What should be the relationship of religious Zionism to its secular counterpart? It seems to me that political, secular Zionism has failed by virtue of one basic error. It is based on a false assumption that was introduced into the Covenant of Egypt, the Covenant of Fate. Secular Zionism asserts that with the founding of the State of Israel, we became a people like all other peoples, and that the force of, “It is a people that shall dwell alone” (Numbers 23:9), was diminished. The extremists in this movement want to eradicate the idea of the shared fate (community and nation) of the Jews of the Diaspora with the Jews of the Land of Israel. This train of thought is not only philosophically and historically erroneous, it is mistaken practically. In [adhering to] the notion of equality with all peoples and unity with all, the representatives of the State of Israel have on many occasions showed themselves to be extremely naive. They have failed to properly evaluate specific circumstances and conditions and have not correctly understood the hidden motives of certain persons. Out of a childlike naiveté, they put stock in people who later betrayed us, and have been inordinately moved by smooth talk and flattery. To my mind, in several instances Israel’s foreign policy has lacked a sense of self-respect, national pride, prudence, and the strength to stand by its principles.
These mistakes are outgrowths of the primary error made by secular Zionism when it wished to erase both the feeling of isolation and also the phenomenon of shared suffering from our history books. The beckoning of the Beloved must open the eyes of all of us, even the most confirmed secularists. The State of Israel was not and will not be able to abrogate the covenant of, “And I will take you unto Me as a people”(Exodus 6:7) and put an end to shared fate, the source of Jewish aloneness. The State of Israel is as isolated today as the community of Israel has been during the thousands of years of its existence. And perhaps the isolation of the State is more pronounced than in the past because it is so clearly revealed in the international arena.
They crafty plot against Your people, And take counsel against Your treasured ones. They have said: “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance. For they have consulted together with one consent; against You do they make an alliance; the clans of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab, and the Hagrites; Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek: Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assyria too joins forces with them; they give support to the Children of Lot. Selah. —Psalms 83:4-9
Communist Russia together with the Vatican, Nehru, the student of Gandhi, together with the devoutly Catholic Franco, the British Foreign Office with Chiang Kaishek, have all joined in the attempt to isolate Israel and are being assisted by [Israel’s other] enemies in other lands. This conspiracy began specifically after the establishment of the State, at a time when many of Israel’s leaders thought that the Jewish problem had been solved, that Jewish isolation had been eradicated and normality had been introduced into our ex i s t e n c e .The assumption that the State of Israel has weakened antisemitism is erroneous. On the contrary, antisemitism has grown stronger and employs false charges against the State [of Israel] in the war against us all. Who can foresee the end of this anti-Semitic hatred? The Covenant of Egypt cannot be abrogated by human hands. We remain a scattered people, nonetheless attached one to another. Our fate is the fate of the Yishuv, and conversely the fate of the Yishuv is our fate. No segment of the Jewish Nation will delude itself by “fleeing to the palace of the king more than all the Jews” (Esther 4:13). Everyone must “pray for his friends” (Job 42:10). An American Jew must not be silent and rest until the danger in which the State of Israel finds itself is removed and passes. The inhabitants of the Holy Land should not babble about the “New Jew” that has been fashioned there, one who has no connection with Diaspora Jewry. We are all obligated to listen to the “Clarion Call of the Beckoning Beloved” (Song of Songs 5:1).
Still, the error of the secular Zionists is graver than just not understanding the true meaning of the Covenant of Egypt, the Covenant of a Nation-Camp realized through shared fate and forced isolation. They also sin against the Covenant of Sinai, the covenant of a sacred community and people that finds expression in the shared destiny of a sanctified life. Only religious Zionism with its traditional and authentic perception has the power to “repair the perverted” (Ecclesiastes 1:15).If you were to ask me how the role of the State of Israel can best be described, I would answer that its mission is not to nullify the special loneliness of the community of Israel or to destroy the unity of its fate — in this it will not succeed — but to raise the people of the encampment to the level of a sacred community nation and to turn Shared Fate into Shared Destiny. We must remember, as we have already emphasized, that fate is expressed, in essence, in the experience of life under duress — in an inability to run away from Judaism, in being forced to suffer as a Jew. This, though, is not the ideal of the Torah or of our Weltanschauung. Our solidarity with the community of Israel, according to an authentic Jewish outlook, must not come from the conclusion of the Covenant of Fate—that of the Encampment-Nation possessed of a compelled existence to which we are subjugated by outside forces — but by the conclusion of a Covenant with a sacred community-nation of Shared Destiny. Man does not find the experience of fate satisfying. On the contrary, it causes him pain. The feeling of isolation is very destructive. It has the power to crush man’s body and spirit, silence his spiritual powers, and stop up the wellsprings of his inner creativity. The feeling of isolation, in particular, troubles man because it is devoid of reason and direction. The isolated person wonders, for whom and for what? Isolation, which cleaves to man like a shadow, shakes his awareness and ability. An existence of destiny, which is based on the Covenant of Sinai, is different. This concept turns the notion of “nation” (a concept that denotes an ordained existential necessity, participation in blind pain, and a feeling of isolation devoid of meaning) into a “sacred people” and to the elevated station of a moral, religious community. Man draws from it strength and sustenance, creative power and a renewed joy in an existence that is free and rejuvenated.
