Note: The essay as it appears here is "unedited." A more concise version appeared in The Jewish Observer
Prominent among the ideologues of the early Agudah movement1 was a grandson of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch zt"l; Dr. Yitzchok Breuer zt"l, whose fiftieth yohrzeit we mark this year.
Dr. Breuer was born in Pupa, Hungary in 1883 to the city's Rav, Rabbi Hirsch's son-in- law, Rabbi Salomon Breuer zt"l. Upon his father-in-law's death in 1888, Rabbi Breuer came to Frankfurt to take Rabbi Hirsch's place at the helm of the independent Orthodox kehilla. The unique atmosphere of Torah im Derech Eretz that permeated the kehilla was the defining influence on Dr. Breuer's weltanschauung. He began publishing at a young age, and his essays helped to strengthen the commitment of a new generation of German Orthodox Jews to Torah Judaism. Dr. Breuer first visited Eretz Yisroel in 1926. One of his primary contributions to "Hirschian" thought was the definition of Eretz Yisroel's significance in the framework of Torah im Derech Eretz. Dr. Breuer moved to Eretz Yisroel in 1936, and died there in 1946. Shortly before his death, Dr. Breuer represented the Agudah's World Executive to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry that explored the possibility of founding a Jewish state. He had a profound impact on the course of their deliberations.
Dr. Breuer was a prolific writer, in both German and Hebrew.2 In a sense, he was the ultimate "codifier" of Torah im Derech Eretz. Two of his works deserve special attention: Moriah and Nachaliel. Moriah is a truly remarkable and unique work. In it, Dr. Breuer expounds the aspects of Judaism and our national destiny that he believed represent undeniable truths and the foundations of our task in this world. Nachaliel discusses Dr. Breuer's perspectives on ta'amei hamitzvos (one of his grandfather's great preoccupations). Dr. Breuer held that this area of Torah thought is, to a degree, subjective (we will discuss this later).
Dr. Breuer was intimately involved in the leadership of Agudas Yisroel throughout his life. He viewed the Agudah as a critical tool granted to Am Yisroel to fulfill their national destiny. A sizable portion of Moriah, therefore, discusses the history and vision of the Agudah.
We shall explore here the majesty of Jewish destiny and Jewish history, as Dr. Breuer unfolds them before us in Moriah. I must admit that the temptation to apply Dr. Breuer's models and principles to the present proved very difficult to overcome. I have, nevertheless, refrained from drawing such inferences. The intent of this essay, is to cause the reader to go beyond the text. I hope this material leads you to sit back and think independently. Whether you ultimately agree or disagree, with it, Dr. Breuer's perspective is quite a springboard to begin to understand our place in Am Yisroel's ongoing destiny of Kiddush Shem Shomayim.
First, we have to distinguish between "concept" and "vision". If we observe or experience reality with any degree of perception, we will note that many particulars can be summed up with some general principle - that principle is a concept. A vision, however, is not derived from reality. It transcends reality. It teaches us how to approach reality. Vision is the vessel by which man grasps reality, and reality is like the water that takes on the shape of the vessel that contains it.
A vision of truth: Not everyone cares to assess reality with truth. Reality, after all, is a stream of data that enters our consciousness. We can select to deal or recognize certain aspects, and not others. Mathematics, science and a significant portion of history attempt to impose a vision of objectivity and truth on reality.3 A vision of good: Mathematics and science describe cause and effect with "real" concepts: chemical, physical, biological, etc. The vision of good does not concede that man's deeds are determined by natural phenomena. It perceives man as free, and attempts to reorder the world from a view of ethical good.
A vision of beauty: Hashem endowed man with a sense of aesthetics. We can be uplifted by beauty. We can rearrange reality in a pleasing way.
A vision of sanctity: Our neshomos, sparks from Hashem, yearn instead of this world of frivolities for eternity, for pure spirituality instead of materialism, to bring Geula to our souls' place of exile in this world.
The most universal human vision is that of justice. Nature has no inherent justice: Its law is the law of the jungle. Despite many failures, human history testifies to man's aspirations to social justice.
(Marxism, notes Dr. Breuer, denies the significance of the four latter visions. Marxists perceived a single ambition in man - the drive to fulfill his material needs. Its philosophy denies transcendence. Other visions, from the Marxist's perspective, are only valuable as tools for material fulfillment. Even justice, in Marxist terms, is to be derived from economics and the need to effectively distribute resources.)
