“We’re at a critical crossroads concerning the future of Judaism in the State”
What is the secret of the Jewish people’s ability to survive thousands of years without a military or a state, which is considered one of the wonders of mankind? Who should be the leader of the State of Israel during these times? Rav Zamir Cohen as you’ve never heard him before!
The sudden elections which was again imposed upon Israel’s citizens, while in the midst of the toughest crisis that the State of Israel has ever known, has found us unprepared. The garbage dump had barely managed to dispose of the remains of the PR campaigns from the three prior elections and the surgical masks, and now another PR campaign is escalating against the will of the people who are preoccupied with worries over their existential needs of health, education and livelihood.
The politicians squabble over every possible platform and their voice is heard everywhere. They unceasingly blare out in public signs, newspaper interviews, short videos and what not everything they have to say, or more exactly, everything they don’t have to say. But why don’t they ask themselves how is it that in merely a period of two years, we are in this incomprehensible situation of a fourth elections, especially after the entire world went through an upheaval caused by a tiny, invisible creature? Or that things that a year ago appeared simple and natural, such as setting a date for a wedding, or shaking hands or smiling without having to lift a mask, have turned into a remote dream?
Because of the situation, we chose this time another interviewee, someone different who could enlighten us and give us the answers to the trenchant questions. The interviewee we chose is very far from polluted politics. We chose to ask our questions to a spiritual figure, someone who is a wise Torah authority, hoping he will open our eyes and give us in particular spiritual insights on what is occurring in the world and particularly what are the ramifications for the Jewish people. We headed to the home of the maestro of the Tshuva movement, Rav Zamir Cohen shlita.
Why him of all people? The reason is simple: The Hidabroot organization, over which Rav Cohen presides, provides every Jew in Israel and around the world with answers to every question and every issue 365 days in a year. Not just in the digital media. The light of Judaism is spread from there. There is almost no Jew in the world who doesn’t know of Hidabroot, and hasn’t at least once come across its wonderful activities.
When a person needs some advice, guidance, or an answer to a question, Hidabroot immediately comes to mind. It doesn’t matter in what field he is searching for an answer. People view Rav Zamir Cohen as an authoritative and exemplary person, a larger than life figure who can be trusted. So when another distressing elections was forced upon us, and people are looking for answers to troubling questions and doubts, we also went to bring our questions to the Rav.
It does concern me!
Should these elections interest us? The average citizen can easily tell himself, “Let them squabble in the Knesset as much as they like. What will it already help after nothing helped in the earlier rounds? Let me just live my life! What do I care?
“The fact that we are forced into a fourth round of elections is terrible,” Rav Zamir begins. “It’s bad in general for the public, and especially for the religious public. We see the reactions to it in Israel and around the world. We are depicted like a third world country that doesn’t know how to manage its own affairs, a government that can’t keep itself together.
“But we must not become apathetic. Every round of elections has a direct impact on our lives, not just on our economic and social life but on our ability to live here as faithful Jews in the Land of Israel! In every elections, and in this elections even more than previous ones, what is at stake is our continued existence as Jews and guaranteeing that the Jewish people’s future generations will remain Jews.”
Really? This isn’t a slight exaggeration? These elections will determine whether we will be able to live like Jews?
“Yes!” the Rav says incisively. “It’s obvious to anyone who comprehends what is happening and it is not the slightest exaggeration. Even before the State was founded, the Chazon Ish said that ‘many major Torah principles’ will be impacted by what will happen in elections. The reality is that all the fundamental principles of Judaism are being deliberated on. More than in the previous elections, these elections will determine how the State will look and whether Israel will be a Jewish and democratic state.
It is a battle for the continued existence of Judaism, in the face of incitement and the ongoing media delegitimization campaign by the fanatic fringes against the Torah observant public and against basic Jewish fundamentals.
Where does the rav see the main attack on Judaism?
