The Religious Zionism Debate

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In honor of Israel’s sixty-second Independence Day, here are links to two e-books from this blog: “The Religious Zionism Debate” and “Do Not Ascend Like A Wall”.

Click here to download

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.


  1. Lion of Zion 04/19/2010 09:21 AM

    thanks for posting these.
    i know i shouldn’t comment until i read it in its entirety, but do you really think that the accomplishment of modern israel is entirely as an economic, miltary and agricultural “powerhouse”?
    thenoodle 04/19/2010 09:55 AM
    Rav Aviner could have stopped after #3: The oaths are a two-way street; we prmiose not to go back while they promisenot to subuicate us harshly. One would think that after the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, and the Holocaust it is quite obvious that the other side broke their promise many times before we did. One can argue with some of his other points, but I never heard a valid argument against this one. (And saying that we continue to be bound while they don’t is not a valid argument to mel; though maybe it is to followers of Persident Obama.)
    joel rich 04/19/2010 10:38 AM
    Is it generally believed that when the Zionist enterprise first became a realistic possibility, the rabbis of the time first researched all of the micro-halachic issues (e.g. the 3 oaths) to determine whether to support a positive religious response, or did they have a macro (lev shel torah) reaction and then support their reaction with micro-halachic sources?
    J. 04/19/2010 10:46 AM
    1 person liked this.
    Not that he is a reliable source, but the frumteens moderator, who wrote a whole series dedicated to ‘refuting’ Rav Aviner, in which he writes the following regarding argument 3:
    The famous, failed “interdendency” Zionist wishful thinking about the Oaths is maybe the easiest of all Zionist claims to expose as a fraud. For a drush it’s cute, but as Halachah its just ridiculous.

    First, the comparison to all those Oaths oyu mentioned is silly. In all those cases, mutual Oaths were made, by party “a” for the benefit of party “b” and by “b” for the benefit of “a”. So if “a” violates his oath which was supposed to benefit “b”, then “b” can violate theirs. It’s a simple concept of making a deal – I’ll help you if you help me.

    But the Oath that G-d gave us not to rebel against the Goyim was NOT for the sake of the Goyim, but for our OWN sake, that we dont end Golus early. It says this in every single interpretation in the commentaries about the Oath. It was not for the sake of the Goyim but for us. So just because the Goyim violated their Oath and hurt us does nto mean we can violate another one and hurt ourselves more!

    But besides that there is no comparison between these Oaths and all the reciprocal Oaths found anywhere, the whole idea is disproven by even a cursory glance at our Seforim:

    Shevet Efraim left Egypt in violation of the Oaths. Egypt surely violated their Oath when they tortured Jews for centuries. Yet Ephrain, Chazal say, were all hunted donw and killed in the deset for violating their Oath by leaving Egypt early.

    The Oaths are brought down l’halachah in Rishonim and Achronim as viable and very real. This, despite the fact that the Goyim have been violating their Oath for thousands of years.

    The Rambam in Igeres Taimon warns the Jews not to violate the Oaths, or else. He writes there that the Jews are suffering an evil, persecuting government that commits atrocities and wars against the Jews, and therefore the Jews should watch out not to violate the Oath by rebelling against them. It’s clear that even though the Goyim violate their Oath we cannot violate ours.

    The Medrash Aichah says clearly that the Romans violated their Oath, yet the generation of Bar Kochba was punished Chazal say because they violated the Oaths.

    The Maharal writes that even if the Goyim force us wuth torturous death to violate the Oath, we should rather submit to torturous death than violate them.

    And the Gemora itself disproves the idea, since the Gemora says that the reason Chazal commanded us not to go from Bavel to Eretz Yisroel is due to the Oaths, even though Bavel violated their Oath for sure with the atrocities they committed during the Churban (The Shulchan Aruch writes that the Brachah of Vlamalshinim was enacted to praise Hashem for destroying the evil kingdom of Bavel).

    The Gemora then asks on R. Zaira who says that the Oaths only include not taking Eretz Yisroel forcefully, but the Oath not to rebel against the nations is nto included. The Gemora could easily have answered that Bavel violated their Oath and therefore our Oath of rebelling against them is null. But the Gemora says no such thing.

    R. Avrohom Galanti (Zechus Avos) brings a story of the people of Portugal who wanted to defend themselves against the government by making a rebellion. The government then was making forced SHmad and all sorts of persecutions. They asked the “shem hameforash” and were told not to do it because it would violate the Oaths.

    There is much more, but this is a sample (credit to the Satmar Rebbe ZTL in Vayoel Moshe I:75 for the above sources).

    And besides all this, the second Oath, nshelo yaalu b’chomah has nothing to do with the Goyim, and woud not be dependent on the Goyim’s Oath anyway. The Maharal and R. Yonason Eyebu****z write that even if the Goyim give us permission to ake Eretz Yisroel we are not allowed to do it. Better we should die than take Eretz Yisroel, the Maharal says.

