Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Religious Zionism Debate III

I. The Redemption Process

Yesterday afternoon, I was speaking on the phone with a prominent talmid hakham, someone who had been very close with R. Moshe Feinstein, and he ended the conversation by wishing me a "Hag samei'ah." I was a bit taken aback because "It is not so done in our place." He noticed my surprise and explained that he had just spoken with his son in Israel, where Israeli Independence Day had already started. I am still always surprised when people treat Israeli Independence Day as a religious holiday, even though I understand the reasons for it.

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Berakhos 1:1) tells the story of how R. Hiyya Rabbah and R. Shimon ben Rebbe were walking together at dawn and saw the sunrise. R. Hiyya Rabbah said that the rise of the sun is similar to the Redemption of the Jewish people: "So is the redemption of Israel. At first, little by little (kim'ah kim'ah), as long as it continues it gets bigger and goes further."

Midrash Tehillim (18:36) states:

R. Yudan said: One verse says "migdol" (2 Samuel 22:51) and another says "magdil" (Psalms 18:59) because the redemption does not come to this nation at one time but little by little (kim'ah kim'ah). What is "magdil" (increases)? Because it increases and continues before Israel... What is "migdol" (tower)? Because Mashi'ah will be like a tower for them.
In other words, there will be a process of Redemption. The question, though, is whether this process will culminate with the arrival of Mashi'ah or will begin with it. This is one of the main fundamental areas of dispute between the Religious Zionists and the Anti-Zionists.

II. Pre-Messianic Redemption

The most powerful argument that R. Tzvi Hirsch Kalischer brings that the Redemption will begin before the messiah arises is somewhat complex (Derishas Tziyon, ma'amar 1 ch. 2, Etzion 2002 edition, pp. 40-41).

The Mishnah (Ma'aser Sheni 5:2) tells of a rabbinic enactment regarding the bringing of fruits from the fourth year in the life of a fruit-bearing tree to Jerusalem. R. Yossi states that this post-destruction (of the Second Temple) enactment contains an internal condition that when the Temple is rebuilt, the enactment will be automatically nullified. Yet, the question begs to be asked: Why cannot the Mashi'ah, with his authoritative court, merely annul the enactment? Why is there a need for the enactment to be automatically nullified? The Talmud Yerushalmi on that Mishnah quotes R. Aha who explains, "This means that the Temple will be rebuilt before the kingship of the house of David." The important Tosafos Yom Tov commentary to that Mishnah expands on this and states, "It will be that until the kingship of the house of David, our enemies will have a little lordship over us, just like there was at the beginning of the Second Temple."

It is clear from this Yerushalmi and Tosafos Yom Tov that there will be some sort of limited Jewish sovereignty in Israel and the Temple will be built before Mashi'ah arises.

There are also biblical passages that clearly imply that the Jewish people will return to the land of Israel before Mashi'ah comes. For example:
The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. Prophesy against him and say: ...After many days you shall be mustered; in the latter years you shall go against a land restored from war, a land where people were gathered from many nations on the mountains of Israel, which had long lain waste; its people were brought out from the nations and now are living in safety, all of them. You shall advance, coming on like a storm... to assail the waste places that are now inhabited, and the people who were gathered from the nations, who are acquiring cattle and goods... On that day when my people Israel are living securely... you will come up against my people Israel... so that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I display my holiness before their eyes...

(Ezekiel 38:1-3, 8-9, 12, 14, 16)
It seems that the war of Gog and Magog, which precedes the rise of the Mashi'ah, will take place in the land of Israel after Jews have returned to settle it.

R. Teichtal, in his Em Ha-Banim Semehah 2:15 (Mekhon Peri Ha'aretz 1983 edition, p. 132), quotes the Gemara in Megillah (17b) that says "Once Jerusalem is built, David comes, as it says 'Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king' (Hosea 3:5)." Rashi explains, "After they will return to the Temple, they will seek God and David their king." Clearly, first the Jews will return to Jerusalem and the Temple will be rebuilt, and then the king from the house of David, Mashi'ah, will arise.

