Hebron, the Root of the Nation

Rebbe Nachman teaches the following:

“Repentance entails returning the thing to where it was taken from. This is the aspect of zarka, about which the holy Zohar brings: It was zarak (thrown back) to the place from which it was taken. What place is that? It is Chokhmah (Wisdom). For Chokhmah is the root of all things, as it is written (Psalms 104:24), “You created everything with wisdom.”

Returning to our roots is repentance itself. This applies at an individual level, within the person’s consciousness, as well as national, when we return to our roots in the Land of Israel.

This is why Rav Kook says the following at the end of the first chapter of Orot Eretz Yisrael:

“Anticipating of redemption is the force which maintains Jewry in exile, and the Judaism of the Land ‎of Israel is the redemption itself.”

No where is this more apparent than Hebron.

Hebron is the burial place of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the Jewish people, as well Ruth, Yishai, and many more ancient graves. It is our roots, our past, and the foundation for our future Kingdom. More than anything it is the testament that this Land is ours. The Cave of the Patriarchs is the oldest Jewish building stills standing dating back nearly 2000 years, built by Herod as a monument over the ancient cave where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah are buried. The sages teach that Adam and Eve are also buried there.

Hebron is a city of conflict.  It is a place where we the Jewish people have struggled, fought, lost, and now have returned.

Our roots are our source of strength and faith. These roots are what gives us our ability to push forward even at times where we have no strength.

This is why the decision by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett to build a new neighborhood on the ground of a formerly Jewish one, which had been taken over by Arabs after the massacre of the Hebron Jewish community is so important.

It is a return to our roots – repentance.

This is also why so many voices from the left and Arab Palestinians have come out against such a decision. They wish to stop us from returning, from repenting, from cleaving to our path that begins by reconnecting to our roots.

The following is an excerpt from a speech Rav Kook gave at the memorial service for the victims of the 1929 massacre in Hebron:

“Despite the terrible tragedy that took place in Hebron, we announce to the world, “Our strength is now like our strength was then.” We will not abandon our holy places and sacred aspirations. Hebron is the city of our fathers, the city of the Machpelah cave where our Patriarchs are buried. It is the city of David, the cradle of our sovereign monarchy.”

“Those who discourage the ones trying to rebuild the Jewish community in Hebron with arguments of political expedience; those who scorn and say, “What are those wretched Jews doing?”; those who refuse to help rebuild Hebron — they are attacking the very roots of our people. In the future, they will have to give account for their actions. If ruffians and hooligans have repaid our kindness with malice, we have only one eternal response: Jewish Hebron will once again be built, in honor and glory!”

“The inner meaning of Hebron is to draw strength and galvanize ourselves with the power of Netzach Yisrael, Eternal Israel.”

“That proud Jew, Caleb, announced years later, “I am still strong… As my strength was then, so is my strength now” (Joshua 14:11). We, too, announce to the world: our strength now is as our strength was then. We shall reestablish Hebron in even greater glory, with peace and security for every Jew. With God’s help, we will merit to see Hebron completely rebuilt, speedily in our days.”

Do you like this article? Make sure it reaches more people and donate below!

The Land of Israel is about Balancing the Spiritual and Physical

As I noted in my previous article, Rav Kook teaches the following in Orot HaTechiya 28:

“The holiness that is expressed from within the physical is the holiness of the Land of Israel. When the Shechina (Divine Presence) descended into exile with the Nation of Israel, holiness stood in opposition to the physical. But holiness which battles the physical is not a complete holiness. It is necessary that holiness become subsumed within the Divine from above, which leads to a holiness that is expressed through the physical itself. This is the foundation of repairing the entire World.”

By drilling deeper into this point we gain an understanding of the harmonious nature of the process of Redemption. In exile the Jewish people found it necessary to separate between the physical and spiritual. One could not fathom a world where the two could exist in harmony. Yet, this is exactly the point of returning home.

Rebbe Nachman teaches the following in the 35th lesson of the Likutey Moharan:

“Know! Teshuvah (Repentance) entails returning the thing to where it was taken from.”

This applies on both an individual level and national level. Our spiritual condition cannot be complete until we have returned to the place from where we were taken. Since Israel outside of its Land is not in its rightful place, then on an individual level as well one cannot fund harmony between the spiritual and physical.

Teshuvah is about returning to ourselves – about being in balance between the physical vessel that we were given when we came into this world and the spiritual expression, the ideal we are meant to bring into reality, which is the will of the Creator.

