By Rabbi Avraham Feder
Hardcover. Two Volume Set.
ISBN: 978-965-229-444-9; NIS 199
Gefen Publishing House
Reviewed by Carl Hoffman
As Jews, we have to admit that sometimes we are difficult to understand. Our beliefs and customs are ancient, textured and often complex. Our 4,000 year history is marked by a myriad number of strange and unexpected twists and turns. But it is perhaps our temperament that, more than anything else, sets us apart from other ethnic groups and nations and makes us virtually incomprehensible to the rest of the world.
One of the oddest things about us is the veritable rainbow of different attitudes that Jews have about Israel – or more specifically, about coming back to Israel and re-establishing a sovereign Jewish state in our historical homeland. After some 2,000 years of wandering around the planet, settling here, being violently expelled from there, always subject to the whims of local leaders and often at the mercy of blood-crazed mobs, one would think that we would now be more or less “on the same page” when talking about returning to the land from which we were exiled and forging a state to serve as a haven for the world’s Jews. One might even have naively expected that those who saw themselves as being the “most Jewish” among the Jews would likewise have been the most enthusiastic about re-establishing Jewish sovereignty in the land of the Bible and home of the First and Second Temples.
As we all know, that is not what happened. One of Jewish history’s greatest ironies has been the bitter, uncompromising rejection of the modern Zionist movement by a large proportion of ultra-orthodox Jews, along with their subsequent rejection of the re-established State of Israel. Those who have seen themselves as being the most stringent observers of Judaism and the “most Jewish” of all the Jews have simultaneously been the most vociferous and often violent opponents of a modern Jewish state. This state, they say, has been imperfectly formed from human rather than divine initiative, prior to the coming of the Messiah. Groups like the Satmar sect of Hassidism and the Naturei Karta spring readily to mind. If they do not, try to imagine the unutterable confusion non-Jewish visitors to Israel must feel when they see what appear to be very-Jewish looking people ignoring the sirens on our memorial day for fallen soldiers, or when they witness a group of very-Jewish looking boys and men attacking another Jew in Mea She’arim for trying to hang an Israeli flag, which is what in fact occurred during our past Yom Ha’atzmaot.
Fortunately, other types of orthodoxy have arisen within Judaism - such as the Modern Orthodox movement and various strains of religious Zionism - that have broken down the barrier between the Torah observant and the State of Israel, to the point where members of these groups are among Israel’s most committed new immigrants and citizens.
In Rabbi Avraham Feder’s Torah Through a Zionist Vision, we have a very knowledgeable, very literate religious cri de coeur in support of the modern State. Feder sees Torah and Israel each as a fulfillment of the other. The Torah, Feder implies, can be seen as both the charter and ideological foundation of Zionism, while Zionism can be viewed as the Jewish people’s historical opportunity to create a living, breathing society according to Torah morals and ethics.
Feder’s arguments draw broadly from Judaism and beyond. A clear exposition of an intricately reasoned statement by Maimonides is as likely to be followed by a reference to playwright Arthur Miller as by a quotation form Rashi. Throughout both volumes of this important and very necessary new work is Feder’s conviction that “for Israel, the strategy can only be “Let us go!” Our ‘lekh lekha’ must take us to our own sovereignty - out of the incarceration of exile.