Thursday, May 31, 2007

Moshiach and Zionism

By the grace of G-d

Mr. ----------
London, England

Greeting and Blessing:

Your letter reached me with some delay. In it you express your desire to learn more about the Lubavitch movement, etc. You also ask for clarification of certain questions.

Needless to say, it is difficult in the medium of a letter to expound adequately upon the various questions and matters that you touch upon in your letter. Actually, there is no need to have recourse to such correspondence, inasmuch as your Lubavitcher friends in London, whom you also mention in your letter and with whom you have personal contact, will be glad to go into some of these questions with you at length.

At any rate, in order not to turn you down completely, I will attempt to answer the first question that you put in your letter, where you refer to a statement of mine which you saw quoted in the press, to the effect that the happenings in our time in general, and in Eretz Yisrael in particular, are not the Beginning of the Redemption (Atchalta d' Geulah), while, on the other hand, I state that life in Eretz Yisrael must be conducted in accordance with the Torah, and you wonder whether there is an inconsistency there.

I wish to assure you that there is no inconsistency in the two statements, inasmuch as they are both based on Torah.

Thus, the first statement, namely, that we are not yet at the beginning of the Geula, is based on the clear ruling of the Rambam, who has explicitly defined the conditions and evidence by which to judge whether or not we are at the threshold of the Geula. Be it noted that this statement of the Rambam is to be found not in any of his non-Halachic works, where there may be room for various interpretations, but in his major Code, where he states the laws (dinim) in clear, precise and unequivocal terms. This is what he says after describing the last days of the Galut:

There will arise a king from the House of David, studying the Torah and practicing the mitzvot like his father David, according to the Written Torah and the Oral Torah, and he will induce all the Jewish people to walk in its ways and strengthen its repair, and he will battle the battles of G-d - it may be assumed that he is Mashiach. If he did so and was successful and built the Sanctuary in its place, and gathered the dispersed of Israel - then his is Mashiach with certainty...{Rambam, Hil. Melachim, ch. 11(end)

We see clearly that even after he induces all of the Jewish people to walk in the path of Torah, etc., it may only be assumed that he is Mashiach, but it is not yet certain, and it could in fact turn out that he is not. In other words, there is still a possibility that even this development will not necessarily spell the end of the Galut. As a matter of fact, the Rambam mentions in the previous halacha the fact that there was a time in Jewish history when it appeared that Mashiach had arrived, in the person of Shimon ben Kuziba, yet it later became quite clear that he was not. Only when - as the Rambam says - he will build the Sanctuary in its place and will gather the dispersed of Israel, only then will it be certain that he is Mashiach beyond all doubt.

On the basis of your letter, I think it is surely unnecessary to explain to you that the Jewish belief is that the end of the Galut will come when Mashiach himself brings about the ingathering of the exiles, as is clearly evident from the Rambam quoted above.

With regard to the second part of the statement, about the need to abide by the Torah, etc., I trust it is, again, unnecessary to emphasize to you at length that the Torah was given for all times, both in times of Galut and in times when the Bet Hamikdash was in existence. However, there are certain things which the Torah requires adherence only when the Jewish people are in a position to do so. By way of example: In your city of London, the Jews have no power to compel the closing of certain stores on Shabbat and Yom Tov, or enforce certain other laws. On the other hand, there were times in the past when a Jewish congregation or community had complete jurisdiction over its members, able to impose its will on the life and conduct of the congregation or community and bring it into strict accord with the Torah.

It follows, moreover, that the greater the authority and power the Jews have to direct and order their own life, the greater the duty to see to it that it be in accordance with the directives of the Torah.

Pursuant to the above, I trust you will not take it amiss if I add a personal note, to the effect that what has been said above about the conduct of a Jewish congregation or community, applies also to the individual Jew, namely, the obligation of a Jew to conduct his personal life in accordance with the Torah and mitzvot. This, of course, also includes the great principle of the Torah, V'Ahavta L'Reacha Kamocha{Lev. 19:18}, namely, to share a vision of the good by helping others move in the same direction. This is incumbent particularly upon one who goes beyond being just a private individual and who has an influence upon the many. The responsibility of such a person to exercise good influence in his immediate surroundings and in the world at large is, of course, all teh greater. In your case, I see that Divine Providence has granted you a special gift for writing articles and books, etc., through which you are able to reach a considerable segment of our brethren in different parts of the world. Clearly, it is your sacred duty to utilize this gift to inspire your readers to seek a closer identification with the Jewish people, not only in thought and speech, but in actual everyday life and conduct, in accordance with the principle of our Sages that the essential thing is the deed. {Avot, 1:17}

With blessing,


From The Letter & The Spirit, pages 272-275.

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