This balance can only happen in the Land of Israel. Outside the two cannot work in harmony, with the spiritual side always pushing back against the physical.

In Rebbe Nachman’s story of the Lost Princess, when the viceroy falls asleep after failing to follow the Princess’s instructions for a second time, his servant runs and hides when a long procession of soldiers walk by.


The servant represents our body and the viceroy who is asleep our soul. Sleep is always a hint to exile. as it says in the Song of Songs: “I am asleep and my heart is awake.” The servant, as the body cannot stand up to the rigors and challenges of this world as long as the soul is asleep and so hides.

Only in Israel can we truly awaken and achieve a complete harmony between the physical and spiritual.

Is this the end of Mashiach ben Yosef?

The ruling elites, the sacred establishers of Israel’s bureaucracy are coming with their knives sharpened – closing in on Bibi Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel. After all it is their state – their establishment and not his. This was made clear to Menachem Begin, the man who Bibi’s father served as secretary, when David Ben Gurion ordered Yitzhak Rabin to fire on the Atalena destroying it, the ammunition in it, and killing many passengers – most of whom were Holocaust survivors. The real target had been Begin who made it out alive.

Israel Eldad had warned Begin not to trust the Mapai, the forerunner of the Labor. “Menachem, do you really think they will just let you walk in with enough weapons to take control? It is their state not yours and they rather destroy it than hand it over to you.”

Eldad was right of course. The destruction of the Altalena led to the fall of Jerusalem since the ammunition and weapons Begin was bringing in would have led to its capture.

Why Netanyahu?

When Avichai Mandebilt declared his intention to indict the Prime Minister, he essentially paved the way for the leftist super-structure, Israel’s Deep State to begin the process of finally wresting control of the country from the street it lost it to when Begin surprised the parochial classes and Laborites in 1977.

True, there have been right wing leaders before, but each eventually bent to the will of the courts and the media, but not Netanyahu – he has always been smarter than the left. The street, the disadvantaged, the religious, the settler, the sefardi, they have all sensed Netanyahu was different.

True, Netanyahu has not always acted the way any one group would want, but changed the face of Israel, steering it away from failed policies and turned it into a powerhouse – a true global leader. The Prime Minister has been a thorn in the side of the Left, because he mainstreamed positions that were at one time unthinkable, steering a shaky ship after Olmert went down and turned the State around in the face of tremendous systemic opposition .

The Rise of Mashiach ben Yosef

At the End of Days, a leader will arise that will be a forerunner to Mashiach ben David. This forerunner is dubbed Mashiach ben Yosef, whose whole aim is to safeguard the Jewish people in the Land of Israel in a material sense. His power and ability is to utilize the physical vessels available and harness them for the good of the Nation of Israel while protecting the nation from harm.

The Mashiach be Yosef is also a concept or a movement, represented by thousands of “redeemers” since the birth of the Zionist movement. This movement has been encapsulated by the State – the one which has been uplifted by the current Prime Minister in a way never previously imagined.

Along with Mashiach ben Yosef, there is the Erev Rav named for the mixed multitudes that left Egypt with the Nation of Israel. At the End of Days, it is said that these mixed multitudes will be control of the Land of Israel and ultimately destroy the Mashiach ben Yosef, which is both the leader himself and the physical restoration of the Nation of Israel in the Land of Israel.

Sometimes we think Redemption and we feel the End of Days is sometime in the future, but it seems now we are at that point.

Predicted in the Bible

“And I will pour out upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplications. And they shall look to me because of those who have been thrust through [with swords], and they shall mourn over it as one mourns over an only son and shall be in bitterness, therefore, as one is embittered over a firstborn son.On that day there shall be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the Valley of Megiddon.” Zechariah 12:10-11

The first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of British Palestine Rav Kook wrote the following in 1904 as a eulogy on the occasion of Theodor Herzl’s death:

The characteristics of nationalism was prominent in Ahab, who had great love for Israel. He followed in the footsteps of his father, Omri, who founded a city in the land of Israel. Scriptural commentators said: Everyone receives a portion in the world to come. ‘Gilead is mine’ refers to Ahab, who fell in Gilead. At the height of battle, despite being shot through with arrows, Ahab hid his injury so as not to alarm his soldiers. Such courageous spirit is derived from tremendous, abundant love. He also honoured the Torah, for he outwardly preserved the nations dignity in the eyes of Ben-Haddad. Nonetheless, he did not recognise the value of the Torah and of God’s unique holiness, in which Israel’s entire advantage lies. Therefore, he followed the ways of Jezebel and the despicable customs of other nations to the degree that they then prevailed over the Zeitgeist. 