Hashem created an imperfect world for man to perfect. Adam haRishon, however, was not meant to toil alone - after all, the first mitzva is to be fruitful and multiply. The command of "v'kivshuha" is stated in plural. At first, all mankind was to participate in building a unified, perfect society. The Dor Haflaga ruined that. Individuals of the time focused not on applying transcendent visions to the reality of creation, but, a la Marxism, on their own needs and their own egos ("Na'aseh lonu shem"). Nations now became the major players in ongoing history, in the quest to better the world. In telling us that each nation has its own spiritual "sar", Chazal clarified that a nation is not a collection of individuals, a society, but an integrated spiritual unit - for better (good), or for worse (evil). Language, race, culture, land and history all contribute to a definition of national identity, but the spiritual essence is far more than that.
An autonomous or independent state is a tool of national identification, but ideally it also serves as a means to bring law, order and values to its citizens. Unfortunately, however, the massive collective egoism that led to Migdal Bovel is frequently manifest in patriotism and nationalism - that sanction their adherents to run roughshod over justice. Nationalism can subvert all of man's wonderful visions, and is the cause of history's constant wars.
Man recognizes the danger inherent in nationalism, and attempts to counteract it. One method is the creation of "federal" states, such as the old Austro-Hungarian Empire and modern day Yugoslavia and Canada, that attempt to suppress nationalist passions. The results are obvious. Alternately, states have attempted to forge common identities based on visions, as revolutionary France did with "freedom, equality and fraternity," or our own country with our Declaration of Independence. While the latter approach improved internal affairs, it did nothing to prevent international warfare.
For some time after the Dor Haflaga, religions were also "nationalized". The Greek philosophers began making inroads against this system. The juggernaut of Roman conquest vanquished it. (Islam, however, to a significant extent, manifests the old system.) In despair, the nations of the world turned to the message of Judaism - that of one God, Creator of the Universe, merciful and kind. But not completely. The symbol of the new religion was a corpse on a cross. Man cannot perfect the world, he needs to be saved. Christianity is not a religion of Avoda, but of "yeshu'a". When that salvation tarried, Christianity became the "Church", another form of nationalism that demanded fealty - and waged wars to that end. To avoid the clash between state and religion, religion had to be attenuated - such as in Protestantism, or suppressed - as in Communism, or separated - as in our country.
Adam haRishon's test was whether he would faithfully follow that which Hashem dictated as "good" and "just", or whether he would decide what was good and just on his own. In eating from the eitz hada'as because it was good to him ("tov ha'eitz l'ma'achal...), Adam chose the latter path. In choosing to follow his own autonomous values, he laid the foundation for a human history of war and injustice. Until the Dor haMabul, individual autonomous values held sway. Subsequently, through the Dor Haflaga, society's autonomous values were supreme. Since the dispersion at Migdal Bovel, nations and their agendas have determined the course of history.
With the command of Lech Lecha, Hashem set the course of a chosen nation to stand against the others. Not a religion, nor a philosophy, but a nation. To alter the course of history, one must deal with history on its own terms. Avrohom Avinu was the av hamon goyim. He and his descendants were to be Hashem's partners in setting the course of history.
Judaism's fundamental principle is that its nation has no place in "general" history. We were placed in exile in the great state of Egypt to learn that even the most advanced nations, when their perceived national interests are at stake, may be unjust and inhumane.
The exodus from Egypt parallels Avrohom Avinu's exit from Ur Kasdim. We were not freed to pursue our "own" national agenda within general history. We had been taught the error of such pursuits. We have no autonomy. Hashem chose us to represent Him and the vision of His agenda. Our G-d is not a national deity, but "melech goyim Elokim", and we must manifest this truth.
Our nation does have a constitution - the Torah. The Torah, however, is not an arbitrary collection of principles and laws. The Torah to Israel is as the laws of nature are to Creation. As the synthesis of nature and its laws is inescapable, the synthesis of Jews and their Torah is unbreakable. Laws of nature are not subject to free will. Jews can rebel against the Torah, but they cannot escape it. Our Torah is our destiny and it is our "nature". Torah is not within the nation, our nation is within the Torah.
All nations are identified by and with their lands. Am Yisroel was created in the desert, a situation as remotely removed as possible from identification with a land. Eretz Yisroel is very important to Am Yisroel, but it is not essential to Am Yisroel. Without the Torah, there is no Am Yisroel, without Eretz Yisroel, there still is an Am Yisroel.