    What I wrote above is not rocket science. It’s pretty obvious. Takes no genius or encyclopedic knowledge to understand it. Anyone who learns about the Oaths is immediately confronted with the reality that they Goyim violate dtheirs but we still cannot violate ours.

    It’s just plain dishonesty that would make people come up with this.
    joel rich 04/19/2010 11:09 AM in reply to J.
    Does he comment on how so many yirei shomayim can now live in eretz yisrael – shouldn’t they run away from being part of something so contrary to the ratzon hashem as he sees it.


    BTW I missed the part where he quotes the mishneh torah and shulchan aruch on this point – for some reason the ein mishpat on kesuvos 11a doesn’t point to them either
    J. 04/19/2010 11:22 AM in reply to joel rich
    I should really be the last person ‘explaining’ the views from that website, as I find them abhorrent, but I think he holds that there were jews living in Israel before Zionism, so why should they have to leave just because the Tziyonim came along.
    He doesn’t claim that the 3 oaths are in Mishnah Torah or Shulchan Aruch. However, for his list of sources that he claims bring down the oaths ‘le’halacha’, see here (needless to say, one should check the references):
    J. 04/19/2010 11:24 AM
    Sorry – the previous link was not written by the frumteens moderator, but it’s one of his proteges and is the same material.
    Skeptic 04/19/2010 11:39 AM
    Please Gil, please post PDF’s. It makes it so much easier for people to read the content. I don’t see a single advantage to Scribd, and quite a few disadvantages.
    thenoodle 04/19/2010 11:44 AM
    Am I missing something? it is not in the shulcahn aruch, it is not in the Mishna torah, yet is the halacha?

    By the way, can anyone elighten me as to who actually made the oath? Is it similar to Klal Yisroel at Har Sinai saying ‘naaseh vnishma’?
    A Joe Schmo 04/19/2010 02:10 PM
    Aside from Rav Aviner’s logical arguments about how these supposed “oaths” became invalid, or don’t apply in x particular case, or don’t fit what we did in x situation, etc etc, Why not address a much simpler and overarching issue, the proverbial elephant in the room: This “oath” scenario is an agadata, not a midrash halacha, and since when do we pasken by it, and how does it fit with the piskei halacha of the rishonim with regards to the issues of settling the land of Israel, related issues etc? Clearly it does not fit with most/ the vast majority of major rishonim! Why all of a sudden do we conflate agada with halacha? Because it is politically convenient and there is a desire to impose it hashkafically? Certainly this agaddah has a deep and profound meaning in it like they always do, and we should search for it, but what has caused rabanim to see this “tale” as a psak halacha?
    S. 04/19/2010 02:13 PM in reply to Skeptic
    You can download Scribd documents as a pdf quite easily. What are even one of the many disadvantages you speak of?
    A Joe Schmo 04/19/2010 02:22 PM in reply to A Joe Schmo
    Upon seeing the many sources listed out at the “frumteens” blog, although I have not yet checked into them, I am astounded that they are so numerous. That being said, considering that Ramban says we have a deoraita positive mitzvath aseh in every generation to *Conquer the land of Israel, it is hard for me to fathom how he is bringing Ramban among his sources that the oaths are a halachically binding mandate of some kind. Similarly with a few of the other rishonim he lists, based on what they say in other places…. Overall a curious subject indeed.
    Nachum 04/19/2010 04:01 PM
    Joe, a million times zero is zero. As is that entire site.

    As, for that matter, is any discussion of the so-called “oaths” at the present moment, or at any moment in, oh, say, the past sixty years. Once the State came into existence, I’m sorry, but religious Jews should have simply stopped discussing this outside of a discussion of the sugya itself.

    I just got back from a lovely Yom HaAtzmaut Ma’ariv held in a community center here, and remarked how easy and unconflicted religious Israelis are about their Zionism, their tefillot on the chag (we said full Hallel with a bracha, yes, at night too), and so on. I guess when you’re surrounded by the reality that is the miraculous modern State of Israel, all of these agonized discussions seem a bit silly.
    JB 04/19/2010 04:53 PM
    Dear Gil,

    Is opening up this agonizing debate really an “honor” of Yom Haatzmaut? Is there nothing about the miraculous state of Israel and it’s critical role in the pure and simple survival of Judaism, Jews, the Jewish Nation etc… that binds us together as a people that we can point to and honor on this day?
    thenoodle 04/19/2010 04:56 PM
    I have numerous discussion with friends and family about which side ‘won’ the various arguments; what I refer to is how has the ‘center’ moved – to the right or to the left. For example, when I was in a RW Yeshiva 25 years ago, some % of guys in RW yeshiva guys went to College. (I refer to Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, Chaim Berlin, Ner Israel) There were of course super-RW yeshivas (Philly, Long Beach) where no one went. Nowadays, the RW yeshivas have become more super-RW. In other words, the Center moved to the right. So much so, that it is now acceptable in certain RW segments to not even go to High School. (Lakewood, NJ).

