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Parashat Re'eh – War of Values: Halacha vs. Democracy - Rabbi Meir Kahane & Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane

You shall break apart their altars, you shall smash their pillars; and their sacred trees shall you burn in the fire; their carved images shall you cut down; and you shall obliterate their names from that place. (Deut. 12:3)

If there should stand up in your midst a prophet or a dreamer of a dream (...) saying, “Let us follow gods of others that you did not know and we shall worship them!” - do not hearken to the words of that prophet , for Hashem, your G-d is testing you (...) And that prophet and that dreamer of a dream shall be put to death for he had spoken perversion against Hashem your G-d (...) and you shall destroy the evil from your midst. (Deut. 13:4-6)

Today's alien culture has replaced idolatry, one more reason G-d promised not to let Israel dwell among the nations. In the battle of foreign culture against G-d's concepts of morality and faith, with the constant struggle to distort the Divine truth, no distortion is more widespread or dangerous than that which stems from “moral” opposition to G-d's concepts by the many evildoers who consider themselves far more righteous than their Creator. In our day, such persons have proliferated due to the foreign culture which has penetrated G-d's sanctuary. Ramban warned about them in his commentary: “'You shall consume all the peoples that the L-rd your G-d shall deliver unto you. Your eye shall not pity them' (Deut. 7:16): It says, 'Your eye shall not pity them.' This conforms with, 'Taking pity on the wicked is cruel' (Prov. 12:10). Such behavior is not good but evil.” Our sages' words provide us with true guidance. I have previously mentioned the false prophet, of whom it says (Deut. 13:6), “That prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he spoke perversion against the L-rd your G-d.” Here Or HaChaim comments, “Sifri explains that 'speaking perversion' refers to falsifying G-d's words.” Or HaCHaim continues, “And for his falsification he dies.” This teaches that whoever falsifies, perverts of distorts G-d's word has done an unbearable sin.

In the war declared against G-d by those who rebel against His word, on the one hand they brazenly question G-d's nature and infinite greatness. As King David said, “The fool says in his heart, 'There is no G-d'. They have dared to fashion their own culture, their own way of thinking, their own approach to morality, while scornfully ridiculing G-d: “They say, 'How does G-d know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?'” (Ps. 73:11). On the other hand, these rebels, and all others for whom the laws and moral code of G-d are so unacceptable as to be tortuous, falsify the truth, and the result is distortion. The impure have entered the sanctuary of G-d's moral code and made their own rules, with light being turned into darkness, darkness into light, and falsehood overriding truth. Of all their distortions, none is more dangerous than that applied to the terms “good” and “evil”.

The liberal west categorically negates certain concepts – i.e., vengeance, hate and violence – almost a priori, while Judaism speaks of “a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace,” with the need and commandment to love the good and hate evil, to seek peace but to go to war against the wicked, with vengeance, at the proper time, an obligation, in order to show that there is a Judge and there is justice in the world. The liberal west speaks of the most important thing being life itself and thus moves easily into a concept of better anything than dead, while Judaism speaks of the quality of life, with the yardstick being the doing of G-d's will in life and the commandment being to give up one's life if necessary in order to obey certain of G-d's laws. But above all, Judaism differs from liberal and non-liberal western values in that the foundation upon which it rests is that of “the yoke of Heaven”, the acceptance of G-d's law and values and concepts as truth, without testing them in the fires of one's own knowledge, choice, desires, and acceptance. One does not weigh and mull over Jewish values as presented in Torah authority. One does not test them to see if they are acceptable to the taste, sweet to the palate. One does not test them by his own standards to see if he believes them to be just or decent or merciful or good. It is the Almighty Who created the world and the word, Who created finite and stumbling man, Who created justice and decency and mercy and good. That which He created is just and decent and merciful and good, and we accept it because of that. It is this yoke of Heaven, the setting aside of our will before His because He is truth and His Torah is truth, that is the fundamental of Judaism.

The values of Judaism struggle to the death with the secular, gentilized, foreign, corrupt ones of the Hellenists. This is the real struggle – the war of ideas, of values, of civilization. Will it be the victory of Judaism with its specific, separate, distinct views of holiness and purity, or the triumph of the Hebrew-speaking gentiles whose self-hate, a twisted product of cancerous ego, leads them to reject and stomp upon Judaism of discipline and embrace instead the malignancy of gentilization with its license, total self-indulgence, and self-destruction? The war is being fought over the soul and destiny of the people and state. A people rejects its chosenness and specialness, its sanctity and elevation, its separation from the impurities of the nations, their profanations and abominations. It pants after the gentile, it seeks to be as all the nations.The Jews against the Hellenists. The real struggle.