Eretz Yisroel is the Land of the Torah. It does not belong to Am Yisroel, but: "ki li kol ha'aretz: ki geirim v'toshavim atem imadi." As Am Yisroel is not an autonomous nation, Eretz Yisroel is not an autonomous land: "tamid eini Hashem Elokekha ba." Our vikivshuha also entails a kivush ha'aretz. The nation and the land are to unite and together fulfill the eternal task of bringing Torah into Creation. The chosen land lies at the geographic crossroad of the world - to influence the world. In this respect, nation and land are like husband and wife: their unity is a tool for enhancing Divine Presence. When they are separated, however, their tasks are not diminished. Eretz Yisroel's desolation when not inhabited by its nation is also a manifestation of Hashem's presence in Creation.
Optimally, the unity of nation and land is manifest in a state. The state has several governing institutions: a Kohein Gadol, a Sanhedrin, a king, and a Navi. Each institution has a distinct role. All these institutions have a focal location: the Beis haMikdosh, which itself is a critical component in bringing the Torah's harmony to Creation.
Our history tells of the struggle to educate us to our task. Before his death, Moshe Rabbeinu admonishes us, telling us that we will rebel against our role. Sefer Shoftim and Sefer Melachim are replete with the stories of our failures. Our mighty warriors and kings - personalities that other nations would celebrate in songs and sagas - are critiqued by the nevi'im solely on the criterion of their dedication to Hashem's master plan. The state's value is gauged by its achievements in Hashem's justice and law.
Despite the state's shortcomings, the Am HaTorah thrived. Nevi'im, whose prophecies were and are universal, who proclaimed the vision upon which Am Yisroel is founded, did not arise in a vacuum. They were a product of the unbroken chain of Mesora. When the failure of the state resulted in Galus Bavel, that chain continued unbroken.
For a brief moment, after the miraculous victory (the final recorded revealed miracle) over the aesthetic vision - Greek culture, a Torah state arose again. The Torah's laws of nature, however, do not allow for kohanim to serve as melachim, and the Torah state gave way to Herod's state. Herod was a vassal of Rome, the greatest enemy of the Torah. Rome developed the concepts of nationalism, national autonomy and power to their ultimate degrees. Its ideology laid the foundation for all subsequent history. Its vision stands in direct contradiction to the vision of Hashem, His Torah and His nation. Jews, who stubbornly refuse to yield to national and nationalistic values and priorities, are the great enemy of Rome, and its successors, the states it spawned, and the Church.
What weapon do we possess in our fight against Rome? Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai came to Vespasian not to request sovereignty, but to ask for Yavneh v'Chachomeha. There would no longer be kings or kohanim gedolim. Nevu'a was already but a memory. The Sanhedrin would soon become extinct as well. But not before legislating laws that would maintain our unique nationhood (such as the entire Meseches Avoda Zara). Am Yisroel was in a new desert - the desert of the nations. The Torah, however, demands that Am Yisroel not submit to circumstances and become a "religion" - a part of the life of the subject of a state. The Torah still demands our complete and overriding attention and dedication, that we remain "chareidim l'dvar Hashem." It is only in the context of this demand that our love of our land can be understood. All nations love their lands, perhaps no less than we love ours. When a nation is severed from its homeland, however, its love for that land soon wanes. When they lose their distinct national identity, they lose their identification with their lands. We are always a Torah nation. The Torah weds us to Eretz Yisroel. We remain true to our beloved spouse.
One practical vestige of nationhood remained with Am Yisroel throughout history: the Kehilla. The kehilla was not a "community". It was a miniature replica of the Torah state, a living embodiment of the Mesora, that preserved the collective memory of Torah autonomous.
We are not the "People of the Book." The "Book" has influenced all the nations of the world. We are the "People of Speech." The secret of our vitality is Torah she'Be'al Peh, the vehicle by which we bring "Malchus", Hashem's vision of Divine autonomy, to fruition in this world. No other nation teaches its law to its grammar school students. Science, history, mathematics, languages - but not law. Law is for those who choose it as a profession. In our schools, our Divine justice and Divine law is the core of the curriculum, and the success of that schooling is our most precious aspiration.
Other nations phrase their laws in the most abstract way possible. Such abstraction divorces law from life, and makes it the domain of the few experts. Their national identity is distinct from their law. Our national identity is our law. Its form is that of cases - the language of real life. Its study is universal.