In contrast, Josiah elevated the spiritual aspect as no king before or after him. As the text testifies, “And before him there was no king like him, who returned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and might, in accordance with the entire Torah of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.” To that end, he wanted Israel to have no relationship with the nations of the world. He therefore did not heed the words of Jeremiah, who advised him in God’s name to allow the Egyptians to pass through Israel’s territory.

Thus, Ahab and Josiah combine the two aspects of Joseph and Judah, the power of the Messiah’s of the House of Joseph and the House of Judah. When the people are ready, the distortion of each separate dynasty will be removed, for in the times of the Messiah the two kingdoms will join together and come to fully realise the full potential of their power as a chosen nation. At that time, with this reunification, the mourning [in Jerusalem] will also reach a climax, for what was lost and the distance from true fulfilment will finally be recognised, and the mourning for both Ahab and Josiah will combine and grow exponentially. [This great mourning] will serve as a moral that [both kingdoms] must combine their powers in order to create the balance that will lead to the greatest general good.”

What we are witnessing now is the tearing apart of an approach to make way for something far bigger. After all, Bibi and those within the Revisionist Zionist movement tried to balance between a redemptive vision of the state and an out of date nationalism that relied on secular concepts rather than the Torah and Jewish faith. In this case, the Erev Rav were never done away with because in order to destroy them, the Revisionists would have to rely on a force beyond their cognitive abilities. This force is the light of the Mashiach ben David, which is above time and space.

At the End of Days Mashiach ben Yosef falls, which leads to the next stage of the Redemptive process. Of course this comes with chaos and fear, because all of us no matter what camp we have been in, understand that what has been in existence cannot truly continue as is. Netanyahu’s fall is the fall of the State as we know it.

How the road to the final Redemption will play out now is anyone’s guess, but one thing is certain – it will be a surprise.

Do you like this article? Make sure it reaches more people and donate below!

Peace Depends on Israel’s Return to its Land and Kingdom

“Fortunate are you, O Israel: who is like you! O people delivered by HaShem, the Shield of your help, Who is the Sword of your grandeur. Your foes will try to deceive you, but you will trample their haughty ones.” (DEVARIM 33:29)

These were Moshe’s last words to Israel. After warning and chastising the Hebrew tribes at length, the prophet now expresses his true feelings for his people. His final message is one of optimism, love, praise and encouragement. As history can attest to the many hardships Moshe warned of, we can be certain that these words of reassurance will reach fruition.

Perhaps no man in history has surpassed Moshe in his unyielding love for the Children of Israel. The patience he exhibited in the face of our shortcomings through all of the decades together in the wilderness is a testament to his stature as our greatest national leader. It is precisely this patience for the whole of the Hebrew Nation that we must all strive to emulate – to learn from Moshe that all of Am Yisrael is holy and deserving of our love.

Genuinely experiencing this love for every Jew becomes considerably easier once a person attains a heightened awareness of Israel’s true inner essence. The Hebrew Nation is not the sum total of every individual Jew but rather one colossal spirit that manifests itself in this world through millions of bodies in space and time. While human beings each possess a personal soul, Israel shares one massive national soul – like a giant tree of which each Jew is an individual branch.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzḥak HaKohen Kook teaches that the highest attainable level of Ahavat Yisrael (love for Israel) results from obtaining the belief, knowledge and deep understanding of Israel’s true inner essence. It involves far more than merely loving individual Jews because they may be smarter, stronger or more pleasant than some gentiles. This is obviously not always true and is certainly not what makes Israel unique. The Segula of Israel is the collective national essence that precedes the individuals. It is the inner Divine light planted within the Israeli soul and revealed in human history through the Jewish people. Rather than attempt to love each and every individual Jew, one can learn to recognize and love the source of Israel’s essence – theSegula – which then allows this love to flow out to every distinct piece of that national collective.

A man who loves his son does not simply love the sum total of each limb. He loves his child as a single person and therefore loves every individual piece of that person. He can see each finger, leg and ear as a unique expression of the single entity he knows to be his son. Similarly, Knesset Yisrael is one giant spiritual organism revealed through individual Jews scattered in space and time. And the attainment of true Ahavat Yisraelnecessitates a conscious awareness and appreciation of Israel’s collective spiritual essence.

Break the BDS

Moshe’s greatest legacy was his being the man elected by the Kadosh Barukh Hu to lead Israel out of slavery in order that we receive His Torah, establish His Kingdom and bring all of Creation to perceive His Divine Oneness. Israel now completes the yearly cycle of reading the Torah and celebrates the event with great national festivities.