Unfortunately, the most powerful body that systematically undermines the most important values of the Jewish people is the Supreme Court. Just look at what was done in the past months by the Supreme Court justices, those individuals who should have guarded the values that our fathers gave up their lives for. It is obvious that these justices are detached from Jewish values. They fought for years against everything that is holy and precious to the Jewish people. Only recently, the Supreme Court gave a ruling that outrages and shocks every Jewish heart — their ruling to validate Reform conversion. It’s incomprehensible! It’s no conversion! A non-Jewess who underwent Reform conversion, and a Jew ignorant of Jewish law who married her in a Jewish wedding ceremony — according to Jewish law she is not his wife and in case of the marriage’s dissolution, he wouldn’t have to give her a divorce document. She remains a non-Jewess and the Jewish wedding ceremony takes no effect with a non-Jewess!
“It’s also no secret that the Reform movement is directly responsible for what is called today the ‘silent Holocaust’ — terrible assimilation among Reform Jews. More than 70% of American Jews have disappeared from the Jewish people in the last generation! How can we validate them?
“Every Jew has to think what this means. It’s a dreadful fact. Data by leading research institutes reveal that every year, one hundred thousand Jews vanish from the Jewish people. The Jewish people are shrinking! They are assimilating among non-Jews and are being lost to the Jewish people forever. This is in addition to the great damage which the Reform movement has caused to the Jewish people ever since its founding.
“But where it concerns the Supreme Court justices, the reality is unbelievable. In the same week that they issued their scandalous ruling, most of the justices who sat for that ruling also sat for another deliberation that approved a Muslim candidate to run in the Labor party list who had said, ‘If I would make an apocalyptic film, it would be the destruction of Zichron Yaakov.’
“Another shocking ruling of the Supreme Court is its permit to bring chometz in Israeli hospitals on Passover, even though most of the Jewish population in Israel is religious and traditional and stringently avoids chometz on Passover. Even though the Chief Rabbinate and the Health Ministry warned that it would be difficult to guarantee keeping kosher in hospitals on Passover, the Supreme Court justices permitted bringing chometz into hospitals in response to the Secular Forum’s spiteful lawsuit. They ignored the feelings of most of the patients, who will only stay in a place where the laws of chometz on Passover are stringently kept. Because of this, some of them may avoid coming to a hospital to get medical treatment on Passover.
“When an issue involving an important Jewish law comes before the Supreme Court justices, for instance, selling pork in a certain city, the justices permit it because they say you have to consider the majority who want this despicable meat. But its agenda-driven hypocrisy proves the truth — it is not a question of a legal ruling or consideration of the majority’s needs versus the minority’s, but a simple war against the holy Torah.
“When David Ben Gurion was asked to testify before the British Royal Commission concerning the future of the Land of Israel, he mentioned that rights to the Land of Israel were not dependent on a gift or the Mandate or the Balfour Declaration. Ben Gurion raised the Bible and said, ”We get our historic rights from the Book of Books. The Bible is our mandate.”
“This small band of people forgot about this. We have to remember this and pay attention to the fact that they are only a marginal minority that was never elected by the people. They gained admission to the Supreme Court through a crony system and then seized control of the democratic institutions of government. Instead of implementing the laws passed by the representatives elected by the people, these non-elected crowned themselves as the ones to pick and choose the laws. In that way, they usurped the State’s democratic institutions and metamorphosed into dictators in the name of democracy.”
Rav, maybe the best thing we can do is to stop dueling over the State’s Jewish character. We’ll live our lives serenely according to the Torah, while avoiding the media’s arrows of incitement against us?
“Don’t even think that! We have to be concerned about the Jewish people’s future generations. They are our brothers and sisters! Imagine a Jew distant from Judaism who married a non-Jewess and mistakenly thinks she’s a Jewess because the Supreme Court decided that she is a Jew after she undergoes a Reform ‘conversion’. He is sure that his son is a Jew but he is a total gentile! And when that son grows up and wants to marry, he and his potential wife will discover that he is a gentile! It will be heartbreaking to him when a traditional Jewess will decide she can’t marry him. It will be painful to her and to their family members. Many mishaps could result from this. How can one close one’s eyes and be silent at such a thing?
