During the Nine Day period – we share a letter of the Rebbe written to one whose views about the state of affairs in the Holy Land is based on misinformation. The Rebbe clarifies the writer’s equating of “orthodoxy” with “modern-day zealots” as totally unjustified. The Jewish Zealots in the time of the Roman oppression in Eretz Yisroel before the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash cannot be compared to the orthodoxy of Torah observant Jews of today. This letter is from volume 5 of The Letter and The Spirit.
By the Grace of G-d
25th of Tishrei, 5733
Yonkers, N.Y. 10710
Greeting and Blessing:
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter. It puts me in somewhat of a dilemma, inasmuch as it is not my policy to criticize individuals in general, much less Jewish individuals and still les official bodies and the Government in particular. Occasionally I do discuss such matters with persons who are in a position to improve conditions. However, I do not see from your letter that you are in a position to do anything in this direction and I am not interested in polemics.
On the other hand, I gather from your letter that you have been misinformed on the state of affairs in the Holy Land, so much so that it gives rise to expressions and views which are totally unjustified, ot put it mildly. And since in addition, I note that you are sincerely concerned about the situation, I feel impelled to respond to your letter, at any rate, briefly, in the hope that the following lines will perhaps clear up some of your misconceptions and prompt you to seek information from unprejudiced sources, on the basis of which I have no doubt as to what your conclusion would be then.
To begin with, it is well to bear in mind that, generally, when there is a dispute between two parties of incomparable forces, that is to say, where one of the parties to the dispute has almost unlimited resources and the other very little, it is logical to assume that the weaker side in terms of material resources, etc., is more likely to be in the right that its formidable opponent. This is a metter of common sense.
In the present situation under discussion, the difference in power and resources between the two sides involved, namely the orthodox, whom you call “Zealots,” on one side and the non-religious and anti-religious alignment on the other side, is so great that it is quite incomparable. I refer to such things as not only actual power and financial resources, but also and especially, the ability to use the press and other informational media to present its case in a favorable light, in order to win public opinion. This is especially true in regard to Jews living outside of Eretz Yisroel and not personally aware of what is truly going on there, and of the dangerous trends and tendencies which directly affect our people not only there but throughout the world.
I must also take exception to the final paragraph of your letter referring o orthodoxy as “modern day Zealots.” With all due respect, may I remind you that such comparison is based on a total misconception. For as is well known, the Zealots at the time when the Jewish people in the Holy Land struggled against Roman oppression, acted contrary to the opinion and policy of the orthodox Torah authorities in those days. Moreover, the dissention and fighting within the ranks of the Zealots were in themselves evidence that they did not represent the truth and only one factor united them, namely, their rejection of the stand taken by the Torah authorities, with the inevitable consequence that the former did not act in the interest of the Jewish people as was clearly borne out by the events. One can only hope that those who are now opposing the Torah authorities will learn a lesson form the past to rectify the untold damage and harm which is now being done to the Jewish people as a whole and to Jewish individuals both in the Diaspora as well as in the Holy Land.
I have emphasized the nature of Eretz Yisroel as the Holy Land, which is recognized even by non-Jews as such, for this is the principle that unites all our people and must serve as a guiding line, instead of the blatant attempt to convert it into a country like all countries, reviving the old and outworn cry of a few dissenters of the past, “Let the Hose of Israel be like all other nations!” It is a very sad state of affairs indeed to see Jews so totally committed to the idea of abolishing all fences which distinguish and separate the Jewish people from other nations and fighting with such fervor against everything that would preserve the uniqueness and unity of our people, which has been the basis of Jewish survival throughout the ages. The above is just one general point, without citing specifics, inasmuch as I do not wish to speak disparagingly of any particular individual. As already mentioned, it is only that I feel impelled to counteract the misinformation under which you labor and which unfortunately, apparently put you on the wrong side.
It is the Jewish way to see in everything the Hand of G-d (Hashgocho Protis). I trust therefore that our correspondence may, after all, have positive results. Moreover, I note that you are an M.D. sand therefore it si surely unnecessary to explain to you at length that physical health is intimately linked with spiritual health and any attempt to violate the essential nature of the Jewish Neshomo is bound to have serious repercussions also in the Jew’s physical health. The same is true insofar as the body and soul of the Jewish people as a whole are concerned. Throughout the history of our Jewish people over the last 3500 years, our people has been a small minority among the nations and struggling for survival against overwhelming odds in the hostile world around it. Yet it has survived its oppressors and wile nothing remained of such powerful empires as the Assyrians, Babylonians, etc., only our Jewish nation continues to exist both physically and spiritually, with uninterrupted continuity. If one wishes to discover the secret of our survival, which is really no secret at all, one can see that throughout our long history, there has been only one factor which enabled us to preserve our identity and ensure our survival. This is the tenacious adherence of our people to the Torah way of life. No other factors, neither language nor country can seriously be considered as the basis of Jewish survival, for these were not constant factors in Jewish history. The only thing that remained constant in Jewish life were such basic tenets as “Remember the day of Shabbos to keep it holy,” etc., putting on tefillin, observing kashrut, studying the Torah – in short, the daily Jewish life in accordance with the Torah and its mitzvos given us by G-d.
Needless to say, there have always been deviationists, comparable to modern day Reform, but these were comparatively short-lived. There is truly no need to elaborate further on the obvious.
I trust that the above lines, though necessarily limited in quantity, will suffice to help you reevaluate the present situation in its true light.
P.S. I take this opportunity to enclose a recent message in connection with the new year, which I trust you will find useful in further illuminating some of the thoughts expressed above.