On Simḥat Torah, every Hebrew male is offered the chance to be called up for analiyah to the Torah and recite the blessing “asher baḥar banu mikol ha’amim v’natan lanu et Torato” – “Who chose us from among the peoples and gave us His Torah.” This is what Israel celebrates, filled with joyful exhilaration from the incredible reality that HaShem – with an extraordinary love – fashioned us unique among the peoples of this world in order to make us worthy of manifesting His Ideal. Israel celebrates the fact that we are the nation specifically created to bring HaShem’s light to mankind and to elevate existence to a level where every creature will acknowledge its Divine Source and fully actualize its unique potential in this life. Only by internalizing our Divine election and mission as the national expression of HaShem’s Ideal for this world can we hope to appreciate the Torah’s full splendor.

There are people – even great scholars – who mistakenly regard our Torah as merely a guide for performing dry rituals, devoid of any metaphysical world-altering significance. Some view the Torah and the practice of its “religion” as mere prayer, holidays, dietary laws and study, without recognizing the Divine Ideal shining through each of these details. This fundamental misunderstanding stems from a fragmented view of Torah that cannot succeed at recognizing Israel’s national purpose and true revolutionary function in this world. And it is precisely this error that prevents many of our people from rising up to the challenges confronting Israel today.

The foundation of Israel’s Torah is not merely some holidays and disjointed ritual precepts but rather the Divine Ideal from before existence placed into this reality for the sake of elevating our world beyond its current limitations. The Israeli Nation – through a sovereign kingdom in the borders stipulated by HaShem – is the vehicle meant to free mankind from the spiritual shackles of the world’s current state in order to usher in a new era of universal fulfillment. Because the Hebrew mission can only be achieved through a holy nation – as Am Yisrael and not as a collection of individual Jews, Israel must unite on our native soil and establish a kingdom that will reveal the inherent kedusha in all material aspects of national life and realize the lofty goals for which we received the Torah in the first place.

An accurate and holistic understanding of our Torah first necessitates a deep appreciation for Israel’s historic mission in this world. Mankind’s ability to reach the goal of Creation is uniquely built into Knesset Yisrael. Through the Jewish people reclaiming sovereignty over our homeland, we bring the entire world closer to history’s ultimate purpose.

Universal peace and human perfection can only be achieved when Am Yisrael is independently situated in Eretz Yisrael with HaShem’s Temple crowning the city of Jerusalem. Only from Zion can the Torah be fully illuminated – infusing the totality of personal, national and international life with kedusha – and properly transmitted to the whole of mankind.

This conscious awareness deepens our enjoyment during these festive days by permitting us to focus on our deepest national aspirations. Simḥat Torah exhibits how the highest ecstasy we can possibly experience is defined by our service to HaShem as expressed by His Torah. After emerging from the Days of Awe purified and dwelling in the Sukkah (demonstrating a pure reconnection with nature and trust that the greatest protection of all comes from the Kadosh Barukh Hu), Israel is now strengthened to embark on yet another year aspiring to fully express our inner Segula and advance our collective mission of perfecting this world. When Sukkot comes to an end, Israel immediately moves to channel our love for HaShem into a celebration of Torah and loyalty to the Hebrew mission – to establish His Kingdom in the whole of our land and to shine His Divine blessing to all of humanity.


In the Land of Israel Sukkot is Complete

Immediately following the transformative intensity and spiritual cleansing of Yom Kippur, Israel begins preparing for the weeklong festival of Sukkot. These preparations involve an active reengagement with nature, building temporary outdoor huts (sukkot) to move into for seven days and obtaining palm branches, myrtles, willows and citron fruits, paying special attention and care to the details of each.

Although the power of the days spanning from Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur create the necessary mindset for atonement, self-improvement and growth, these days also deplete our sense of spontaneity and joy, causing life to be experienced as somewhat rigid and unnatural. Sukkot – “the festival of our joy” – then forces us to reconnect with nature in such a way that infuses us with vitality and a childlike appreciation for life.

