Rabbi Eliezer MelamedThe writer is Head of Yeshivat Har Bracha and a prolific author on Jewish Law, whose works include the series on Jewish law "Pininei Halacha" and a popular weekly column "Revivim" in the Besheva newspaper. His books "The Laws of Prayer" "The Laws of Passover" and "Nation, Land, Army" are presently being translated into English. Other articles by Rabbi Melamed can be viewed at: www.yhb.org.il/1
All of our hearts are with the families of the kidnapped boys – may God save them, and return them home safely. May it be His will that as a result of the Jewish people’s wonderful unity in prayer and concern, our soldiers will strike a lethal blow to our enemies, so they won’t dare carry out other attacks and kidnappings.
For years, the settlers in Judea and Samaria, and especially in “Gav Ha’Har” (the area between Ariel and Shechem), have lived with the fear of an enemy plotting to murder and have been attacked with stones and Molotov cocktails – and yet, continue clinging to the Land, building houses, planting trees, and starting schools that are constantly being filled with more and more students.
How fortunate are those who merit settling the heart of the country, and in spite of the dangers, maintain their blessed, daily routines – and with their very bodies, prevent the most serious danger for a massive amount of Jews in Israel – the danger of the establishment of a terrorist state whose sole purpose is the destruction of the State of Israel.
We can learn about our enemies’ methods of behavior by observing what’s going on in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, etc. In just a few years, hundreds of thousands of people have been brutally murdered, and tens of millions live in fear of terror, humiliation, and constant harm. A similar disaster is being prevented by the settlers with their actual bodies, and fierceness of spirit. .
For someone who does not live in the area it may be difficult to understand, but it is impossible to live a normal life in Judea and Samaria without hitchhiking. The communities are still not large enough to maintain reasonable public transportation, and a demand not to hitchhike is a ruling which the majority cannot uphold. Of course, I would also prefer that my sons and daughters did not hitchhike, but there is no choice.
Furthermore, a demand not to hitchhike inadvertently plays into the hands of the enemy, because by doing so, they achieve their major goal – to disrupt daily life, and prevent Jewish settlements from thriving.
In the meantime, the only solution is to pay more attention to which car one is getting into, to talk a bit with the driver first, to ask where he’s going, to look into the car, and see who else is inside. Maybe we can establish an arrangement where every hitchhiker says the first words of one of the verses with which every Jew is familiar and the driver completes it, showing that he is Jewish.
Undoubtedly, the security forces also need to make greater efforts to plant traps in order to catch the terrorists. And certainly, phone calls informing about a kidnapping should be taken seriously. There is room for concern that the exaggerated talk about the so-called“terror” of ‘tag machir‘ (‘price tag’), diverted attention from the real terror, to the point where a desperate phone call kidnapped hitchikers was ignored
Our Relations With Christians
Israel does not have many friends in the world who understand the justice of our difficult struggle against the Muslim world, and give us unconditional support. But evangelical Christians stand like a brick wall in our defense, ranging from supporting the vision of the Return to Zion, to the settlement of the entire Land, and to the strengthening of the State of Israel against the Arab enemy.
The most renowned evangelist was Lord Balfour and his main successors are currently located in the United States. They demand that their government support the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Without them, the American government would treat us with alienation and hostility.
Some people find this position surprising, and ask how is it possible to praise the evangelists, who are known to be devout Christians? Seemingly, this transgresses the Torah prohibition “lo tehannem” (“nor be gracious unto them”) [Avoda Zara 20a]. Besides this, Maran HaRav Kook’s scathing criticism of Christianity is well known. How can all this be ignored?
Rivers cannot contain the tears we have shed over all the anguish and tragedies that the Jewish nation suffered at the hands of the Christians. Men and women, the elderly and children, were killed, burned, and slaughtered because they refused to convert. Hundreds of thousands of families had their property looted and were expelled from one place to another, because of the hatred Christians had for us.
And how much our heart aches for all those Jews who could not bear the suffering, and converted. Their descendants are now scattered throughout the world; their souls cry out to return to their roots – but they do not know to what, or to where – and we are incomplete without them. They are scattered in Spain and Portugal, Germany and France, Italy and England, Poland and the Ukraine. Many of them migrated to the New World, to the Americas, to escape the persecutions and the Inquisition – and do not even know that their ancestors received the Torah at Sinai.
Just recently, the Catholic archbishop of New York, who is considered a friend of the Jews, found out that he was actually a Jew without even knowing it. His grandfather was a rabbi and ritual slaughterer.
The Problem in Christianity
It is a mitzvah (a commandment from the Torah) to emulate God and love every person, despite all the differences in nationality and religion. But the sorrow that the Christians caused us cannot be forgiven.
There are two fundamental problems in Christianity: 1) their position that the Jewish nation, who was chosen by God to be His Chosen People, was replaced by the Christian church, and must now be humiliated. This position was the basis for their hatred of Jews. 2) Their position that anyone belonging to the Christian church no longer had to fulfill the commandments in the Torah, and was no longer responsible to correct his wrongdoings.