Ideally, Torah she'Be'al Peh must be lived. The creation of the Mishna was necessitated by the terrible dispersion. The wonder of the Mishna is the extent to which it remained be'al Peh, in its terseness and brevity. Even the Gemara is not a law book. It is neither systematic nor scientific. It frustrates non-Jews, and is the first thing forsaken by our own rebels. It is only in the Beis Medrash that the Gemara becomes alive, electrifying and exhilarating. The yeshiva bochur studying Zevochim is in the Beis haMikdosh. The ben Torah learning Sanhedrin experiences the Torah state. Torah she'Be'al Peh is Am Yisroel's dynamic force. Its study elevates us to the higher realms that are its sources, from which we draw the tools to fulfill our destiny (banie'ich - bonie'ich).
Torah she'Be'al Peh is ever expanding to meet the demands of new situations. It is our challenge to impose the eternity of Torah she'Be'al Peh on these situations. Halacha does not evolve. Its analysis constantly yields new discoveries and fresh insights.
The nature of Torah she'Be'al Peh defies codification. One of the great ironies of our history is that no sefer causes more renewed "live" analysis than our greatest code, the Rambam's Mishne Torah. Throughout the dispersion, the Am HaTorah knew no central authority. Yet it knew central figures and their works. It knew both the heroes who maintained and taught the Mesora and the heroes who ruled how the eternity of Torah should govern the temporality of daily life. Our national heroes, are Rashi and the Rambam. Despite - and because of - the persecution of the nations, they forged for us a national Torah culture.
Hashem has consistently insured the ongoing vitality of Torah she'Be'al Peh. What other explanation might their be for the partnership between Safed and Cracow, between two figures bereft of directives and official authority, with no means of collaboration, in composing the Shulchan Aruch and Mapa?
The Torah is for Am Yisroel a compelling constitution, Divine Law. For individual Jews, it is the pathway to shleimus and connection to Hashem. Mitzvos are laws. They must be kept, whether we understand them or not. The Torah, however, does not negate nor suppress individuality. There is a distinct subjective element to Judaism that varies from generation to generation and individual to individual. Throughout our history, great thinkers from among us developed new perspectives and frameworks of "ta'amei hamitzvos". In a broader sense, ta'amei hamitzvos include the pursuit of the "spirit" of the Mitzvos; the methods by which we shape our hearts with ahava and yirah; and ways with which to deal with the great problems of the spirit, eternal questions of free will and destiny, rasha v'tov lo and tzaddik v'ra lo, and more. From the time of the Rambam, for example, two great schools of thought have fought for predominance within Torah Judaism: that which preaches engagement and debate between Yahadus and humanity, and that which preaches aloofness and separation between us and the nations that surround us.
Here too, Hashem insures vitality. The discovery of the Zohar and the ongoing development of new schools of Avodas Hashem insure that the subjective element of Torah she'Be'al Peh always meets the needs of the generation.
One thread unites all the schools and all their literature: yearning. Yearning for the Torah's land, the Torah's state, for Moshiach. Our agony over our loss is as acute as if the Churban had occurred but yesterday.
While Am Yisroel thrived and developed, Europe languished in the Dark Ages. Its culture had no temptations to offer, and, in any event, for the most part it barred the Jew from entry behind the Ghetto's walls. Small was the spiritual threat to our nationhood.
The nineteenth century brought new philosophies. Religion was suppressed, science and culture were emphasized. A vision of human rights, freedom and liberty - even for Jews - swept across Europe. The social emancipation brought down the walls of the ghetto. Hashem posed a new challenge to Am Yisroel: Was it the hatred of the goyim that had preserved it, or had it been its own free will, that could now survive the new freedom?
Unfortunately, the first Jew to confront the new course of history was Moses Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn did not debate the new European values. Although Mendelssohn was a ma'amin, he did not believe in the G-d that redeemed His nation from Egypt, gave them His Torah at Sinai, who chose them to impose His vision on history, to confront the rebellious autonomy of nationalism with Divine autonomy. Mendelssohn's G-d was the L- rd of heavens and earth, Father of mankind, a good G-d who wants His children to be good as well. Mendelssohn loved his religion and his nation, yet he also loved European culture. How did he resolve the contradictions? By retaining his personal allegiance to Judaism - that was his religion; and simultaneously investing his entire being in European culture - that was his life.
The fire of Am Yisroel's history and mission did not burn within Mendelssohn's soul. Not its past, nor its future. Judaism was only a religion, to be lived, in the present.
