Friday, April 20, 2018

Requirements of Torah Im Derech Eretz and Recent Events

"It is evident from the concluding verse of this Psalm that Asaph does not think here only of the Jewish people, but also pleads the cause of the salvation of all mankind on earth, all of whose existence and welfare is dependent, first of all, upon the proper enforcement of justice and right." (Hirsch Siddur, p. 214, Psalm for Tuesday)

Many who pretend to be followers of Torah Im Derech Eretz may be disappointed to learn that TIDE is not Modern Orthodoxy, is not a license for wanton consumption of secular culture. Rather it allows for utilization of the best elements (and you won't find those on television or Hollywood films) of secular wisdom, when that wisdom does not conflict with or dilute Torah in any way, as long as Torah remains our main pursuit. This knocks out many people who claim to be TIDE from truly being classified as TIDE. 

Those people may be even more disappointed to learn that Rav Hirsch was not a fan of Zionism. He stressed over and over again that our home is Torah and the land is an adjunct to that. Land without Torah is very dangerous. And not only that, but Rav Hirsch stressed the applicability of the Three Oaths from the Gemara in Shavuous, that Jews are not allowed to immigrate en masse to the land, nor to take it by force. Rav Hirsch also forbade dealing with institutions run by non-religious Jews, like, you know, the Israeli government. So that knocks out about 90% of the remaining people who claim to be followers of Hirsch.

But not only that. Under TIDE, a person should not care only about Jews. Imagine that. We also have to have concerned for humanity in general. Our view should not be, anything for Jews even when it harms gentiles. We should even promote the general welfare of gentiles. Imagine that. 

So that brings us back to the shooting of the protestors in Gaza. The Israeli government has become so arrogant over the last decade. It doesn't even hide its methods anymore. It really has overplayed its hand here, shooting more than a thousand people with banned exploding bullets, killing three dozen and maiming a few dozen, including a little boy. He now has one leg. 

Was he a danger? Was an eleven year old boy a danger because he came too close to a fence? Was he going to break through and beat up all the soldiers and then march on to Tel Aviv like some beast from Greek mythology?

For decades now, Zionists everywhere have been claiming that every act of violence by the State of Israel is necessary and justified. Most religious Jews, I am so sorry to say, can't imagine for even a second that the Israeli government has ever made a mistake of any kind, done any injustice whatsoever to the Palestinians because the government like a god is perfect and the Palestinians are all devils, all terrorists, even though in fact there has been an average of 20 acts of terrorism a year since '48 and there are millions of Palestinians. So if one is capable of grade school math, he can calculate that 99.9% of Palestinians do not engage in terrorism. Call me a leftie if you want but at least I can do math.

One - that is one who thinks - starts to wonder. When the government of Israel talks about existential threats is it being paranoid? Is it being delusional? Because if people protesting on their side of a fence are labeled rioters because they roll tires in a field then one starts to wonder if the definitions being used are a little off. Normally, rioting means destruction of property like cars and store windows and harm to people. There is not much damage to property that one can do in a field, particularly their own field. And there is not much harm one can cause to others if those others not only are located on the other side of a fence but in fact don't live anywhere near the fence.

It's pretty obvious that the goverment of Israel could have said, go ahead wave your flags, roll your tires, and yell. Just don't cross that fence, the one we set up to lock you in your concentration camp. And let us note that a ten year economic blockade that leaves 95% of drinking water polluted is a cause worthy of protest. Go ahead, yell about it. We blame Hamas for this as we do everything but that doesn't mean you can't have your protest. That would have been nice of us. 

But that is not what the Israeli government has done. Rather, it has gone ahead and shot 1000 people that clearly and obviously to everyone who is not paranoid and completely brainwashed by fear mongering did not present a danger to anyone other than themselves via smoke inhilation of burning rubber. 

And surprise, surprise, the Palestinians are becoming less peaceful. Did we provoke them by any chance, provocation of the gentiles being another issur from the Torah?

Provocation is a serious matter. We seem to feel at this point that we are so powerful that we can provoke all we want and our armed forces will keep us safe. That's an idol worship. While the yearly frequency of terrorism in Israel since '48 is 20 a year, the rate prior to '67 was 3 a year. Thus, terrorism has increased with this military occupation that we insist we must maintain to prevent terrorism. Huh? Not only that but the rate in recent years is 50 a year. Thus, all the tough guy tactics that we claim keep us safe have made us less safe. One can suspect, chas v'shalom, that the sniper shootings of Gazan protestors will trigger acts of terrorism that would not have otherwise happened. Maybe it's time to rethink our methods and attitudes. This assumption that everyone who breaths is a killer may not be the right way to go.