Both these problems distorted the Torah in such a manner that they cannot be forgiven.
Or as Rabbi Kook wrote: “The primary poison contained in belief systems which deviate from the Torah, such as Christianity and Islam, is not in their concepts of God, even though they differ from what is correct according to the fundamental light of the Torah. Rather, [the poison] is in what results from them –abrogating the practical mitzvot and extinguishing the [Jewish] nation’s hope regarding its complete renaissance” (Shemonah Kevatzim, Kovetz 1, #32. See also, Orot HaTeshuva 12:10).
Nevertheless, when Christians return to believe that Israel are the Chosen People and all the words of the Torah remain firm and binding, and they pray for Israel’s redemption as God said through His prophets, and even assist in the Ingathering of the Exiles and the building of the Land – the serious allegations against these Christians are annulled. They deserve to be praised for their fine deeds and good thoughts about Israel.
Vladimir Solovyov – A Righteous Gentile
This can be seen in practice by the attitude of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook and his son Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah towards Vladimir Solovyov, to whom Rabbi Kook awarded the title “the righteous Gentile of our times, Solovyov” (Iggrot Ra’ayah 18).
Solovyov (1853-1900) was a devout Christian and one of the greatest modern Christian theologians and philosophers, whose teachings are learned by the most respected leaders of the church.
After a wave of pogroms in Russia, Solovyov publicly criticized the rioters, and said that the problem was not the Jews, but rather that the Christians do not know how to behave towards this great nation – a precious and multi-talented nation, such as the Jews. And as long as they don’t behave respectfully towards the Jews, they will not be granted absolution achieve salvation as Christians.
It is important to point out that in Russia at the time, such praises of the Jews were considered an act of spiritual heroism, in light of anti-Semitic public opinion.
Testimony from Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook
I heard from my good friend, Rabbi Ze’ev Sultanovich, that Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah asked him to bring a book by Solovyov from the National Library, so they could read it together. Rabbi Kook understood Russian, but since many years had passed since he had done so, he had trouble reading fluently, and when he saw a student who knew Russian, and understood profound issues of emunah (faith) and machshava (philosophy), he wanted to study Solovyov’s religious articles, and discuss their content.
Upon seeing a picture of Solovyov printed in the book, Rabbi Kook said: ‘You can naturally sense the gentleness emanating from the radiance of his face’, and even compared his face to that of Tolstoy, which in his opinion, was less spiritual.
My friend read from the book four or five times. In the meantime, he was able to finish reading the entire book, and amazed, he turned to Rabbi Kook, and asked: ‘Solovyov is undeniably a truly devout Christian, and what’s more – he even praises a Jew who converted to Christianity’?! Rabbi Kook replied: ‘Nu, he’s Christian, we already know that. The novelty is that he recognizes the exalted importance of the Jewish nation, and thus, all his thoughts are elevated.’
A Russian prince visited Solovyov before his death, and lying on his deathbed, Solovyov said to him: ‘I am very worried about the Russian people because they are drenched in hatred of Jews, and I truly know that any nation that harasses the Jews will suffer trials and tribulations. And since I love my people, I ask you to warn them in my name, not to treat the Jews adversely, God forbid.’
Solovyov on Prayer
This wasn’t a secret – all of Rabbi Kook’s students heard the praise of Solovyov, as is mentioned several times in the book ‘Sichot [Conversations] of Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook’, for example: “He (Solovyov) has lofty thoughts on prayer. He writes that all requests are nothing more than tangible vessels and excuses to come before the Lord of the World, and make contact with Him. Accordingly, requests should be supreme. This is why he advises that world leaders should pray for the safety and welfare of Israel” (On the Festivals, Hanukkah, Series 3, תשל”ד-תשל”ח, section 11).
Like Solovyov, Lord Balfour also operated in a Christian environment that was unsympathetic to Jews, to say the least. In terms of official Christianity, among all its factions, it was forbidden for him to help the Jewish people establish a national home in Israel.
But as an evangelist who believed in the Bible, and believed that the people of Israel remained the Chosen People, he saw it as his sacred duty to support the return of the Jewish people to its Land, as commanded by the Torah and prophetic vision. During his long public life, Balfour was privileged to serve in the most important roles, among others, as the Prime Minister of Great Britain, nevertheless, reminiscing in his later years, he said: “On the whole, when I look back, it [the Balfour Declaration] was the most worthy thing I’ve done in my life.”
In Our Times
Today we can clearly sense how, as a result of our return to the Land of Israel and engaging in settling and building the country as stated in the Torah and the Prophets, we are privileged to inform the nations that ‘God is great and His Name is most exalted’, and this has led to a significant change in the views of many people among the nations, who are continuously rising to the level of becoming Righteous Gentiles.
There is still a long road ahead of us – we do not agree on all issues. May it be His will that by way of our continued adherence to Torah and mitzvoth, we will merit complete Redemption, speedily in our days.
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.