Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Agudah and Satmar II

The supporters of the Agudah position that we should be involved with the government do not feel that by doing so it is granting legitimacy to the existence of the State. The Chazon Ish was asked this question, and his answer was, "If robbers come to mug me and I engage them in talks to try to reduce the damage they will do, am I thereby legitimizing their act of robbery?"

In other words, nobody said to "ignore" Zionism. We don’t ignore it. We fight it. The question is how. Rav Ahron Kotler ZTL and others believed the best way to fight it is to try to wrest as much political power from the Kofrim as possible and make sure they do the least damage possible. That doesn’t legitimize anything.

Imagine if you were in Nazi Germany before the war, and someone decided that anyone against Nazism should become part of the government in order to counter and weaken the Nazi party as much as possible. That's what Shas is doing.

Nobody wants a Nazi government, but if you have one, obviously you should try to do what you can to make the situation the least bad as possible. Nobody disagrees with the fact that the State if Israel should be made better. But that does NOT imply approval of its existence - merely that we have to manipulate it as much as possible to make sure it doesn’t do more damage that necessary.


As stated many times, only Mizrachi wanted the State. The Gedolei Yisroel from Satmar to Lubavitch, from the Yekkes (Rav SRH) to the Briskers, from the Chazon Ish to the Rogachover, were against the Jewish State from the outset.

There was a disagreement ex post facto - after the State was created against the Torah. Rav Aharon Kotler ZTL held that we should try as much as possible to at least make it as religious as possible, thereby accomplishing "hatzolah purtah", even if it means joining the government. Also, someone needs to fight against the religious Zionists on their own grounds, which entails playing on their ball field, so to speak. The Satmar Rebbe ZTL held that joining the government makes you an accessory to the crime after the fact, and the Mizrachi is better fought by distancing ourselves from it rather than politically battling it.

There were many problems caused by the creation of Israel that needed to be dealt with. The three that are relevant to this forum are: One, the anti-semitism generated in the world against Jews because of the actions of Israel and the Zionists, including both the Arab hatred and attacks that happened in retaliation for the Zionists taking the land from them, as well as the world at large who will hold all Jewry responsible for the acts of the State, and if the State acts immorally or tyrannically, Jews all over the world will be perceived as supporting that.

And three, the simple fact that the State exists is a problem, since the Torah said we cant have EY in Golus.

The Gedolim speak about these issues. The Satmar Rebbe held that we should publicly announce to the nations of the world that we Torah Jews are not responsible for the actions of the State, their immorality and aggressiveness is not a Jewish trait, and that Zionism and Judaism are two different things. If someone is anti-Israel, that dos not mean he has to be anti-Jewish.


Nobody is talking about collaborating with any Zionists. There are two issues here, and they are separate and independent of each other. They are:

a) What should we do to rid ourselves of the problem of the State of Israel? and

b) Should we tell the world that Zionism is not Judaism and Zionists do not represent Jews.

The Satmar Rav answered the first one by saying that we can only PRAY for G-d's "power from on high" to accomplish that, or, as he puts it in another place, "Eliyahu and Moshiach" to come and eliminate the State. He says explicitly that this is what we shoudl do and this is ALL we can do. He says that the state must be abolished this way "and not through the nations, for if permission of given to the mashchis, he will nto distinguish etc." (Divrei Yoel bo p.250). Meaning, it would be a danger to Klall Yisroel if the abolition of the State would come through the nations.

I know the Neturei Karta don't accept this, and their reasoning, faulty though it be, is that since violating the Oaths is Yehoreg V'Al Yaavor, therefore, even if Jews will die, it is still worthwhile to have the State abolished.

The error in this reasoning is that Yehoreg V'al Yaavor means that if you have a choice to violate the Oaths or die it is better to die. But it does NOT mean that Jews who did NOTHING to violate the Oaths should die because someone else violated them. And since the danger in returning Eretz Yisroel to the Arabs does not only include those who violated to Oaths, but also innocent Jews who did not, would not, and have no intention of ever doing so, the reasoning of Yehoreg Val Yaavor is inapplicable.

As far as the other issue, of course we should try to eliminate the anti-semitism and chilul Hashem that happens because the world thinks that the Zionists and the State of Israel represent Jews and Judaism. But my point was, if you read what the Satmar Rebbe wrote, he said that we cannot succeed at this because of the rabbis with the excuses, and not that we should be moser nefesh but rather that we "would have been moser nefesh" if not for the fact that those rabbis will not allow the success of such a campaign. So to answer your question about what is wrong with mesiras nefesh, I will use a quote from the Lubavitcher Rebbe Rashab zt"l. He said, "Mesiras nefesh does not mean to bang your head against the wall until your head breaks - it means to bang your head against the wall till the wall breaks. If the wall wont break then its not mesiras nefesh - its foolishness." So whatever value trying to eliminate the chilul Hashem and anti-semitism generated by Zionism has, the Satmar Rav is clearly saying that currently it is not going to break the wall.

The Gedolei Yisroel who disagreed with the Satmar Rav held that fighting the Zionists is better done not by open confrontation but by doing, say, what Reuven did when he wanted to save Yosef, or what Aharon HaKohen did when he tried to stop the Egel from being made: Deal with them on their turf - use the State of Israel, and manipulate the political process to make it as frum as possible, thereby accomplishing hatzolah purtah.

Where the Satmar Rav held that voting in the Israeli elections is a sin since it makes you an accomplice to the crime after the fact, Rav Aharon Kotler ZTL held it was a mitzvah because by doing so you can help ensure that at least the worst people will not be controlling the State.