His successors also embraced the new philosophies - uncritically. They turned their debate inwards. To fully enjoy the new rights of citizenship, the concept of a Jewish nation had to be rejected. Jews must become "Germans of the Mosaic faith." Mendelssohn's love of Judaism prevented him from personally forsaking Halacha. His followers, however, correctly perceived that laws are functions of nations. If Judaism is but a religion, personal faith, it cannot impose law. The ultimate arbiter of personal faith - is the person himself. If we are to convince others to share our faith, the "Reformers" reasoned, we must make our religion appealing to them. Laws, difficult and no longer relevant, went quickly. The schools of "wissenschaft des judentums" arose to hasten the destruction of our legacy and destiny.
Many great Rabbonim held on to yesteryear's realities. They fought to maintain the past. History did not allow them to succeed. The spirit of social emancipation captured the youth.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch's viewed emancipation neither as a Divine gift nor as the work of the Satan. It was a challenge, a challenge to the nation to apply Torah to the new reality. In theory, the more areas of endeavor open to the Jews, the greater the possibilities to develop a comprehensive Torah driven national life. Fighting to maintain the past would be a terrible indication that the Torah was weak, that it could not address, harness and influence history. The key to success: Not to tremble, not to fear. The Torah can overcome and govern any reality, engage any vision, meet and conquer any noble spirit with its spirit.
Rabbi Hirsch engaged the prevailing focus on nature and humanity. His premise: Nature and man's perfection are both attained through Torah. The comparison of our history to the history of all the other nations of the world yields the inevitable conclusion: The Am HaTorah is the nation most concerned with and most accomplished in human perfection.
In a Torah state, all areas of endeavor, all of derech eretz, must be model applications of the overall mission of Am Yisroel to specific activities. Torah im Derech Eretz. Emancipation provided the Am HaTorah with the opportunity to develop in that direction. From that perspective, emancipation could be seen as the final stage of Galus, the road to Ge'ula. Torah im Derech Eretz meant, in short: "Be Am Yisroel in the full meaning of the term."
If even in its exile, Am Yisroel was to be an Am HaTorah; If in lieu of a state there was a kehilla; if the autonomy of Judaism is the autonomy of Hashem; then how could Torah-true Jews join in a kehilla together with "Reformers" who systematically sheared Judaism of its entire identity? Even if the general kehilla was to grant the "Orthodox" a special status, to sustain their institutions and "ritual requirements" - how could a Jew in which the fire of national destiny burned identify with a framework that tolerated rebellion and transgression. Rabbi Hirsch battled mightily for the right to separate from the overall community. In doing so, he laid the cornerstone of the future Agudah's ideology.
Others disagreed. They saw in the general kehilla's concessions a glimmer of teshuva. They thought to influence their estranged brethren. They did not understand that although one must extend a hand to individual sinners, the kehilla, the Am, can have but one constitution, one basis - the Torah. In failing to draw that distinction, they laid the cornerstone of the Mizrachi.
The ideological warfare of the West was foreign to the East. Emancipation did not reach them. In the East, they fought a different foe, Haskala, on the terms of the old reality, and were mostly successful. They knew Germany, primarily, as the source of their woes. They saw the Torah-true doctors and bankers in the West, but did not relate to the vision and to the dynamic that led to these phenomena.
Ironically, the assimilationist tendencies, the "Protestantization" of Judaism, just led to a new and more terrible form of Anti-Semitism. The animosity no longer centered on the Jewish religion, but on the Jewish race. There was an assimilated Jew of the West who heard - and was shocked by - the racial slurs. He thought that the slurs were a product of low esteem, and thought, in turn, that the low esteem was a product of a lack of status. He thought to rectify the "Jewish Problem" by enhancing the Jews' status - by empowering them, by seeking for them a land and a country. He boldly spoke the language of independence and Jewish national identity, as no man had done in the past two thousand years. That man was Theodore Herzl.
At the same time, the Maskilim of the East, who knew all along that assimilation was an impossible proposition, looked for a way to "renew" Jewish culture. Achad Ha'am reasoned that Jewish culture was stifled by the oppression of the exile. Give the nation its freedom in its own land, and who knows what new spiritual achievements they might attain. They might create some new book for humanity, just as they once created the Torah...