Let us return to what we said above. How does destiny differ from fate? In two respects: fate means a compelled existence; destiny is existence by volition. Destiny is created by man himself, who chooses and makes his own way in life. Fate is expressed in a teleological sense, in a denuded existence, whereas destiny embodies purpose and objectives. Shared Fate means an inability to rebel against fate. It is, as with the tragedy of Jonah the prophet, about the lack of alternatives to escape the God of the Jews; “And God hurled a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was about to break apart” (Jonah 1:4). Shared Destiny means having free will to strive for a goal (a decision freely willed to be sanctified to an ideal) and a yearning and longing for the Master of the Universe. Instead of the blind fate that pursued him, Jonah in the end chose the exalted destiny of the God of Israel. “I am a Jew, and I fear the Lord, the God of the heaven” (Jonah 1:9)
Albeit, even in the experience of Shared Destiny there is an element of separateness, but the apartness of destiny is totally different both in character and experience. It is not the negative sentiment that Balaam foresaw in his prophecy of “they are people which dwells alone” (Numbers 23:9), but rather the special awareness that Moses promised Israel in the last few hours before his death: “And Israel shall dwell in safety [separate and secure] by the fountain of Jacob”(Deuteronomy 33:28). In truth, this self-isolation is nothing but the aloneness of a glorious, strong, holy, and sacred existence. It is the isolation expressed in the singularity of a people, in its holy self-image and unique existential experience. It is loneliness that creates an individual spiritual personality. It is loneliness that demonstrates man’s honor and his aloofness. It is the solitude of Moses, whose exalted spirit and sublime vision the people did not comprehend. It is the solitude of Elijah and the other prophets. It is the solitude of which Abraham spoke to his attendants when he said, “You sit here with the donkey, and the lad and I will go to that place, and we shall worship” (Genesis 22:5, emphasis added). While man’s isolation is a destructive feeling of inferiority that expresses self-negation, the solitude of man testifies to his greatness and sanctity — the greatness contained within himself and the sanctity that hovers in the recesses of his unique awareness. Isolation robs man of his inner peace; loneliness bestows upon man security, self-esteem, significance and confidence — “separate and secure” (Deuteronomy 33:28).
Judaism has always believed, as we said at the outset, that man has it within his power to take fate into his own hands and shape it into the destiny of a free life, a life full of meaning and saturated with the joy of living, turning isolation into aloneness and disparagement into significance. For this reason Judaism places so great an emphasis on the principle of free will. [And] for this reason [Judaism] so appreciates the human intellect, which has it within its power to free man from his enslavement to nature and allow him to rule over his environment and its blind circumstances and subjugate it to his will. The Community of Israel is obligated to use this free will in all facets of life, and especially for the good of the State of Israel. If secular Zionism, in the end, comes to understand that the establishment of the State of Israel has not weakened the paradoxical fate of Jewish aloneness, but, on the contrary, that the incomprehensible state of, “I shall take you unto Me as a people” (Exodus 6:7) has become even more pronounced in the international arena, it must ask itself the age-old question: “What is your occupation; from where do you derive . . . and from what people do you come?”(Jonah 1:8).The question is asked in any event; if not by the Jew, then by the gentile. We must answer with pride that, “We fear the Lord, the God of the heavens” (Jonah 1:9). Our historic obligation today is to raise ourselves from a people to a holy nation, from the Covenant of Egypt to the Covenant of Sinai; from a compelled existence to an original way of life, permeated with morality and religious principles, that transcends history. We must go from being an Encampment to being a Nation. The task of religious Zionism is to fuse the two covenants, the Covenant of Egypt and the Covenant of Sinai; the covenants of fate and destiny, of isolation and loneliness. This task entails self-perfection by suffering; the out-pouring of lovingkindness brought about by combining all the elements of the nation and uniting them in one community, “A nation unique in the land”(II Samuel 7:23),and the readiness to pray for one’s friend and to feel his joy and his grief. The goal of this self-repair is the purposeful consecration of self and ascent to the “Mountain of God” (Psalms 15:1).One great goal unites us all. A single exalted vision captures our hearts. One Torah (Written and Oral) directs us all to a unified end — the fulfillment of the vision of aloneness and the vision of the sanctity of an Encampment/People that ascends to the level of a Community/Nation and ties its lot to the destiny that was proclaimed to the world in the words of our ancient father Abraham: “And I and the lad shall go unto that place and shall worship God and return to you” (Genesis 22:5).