“Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains. Those who think themselves masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they.” Rousseau
Freedom for all people begins with an attitude of freedom. For the Jews freedom required a paradigm shift in the consciousness of the people.
Clearly (as much as Religious Zionists would like to deny it), the traditional popular view of redemption is that of Satmar and Neturei karta. We were exiled due to our sins and await the ‘geula’ passively. The move to Zionism involved a radical departure from the Satmar model. Historical circumstances precipitated a ‘coming of age’ so to speak of the Jewish people which involved actively pursuing national liberation.
The first commandment in Parshat Mishpatim following the liberation from the slavery of Egypt relates paradoxically to the laws of the Hebrew slave.
Institutionalized freedom in the form of sovereign statehood requires a continued shift in taking responsibility for others in our society (those weaker than ourselves) internally as well as our relations with other nations on the international arena.
In this context, I believe that the Religious Zionist community must set aside a widely held opinion that the State of Israel is the beginning of the redemption, atchalta d’geula. Not because it is or is not true – I am an agnostic when it comes to this question – but because it is detrimental to state building and the Zionist dream.
The Mei Hashiloach says that at the time of the Exodus when Moshe saw the Egyptians in hot pursuit of the people and that God ‘was not leading the people via the Land of the Pelishtim, lest the people see war and return to Egypt”, he became uncertain as to whether this was indeed the much hoped for redemption. The “Lord of the prophets” Moshe Rebbenu was uncertain of the redemption. Can we claim greater clarity and certainty than Moshe?
Adherence to the opinion that the modern state of Israel is the embodiment of the messianic yearning of two millennia is at odds with the concept of the modern nation-state. A messianic state is a state of the Jews. A modern nation state is a state of citizens enjoying equal rights. (This short piece is not the context to work out the nature of a Jewish state). The messianic age stirs associations of Gog and Magog and the battle between light and darkness. The modern state exercises realpolitik. The elevation of the opinion that the State of Israel is atchalta de geula to the status of religious dogma can lead to problematic attitudes domestically and irresponsible positions in foreign policy.
I believe that if we concentrate on building the best possible state that we can and leave the ‘geula business’ to God, we will be more successful in the former and in so doing may actually precipitate the latter.
For God’s sake let us return to Zionism.