“We must remember: If we don’t have a strong Torah representation in the Knesset and the government, we won’t have a Jewish life here. More than maintaining our right to live here as Jews, we must protect and safeguard our fellow Jews who have no understanding of the danger lurking around the corner, that will affect the future of their children.
“Let’s take for example the term ”civil union” or in its more popular term, civil marriage. This is just a euphemistic term for the word ‘intermarriage.’ Not only has Lieberman, Gantz, Saar and Lapid’s platform promised to support it, but when Bennett was asked his opinion of those who marry in contravention of Jewish law, he replied that he doesn’t deal with Jewish law, but is in favor of a ‘Live and let live’ approach. According to the data published by the Population and Immigration Authority, in the last nine years, over 80% of the immigrants who came to Israel are not Jews!
“This fact should shock every heart, and I would even define it as “a time of affliction for Jacob (the Jewish people).” Now that the Supreme Court permitted Reform conversion, this will enable a massive wave of immigrants which have no interest in Judaism. What will happened when tens of thousands of Sudanese and others like them will discover Reform conversion?
“Jews who are not so close to Torah observance do not realize the danger here. They don’t understand that something exceptional and serious is occurring here. What will happen to them? What will happen to those who aren’t aware of the danger? When their son or daughter wants to marry a man or woman who is not Jewish by Jewish law?
“Who can take such a responsibility on himself? Our ancestors gave up their lives just to die as Jews and not to live as gentiles, despite all the persecutions and pogroms and temptations of one kind or another. But they fought to maintain their identity and observe the Torah and the sanctity of the Jewish people.
“What preserved Judaism throughout all generations? A people without a state, without an army, scattered to all corners of the world, facing mighty empires that arose and vanished, and this small, pummeled people managed against all odds to maintain its identity. Only the potency of the Torah and the power of the Jewish sages and Jewish law were able to stand in the face of all these upheavals.
“The nations of the world gaped at the Jewish people’s supernatural survival. The French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre said that he cannot judge the Jewish people by accepted historical standards, and that the Jewish nation is beyond time. The Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev said, ‘The Jewish nation should have disappeared long ago from the world. Its survival is a mysterious and wonderful phenomenon demonstrating that the life of this people is governed by special predetermination.’”
The rav mentions the great and exceptional wonder of the Jewish people’s survival through all their exiles. Perhaps at this opportunity, I can ask the rav who is the person most suited to lead the Jewish people?
“In order to know who is the best person to lead Israel, and even more, what he should be expected to do, one simply needs to open the Bible and look at the great leaders which the Jewish people had throughout history. What did G-d command them to do when they accepted their important role? Do we have any greater leader than our Teacher Moses, the greatest of all the prophets and leaders who ever arose for the Jewish people and all mankind?
“According to the Torah’s outlook, a leader has to be completely devoted to the Jewish people, possess compassion and mercy, and sense the other. The midrash relates about Moses that he used to shepherd Yitro’s sheep in the desert, and when one of the kids wandered away from the flock to drink water, Moses had pity on it, lifted it up on his shoulders, and brought it back to the flock. The midrash then finishes, “G-d said, ‘You had compassion in leading the flock of a human, I promise that you will lead my flock, Israel.’
“Moses was appointed to achieve the main goal, which is to lead the people to fulfill G-d’s Will and to give them the heritage of the holy Torah. It’s the same today. A leader has to know how to see the people’s burdens, to feel their distress, to help each Jew with compassion, mercy, and sincere love. Of course, he has to be able to stand up against all those who would tear down the walls of the holy Torah, as is written about Joshua (Chapter 1), ”Only be strong and courageous… and do not deviate to the right or the left.”
The rav said hard-hitting words. It is no secret that the rav votes for a religious party. I would like to ask what distinguishes religious parties from other parties?
“The answer is simple. A G-d-fearing person should run his life based on G-d’s Will, as the greatest Torah leaders of every generation have shown us by example. When a person votes for a religious party, he is voting for the Torah sages’ representatives who were sent at their instructions to take care of not only the Torah students but the entire Jewish people!