“The festival of Sukkot is a holy day whose joy and splendor we can feel only when we live in our beloved land, crowned with clear, turquoise skies pleasing to the eye and a pure, temperate, healing air, which together remind us of the hand of G-D, which brought us to the good and pleasant land of the Carmel, which renews in us strength, life and the hope that Israel will once again flourish upon its open spaces.” (Rabbi Avraham Yitzḥak HaKohen Kook in Kol BeHadar)

The festival of Sukkot takes on an entirely different dimension when celebrated on our native soil. Jews returning to Eretz Yisrael can note the astonishing contrast between the holiday’s observance in the Diaspora and its performance in our homeland. The atmosphere in Jerusalem is one of great anticipation where people everywhere prepare for the weeklong celebration. Many are outside with their families and neighbors building their own unique brand of sukkah. On nearly every corner, children sell the four species with a wide variety of citron fruits to choose from.

Seeing all of the different citrons causes us to appreciate Israel’s current situation in comparison to stories of Jewish life in foreign lands – generations ago – where Jews were sometimes unable to obtain etrogim at all. In such cases a person would not be held liable for neglecting to perform the mitzvah as it was above and beyond anything he could practically do. But during those difficult years, the commandment of taking an etrog on Sukkot never disappeared. As soon as citrons could again be procured, the Jews of that region were once again obligated to perform the mitzvah.

This is comparable to the Torah commandment to live in the Land of Israel. The moment that the mitzvah returns to our hands, it once again becomes our sacred duty to fulfill. When the Hebrew Nation was broken and scattered throughout the world, it was often physically impossible for us to return to our borders and we were not held accountable for neglecting the commandment. But now that there is a sovereign Jewish state over portions of our homeland, Diaspora Jews are left without any excuse for not returning to their true home in Eretz Yisrael.

The central idea of the sukkah is trust in the Kadosh Barukh Hu. The sukkah (whose flimsy construction makes it appear outwardly unfit even to be called a dwelling) is our tower of strength, sheltering us from danger on these sacred days. We must realize that it is not through the flimsy walls but through HaShem’s protection that the sukkah becomes our shield. Our Torah decrees that during these days this structure shall be our dwelling, teaching us that true security lies in our trusting HaShem and knowing that no evil will befall us if we sincerely and wholeheartedly perform His Divine Will.

While some may offer seemingly rational justifications for remaining in the exile and ignoring the mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisrael (see Ketubot 110b, Rambam Hilkhot Melakhim 5:12Hilkhot Ishut 13:19, Ramban’s supplement to the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot 4, Shulḥan Arukh Even HaEzer 75:6), these excuses stem from not understanding the core message of Sukkot – that Israel should trust in HaShem and follow His commandments, no matter how seemingly difficult or overwhelming. The mitzvot are the finite vehicles through which we manifest the Divine Ideal and fully express our true inner selves in this world. And although moving home to Israel can be both challenging and frightening, it is also a thrilling adventure that infuses life with meaning and higher purpose. Aliyah remains one of our most central mitzvot as only through our dwelling in Eretz Yisrael can we succeed in living up to our national mission of ushering in an era of total peace and bringing all of Creation to a greater awareness of HaShem as the essence and context of our lives.


Break the BDS

REDEMPTION WATCH: Don’t Blink, You Might Miss It

“They took in their hands from the fruit of the land and brought it down to us; they brought back word to us and said, ‘Good is the land that HaShem, our G-D, gives us!’ But you did not wish to ascend, and you rebelled against the word of HaShem your G-D.” (DEVARIM 1:25-26)

Moshe rebukes the Children of Israel, not for their sin but for that of their fathers who had already perished in the desert. This seemingly unwarranted admonition serves to create within Israel a feeling of collective responsibility and to offer the people an opportunity to correct the major shortcoming of the previous generation. In order to correct past transgressions, however, it is first necessary to internalize what actually took place. And in order to clearly appreciate this teaching, we must identify who the “they” are that Moshe refers to in his rebuke.

“Yehoshua son of Nun and Kalev son of Yephuneh, of the spies of the land, tore their garments. They spoke to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel, saying, ‘The land that we passed through, to spy it out – the land is very, very good. If HaShem desires us, He will bring us to this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. But do not rebel against HaShem! You should not fear the people of the land, for they are our bread. Their protection has departed from them; HaShem is with us. Do not fear them!’” (BAMIDBAR 14:6-9)

The “they” are Yehoshua and Kalev, two of the twelve tribal chiefs sent into Canaan to spy out the country and report back to Moshe. The twelve spies were the Torah giants of their generation and for reasons of pekuaḥ nefesh (preserving life), the majority argued against entering the Promised Land. It was the minority, Yehoshua and Kalev, who asserted that Israel must enter Eretz Yisrael and wage a war of liberation, not taking into consideration the superior military forces of the Canaanite giants. This being the case, the question arises how following the majority of rabbis over a seemingly irresponsible and adventurist minority opinion could be called rebelling against the word of HaShem – especially when Israel has been instructed to generally follow the legal opinions of the rabbinic majority.