    With regard to EY I believe the argument was won by the left. Not counting some Satmar and Neturay Karka, the RW who in my day hated the ‘traife medinah’ now understand that it is not something we can ever turn our back on, say tehillim for soldiers, and know it would be a disaster if there would be no state.
    Skeptic 04/19/2010 04:56 PM in reply to S.
    You need to sign up. You need to log in. You are subjected to their stupid advertisements. It is outrageously slow on older computers. Do you need more examples? On the other hand, just a link to the PDF directly does not suffer any of these annoyances.
    S. 04/19/2010 05:20 PM in reply to Skeptic
    You’re right, but it also looks cool and benefits other users. In my opinion a fitting compromise is to also upload it and include a link.
    LI Reader 04/19/2010 06:46 PM
    I really have to echo and re-emphasize JB’s comments above. You introduced this discussion by saying it’s “in honor” of Yom Haatzmaut. But it’s not. Instead it’s a pretext for you, once again, to knock Zionism and Zionists on an allegedly halachic basis.

    It’s your blog, and you’re entitled, but please be honest. You’ve described the Orthodox who are too left-wing for you as “Post-Orthodox”. I think it’s pretty clear to your readers how we should describe you in relation to Zionism.
    Elon 04/19/2010 06:53 PM
    That is weird. I can see the documents without logging in.
    hirhurim 04/19/2010 07:29 PM
    A Joe Schmo: The Frumteens moderator is full of smoke. None of his sources check out. I seem to recall that he even uses R. Ovadiah Yosef and R. J. David Bleich as anti-Zionist sources, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve got a post about that somewhere, in which I show the full quotes in context and not the misleading excerpt he used.

    JB: I don’t know what you mean. What’s wrong with addressing the specific halachic issues?

    LI Reader: Have you read the two documents? They are pro-Zionism and certainly do not knock Zionism or Zionists. Do you really think that R. Shlomo Aviner is anti-Zionist?

    S: Not to mention the downside of uploading a document — needing a place to house the documents and FTP access to put them there.
    again 04/20/2010 12:06 AM in reply to thenoodle
    That could be. But on the other hand, there is more of a feeling of Yei-ush with regards to the state and how much they hate us and would like to have nothing to do with us.

    You have, on the one hand, the Ponovezher Rov who put a flag on his Yeshiva on Yh and refrained from saying tachanun. This is UNHEARD of in chareidi circles in EY nowadays. Every minyan says tachanun, chadorim carry on as usual, the only reason why we know its YH is because the ganim and the chinuch atzmai schools send home a note last frieday that there is no school on Tuesday due to “5 Iyar”

    I see very little significance attached to the state per se by the chareidi community.

    Sure, there is an army comprised of Jewish soldiers, and of course we say tehillim when they are under attack or making a dangerous attack (lebanon, gaza, north), but there is no acceptance of the state.

    Sorry to burst your bubble.
    Nachum 04/20/2010 12:52 AM
    1 person liked this.
    Gil, they’ve got a point. There are so many things (wonderful things, or even criticisms if you are so inclined) to say about Israel on Yom Ha’atzmaut without having to, davka on this day (and davka in today’s atmosphere), defend its very right to exist to a fringe element that ain’t listening anyway. It could have been saved for, say, the sixteenth of Iyyar.

    The tenth of Iyyar, by the way, is the 150th birthday of Herzl. That should be marked in a good way.
    Viliampole 04/20/2010 09:27 AM
    A haredi sociologist recently observed: the haredi world in Israel is becoming more Israeli, but not Zionist…
    Shlomo 04/23/2010 08:47 AM
    “I just got back from a lovely Yom HaAtzmaut Ma’ariv held in a community center here, and remarked how easy and unconflicted religious Israelis are about their Zionism, their tefillot on the chag (we said full Hallel with a bracha, yes, at night too), and so on. I guess when you’re surrounded by the reality that is the miraculous modern State of Israel, all of these agonized discussions seem a bit silly.”

    Or rather, most of them fundamentally worship the Jewish people rather than God, so of course conflicts between their Zionism and halacha do not bother them.
    Steve Brizel 04/24/2010 11:00 PM
    Our rav, a Chafetz Chaim Musmach with close ties to RMF ZL and Yivadleinu LChaim RYSE, pointed out in his drasha this morning, which included very stirring words of Chizuk in support of and appreciation of the amazing fact of a sovereign Jewish state in the Land of Israel in the wake of the Holocaust, that RAK was worried that if R”L the Milchemet HaShicrur resulted in a defeat, it would have had extremely dire and possibly fatal R”L consequences for the Jewish People.
    aron 04/25/2010 12:19 AM
    anyone know where i can purchase r. aviner’s hebrew version of this sefer?
    lawrence kaplan 04/25/2010 10:15 AM
    Steve: Re your Rav’s comment about RAK being worried: And, therefore, what did he (RAK) suggest? FTR, RAK alway had a very strong anti-Zionist standpoint, very different from that of his father-in-law, RIZM.

  2. The links above are no longer free. In order to download the PDFs you need to subscribe and pay a one month’s membership. This sort of defeats the purpose of giving ebooks away in honor of Yom haatzmaut.

    Is there a way to get these documents with paying membership? Email them to me maybe?

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