Herzl's Zionism came as a shock to the West. He did not identify himself as an "Austrian of the Mosaic faith," but as a "Jew, part of the Jewish nation." The very idea turned many Jews who were on the verge of baptism back to their roots. Here lies the positive aspect of Zionism, its success at changing Judaism back from a faith to a nation. It restored the Jewish nation to the center of history, to its rightful place as a nation playing a decisive role in the history of nations.
And here, precisely, lies the danger of Zionism. Reform is not an alternative to real Judaism - it has no place for Am Yisroel. Zionism is an alternative. It focuses on an Am Yisroel, but not the Am of the Am HaTorah. Zionism's nationalism is that of all the other nations. To the extent that it has "Jewish values", they are but the values of Mendelssohn's successors - those of personal faith, not those revealed at Sinai.
Some Torah-true Jews attempted to work with the positive aspect. They formed the Mizrachi. They became "Religious Zionists". The term itself reveals its fallacy. Judaism is not a religion, it is an Am. Yet it cannot be the Am of Zionism, because Zionism stands in diametric opposition to the Am HaTorah.
Europe's new culture lulled its elite into a false tranquility. The new culture was based on extreme individualism and libertarianism. The elite - scientists, artists, industrialists - focused on its own fields and personal gains. They forsook society, nation and nationalism. But others took up those causes. A new, extreme nationalism rose, one that was drunk on national autonomy, and nationalized laws to its own ends. There is a direct historical link between the Dor Haflaga and World War I. The powerful cravings of national autonomy consumed all the eighteenth century's visions of justice, good and beauty. Religion alone was (and still is) powerless to stop nationalism.
After the war, for a brief moment in time, the nations felt the need for a transcendent system of law that would bring true peace. To that end, they created the League of Nations. The League of Nations created the British Mandate in Eretz Yisroel. Miraculously, the nations of the world recognized the national character of Am Yisroel. One must admit that, for reasons we may not fully understand, the ratzon Hashem included the Reformers and Zionists in the process that led to this accomplishment. Social and national emancipation forced Am Yisroel into the arena of general history and compelled us to engage it in debate, to apply our destiny to their new conditions, to rise to our new tasks. The mandate was part of the challenge to utilize the paramount tool of Divine autonomy, Eretz Yisroel. In 1926, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld zt"l asked Dr. Breuer: "Where is the Torah diaspora? Does it not see the etzba Elokim at work here? I now understand the Musaf of Yom Tov: Because of our sins we were exiled from our land and distanced from our soil.' Redundancy? No! We were exiled from our land by Hashem, and then we distanced ourselves..." Zionism, that certainly failed to perceive Divine Providence, stood between the Am HaTorah and the realization that the Divine gift that was the Mandate.
The Zionist bodies brought visions of social justice, the veneer that coats Marxist philosophy, took sway in Eretz Yisroel. They created a "Hebrew" national identity, distinct from the national identity that is the Am HaTorah. They usurped control of "religion" in Eretz Yisroel as well. To this end, with the Mandatory authorities, they created the Chief Rabbinate with control over shechita, marriage, and other religious functions. The Zionists were not interested in reforming Judaism, rather in emancipating themselves from it. The Torah was to be neither the constitution nor the law of the nascent Jewish state, but the "religion" of the Orthodox minority within the state. Torah's adherents could be recognized as a party within the system, to which certain concessions might be made (that is how democracies work...).
The Mizrachi's approach to the Mandate's conditions defied the Divine Nationalism that is essential to Am Yisroel's character as well. It accepted a role as a party in all areas of common endeavor. It accepted the Zionist Nationalism as a common bond, and added the description "Religious".
Some secular Zionists understood the danger in divorcing Jewish culture from Judaism. They sought the spiritual nationalism advocated by Achad Ha'am. They were unsuccessful. Jewish national culture has one unique attribute: The G-d of Israel is the "Makom" of the Jewish nation. Without its Makom, the nation is nothing.
In the course of the debate between the Am HaTorah and the new forces of social and national emancipation, different regions developed different approaches. A certain divisiveness arose from the difference in response, and Torah Jews in one land would often regard Torah Jews from other lands with a certain leeriness.
The drive to found the Agudah was born, in Germany, of two catalysts: the pogroms in the East and Zionism. The Agudah presented a means with which to grapple with these issues. But not as a worldwide relief organization, nor as a mutual aid society in the battle against secular Zionism - not as a "religious" movement, but as the collective Am HaTorah, questing to establish and enhance Divine autonomy. To this end, Rabbi Salomon Breuer and Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik zt"l agreed at their first historic meeting that the new Agudah would recognize the autonomous Orthodox organization in each country, the scale models of the Am HaTorah in Galus, as its constituent elements. The Agudah was to raise the banner of Malchus in Klal Yisroel.
