments.
They have let the world know that there is a large Jewish world which is anti-Zionist thus lessening resentment towards Jewry as a whole. At this stage of history Zionist agitations have most angered the Arab world and much of Neturei Karta's efforts at reconciliation have been directed towards the long suffering Palestinians. Much work still needs to be done in this area.
The late, saintly Satmar Rov of blessed memory exhorted all Jews to this task when he proclaimed, "In sum, the hatred of the Jewish community is because it is said that those who are not Torah observant, who are heretics, they are the leaders of Jewry. The nations of the world are misled by them and acquire a hatred for Jews. One of the greatest commandments there is, to be observed with utmost self-sacrifice, would be to make known to the nations of the world that they (Zionists and irreligious leaders) are not the representatives of the Jewish community. (And to tell them) observant Jews have no connection to them."
In addition, a Neturei Karta group have met with former members of England's National Front and done much to steer them in the direction of a new organization, Third Way, which has battled to eliminate anti-Semitism from the ranks of British nationalism. In fact, Rabbi Beck's interview with Patrick Harrington of Third Way was translated into French and published in Elements, a leading journal of the French right, which devoted an entire issue to reassessing their understanding of Jews and Judaism. An issue which incidentally was the largest selling in the journal's history.
Unfortunately the public forum is still dominated by Zionism. The teachings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Rabbi Chaim Soloviechik, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rav Shlome Eliezer Alfondri, all of Blessed Memory, and hundreds of others are not widely known.
By spreading the message of Neturei Karta -- that Jews are summoned to lead a G-d centered life embodyingthe understanding, friendship and respect toward others, may we all yet be worthy of G-d's mercy and His final redemption.