Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Rav Soloveitchik's Zionism

The Adar 5766 issue of Alei Etzion (online here) has an article by R. Aharon Lichtenstein (really, an article based on a 2002 lecture he gave) on his father-in-law Rav Soloveitchik's approach to Zionism. R. Lichtenstein lists the following issues that define Rav Soloveitchik's Zionism:

1. Activism

During my research for my (JIB award-winning) series of posts on the Religious Zionism Controversy, I sent a question to a number of scholars about how to read a particular source. One of these scholars, R. Nati Helfgot, responded that, ultimately, the issue goes beyond any particular source and is really about, among other things, quietism versus activism in history. I think this is a particularly astute observation. Do we wait for God to redeem us or do we work for it ourselves?

On this, R. Lichtenstein argues that Rav Soloveitchik was a believer in human activism in a broad realm of initiatives. "The Rav had no patience for philosophies that glorified passivity and reliance on miracles" (p. 27).

2. Nationalism

Rav Soloveitchik was not a nationalist in the 19th century philosophical sense. However, he assigned importance to national, or -- perhaps better -- communal in the broadest sense, enterprises. He did not see religion on a purely individualistic level.

3. The Significance of a State

In Rav Soloveitchik's eulogy for his uncle, he makes it clear that he sees the State of Israel as falling into an halakhic category. It is not, in his view of the halakhah, merely the equivalent of a secular sovereignty.

4. The Land of Israel

Rav Soloveitchik expressed a strong emphasis on the metaphysical aspect of the land of Israel.

5. Relation to Non-Observant Jews

Rav Soloveitchik took his cue from biblical passages about non-observant kings and considered those passages as support for the idea that God will bring miracles through the hands of non-observant Jews. He explicitly applied this to secular Zionists.

6. Army Service

R. Lichtenstein points out that Rav Soloveitchik spoke with pride about his grandsons who served in the Israeli army (within the hesder framework.

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