One wonders, what about all the other times we were told that violence was necessary because of the dangerous enemy. By dangerous enemy did they mean teenagers with tires? Ladies waving flags? Journalists taking notes? 

Apologies to all blind followers of the state and its propaganda. I am a follower of Rav Hirsch and he was a follower of the Torah that forbids murder and forbids Chillul Hashem. Can there be a much bigger Chillul Hashem than a sniper meticulously and intentionally shooting a little boy in the leg because he came too close to a fence that isn't actually near any of us? All this while billions of people are watching? Not exactly what one could call not having a choice but to be harsh. Rather, it is seeming that we take great pleasure in being harsh. And that is yetzer hara of a very bad kind and the kind nevertheless that seems to be standard in Orthodox Jews who worship the state. So much for Jews being indentifiable by kindness, humility, and modesty. 

All those people need to read Rav Hirsch's writings again, not for permission to watch television (as if he gives it) but to find their way again to the path of mentsch Yisroel. As Rav Schwab noted, Torah Im Derech Eretz is not a kulah, not a leniency, it is a chumrah, it is a harder path of life. Just as we don't ban all secular studies, we don't declare war on all the goyim of the world. We need to use our minds, think, use fact, control the emotion, reason, and seek the truth, seeking the middle path, slice and dice. Is that person really coming to kill you just because he wears the same kind of clothing as someone who did, or speaks the same language of someone who did? Justice, justice you shall pursue. And that doesn't mean justice only with Jews. It means you shall be a just person no matter who or what you are dealing with. We say to countries what we say to police. If you are so jittery that you shoot at anything that moves, you shouldn't be a policeman or a country. Let somebody else do the policing or the running of people's lives. We need steady, rationale people in charge. If you are convinced that everyone is out to get you, you more likely need to be in a mental institution than a government office. 


  1. I think you make some good points about how TIDE is often not fully understood. But I think some of your rhetoric is still wrong (Gaza as "concentration camp"), and makes many people reluctant to consider your important points.

    I would also like to note that the situation for someone living in the state of Israel today could be regarded as comparable to the situation of someone in Rav Hirsch's days living in a place without an Austrittsgemeinde (and where none could be founded either). I am not sure what this practically means, but wanted to note it nevertheless.

    Good Shabbos!

    1. This issue fo Austrit vis a vis the state, is clearly dealt with in the following article by a special yid:

    2. Thank you very much! It is a fascinating article, but I'm not sure if he is right. My first thoughts about the key passages about Austritt in the article:

      "Some authors have suggested that were Rabbi Hirsch around today, he would apply the Austritt principle to the State of Israel, since the majority of its government are non-believers. But this opinion seems to lack all basis. Firstly, Rabbi Hirsch issued the ruling that Austritt was obligatory only after Prussian law had made membership in the Reform congregations optionaL. Only then did membership imply endorsement of the community's ideology. In contrast, being a "member" of the state in which you live is not optional; every inhabitant must pay the state's taxes and is subject to its laws. Hence, living in a state does not imply endorsement of any ideology."

      1. Maybe the crucial point for him would not be the majority of its government, but the basic laws and the ideology upon which the state is founded.

      2. Rav Hirsch actively lobbied for the Austritt law. He didn't just issue his ruling after external circumstances (Prussian law) had changed, he worked to change the circumstances.

      3. Living in a state might be different from moving there and becoming a citizen.

      "Second, and more fundamental, the government of a democratic state is merely a body appointed to manage those affairs that are of common interest to the inhabitants. In contrast to a religious community, it is not the task of a democratic government to provide an ideology. The government does not stand for an ideal; people do. Thus, the State of Israel reflects the opinions of its citizens; it is Torah-true to the extent that they are, no more and no less. It also follows from this that becoming a citizen does not at all endorse the ideology of the majority; it simply changes the extent to which the State is Torah-true. Hence, there seems to be no rational basis for applying the Austritt principle to the State of Israel-nor for the assumption that Rabbi Hirsch would have applied it."

      Maybe a democratic state of such a nature as described here wouldn't meet Rav Hirsch's approval if at the same time it called itself Jewish? Maybe he would say that a state that calls itself Jewish must have a constitution that is in accordance with Torah? And that democratic decisions can only be made within this framework?