Despite all the friction between the various constituent kehillos, to a certain degree the first convention at Katowice, and to an even greater extent, the first Kenessia Gedola achieved these aims. Dr. Breuer found this principle best reflected in the bylaw that stated that even a Shomer Torah u'Mitzvos could not hold an office in the Agudah if he were a member in an organization that stood opposed to the Agudah's principles. Here the Agudah reflected the essential character of an Am as an organized entity. To be organized otherwise, reflects a deficit in the character of the Am HaTorah. The next step, he contended, was for the Agudah to see itself as the Am HaTorah. The Agudah was to take upon itself the meta-historical destiny of Am Yisroel as a nation among the nations, as a nation with a vision and a task in history. The Agudah was to influence and determine the course of that history according to the agenda of Divine autonomy dictated at Sinai: "Mamleches Kohanim v'Goy Kadosh!"
" Agudism' demands the preparation and training of the Am Hashem, and the preparation and readying of the Eretz Hashem, in order that they should once more unite to the form the state of Hashem under the governance of Hashem's law." "The preparation and training of the Am Hashem" - the Agudah's task in the diaspora; The preparation and readying of the Eretz Hashem - the Agudah's task in Eretz Yisroel.4
The peace imposed by the Allies after the first World War was to be sustained by the League of Nations. As we know by now, however, nations whose nationalism did not come from Sinai are not governed by ideals of justice and law. Their union in a League is but a treaty. Treaties cannot redeem mankind; only justice and law can save humanity. Not a League of Nations, a forum for vying national interests, but a League of Societies, a forum to elevate human aspirations. Were the League to have embarked on a campaign of universal education toward law and justice, perhaps it might have succeeded. The local curriculums, however, remained the curriculums of the localities and their nationalism. The tragedy that had beset mankind since the Dor Haflaga continued unabated.
The situation in Eretz Yisroel is a microcosm of the world's difficulties. Shorn of Sinai's meta-historical destiny, the struggle of the Jews and Arabs in Israel is but a battle of opposing national identities.
Yet another one of history's great and tragic ironies is that our bitterest enemy realized the truth about us to a greater extent that any nation that preceded them. They declared war against the Am of Am Yisroel - world over. National emancipation had succeeded in establishing Am Yisroel's national identity. The Nazis recognized Am Yisroel's unique role in history - and fought it to the death. It was truly a Messianic war - not army against army, but might against justice. Nazism is the antithesis of Judaism: it knows no ethics, no justice, no morality. It is National Socialism - social justice is based solely on nationalistic considerations and race. It is the ultimate brazenness and violence of autonomy and nationalism against the basic vision of Mankind: "Tzelem Elokim". It is no less than the war of the Sitra Achra against Hashem. While the war raised us to unprecedented heights of historical significance, it was at the cost of a very heavy sword. Other nations refused to interfere in the "internal affairs" of a sovereign state. All visions failed. Nationalism triumphed. Justice and law failed to produce a single ally to assist the Jews.
Dr. Breuer finds the second World War in the verses of Chavakuk. As the Navi describes, the Nazis' might was their god; their law was derived from their might. An explosion of all the material forces inherent in mankind, that rebel with all their strength against G-d's master plan. Even democracy will ultimately fail to restrain their power. Only Divine justice and law can harness such forces. The most highly developed culture in history succumbed to the drives of brazen nationalism and nationalized justice and law, leading it to revert to the most elementary and radical barbarism. Only a fool could believe that wars caused by these forces will not recur. As long as Hashem's law and justice do not prevail, history will not end.
Meta-history is defined as the history of Hashem's master plan for Creation. General history is the story of autonomous mankind and his autonomous nations and states. It is also the account of the debate between the autonomous will of the Creator and man's egoistical will. The even greater development, coupled with the volatile nature, of modern secular culture, has intensified that debate. Competing visions - none of which can truly resolve history's problems - have lead to ever more frequent outbreaks of war. Society becomes ever sicker, as extreme libertarian individualism (the descendant of Adam HaRishon's sin) clashes with extreme nationalism (the heir to the sin of Dor Haflaga).
