Rabbi Berel Wein
One of the interesting societal phenomena of our time, both in Jewish and general society, is the elevation of political beliefs and ideas to the level of faith and religion itself. For most of American Jewry, values of the progressive Left have become an ersatz Judaism, treasured and followed and reflected in the pronouncements and stance of much of what passes today as Reform and Conservative mainstream Jewish thought. All sorts of social issues that are not likely to aid in the survival of the Jewish population as Jews, have become the new rituals in these circles.
Political issues such as healthcare, economic growth, gender equality and the like dominate the Jewish discussion. Jewish education, traditional observance of Jewish life in the home and the family, even support for the State of Israel are no longer dominant themes in Jewish social media and even in synagogue circles.
The elevation of political issues and opinions to the status of religious beliefs is almost complete in American Jewish society. The platform of the liberal Left has pretty much become the new Bible of much of American Jewry. There may be great merit to many of these social programs but they are all political in nature, subject to change and revision and certainly not matters of fast held religious beliefs, such as monotheism and the preservation of Jewish tradition. Political ideas change with time and circumstance whereas basic religious beliefs remain constant and eternal.
Within the Jewish religious world this tendency also exists, to elevate beliefs, which are basically political in nature. The struggle of parts of the Orthodox world against the Zionist movement, in the century that has passed, has proven to be unsuccessful. And, in the opinion of many, it is both unwise and very costly. Yet that opposition, and it is bitter and continuing, is very much alive in our time and in the religious Jewish community, especially in pockets of Jewish life in the United States.
The recent gathering of thousands of religious Jews in Brooklyn at the Barclay Center illustrates how difficult it is for this anti-Israel attitude, which is against all Jewish self interest and human logic, to disappear. It has been raised to a matter of religious belief and no longer just political opinion and policy.
It is quite easy in religious circles to raise any issue or opinion to the level of being religious belief and even Jewish law. However, this is a very dangerous and misleading tendency, to obscure true Jewish law and basic Jewish values with an overlay of political beliefs and shifting values.
Enlisting in the IDF is a political issue. There is much to be said in favor of exempting portions of the yeshiva population from this duty. Elevating it into one of religious belief only serves to further divide the Jewish people and becomes counterproductive to the very population that raised and leads the struggle regarding this issue.
Expanding and building new settlements in Judea and Samaria is, in my opinion, basically an apolitical and diplomatic issue. For many it has been raised to the level of being a matter of faith. There have been negative consequences both in the past and present for such a misjudgment and misrepresentation of the issue.
Once something becomes a matter of religious faith the sense of reality and logic dealing with the issue begins to wane. There is no argument, no matter how cogent and logical, that can overcome belief and faith. The world has been witness to this for thousands of years and perhaps no nation, as much as the Jewish people, is able to bear testimony to the accuracy of this statement.
The dangers, both short and long term, of treating this matter as a religious issue should be obvious to all. Yet faith based views of this issue persists throughout Israeli society. It is very hard to undo matters that are viewed by portions of the population as religious beliefs.
To repeat, there is no telling argument that can win the day against belief and faith. Nevertheless, leaders from all sections of the Jewish religious world would do well to carefully assess whether the struggles that we mount regarding certain issues are truly matters of religion or are really political in nature. That caution would go a long way in minimizing disputes and divisions within our community.
I disagree with the second half of the article. Serving or not serving in Tzahal has many religious ramifications. Some hold that it is a מצוה מדאורייתא. Others hold that it is an איסור דאורייתא. Yet others say that it is both....
Expanding settlements is a very religious issue. The Ramban writes that there is a מצוה מדאורייתא that לא נעזבנו ביד זולתנו מן האומות. We allow אמירה לעכו"ם on Shabbos in order to purchase property in Eretz Yisrael.
There is much to say but I will let you think about it....
But I STRONGLY AGREE with the sentiment that we should have a Shabbat Shalom:-).