On Zionism

Compared to other "religious" Zionists, Rabbi Soloveitchik's Zionism was measured, particularly as it concerned halacha and advice to individual people. As Professor Marc Shapiro said, "The thing about the Rav is, that he's a Zionist, but I hope I don't offend anyone when I say this, he's the most non-Zionist Zionist you can find. That is, who ever heard of a Zionist who never went to the State of Israel.  Whoever heard of a Zionist that everyone who told him I want to go on aliyah, he said don't, stay here." Letters from The Rav (Part 1) || Dr. Marc Shapiro - YouTube 29:00

For example, he believed a person should live where he would be the most productive.
"It is ridiculous to tell a young man, who does a good job, or has prepared or trained himself to do a good job [here in the U.S., that he must instead go to ארצ ישראל]. "Good job" means to spread Torah, or to lead an exemplary life which serves as an example to others through personal contact - there are many ways to convert and educate Jews. I am not giving up on American Jews. If I feel that in my town, or in my village, I will accomplish a lot, and when I come to Eretz Yisrael so I or my influence will be reduced to zero, my place is here, not there. Some who went to Eretz Yisrael achieved the same objectives they would have in the Diaspora. But only some! I know of many who fail. They don't admit it. It's nice on their part not to admit it." (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The Rav Thinking Aloud, pp. 242-3).
He saw the creation of the state as a positive event but did not see it in messianic terms with eschatological significance. In other words, he believed that one should not say that the state had any connection to the redemption. (Source: Sholom Carmy, "Soloveitchik the Zionist") Sholom Carmy writes: 

"Rabbi Hayyim saw secular Jewish nationalism as the sworn enemy of Orthodoxy. His grandson saw it as a valuable, creative, and useful movement with much to contribute to Jewish welfare. But the shift is perhaps less than it seems on the surface. The Rav continued to laud the positive achievements of secular Zionism although its ideology stood in conflict with adherence to God as Orthodoxy comprehends it. The more messianic tendency in religious Zionism of the sort inspired by R. Kook, by contrast, celebrated the radical transformation of Jewish spirituality. It exalted the state and its military prowess in a way that R. Soloveitchik could not." (Soloveitchik the Zionist | Shalom Carmy)

The Wikipedia article on the Rav describes his Zionism as follows:

Soloveitchik was the pre-eminent leader of politically conscious pro-Zionist modern Orthodox Judaism. Out of respect for his stature, many leaders and politicians from Israel sought his advice and blessings in state affairs. Reputedly, he was offered the position of Chief Rabbi of Israel by Prime Minister Ben Gurion, but quietly declined. Despite his open and ardent support for the modern State of Israel, he only visited Israel once, in 1935, before the modern state was established. Yosef Blau has written that Soloveitchik's non-messianic Zionism was philosophically similar to that of Yitzchak Yaacov Reines (see Tradition 33.2, Communications).

On Yom ha-Atzma'ut (Israel's Independence Day), 1956, Soloveitchik delivered a public address at Yeshiva University entitled, "Kol Dodi Dofek; The Voice of My Beloved Knocks." The address, which has become a classic of religious Zionist philosophy, enumerates and elaborates upon the instances of God's tangible presence in the recent history of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. It also issues a clarion call to American Orthodoxy to embrace the State of Israel, and to commit itself and its resources to its development. (Wikipedia)
However, the Rav did not say any prayer for the state during tefillah. (Rosh Hashana Machzor with commentary adapted from the teachings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, p. 439.) 

He objected to the Yom HaShoah commemoration, asserting that “all expressions of aveilus should take place on Tisha b’Av, not a separate Yom Ha’Shoah.” (The Rav Thinking Aloud, p. 244) 

He was not enthusiastic about recitation of Hallel on Israeli Independence Day and forbade the recitation of a bracha on it. (Yitzchok Levine, “Rav Soloveitchik and Saying Hallel On Yom Ha’atzmaut,” April 20, 2010, Matzav) 

He did not believe that the Ramban actually said that mitzvos performed outside of Eretz Yisroel are only a “prologue” or an “introduction” to those performed in Eretz Yisroel. (The Rav Thinking Aloud, pp. 229-231) He did not approve of the heter mechira for shmita.

He said: “Emotionally, I feel Zionism – religious Zionism – has replaced Torah.” [This is meant as a criticism of religious zionism.] (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik in David Holtzer, The Rav Thinking Aloud, Transcripts of Personal Conversations with Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, p. 171.)

Student asks: "Question: Is there any validity to hakamas ha'medinah as far as geulah or shivas tzion is concerned?