The pathways of meta-history have propelled Am Yisroel into the cauldron of general history. What began with social emancipation and continued with national emancipation was completed by the Zionists. While we cannot understand why Hashem saw fit to destroy centuries of Jewish achievement in the diaspora, we perceive clearly that Hashem miraculously prevented the Nazis from entering the Holy Land. It is precisely in Eretz Yisroel that the battle is most obviously pitched: The spiritual battle against individualism and nationalism of Zionism, against their vision of Am Yisroel as a nation among nations. There must and will arise among us a new Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, to build anew Yavneh v'Chachomeha, to promote the meta-history of Divine nationalism. The war between Agudism and Zionism is a Messianic one, a battle to complete the destiny and mission that Hashem charged us with at Sinai: to build the Am HaTorah. Not a religious movement, not a political party, not an organization that identifies itself by what and who it is not, but by a national identity completely congruent with the Torah itself, as a state is congruent with its nation. The ultimate goal of the organization must answer the call of history and destiny: To unite the Am HaTorah with the land of Torah to forge a state of Torah.
We may not shirk and consider ourselves inadequate for the task. Our King will help us establish his autonomy: "To unite all of Am Yisroel under the rule of the Torah, and to establish the Torah's governance of all the spiritual, financial and political spheres of Am Yisroel's life in Eretz Yisroel." The Torah true Jews that remain in the diaspora will support and participate in the process as well.
We must raise the voices of a Messianic Am, a meta-historical Am, an Am whose entire essence is Divine justice and law. We must show the entire world that only our Torah can serve as the source of life and peace. Upon us devolve the following essential educational tasks:
1. Talmud Torah kineged kulam.
2. Kiddush Shem Shomayim. To demonstrate to ourselves and our misled brethren the beauty of Torah life, both within the home and in interpersonal relationships.
3. Awareness of our period and our responsibility. To value our lives in the perspective of what we have done to bring the Geula closer. To love all of Am Yisroel, and to utilize every possible moment and talent to influence those who have gone astray, to bring them closer to our Father and King.
4. To train leaders, talented people who will be capable of arousing the nation in Eretz Yisroel and in the diaspora. To organize the Am HaTorah and impart to it an iron will.
5. To fulfill the directives of the Gedolei Torah that will stand at the helm of the Am HaTorah, and with that discipline to generate a dynamism and freshness that will transcend any pettiness.
1.See They Called Him Mike: Reb Elimelech Tress (Artscroll/Mesorah, 1995) pp. 164-166 for an enlightening discussion of the distinctions between the early American Agudah and the European Agudah, specifically the German branch. In footnote 5 there, the author, Yonason Rosenblum notes: "Agudah ideology in the pages of the Orthodox Tribune [the Agudah publication] was almost exclusively the province of products of the German Agudah movement:... excerpts from the works of Dr. Isaac Breuer..."
2.Excerpts from his works were translated and published by Prof. Jacob Levinger in Concepts in Judaism (Feldheim, 1974).
3.Even miracles can be explained, even duplicated by science. After all, the chartumim duplicated the miracle of staff-into-serpent. Dr. Breuer notes that the entire sequence of miracles at the beginning of Sefer Shemos that were copied by the chartumim presents an extraordinary dilemma: Didn't Hashem know that these miracles were subject to duplication? In several places he explains that a miracle is not defined by its defiance of the laws of nature. A miracle (a mofeis - sign, or neis - banner) is a form of Nevu'a - a Divine revelation. The structure or form of the miracle is not its primary component. The splitting of the sea was not the critical element of Keri'as Yam Suf; the ra'asa shifcha al hayam ma shelo ra'a Yechezkel ben Buzi ("Zeh Keli v'anveihu") was. Hashem confronted the chartumim and Par'oh with inescapable evidence of His Divine Presence. They abused their free will, focused on the mechanics of the miracles, and ignored the revelation inherent in them.
4.From the 1921: "The Agudist Vision", quoted in Moriah pp. 212-213. Dr. Breuer spends several pages in Moriah detailing the history of the Agudah and its accomplishments. While that history is essential to any understanding of the development of current situations, its complexity removes it beyond the scope of this (already long!) essay. It is particularly fascinating to follow Dr. Breuer's description of the battle that the autonomous Yishuv in Yerushalayim, newly affiliated with the Agudah, waged against the Zionist institutions and the Chief Rabbinate's hegemony on religious issues. He sees it as an exact replica of Rabbi Samson Raphael's Hirsch's struggle in Frankfurt.