To properly answer this question, it is necessary to accept that despite the great piety and scholarship of leading rabbis, legal decisions regarding national issues can often be influenced by issues of personality, transient circumstances and other external factors.

The mistaken assumption in certain circles that the rulings of great rabbis are at all times stirred by Divine inspiration, which by definition must be infallible, has unfortunately led several institutions of Torah learning to promote a herd mentality that transforms many otherwise gifted students into obedient devotees – not daring to even respectfully question the opinions of leading scholars.

“If the entire assembly of Israel shall err, and a matter became obscured from the eyes of the congregation, and they commit one from among all the commandments of HaShem that may not be done, and they become guilty; when the sin regarding which they committed becomes known, the congregation shall offer a young bull as a sin-offering, and they shall bring it before the tent of meeting.” (VAYIKRA 4:13-14)

The Talmud explains these verses to refer to a situation in which the Sanhedrin (high court of Torah authorities) commits a mistake and, due to their error in deciding the Law, a majority of Israel transgresses a commandment. The Torah is clearly recognizing the possibility of a situation in which the Sanhedrin itself can lead Israel astray. And if the Sanhedrin is capable of making such a mistake, then certainly modern rabbis can err in this regard.

The first Mishnah in Tractate Sanhedrin states that we are not meant to follow the majority if that majority is transgressing against the Torah. This is based on the verse in SHEMOT 23:2 which states, “Do not be a follower of the majority for evil.”

The Gaon of Vilna illuminates in Kol HaTor (the Gaon’s teachings on the process of Israel’s redemption) how even great scholars can miss the significance of events taking place in their generation.

“The Sin of the Spies… hovers over the Nation of Israel in every generation… How strong is the power of the Sitra Aḥra that it succeeds in hiding from the eyes of our holy fathers the dangers of the klipot; from the eyes of Avraham our father, the klipah of exile… and in the time of the Messiah, the Sitra Aḥra attacks the guardians of Torah with blinders… Many of the sinners in this great sin of, ‘They despised the cherished land,’ and also many of the guardians of Torah, will not know or understand that they are caught in the Sin of the Spies, that they have been sucked into the Sin of the Spies in many false ideas and empty claims, and they cover their ideas with the already proven fallacy that the mitzvah of the settlement of Israel no longer applies in our day, an opinion which has already been disproven by the giants of the world, the Rishonim and Aḥronim.” (Kol HaTor chapter 5)

Rabbi Zvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook was once asked by the newspaper Maariv how Torah leaders in his day, like those in the times of Yehoshua and Kalev, could err in their opposition to the struggle for Eretz Yisrael. He answered, “When one believes that the redemption of Israel and the coming of the Messiah must appear miraculously from out of the heavens in a way which transcends the natural order of life, then one fails to see the hand of HaShem in all of the events of the world. The redemption is not obligated to appear with obvious miracles, nor does it have to be absolutely natural. Both miracles and natural world developments belong to the Almighty’s domain. The Rambam explains that the appearance of the Messiah is also a natural historical process, which is revealed by the ingathering of the Jewish people back to the Land of Israel, and even through wars. The redemption of the Jewish people, which comes to pass in a natural way, is also from the Almighty.”

While some scholars might argue that Israel’s salvation must occur through supernatural miracles and that Jews must refrain from active participation in the national struggle, others recognize the redemption as a process that develops gradually through natural historic events in which human beings are meant to play active roles. To only appreciate HaShem’s hand over the supernatural realm is to place limitations on His hegemony (from the perspective of man) and to not acknowledge His supremacy over the natural events transpiring in our day. Rather than reject the way in which the Kadosh Barukh Hu has chosen to bring history to fruition, Torah leaders must train the Jewish people to broaden our vision so that we might better understand our national mission in this world, as well as the actions we must take to facilitate the redemption process already underway in this miraculous generation.

The Tragic Legacy of David Raziel

The twenty-third of Iyar marks the day David Raziel fell in battle during World War Two. Raziel is best known for being the commander of the Etzel (Irgun Zvai Leumi) during the late 1930s and as a model for what the modern Hebrew soldier was meant to be.

Less commonly known about Raziel was his connection to Palestine’s Chief Rabbi Avraham Yitzḥak HaKohen Kook and the yeshiva where national-religious ideology developed. He studied at Mercaz HaRav for years and was even a regular study partner of Rav Zvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, son and ideological successor to the chief rabbi. Together the two learned the elder Rav Kook’s writings, specifically as those writings apply to Israel’s national rebirth as a means to usher in a better world for humankind.