      Other people are a people by common ancestry, land, language... the Jewish people are a people by Torah. So maybe a "parve" state is okay for other people but not for the Jewish people?

      And my impression is that the State of Israel is based much more upon an ideology than most other democratic states. An ideology that seeks to redefine the nature of the Jewish people...

  2. Rav Hirsch was not a fool. And he didn't believe Jews should be fools.

    In your swallowing whole and then regurgitating extreme Arab/NK propaganda, that is how you are acting - like a naive simpleton.

    You can do as you wish, but don't take such foolishness and wrap it in the mantle of Rav Hirsch zt"l or TIDE. Where are all the descendants of Rav Hirsch and his talmidim? Why are they not speaking as you are? Maybe they know something that you don't? Why don't you ask them? Does KAJ put out pompous self-righteous statements like you do above? Did Rav Gelley zt"l? No. Think for a minute - did they maybe know something I don't know?

  3. You don't know what you are talking about. Israel gave them Gaza in great shape and they turned it into a disaster.

    They destroyed the greenhouses, spread pollution far and wide, despite getting hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in grants from the international community to set things up properly, including pollution control. But no, they would rather live in a polluted slum. They divert millions and millions for attack tunnels, missiles, various other terror schemes, and put terrorists on their payroll.

    And you blame Israel???!!!!

    I thought you were a logical person.

    Have you already forgotten all the missiles they shot into Israel?

    Please wake up before it is too late.

  4. "Rav Hirsch was not a fan of Zionism"
    This is true, however it is irresponsible to project that philosophy after the Holocaust - propogated by the same German society Hirsch lived in. We simply don't know if that would have changed. We know that Rabbi J.B. Soleveitchik ended his alliance with Agudah over this same issue.
    None if us are privy to the intelligence and military decisions required to protect Israel.
    I'm not sure you would want to live in a world without the State of Israel run by Jews, whatever their religious commitment. All the proof you need is the fate of a Jew that enters Ramallah (you might remember two Israelis who mistakenly drove in there and were lynched by bloodthirsty animals). Or how safe Jews feel today in France and the UK, such enlightened European nations.

    1. I think the problem is not that the baal hablog believes that Rav Hirsch zt'l would still teach today what he taught during his lifetime. There are good reasons to think so. Nobody knows if and how the Holocaust would have changed Rav Hirsch's mind.

      And regarding the present situation in Europe, you have to admit that while there is certainly some antisemitism in parts of the native population, what is frightening most Jews there is Muslim antisemitism. (In western Europe, in eastern Europe the situation is different.)

  5. "....Rav Hirsch stressed the applicability of the Three Oaths from the Gemara in Shavuous, that Jews are not allowed to immigrate en masse to the land, nor to take it by force."

    You believe that R' Hirsch would have insisted that this Gemara take precedence throughout the 1930s and 1940s, when the danger to the masses of Jews was horrific, and many had no where else to go? Torah Im Derech Eretz means applying the complete Torah to the complete circumstances at hand; not assuming that one strong stance taken in past circumstances must be rigidly followed in ALL circumstances.

    "Rav Hirsch also forbade dealing with institutions run by non-religious Jews, like, you know, the Israeli government." Are you sure he applied this to ALL non-religious Jews, or just those whose ideology calls for influencing Jews to move away from Torah observance? There certainly have been some of those in the Israeli government, admittedly; but I don't think the institution as a whole qualifies.

    1. I'm also not sure that Rav Hirsch would hold that the Three Oaths are still applicable (mostly because one could say the nations of the world allowed it). But I think he would still insist on Austritt. And Austritt is about institutions, not individuals. Still, I don't think it suffices that an institution not try and influence its members to leave Torah observance. Rav Hirsch insisted on Austritt even when the Grossgemeinde agreed to provide separate institutions for its Orthodox members.

  6. Point well taken, I misstated it: he said it about institutions, not people.

    But I don't think the agreement to provide separate shuls, shechita, etc. turned the Kehilla administration into a neutral party; it was the same institution before and after. The only difference was that the threat of a separate community (and the diversion of the annual dues to this separate community) forced them to make concessions.

    Had the non-religious Jews in Frankfurt fairly administered the Kehilla from the outset, and never tried to tamper with authentic Judaism (this was roughly the setup in many places in Eastern Europe), would Rav Hirsch have insisted on a separate community? Hard to say; but I'm inclined to say no.

  7. My impression is that Rav Hirsch did not accept the idea of a "neutral Kehilla". What would be the basis of such a Kehilla?