The Rav: "No. Yimay ha'Moshiach? No. Since it contributed greatly to the survival of our people it is very important. This itself is important. But all this stupidity - aschalta d'geulah, geulah - I am against it." (David Holtzer, ed., The Rav Thinking Aloud, p. 217.)

"Now there is an official public opinion which is molded not by religious, but by secular, Jews. People used to accuse us Orthodox Jews that we are intolerant. We are very tolerant, in comparison to Zionists. Let somebody try to say anything not in agreement with Begin -- אחת דתו להמית. You can say a lot not in agreement with Moshe Rabbeinu, but you must not deny Begin's theories. I am not joking. I can't yield to that. I am not a politician." (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The Rav Thinking Aloud, pp. 239-40)

"… if the State of Israel will become a secular kingdom without Torah, without sanctity, without the Sabbath, without Jewish education, without family purity, a State in which Jewish uniqueness will be erased, then the price we are paying for her in blood and tears is too heavy." (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The Rav Speaks, pp. 138-9.)

Question by student: "What do you do with the Ramban in Devarim which says the kiyum miztvos in chutz l'aretz is not on the same level as in Eretz Yisrael" ?

The Rav: "I knew that Ramban before you were born! [audience laughter] Kook comes out with the Ramban as if he is the only one to whom the Ramban has entrusted the text. I knew about it, and I sweated out the Ramban. I sweated out the Ramban, and the Ramban never said it. This is a Sifri, a difficult Sifri in limadatem osem ess binachem, v'ha'aretz yitan ess yevula, and we don't know exactly the text of the Sifri. And no matter who says it, I don't care. The three words כי לי כל הארץ settles everything. Ramban, Kuzari -- כי לי כל הארץ . It means chovos ha'mitzvos in chutz l'aretz is not to be considered a prologue or introduction to kiyum ha'mitzvos in Eretz Yisrael. They are the same importance. A Jew who takes an esrog in chutz l'aretz has the same reward, the same schar, as the Jew who take an esrog in Eretz Yisrael. It's a difficult Ramban, it's a difficult Rashi - but don't frighten me with it."

Student: Can't we say instead כי מציון תצה תורה, that davka b'Yerushalayim you'll accomplish more, even from galus?

The Rav: I'll tell you frankly, I believe that I interpret a shitckl gemara besser fun asach in Eretz Yisraei [Yiddish: a piece of Gemara better than many in א'י]. [audience laughter]. When I don't have to go into temporary structures. Ay, avira d'Eretz Yisrael machkim? Ay, ain Torah k'Toras Eretz Yisrael? I know all those ma'amarim, which are used by the Mizrachi uprights." (The Rav Thinking Aloud, pp. 229-231)

Student: Is there any place for Yom Ha'Shoah commemoration?

Rabbi Soloveitchik: "I am very bad as far as aveilus is concerned. That's one of the reason why I have not been elected a pulpit rabbi. Tisha b'Av...Rashi in Shmuel Bais says all yimay aveilus, pertaining to all disastrous events which took place in our history, all expressions of aveilus should take place on Tisha b'Av, not a separate Yom Ha'Shoah. Rashi says it. Not in Shmuel Bais, excuse me, it's in Divrei HaYamim." (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The Rav Thinking Aloud, p. 244

Victor Geller writes, "The aftermath of Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and the attack on the Palestinian refugee camps by Lebanese Christians, left a moral stain on Israel. In the Knesset there was a demand for a thorough inquiry into the massacres and a clarification if Israel was in any way responsible. The left wing political parties were in favor of the inquiry. The right wing parties were opposed to it. Mizrachi joined them in opposing any inquiry. Rav Soloveitchik was informed of the position taken by Mizrachi. A vote was scheduled for a Sunday. The Rav called Rabbi Friedman at the Jewish Agency and instructed him to call Israel in his name and to demand that Mizrachi vote for the resolution. The Rav said that it is not a political issue but a moral one and Mizrachi had to act morally. So insistent was the Rav that he told Rabbi Friedman to call Israel on Shabbat to convey his message! The call was an halachic order by the Rav to Rabbi Friedman. The call was made on Shabbat. Mizrachi voted for the inquiry." (Orthodoxy Awakens, The Belkin Era and Yeshiva University, Victor Geller, p. 258)

Rabbi Aharon Kotler and Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik - Rabbi Dr. Aharon Rakeffet


The Rav was NOT in favor of drafting women. He was against going public with that position against the State of Israel at that time.  – Rav Aaron Rakeffet 


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