What did the Rebbe have against "Hatikvah"?
May 2, 2019
Rabbi Yossi Paltiel in #1164, Israel, Stump the Rabbi

The Rebbe’s attitude to this poem, which was chosen as the national anthem of the state of Israel, is, in essence, a question about the position of the Torah to Zionism which was discussed separately.

[The Rebbe opposed its singing at dinners benefiting Chabad organizations, even at the cost of angering significant benefactors and losing their funding. Ed.]

But I will use this opportunity to add another angle, which may seem odd at first.

When the Frierdiker Rebbe visited Israel in 1929 for a few weeks, he was received by Jews from all walks of life with great respect, from the most devoutly religious to the most secular. He was a hero of the Jewish people, as he was the only Jewish leader who stood up to Stalin in communist Russia.

The Frierdiker Rebbe was an outspoken anti-Zionist. But he was still very much respected, and when in Israel, he was taken to visit a kibbutz.

The kibbutz, obviously, was manned by secular Jews — most Zionists were politically left-leaning towards socialism and communism — but they took the desert that Eretz Yisrael was for centuries and made it bloom. They took land which lay useless for hundreds of years, and they made it fertile.

As the Rebbe observed their accomplishments, he turned to a Chassid standing next to him and said to him, “dir gefelt? — are you impressed?”

The Chassid didn’t know what to say, because, on the one hand, he was of course very impressed, but these were the Zionists, and he was well aware of the Rebbe’s anti-Zionist views.

The Rebbe saw the Chassid’s hesitation, and he said to him, “kenst zahgen dir gefelt, mir gefelt oich — you can tell me you’re impressed, I’m also impressed.”

The story of Zionism goes back 140 years, to the 1880s, and it’s quite a remarkable story. It is the story of Jewish people successfully overcoming the terrible anti-Semitism they suffered in Europe and around the world.

This movement has done many good things for the Jewish people, culminating in the founding of a Jewish state in 1948 that passed a “law of return.”

The “law of return” means that every Jew is automatically a citizen of the state of Israel and is welcome into it at any time. This law was intended to prevent a second Holocaust; the reason six million Jews perished in Europe was that nobody wanted them!

Those of us who were born in post-Holocaust America don’t really understand what this means, but those of us who’ve lived during much more difficult periods know what kind of gift it is to know that if all of a sudden they turn on the Jews, we have where to go.

But with all the blessings that Zionism has brought, here’s the problem: Nothing in this world is eternal, except the Jew. But it’s not because we’re so creative, so talented, so resourceful, and so ambitious — that doesn’t make you eternal.

We are an eternal people because G-d is with us, and the Jewish people’s eternity is dependent on remaining connected to G-d through the Torah.

***

An old expression goes that if you make a crack in an old tree, the scratch will stay the way it was made, but if a small scratch is made on a young sapling, when that young tree will be fully grown, that little scar is going to become a chasm, it’s going to be a huge blemish.

When you look at an event that happens in Jewish history while it’s happening, and it appears to be positive and impressive, but a Gadol b’Yisrael, a Rebbe, comes out and says “This is wrong, it’s no good,” you may react and say, “What’s wrong? What’s the big deal? It’s a Jewish movement doing good things for the Jews, so what if they’re making a minor change or modification, es gefelt mir – it’s impressive!”

But it takes a visionary, it takes a person with a clear vision to see not only what’s happening today but what’s going to happen tomorrow, and what’s going to happen in two days and in three days and in a hundred years and 150 years and 200 years and so on.

In a way, what made Zionism successful was the fact that for the first time in history a secular class of Jewish leadership was established. [They introduced professional political Jewish activism, which was instrumental in running an efficient modern state].

But the opinion of the Torah, as presented by our Rebbeim, is that there is no such thing as secular Jewish leadership. The only people that have a right to give direction to the Jewish people, both in spiritual and physical matters, are people who are connected deeply to the Torah.

The “Tikvah,” the hope that the Zionist movement gave the Jewish people certainly didn’t come from the Torah…

But it was not a popular position. If you lived in Poland or Galicia and experienced the anti-Semitism that was so rampant then, and at the same time you saw a movement that gave so much “tikvah,” so much hope, to the Jewish people, it would feel very wrong to oppose it! “Es gefelt mir oich” the Rebbe said. “I like what they’re doing!” But we must consider how this “minor” deviation will look in 100 years from now.

When you see the results of these wonderful efforts now, over fifty years since the state’s founding and over a 100 years since the movement began, you can understand the tragedy of the Zionist “Hatikva.”

The damage it inflicted — some of it unfortunately irreversible — on the eternity of large parts of the Jewish people which were forced or lured into abandoning the real strength of the Jewish nation – the Torah, is immense. It turns out that the small deviation from the truth of the Torah, is not tiny at all, it’s enormous!

A “Hatikvah” without Torah, even with the best of intentions for the Jewish people, that successfully leads them down a path of success, development, and growth, but takes them even a millimeter off the path of Torah, ensures destruction for the Jewish people, not hope.

Edited from a video-answer on StumpTheRabbi.com

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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