Thursday, September 13, 2012

Are anti-religious Jews the Catalyst for our Redemption?

By Tuvia Brodie

The Jewish Redemption:  many talk about it. Like children in the back seat of your car during a trip, there’s an excitement: are we there yet?
Some say we’re close. Look at Tanach, they declare: we are almost there. Others say, look at Israel’s politics: the anti-religious harbour so much hate they appear ready to declare war against anyone religious. Is that Redemption?
Here’s a point to ponder: perhaps HaShem employs the anti-religious to energize the process; perhaps our Redemption begins through them.
Much that is important to modern Israel has occurred because of anti-religious input. Our declaration of Independence in 1948 might not have happened if anti-religious Jews had been kept off-stage. Does this reality suggest that the founding of our State is (as some argue) just the work of the wicked—or is that assessment misplaced?  The great Gaon of Vilna, Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman Kremer (1720-1797), wrote that we will stand at the threshold of our Redemption when (among other criteria) Jews have ingathered and then settled Israel, established our claim to the land, built cities, and cultivated the land (see Kol HaTur: The Voice of the Turtledov, trans. Rabbi Yechiel Bar Lev and K. Skaist, distributed by M. Pomeranz Bookseller Ltd, no date, limited edition, Jerusalem, Israel).  All of these things have come true, thanks in large measure to efforts by anti-religious Jews. Yes, the Vilna Gaon identifies other criteria to mark the beginning of the Redemption process (seeKol HaTur, above). But he states repeatedly that ingathering and settlement are crucial for Redemption to begin; and he seems not to impose any religious requirements upon those who do this work. He does not appear to demand Torah-observance from these workers. His emphasis is on the work itself: the land must be populated and prepared; only then can the Redemptive process begin.
Naturally, there is more. Read Kol HaTur.   
The idea that anti-religious Jews play a role in bringing the Redemption is developed further by Y. S. Teichtal (Harav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal, Eim Habanim Semeichah, Kol Mevaser Publications, Mevaseret Zion, Israel, 2000), who reminds us that the wicked Biblical king Omri was rewarded specifically because he added a city to Israel. So precious is Israel to G-d that He rewards even the wicked for city-building. This was true even though Omri did not build his city to honour G-d; and it is true even though few if any kings were as wicked as Omri.  Rav Teichtal argues that, because the modern anti-religious are no worse than the excessively wicked Omri, they, too, fulfill a G-dly mission when they work for Israel.
Is it possible that the unG-dly help the Redemptive process? Well, since G-d controls everything, if He had wanted the religious to play that role, that’s what would have happened; therefore, if the anti-religious have played such an important role in Israel’s modern history, there must be a G-dly reason for that.
How could the unG-dly help our Redemption? The recent uproar over drafting Haredi into the IDF might suggest an answer. Is the push by anti-religious politicians to pass a new law that demands drafting Haredi an example of religious hatred, or is it part of a Divine plan to pump  more religious Jews into the IDF in order to increase the number of future  leadership candidates who are Torah-focused?
Our Redemption story makes that connection. Can you?
A similar insight might be found in anti-religious efforts to surrender ancestral Jewish homeland. Are these efforts simply anti-Jewish Jews pushing us towards national suicide—or is there a Divine element at work here?
What’s the Divine element? Look in the Torah’s first Rashi commentary. On that Rashi, one teacher suggests that, until Jews stand up and declare to the world that this land is ours because G-d gave it to us, we will have trouble with the nations; perhaps, we can infer, G-d employs the anti-religious (who reject the land) to motivate the rest of us to ‘stand up’. 
It is possible that the unG-dly play a role in our Redemption because the religious have failed.  If the religious cannot unite to lead, then the anti-religious will fill the vacuum the religious themselves have created; the anti-religious will then eagerly use religion as a club against us. They will beat us with their hate. They will refuse to put ‘religion’ aside. It will obsess them.
Don’t discount the unG-dly. We need them. Their religious hate puts religion into the spotlight. If you have read your Tanach, you know that’s exactly where religion might need to be for Redemption to begin.
The unG-dly have settled the land, built it and now work against it. They put religion onto stage-centre. They challenge our faith in G-d and land. We should not ignore that challenge.
How we respond will determine our future.

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