The young men growing up in these communities are more often than not filled with a selfless dedication to this vision that generally finds expression through exceptional military service.

More than being the model for the modern Hebrew warrior, Raziel can more specifically be viewed as the prototype for Israel’s national-religious community, especially those inhabiting the mountainous Samaria and Judea regions. Many of the more ideological Jewish towns and villages throughout the West Bank have bred a culture of dedication to Rav Kook’s vision for Israel and the world and – like Raziel – the young men growing up in these communities are more often than not filled with a selfless dedication to this vision that generally finds expression through exceptional military service.

It was at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University that Raziel befriended Avraham Stern and introduced him to the Torah and traditions of Israel. Stern had come from a revolutionary socialist background, growing up in the All Union Leninist Pioneer Organization (youth faction of the Russian Communist Party) at the time of the Russian Revolution and first entering the Jewish community through the socialist Hashomer Hatzair. Stern had been unimpressed with both the Zionist right and left but was immediately inspired by Rav Kook’s messianic philosophy and – in addition to gradually taking on Jewish ritual practices – accepted upon himself the task of reviving the Israelite Kingdom.

Stern understood the Jews to constitute a people and not a mere culture or religion as most Marxists at the time claimed. He recognized Israel’s indigeneity to Palestine and identified British colonialism as the greatest obstacle to Jewish liberation. He joined Raziel in the Etzel command and the two worked together in building the nucleus of a Jewish fighting force that initially focused on defending Palestine’s Jewish community from the country’s increasingly hostile Arab population. At a time when the Haganah – the semi-legal Jewish militia under the command of Labor Zionists – practiced a policy of restraint in the face of attacks, Raziel led the Etzel in reprisals that demonstrated terror to be a sword capable of cutting both ways.

Although committed to the same ultimate vision, Raziel and Stern began to part ways in 1939. Raziel the soldier sought to turn the Etzel into a formidable army. But Stern the revolutionary saw more value in a clandestine underground. His Marxist background enabled him to analyze the factors standing in the way of Israel’s freedom. He identified Britain’s material interests in the Middle East, concluded that these interests demanded permanent control of Palestine and decided on the necessity of an anti-colonial struggle to free the country. In fact, by applying Marx’s method of analysis to the Jewish people as an indigenous people victimized by British imperialism, Stern came to deeply identify with the anti-Roman rebels of the Second Temple era – even taking for himself the penname “Yair” in honor of Masada’s Sicarii commander Elazar Ben-Yair (according to Professor Joseph Klausner, an influential teacher of Stern’s, the Sicarii were proto-communist Jewish nationalist guerrillas).

Raziel had the long-term vision for Malkhut Yisrael as a “light unto nations” but his short-term political vision was too narrow and myopic to reach Stern’s conclusions. When World War Two erupted, Stern distinguished between the German tzorer (persecutor) and British oyev (enemy), arguing that while the Germans hated and sought to harm the Jews, the British were the true enemy for standing in the way of the Jewish mission (by occupying our homeland and preventing Jews from returning home). These conclusions were reached prior to the Wannsee Conference at a time when German policy was merely to deport Europe’s Jews to whatever far-off country would take them. Adept at finding common ground with anti-Semitic Polish officials, Stern suggested a diplomatic agreement with Germany that would send the persecuted Jews to Palestine in exchange for the Etzel’s cooperation against England. But with or without such an agreement, Stern concluded that all efforts should focus on fighting British rule, for the sake of both freeing the homeland and rescuing Europe’s Jews.

Lacking the analytical tools to even recognize the inherent conflict between Jewish and British interests, Raziel accepted upon himself the political authority of Z’ev Jabotinsky and placed the Etzel at the disposal of the British war effort. Rejecting Jabotinsky’s leadership, Stern demanded a Jewish war aim in exchange for helping the British. He felt that without a commitment from London to either open Palestine’s gates to Jewish refugees or commit to a Hebrew state following the war, fighting for the British was betraying the Jewish cause. From Raziel’s perspective, the Germans – who most fiercely hated and were attempting to harm Jews – were the primary foe. But because Stern and his followers viewed the Jewish people not as an object with a problem (anti-Semitism, persecution, etc.) but rather as a subject with desires (independence in Jerusalem), they were able to recognize the necessity of an immediate anti-British struggle. They broke away from the Etzel and created a revolutionary underground dedicated to freeing Palestine from foreign rule. Although his knowledge of Torah was clearly deeper and broader than Stern’s, Raziel lacked the political sophistication to recognize the moves that would bring their people closer to the ultimate goal both men shared.

