Thursday, December 29, 2005

Hertzl vs The Chofetz Chaim - An Answer

To me Hertzl is the obvious winner. No disrespect to the Chofetz Chaim, a great Jewish leader, and teacher of my great-uncle (see my post "One In Six Million"), but we already had many codes of Jewish law by that time, and there has never been a shortage of people willing to take on that task when needed. As for the whole loshon horo thing, I really could live without all those bumper stickers.
Hertzl on the other hand, created a singularly important event for the Jewish people. If only we had his courage and foresight sooner, great tragedy could have been avoided.
Theodore Hertzl was born Jewish, and raised with little or no Jewish heritage. He was a journalist by trade, and was greatly affected by the Dreyfus affair. He suddenly realized the precarious situation of his people, and dedicated the remainder of his short life to helping his fellow Jew. His actions and opinions were not popular, not within the circle of his professional contemporaries, the "intelligensia", and not even among his fellow Jews. This did not deter him at all - he had tremendous vision, knew what was right, and acted on it. Hertzl sacrificed his career, family life and friends for his people. His ahavas yisroel (love for his fellow Jew) was unrivaled.
The Agudas yisroel version of history demonizes Hertzl, calling him anti-religious, mocking the Uganda idea, and trivializing his accomplishments . Perhaps they are jealous that a "Hertzl" did not emerge from their ranks. Perhaps they can not admit to any greatness outside of the" daled amos" of halachah. But we must remember the words of Chazal about Charvonah in Megilas Esther. They call him "Charvonah of blessed memory" because he simply told the king about Haman's gallows. If we can venerate a gentile for a simple action can't we recognize a Jew for a lifetime of sacrifice for his people? The Agudas yisroel and the charedi world should not be so haughty as to think they understand all of G-d's plans. After all, didn't Mordechai ask: "Who knows? Perhaps this is precisely why G-d placed us in this very situation?"
Who knows? Maybe G-d is thinking "You were in exile, oppressed by cruel people in strange lands. You prayed for help, and I sent it to you, and you don't even recognize it or thank me for it."

20 comments:

Still Wonderin' said...

Very good. I'll think of that as I peel and eat the gold foiled chocolate Theodore Hertzl Chanuka Gelt coin (it's the biggest one) from Elite...

i notice there's no coin for the Chofetz Chaim

The Jewish Freak said...

I know you didn't buy that in Lakewood.

Stacey said...

I think your point about Herzl is well-made. I have great respect for him and learned a great deal about him when I was in Israel. I have always been a fan of doing the right thing, even if it means going against the grain and even if it is the less-popular choice.

Now please enlighten this non-frum Jew about "Agudas yisroel." Do you just mean the ultra-Orthodox POV? They really demonize him? So very judgmental, they sound.

The Jewish Freak said...

Stacey: The Agudas yisroel is an ultra-orthodox religious organization founded in pre-holocaust Europe. It purposefully put itself at odds with the "Mizrachi" which was another religious organization founded on the principles of religious Zionism. The Agudas yisroel is generally the voice of the ultra-orthodox world, especially in America.
For a good overview of the Agudah version of Jewish history see Berel Wein's "Triumph Of Survival". He is not as rough on the secular zionists as is taught internally in Agudah organizations(he wanted to sell books), but the whole attitude that everyone who is not "frum" is antagonistic to religion comes across loud and clear. It is this attitude that makes me ill, because it is so obviously untrue, and because it trivializes the great accomplishments of the non-religious Jews who made great sacrifices for us. Besides, being religious is not a black or white affair,it is a continuum. Some people are more "religious" in their love for their fellow Jews, some are more "religious" in their love for their homeland, and some are more "religious in their practice of ritual.

Just Yidding said...

Very good post. I agree with you that the "frummies" often demonize anyone who is at odds with their POV. Very sad.

Stacey said...

Thanks, JF. I will definitely check out Berel Wein's "Triumph Of Survival".

Your comment resonated with me because although I am not frum, I have a strong Jewish identity and would never call myself non-religious. I take my Judaism seriously and am proud of it. I am active at my shul and in the greater Jewish community of the town in which I live. Just because I think it's ridiculous not to tear the toilet paper on Shabbos does not make me non-religious.

Your points are well-made.

The Jewish Freak said...

Stacey: Berel Wein's book is a good comprehensive history. Just beware of the narrow viewpoint.

Also: You seem to understand that our heritage is a proud one. I'm glad there are people like you in the tribe.

Shlomo said...

A truth is spoken.

Harry Maryles said...

I agree with your perspective on Hrzel. He deserves a lot more creditr from the Frum community. But he is demonized and is considered the poster boy for the anti-Torah forces in Israel. But it was he wjho founded the movement that resulted ulrimately in the biggest explosion in Limud Hatorah Israel has seen since the days of hte Tannaiv period.

There is truth to the accustaion that the early Zionists were anti Torah. But you cannot blame it all on Herzel.

Harry Maryles said...

I agree with your perspective on Hrzel. He deserves a lot more creditr from the Frum community. But he is demonized and is considered the poster boy for the anti-Torah forces in Israel. But it was he wjho founded the movement that resulted ulrimately in the biggest explosion in Limud Hatorah Israel has seen since the days of hte Tannaiv period.

There is truth to the accustaion that the early Zionists were anti Torah. But you cannot blame it all on Herzel.

Stacey said...

You seem to understand that our heritage is a proud one. I'm glad there are people like you in the tribe.

Thank you, JF. I am so proud to be a Jew. And I appreciate your words. I can't tell you what they mean to me. In the eyes of my frum relatives, I am a heathen.

P.S. I blogrolled you and look forward to your future posts.

The Jewish Freak said...

HM: I am honored by your visit.
Your point about Hertzl's actions resulting in an explosion of Torah study in Eretz Yisroel is an excellent one.

The Jewish Freak said...

>I am proud to be a Jew

Check out my next post.

Anonymous said...

You seem to be enamored by the zionist agenda. Why don't you read PERFIDY.

Anonymous said...

What happend to hertzl's suggestion that all jews convert to christianity?

The Jewish Freak said...

Anon & Anon: I never said Hertzl was perfect, only that we should recognize him for his accomplishments which benefited the Jewish people. - JF

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