R. Teichtal (2:2, p. 94) also quotes the following Rashi on Psalms (70:1), that is based on a Midrash Shohar Tov:
I saw a parable to a king who became angry at his flock, broke the pen and sent out the flock and the shepherd. After time, he returned the flock and rebuilt the pen, but did not mention the shepherd. The shepherd said, "Behold, the flock is returned and the pen rebuilt, but I am not remembered." Similarly, above it says "For God will save Zion... and they that love his name shall dwell therein" (Psalms 69:36-37). The pen is rebuilt, the flock is collected and the shepherd (this is David) is not mentioned. Therefore, it says, "Of David, to make memorial" (Psalms 70:1).
In other words, first Israel will be rebuilt and the Jewish people gathered into it, then Mashi'ah will arise.

Bereishis Rabbah 64:10 tells of how in the time of R. Yehoshua ben Hananiah, the Jews almost rebuilt the Temple. Yet, there was no Mashi'ah at that time!

Pesikta Rabbasi ch. 37 states: "When the king messiah is revealed, he will come and stand on the roof of the Temple and speak to all of Israel and tell them, 'O humble ones, the time of your redemption has arrived.'" Clearly, the Temple will be rebuilt before the Mashi'ah is revealed.

There are many other passages indicating that either the ingathering of the exiles or the rebuilding of the Temple will take place before the Mashi'ah arrives. These are taken by some Religious Zionists as an indication that parts of the Redemption can occur before Mashi'ah comes. Granted, he will come. However, the return to the land of Israel and, possibly, the rebuilding of the Temple can take place before Mashi'ah arises.

III. Contrary Indications

There are, however, passages that indicate to the contrary. Yoma 5b asks a question about how the priests will don their priestly garments in the Temple and answers that, at that time, Moshe and Aharon will be there to teach it to them. The implication is that the Temple will not be built until after the resurrection of the dead. While it could be answered that the resurrection of the dead will also precede the arrival of Mashi'ah, and there is a passage in one of the Rambam's letters that can support this possibility, it seems most likely that this will not be the case and that the passage is implying that the Temple service will only start after Mashi'ah's arrival.

Similarly, Vayikra Rabbah 9:6 states that Mashi'ah will come and build the Temple. It cannot be any clearer than that.

IV. Resolutions

Based on Religious Zionist writings, these can all be explained by stating either that there will be different stages in the Redemption and more than one ingathering of the exiles. Perhaps there will be one ingathering, then the Temple will be rebuilt and Mashi'ah will arise, and then a final ingathering of all the rest of the Jews. (See Em Ha-Banim Semehah, p. 95ff.)

Alternately, one can say that if the Jews merit redemption, it will be speedy and Mashia'h will arise first and cause everything to happen immediately. Otherwise, which seems to be the case today when not everyone is observant, there will be a lengthy historical process culminating in the arrival of Mashi'ah and the final Redemption.

The Satmar Rav struggles with these sources and insists that no part of Redemption can happen before Mashi'ah arises. He suggests (Va-Yoel Moshe, Ma'amar Gimmel Shevu'os, ch. 60, in the Ashkenazi 5760 edition, p. 72) that there was a dispute among the Sages of the Mishnah over whether the Temple can be built without Mashi'ah. While the halakhic conclusion is that it cannot, this debate explains the sources implying that it can. This is a very difficult answer, and does not explain why post-Talmudic authorities, such as Rashi (on Psalms 70:1), continued to quote the non-normative view that the Temple can be built before Mashi'ah arrives.

The Satmar Rav (ch. 61, p. 74) offers another explanation. He suggests that perhaps the Redemption is a long process that starts with Mashi'ah beginning his reign that eventually spreads out to include a vast kingdom. The sources implying that Redemption will occur before Mashi'ah arises refer to after his crowning as king but before his reign spreads throughout the world.

Again, if the Satmar Rav's goal was to prove conclusively that Religious Zionism is invalid, indeed heresy!, he does not seem to have done so conclusively. Quite the opposite. His explanation of the sources, while more or less viable, is much less plausible than that of the Religious Zionists.

To those who observe today as a religious holiday, I wish a Hag samei'ah!

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