Hunted by the regime and driven by the symbolism and meaning of their leader’s demise, Stern’s small band of followers – the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel – possessed the strategic understanding to make each move count.

Raziel fell in battle wearing a British uniform on foreign soil. And the Etzel suffered from paralysis until 1944. Stern, by contrast, was shot dead while handcuffed by British detectives in Tel Aviv. Hunted by the regime and driven by the symbolism and meaning of their leader’s demise, Stern’s small band of followers – the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel – possessed the strategic understanding to make each move count. Every single explosion, shot fired and word of propaganda pasted to the walls of urban centers was geared towards very specific short- and long-term goals – forcing the British into a policy of collective punishment to maintain security, fostering general hostility towards the empire among the populace, dragging the Etzel (and even briefly the Haganah) behind them in their anti-colonial struggle, finding points of common cause with progressive forces in the Arab world, generating global sympathy – especially on the left – for their cause and making the price of ruling Palestine more expensive for the British than the benefits of exploitation. Applying the same Marxist analysis as their martyred leader, the Sternists identified the empire’s material interests in the region and attacked those interests until retreat became England’s best strategic option. And official British documents attest to the fact that it was “Jewish terrorism” that forced their withdrawal from Palestine.


Israel’s contemporary national-religious sector, of which I am apart, shares much in common with David Raziel – faith, long-term vision and a readiness to sacrifice. Our boys serve with distinction in Israel’s most elite units and we’ve successfully made a two-state solution impractical through our efforts to populate Samaria and Judea with Jews. But like Raziel, most of us sadly lack the political sophistication to recognize the material factors driving efforts to divide the country or to formulate effective strategies to advance Israel closer to our vision. The failure to save Gush Katif in 2005 is perhaps the clearest example of this flaw. Despite the many arguments focused on whether or not to actively resist, no one presented a sound strategy for HOW to effectively stop the disengagement plan. No one properly identified the material conditions and pressures driving Ariel Sharon to act as he did and no one suggested a comprehensive strategy to prevent the expulsion from being carried out.

There are questions the national-religious sector desperately needs to ask.

How do Israeli political leaders benefit from promoting a two-state solution?

How is such a policy in the regional interests of the United States and why does Washington push so aggressively for it?

How have the Israeli and Palestinian ruling classes benefited from the Oslo process?

In what way does accepting American aid make our leaders subordinate to Washington and vulnerable to pressure to surrender our heartland?

Is it possible to increase our Knesset representation without diluting ideology?

What is the best way to win over the Israeli masses to our vision?

Can the struggles for Eretz Yisrael and Jewish identity be communicated to the world in a language that would at the very least generate broad-based critical support?

With whom should political alliances be sought?

Is a relationship with Evangelicals desirable or dangerous?

Is reality truly as simple as “those giving us money are our friends and those trying to harm us our enemies” or should we carefully discern our own national interests, identify who might have common interests and then create the proper conditions to enable an alliance?

What material factors are driving Jews and Palestinians into conflict?

Must Palestinian grievances be rejected out of hand or could they somehow become part of advancing Jewish liberation?

If the forces of westernization within Israeli society have used the Palestinian cause to advance their agenda for decades, couldn’t those loyal to Eretz Yisrael and Jewish identity potentially do the same (especially now that partitioning the land has become practically impossible)?

We need to analyze the real obstacles standing in the way of Israel’s destiny and formulate the most effective means of overcoming those challenges.

In addition to raising another generation of dedicated soldiers, the national-religious sector must develop sophisticated political leadership. Rather than follow the modern-day Jabotinskys into a fantasy of Israel as an outpost of Western civilization, we need to analyze the real obstacles standing in the way of Israel’s destiny and formulate the most effective means of overcoming those challenges.

David Raziel, the prototype for our most courageous and dedicated young men, teaches us a valuable and tragic lesson. If we don’t learn to think outside the box and start questioning the very assumptions behind most of our political ideas, we can easily lose our way and unwittingly betray the struggle we’ve committed our lives to. Dedication to a higher purpose and the willingness to sacrifice for a greater vision might make us a powerful force in Israeli society. But a scientific analysis of our situation and the ability to formulate effective political strategies are crucial to actually thwarting the plans of those seeking to divide our land and advancing to the next stage of our people’s liberation.