By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
Recently, the Satmar Rebbe of Williamsburg, Reb Zalman Leib, traveled to Israel to distribute some $5 million to institutions that do not accept any funding from the Zionist government. He represents extreme anti-Zionism, and was greeted by a number of people on Rechov Sarei Yisroel.
Reb Zalman looks upon himself as the heir to the mantle of Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, zt’l, the original Satmar Rebbe and author of the VaYoel Moshe — a two-volume sefer attacking Zionism as the work of the sitra acher. The first volume was published in 1959. The second was published in 1961. After the Six Day War, the Satmar Rebbe published a work titled “Al HaGeulah v’al HaTemurah,” explaining that the Six Day War was no miracle at all.
Among the greeters of the current Satmar Rebbe of Williamsburg were children from a cheder of the Peleg Yerushalayim extreme anti-Zionist faction. Among those children were two of PM Netanyahu’s chareidi grandchildren, with peiyos and tzitzis a-flyin’. These children are the sons of Noah Ruth Roth, the prime minister’s daughter from his first marriage.
Netanyahu’s own grandfather was a talmid in the Yeshiva of Volozhin, and he represented one of the earliest speakers and advocates of the chardal movement — chareidi dati le’umi. Rav Avrohom Yitzchok HaCohen Kook eulogized Rabbi Nathan Mileikowsky Netanyahu as the apogee of religious Zionism. “One of the strongest bones of our nation has been shattered. His influence on the people was enormous, through the power of his thoroughgoing Zionist ideology, together with his Messianic belief in the fulfillment of the vision of the kingdom of Israel,” he remarked at the funeral.
But there is a third group of people whose beliefs are in between the extreme anti-Zionists and the staunchly nationalistic religious Zionists. One should note that one of the political parties that had signed on Israel’s Declaration of Independence is Agudas Yisroel. It is this author’s contention that the sentiments of the vast majority of our Torah leaders of the past generation were within this third group — supporters of the State of Israel, skeptical if not opposed to the idea of Rav Kook and the chardal movement that the state was a precursor to a Messianic Age. These gedolim of the third group were Rav Elyashiv, zt’l, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt’l, the Steipler Gaon, zt’l, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt’l, Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, zt’l, and so many more. I will refer to this group simply as the Third Group.
What follows is a listing of the relevant Talmudic and halachic sources and events, and how each of the three groups views these sources.
The Three Oaths
The Gemara in Kesuvos (111a) lists three oaths that Hashem demanded of Klal Yisrael.
- Shelo ya’alu b’chomah — that they not go up to Eretz Yisrael in strength like a wall;
- That they not rebel against the umos ha’olam, the nations of the world;
- Shelo yerachaku es ha’keitz — that they not delay the redemption.
The Satmar Rebbe views these three oaths as binding and that the establishment of the state of Israel violated these oaths. Why weren’t they codified in halachah? Because no one ever thought that someone would ever violate these oaths (VaYoel Moshe p. 11). It is also yeihareig v’al ya’avor: In the eyes of the Satmar Rebbe, one may not even violate these oaths if one’s life is at stake.
The chardal view is that these oaths are agaddeta and are not binding. They are not brought down in the poskim because they are not l’halachah.
The Third Group is divided as to whether this Gemara is l’halachah or not. Regardless, it is not yeiharieg v’al ya’avor — one should not die rather than violate this. Now it is pikuach nefesh and therefore one may ignore it even if it were halachah.
Who Can Bring About the Redemption?
The Satmar Rebbe held that the geulah, redemption, can only be brought about by pious and holy people. Since many Zionists are far from Judaism, Israel actually hinders the redemption (see VaYoel Moshe 10, 216 and Geulah V’al HaTemurah 6).
The chardal view is that Hashem is specifically using the irreligious because of their zeal and sacrifice for the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael.
The Third Group is in agreement that the use of the irreligious is part of Hashem’s plan (see approbation to Eim HaBanim Smeichah by Rav Zalman Nechemya Goldberg).
A Woman May Not Force Her Husband to Move to Eretz Yisrael
The Gemara in Kesuvos cites a ruling that a husband may force his wife to move to Eretz Yisrael but a wife may not force a husband (in no-Beis HaMikdash times). The Maharam MiRottenberg cited in the Piskei HaRosh states that this is the view of the Yerushalmi, but our own Mishnah makes no distinction. The Beis Shmuel (EH 75:20) rules like this Yerushalmi, but the Chasam Sofer (Y.D. 234) does not.
The Satmar Rebbe holds that we see that going to Eretz Yisrael is not so big a mitzvah anymore.
The chardal view is that most poskim reject this (see Ramban, Sefer HaChinuch, etc.)
The Third Group view is that this Maharam MiRottenberg and Beis Shmuel is not l’halachah (see Rav Elyashiv’s Kovetz Teshuvos Vol. II EH #86).
The Six Day War
The Satmar Rebbe’s view is that the events were no miracle whatsoever.
The chardal view is that this was the Divine Hand showing that the final redemption is imminent. This was the first time that the site of the Holy Temple was given to the Jewish people in 2,000 years, as well as Me’aras HaMachpeilah and Kever Rochel.
The Third Group is in agreement that this war was miraculous, but did not see it as a sign of imminent redemption.
In Az Yashir, we read the reaction of the nations in the aftermath of the exodus from Egypt: “Then the chieftains of Edom were startled; as for the powerful men of Moab, trembling seized them.” Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, zt’l, notes that this pasuk seems to be revealing some great chiddush or insight. Yet is it not obvious that when faced with open miracles people are startled and tremble? (Hagaddah of the roshei yeshiva of Mir, p. 226)
Rav Chaim Shmulevitz answers that it is not. It is the nature of people not to change themselves even after seeing open miracles. “This explains why people around us now are not changing after seeing the open miracles of the Six Day War,” adds Rav Shmulevitz. This shmuess was delivered in June 1967 in the Mirrer Yeshiva in Yerushalayim. The Mir experienced an open miracle when a bomb that crashed through the ceiling did not explode.
There are numerous sources as to the fact that the vast majority of gedolim of our generation held to the third view rather than the first two views discussed at the beginning of the article. While it is true that the Third Group is deeply disappointed when Shabbos is violated by the Israeli government or when they try to draft yeshiva students, by and large they are supportive of Israel. A mere look at the people who attended the Manhattan event that raised $5 million for President Trump will show that they were primarily chareidim — supporters of Israel — but not chardal religious Zionists. This demonstrates that the Third Group view is actually the silent majority of the yeshiva community in the United States.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.