By Moshe Feiglin
20 Tishrei, 5771
Sept. 28, '10
Translated from the NRG website.
Nobody has to worry about the allegiance of the religious officers and soldiers who are crowding the ranks of the IDF today. IDF documents made public after the expulsion from Gush Katif show that statistically, it was actually the soldiers who were not connected to a religious framework who refused to obey orders - and that phenomenon was negligible.
There is a different phenomenon though, that should be worrying those people who view freedom of thought, freedom of choice and freedom of conscience as a threat to their hegemony.
Polls and in-depth studies unequivocally prove that Israeli society is rediscovering its Judaism. The fascinating aspect of this phenomenon is that the younger generation of Israelis is actually closer to traditional Judaism than their parents. This Yom Kippur, more young people fasted than their adult counterparts. In the past, the opposite was true. The synagogues and community leaders were relegated to the "old generation," while the youngsters wanted nothing to do with "religion". But now, Israeli society is becoming more and more faith-based, with the younger generation blazing the trail.
Israeli society is becoming more faith-based - not more "religious." The phenomenon that we are experiencing is much broader than the "repentance movement" in its strictly religious parameters.
In the days of entertainer-turned-rabbi Uri Zohar, to "repent" meant to turn from a "secular Jew" into a "religious" or "haredi" Jew. But these definitions do not reflect reality. The question that actually defines the status of a given Jew on the faith continuum is: Is G-d present in your life or not? There are Jews who observe the commandments, but have left G-d out of the picture. There are even "progressive" movements that excel at that. On the other hand, there are Jews who still have not connected to Jewish law in its entirety, but experience G-d as very much present in their lives.
On this fundamental level, all of us are returning to G-d all the time. This ongoing experience is not a move from one end of the social spectrum to the other, but a gradual cohesion of the two extremes- together with G-d.
Only a person who fears G-d benefits from true liberty:
"And the midwives feared G-d and did not do what the king of Egypt told them, and they let the children live." (Exodus 1)
Two Hebrew women whose lives were worth no more than dust in the Egyptian gulag refuse to obey the orders of the greatest king in the ancient world - the Egyptian Pharaoh - and don't throw the Jewish baby boys into the Nile River. Their fear of G-d preserved their liberty.
As part of my sentence for "sedition" against the Oslo Accords government, I did community service in a state nursing home. One of the old gentlemen there told me his own story about a different gulag:
"When I went to first grade in the Stalin-era public school in Russia, I made sure never to ask permission from my teacher to let me use the bathroom. It was very important to me to be sure that when I would need to ask permission to go to the bathroom, she would believe me and let me leave the classroom. I knew that I would need to use this escape route when the state nurse would come to check the personal hygiene of the students. If she would find the tzitzit (ritual fringes) that I had under my shirt, she would report me to the authorities and my father would be sent to his death in Siberia."
My friend in the nursing home told this story very matter-of-factly. But it gave me the goose bumps. I was in awe of the father who would risk his life for his faith and the little boy whose fear of Heaven made him truly free at the ripe old age of six.
The wave of return to G-d that Israeli society is now experiencing will necessarily lead to liberty for our Land as well. That is what the people in the ivory towers have to watch out for - not for the religious soldiers.