This was a legitimate machlokes l'shem shamayim, with other opinions involved as well (such as the Brisker Rav, who held like neither of the above).

And above all, the Satmar Rav never, ever joined with Arabs in any of his anti-Zionist activities, nor were Arab interests invited to his anti-Zionist rally in Washington, or any of his anti-Zionist activities.


The "Agudah" is not a person, and people are what have opinions. The Agudah is a collection of people, some rabobnim, some laypeople, some Gedolei Hador etc. As I explained elsewhere, the Agudah is not a monolithic entity. Even more confusing is that when someone writes something in the name of any organization, you don’t know exactly who is the one or ones responsible for the statement. Rav Chaim Ozer ZTL wrote that about rabbinic organizations in his days, and the same holds true for any organizations. If something is signed and noted by a human being, unless it was forged, we understand that the human being is the one who made the statement; but when something is signed by an organization, we know from experience that such statements can be the expressions of various people. The title of this topic was created by a poster, and I agree with you that it is really something of a misnomer. After WWII, Rav Ahron Kotler ZTL was the leading Torah authority of the Agudah in America, and it is the authority of Torah that we are interested in, not lay people. But as I said, people have opinions, and as it says "aseh lecha rav", not "aseh lecha organization". There is no one opinion that everyone who is part of this organization held, but their opinions are only of interest if and to the extent that they are Torah authorities as individuals. I'd be doing you an injustice discussing "the" opinion of any collective group when humans, not the collective entity, are the one with opinions.

I know first hand (not that Rav Chaim Ozer ZTL needs my confirmation) when I have asked members of different organization about things their organizations said, they responded that they were not the ones in the organizations who said them. I have also heard member Rabbanim complaining about things that organizations wrote that they disagree with but someone with the ability to speak for the organization wrote.

So for instance, on this topic, the Satmar Rebbe ZTL writes (Vayoel Moshe p.353-355) how during the 4th Knesia Gedolah of the Agudah, there we reads in the papers in the name of the Agudah saying that the "Agudah" holds all Jews should move to Eretz Yisroel, and that there were Rabbonim in the Agudah who were upset about it - some even referred to it as "kefirah" ("minus") he writes - but were not consulted when that statement was issued, and . He doesn’t name anyone there, but Rav Boruch Kaplan ZTL used to tell over a story (which I heard from him myself, and has since been printed in various places) where he and Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky ZTL went to visit the Satmar Rebbe, when Rav Yaakov was Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Vodaath, and the Satmar Rebbe asked him about the publicized by the Agudah that all Jews are obligated to move to EY - I am assuming that he was referring to that incident at the Knesia Gedolah - "can you please tell me what their source is for such a psak?"

Rav Yaakov's answer was that he did not sign on that statement, he is not responsible for it, and it was the lay leadership of the Agudah that made the statement.


The Steipler did encourage voting, as per his Rebbe, the Chazon Ish, and he held
”L’chorah” this was the answer to the Satmar Rav’s claim against it.

The Chazon Ish (who, as a general rule, the Steipler followed) – and this was also the opinion of Rav Ahron Kotler - held that voting in the Israeli elections does not mean you approve of the existence of the State of Israel. Rather, it means that ex post facto that we have to unfortunately live with it, we are obliged to do damage control and work to at least make sure that those who wield political power over the policies of the government make it as frum as possible – and not c”v vice versa. The Satmar Rebbe held that voting is tacit approval of the Avodah Zorah that is the State of Israel. The Chazon Ish disagreed. This does not mean that the Chazon Ish held the State of Israel is not an Avodah Zorah – it means that voting and involvement in the government does not constitute approval thereof.

So someone apparently wrote the Steipler a letter saying that voting in the Israeli elections is a Halachic violation since it makes you or the person you're voting for partners in the violation of the Oaths (or at least shows your approval). The Steipler said that lechorah the answer is that whereas being involved in the creation of the State of Israel may be a violation of the Oaths, ex post facto involvement in the government is not. He was not sure this was the answer, which is what “lechorah” means. The fact that he did in fact encourage voting means he was comfortable there is an answer to defend the Chazon Ish, whether this is it or not.

This does not mean that other acts, which would show approval of the creation of the State of Israel, are permitted. The Chazon Ish, who encouraged voting in the Israeli elections – “lechorah” for the reason the Steipler stated - also said that anyone who celebrates Yom Haatzmaut is an Apikores, even though doing so is merely “ex post facto” of the violation of the Oaths.

For the record, the Satmar Rav does not say that voting in the elections violates the Oaths. He says that it constitutes Modeh B'Avodah Zorah, and Lifnei Iver, since sitting in the Knesset is assur, and votes are what facilitates that.


The Chareidi policy of caring for every Jew is documented and well known. The money raised for rescue efforts, the public prayers said, the official policies in writing for all to see, the speeches constantly given, the Tehillim constantly said.

If some people just refuse to see that, then, no, we are not obligated to go to a rally that we don’t believe in because otherwise people will unreasonably accuse us of something in their imagination.

That's "spiritual blackmail". "Either you participate in my activates even though you believe they are wrong, or else we will go around saying you don’t like Achdus, and since you have an obligation to have good PR, you have to do what we say!"

No, sorry, there's no such obligation. The obligation is only to have clean clothing. Not to wear whatever you demand we wear.


In 1950, Rav Yitzchok Sheinen once asked the Chazon Ish which party to vote for in the elections that were being held then. He said whichever party is more chareidi. He added, but in these elections there are no religious parties - there is only Poalei Mizrachi, who are not frum. He then asked the Chazon Ish whether to vote for the Poalei Mizrachi. The Chazon Ish did not answer. (Orchos Rabeinu vol. 5 p.171)




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