“All of us remember how the glory of our nation, Rav Ovadiah Yosef, used to cry. What did he cry about? Not over the yeshiva students! He would cry about the children in Kiryat Shemoneh, in Sderot and Beer Sheva who didn’t know what Judaism is. That’s why he sent his representatives to set up the Maayan Torah Education network. The rav, whose every minute was devoted to Torah, spent innumerable hours day and night to be sure that Jewish children would get a Jewish education. This is what he demanded of his representatives until his last day.
“The great Torah sages feel responsible for the Jewish people. Because they recognize the value of Torah, the value of observing the commandments, they are the only ones who will stand up to save the honor of Judaism, the honor of the Sabbath and Jewish tradition. And that’s why they are also concerned about everybody’s day-to-day material life, without distinguishing between sectors.
“If you empower a party that won’t fight against Judaism but also doesn’t attribute prime importance to Judaism, then after elections it might join those who openly declare that they will fight against anything that has even a drop of Judaism wafting from it.
Lapid himself revealed that Saar and Bennet agreed to sit in a government headed by him, and the Joint List will support it. This is exactly the point that all of us are afraid of on the day after.
“Every intelligent person understands that such a coalition might form the government. In this case, your vote might tip the scales in favor of a government that will turn its back on the Torah, or even worse, will declare war against everything that is holy and precious to the Jewish people. It is a concrete and probable danger, and is not removed from reality.
“One doesn’t have to be particularly bright to figure this out. It’s enough to look at the platform of the various parties concerning topics involving religion and state, to be jolted at the thought that this might happen in the near future: erasing Shabbat in the public sphere, trampling family values, instituting civil marriage. The word ”civil” might sound nice to the ear, but it means intermarriage between a Jew and a non-Jewess, and vice-versa.”
If we only had another mandate
At the end of the day, there are religious representatives and they are doing what they can. What is the problem if we vote for other parties? The religious usually have a fixed electoral power, in any event they have always been there, and they will have their impact. Why is it so essential to vote especially for them?
For dozens of years there was a slogan mentioned in every election — “Every vote counts.” This axiom wasn’t true of every elections. In the past two years, something dramatic has happened: the situation between the blocs became more fluid, the differences in the party votes have diminished and it’s enough to have just a few votes here or there for the map to change significantly. The difference between a Jewish government and an anti-Jewish government may depend on a small number of votes going for one party or another! Who can take such a fateful risk in this situation?
“Some will remember that in the first round of elections two years ago, if Shas or UTJ would have received just one more mandate, that would have enabled a stable coalition and we would have saved ourselves all the hassle of the past two years. ”Every vote counts” is not a cliché today, it’s the reality.
“Each of us has personal responsibility,” Rav Zamir Cohen concludes, and asks us to reach out, appointing us as his emissaries to get the message across to the public. “Each one of us, before he enters the voting booth, has to bolster himself, ”My vote is significant, it will have an effect.”
“How will it have an effect? It’s up to me! If I follow the instructions of the Torah sages and put in the right paper, there will be Judaism in the State. It will be due to me. How great and immense will be the reward of a person who is a partner in maintaining Judaism among the Jewish people. And if not, then there won’t be Judaism, and I will be the cause of it!
“I like to always mention the Rav’s words, that a paper vote is a paper worth gold. Each one of us has the ability to build shuls, mikvahs, Torah outreach organizations. But we have to remember that there is another side to the coin. If one ignores his obligation, this privilege can turn into a terrible setback for him, G-d forbid.
This time it is not a slogan: Every vote does count. Every vote will have an impact on each of us and will decide if we merit to do G-d’s Will!”
The future of American Jewry
Will your grandchild be a Jew?
Orthodox Conservative Reform Unaffiliated
average number of children per family
The chance that young Jews will have Jewish grandchildren and great-grandchildren is based on updated assimilation rates and the number of children per family. The Orthodox are exceptional because their data is very different from the rest.
Intermarriage by a priest and a Reform rabbi
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