[As Rav Meir Kahane's son Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane wrote in the Darka shel Torah Parasha series]: The Jewish Supreme Court that has arisen and begun to enact legislation against Torah in a frantic effort to forcefully transform the Jewish People to Hebrew-speaking gentiles. They attempt to accomplish this by laying down the following ground rules: The chosenness of the Jewish People and all other halacha that discriminates between Jew and gentile is “racism”, for it opposes the basic democratic principle of equality for all men, regardless of race, creed, color or religion. (Even the abolition of the Law of Return is in their sights.) In addition, any religious legislation can be rejected because it negates the basic democratic principle of the “individuals right to freedom”. But most importantly, the Hellenists of today are demanding that democracy take precedence over everything, including the Halacha. By use of these seemingly harmless axioms, the State of Israel is eradicating from itself all Jewish content. In these “progressive” times, there are not even “Jews”, only “Israelis”. The implications are quite serious. No longer can we say: “Well, they are tinokot shenishbu (like children who are totally unaware or ignorant of their Jewish heritage). In the meantime, we'll sit and learn Torah and gather strength and numbers until the day comes when we can change the situation and make Torah the law of the land.” Those days are over, because the Hellenists are not waiting. They are very actively exerting all their influence to establish democracy as the law of the land and ultimate value of society, banning anyone who does not succumb to them 100%.

[Dear reader, please note how this, written more than 10 years ago, fits our very situation today:] Already they forcibly prohibit us from learning “forbidden” sections of Torah. Fact: A rabbi sits in jail today on the charge of racism for a Halachic essay he wrote. Rabbis are being investigated daily and soon will be jailed under suspicion that they had the “audacity” to tell their students not to follow orders which negate Torah law (and let us not even mention what will be the fate of those who actually carry out the rabbis' words). Yes, we are at the climax of a cultural war. It is “us” or “them”. This is the first time in history that the Jews themselves have laid down decrees against halacha! And it is not relevant if it is against the entire Torah, ten halachot, or even one halacha! What are the rabbis doing? The buzz word these days is “unity”. Fortunately for us, the Hellenists aren't interested. They fully understand that before there is any reconciliation, there must be a framework of common ground from which to work. And if that basis is not the unequivocal commitment to democracy – (i.e. that it supersedes the halacha) then there will be no reconciliation. And so they continue to lead the rabbis into tiny investigation rooms, hoping to squeeze out of them some quote from the Talmud by Rav Ashi, in order to strong-arm them: Unity? Solidarity? No problem! As long as we dictate the rules. Take the pig and say it: Democracy over halacha!

Obviously, no rabbi will accept this. We must realize that the game is over. We can no longer evade the contradiction of Jewishness and Democracy that the State of Israel was schizophrenically based upon. There is an unbridgeable gap, for it is a conflict whereby the entire premise of each philosophy totally contradicts the other. The rabbis have a mighty mission ahead. It is incumbent upon each and every one of them to get up and declare: In the same way that Jews rebuffed the harsh edicts of the Greeks and Romans, and Rabbi Akiva was even skinned alive for this principle, so too must we stand in defiance when Israeli democracy decides that certain parts of Torah cannot be learned. These are days of religious persecution, and we must cling to the path of Rabbi Akiva – to openly learn and teach all the forbidden laws and to proclaim unequivocally that we will disobey any law that forces us to transgress the Torah. Because Torah supersedes democracy.

A person's whole life is a test to see whether he will accept the yoke of Heaven and of mitzvot. There is nothing precious that does not exact a heavy price of him who wishes to acquire it.

Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from 'The Jewish Idea' of Rav Meir Kahane, HY"D, with excerpts from "Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Jews" and from "Darka shel Torah" of Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane, HY"D

This compilation is especially dedicated to Rabbis Yitzchak Shapira and Yitzchak Ginsburg of Yeshivat Od Yosef Chai and Rabbi Dov Lior and Rabbi Ya'akov Yosef who were harassed, arrested and questioned for their unwavering commitment to teaching true and uncompromising Torah.

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