The Theological Meaning of Israel’s Independence

In a speech to a gathering of the American branch of the Orthodox Zionist organization Mizrachi, delivered a month after Israel declared its independence, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik explored the religious significance of the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty. The speech, delivered in Yiddish, was translated by Arnold Lustiger, and published last year. It has now been made available online.

Soloveitchik begins with the rabbinic reading of the biblical phrase “I took you out of Egypt”—spoken by God to the Jewish people—as “I was taken with you out of Egypt,” a reinterpretation that can be accomplished in Hebrew by simply rearranging a few dots. It therefore follows that the Divine Presence (Sh’khinah) accompanied the people of Israel into exile, and will return from exile with them. But could the creation of a secular polity in Mandate Palestine really accomplish this metaphysical transformation? And, more importantly, what can be done to ensure that Jewish statehood does return Divine immanence to the Holy Land. These are the questions that Soloveitchik attempts to address:

The progression of Jewish history used to be chaotic, insane, and absurd. It now has a sense of purpose and significance. It has a direction and an objective.

We need to stop and examine this assertion of purpose, of direction, of an ideal. What is it? The answer is simple. The state of Israel will liberate a segment of the Jewish people from exile in the political-social sense. Naturally, not everyone will be redeemed through it. Even the Exodus from Egypt itself did not free all the Jews from Egypt; the sages suggest that not all enslaved Israelites were redeemed, perhaps only one fifth, and some say only one 50th or even one out of every 500 Jews in Egypt were actually liberated (M’khilta, B’shalaḥ 13:18).

Exile is a subjective concept. Through the new Jewish state, we Jews have at least been given the opportunity to liberate ourselves from exile. But will the Ribbono shel Olam [the Master of the Universe] Himself also be freed from exile by the state of Israel, or will He remain in captivity in a Jewish state? This is the main question we religious Jews have been asking ourselves for the past several months.

With regard to redemption of the Sh’khinah from defilement, I am definitely optimistic. Whoever ultimately stands at the helm, life in Israel will to a certain extent be completely Jewish. I read in the press that the kitchens of the Israeli army are strictly kosher. When, on that fateful Friday, the establishment of the state of Israel was proclaimed, the ceremony was held eight hours early so as not to desecrate the Sabbath, despite various logistical difficulties associated with doing this. The act alone sanctified the Sabbath more than 50 rallies dedicated towards Sabbath observance.

Naturally, religious Jewry must stand watch and fight for [Sabbath observance], but I can assure everyone that Shabbat in Eretz Yisrael will be holier than it was in the Jewish neighborhood in Berlin, in the Frankfurt Ghetto, or even on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn.

Read more at Tradition

More about: American Zionism, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Judaism, Religious Zionism

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security