Volume 21 Number 90
                       Produced: Thu Nov  9 23:55:38 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Heshbon haNefesh
         [Shalom Carmy]
Rav Kook, Arlosoroff, and Rabin
         [Anthony Fiorino]


From: Shalom Carmy <carmy@...>
Date: Thu, 9 Nov 1995 16:51:18 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Heshbon haNefesh


Not very long ago, in the days when Prime Minister Rabin z"l regularly
demonized American Orthodox olim, he was taken to task by an American
Orthodox Rabbi. The Rabbi confessed that his colleagues occasionally
spoke of Rabin and his government in language intemperate, irresponsible
and envenomed. But that was no justification for Rabin to reciprocate in
kind. For they were merely rabbis, while he was a world class statesman,
who ought to set himself a higher standard.

Good diplomacy can make for flawed hashkafa. Mr. Rabin, with all due
respect, was a veteran politician. His discourse, and that of his
associates, was not always above the campaigner's vernacular of
half-truth, bombast and innuendo, the red meat of "us against them" that
nourishes the cheers of the adoring crowd. Of talmidei hakhamim,
however, we expect something different. The words of Torah must be
spoken with honesty, dignity and humility. The pious Jew must conduct
himself in a manner that engenders respect for Torah. If, G-d forbid, he
does the opposite, he desecrates the Name of G-d.

A significant segment of the Orthodox community liked to express its
opposition to the security policy of Mr. Rabin's government by routinely
castigating its ministers as murderers, Nazis and traitors. (A trip to
the incinerator uncovers the latest issue of a popular tabloid and the
predictable headline: They Were Traitors from the Start.) If we are to
believe the crescendo of accusations, Mr. Rabin's malice and/or
obtuseness were of such magnitude that his schemes worked inexorably
toward "national suicide." He was incessantly depicted as a rodef who
menaced the lives of Jews, because, due to his abysmal ignorance and
arrogance, he came to positions on Israeli security that challenged the
certitudes of various journalists and functionaries associated with the
Orthodox establishment, the basis for whose certitude was not always
obvious to the naked eye. The experts whose authority they invoked did
not seem to be more knowledgeable, more experienced, more canny, or more
successful than Rabin and his crew, yet their pronouncements were found
faultless, while the elected government could only pile error upon

What disease of the spirit could begin to explain Rabin's infinite
perfidy? It couldn't be his estrangement from Torah uMitzvot, since the
politically correct leaders of the Likud were, for the most part,
equally removed from observance. There were, in fact, talmidei hakhamim
who disagreed with this assessment of Rabin's policy. But they, too,
were branded murderers, reviled, cursed and outshouted. The journalists
and teachers and the average baalei bayit shouted to their hearts'
content, and when, having bullied everyone else into silence, they
communed with the echoes of their own invective, that was time to renew
the effort and shout a little louder.

But screaming at the top of one's lungs will scarcely deter murderers,
Nazis and traitors, nor will threat of the ballot box.  Is not a more
decisive punishment in order? For most big talkers words are primarily a
noise that makes for self-importance. The majority of shouters do not
become shooters. If anything, the stunned hush that follows the final
act of the tragedy is most suitable for a measured amnesia into which
the inveigher awakes with no recollection of his actions: he has done
nothing; he is responsible for nothing. Yet there is a literal-minded
minority that does not care to distinguish the pageantry of hate from
the trumpet call of truth. Such individuals draw the line of inference
tight. They know one thing: for murderers, Nazis and traitors the only
remedy is death...

And so the words became demands, and then became commands.  Violent
deeds proliferated, while too many of us pretended not to see. Amid the
halakhic hemming and hawing (whether it is indeed permissible to murder
someone who disagrees with your politics, or should the mahmir gallantly
refrain) too few of us cried out "Gevalt, enough! Devar HaShem is not
your political plaything!"  Therefore we wander in the regret-filled
land of the egla arufa, as each of us asks if we have the right to say
that "our hands have not shed this blood, and our eyes did not see." The
greater the influence, the louder the voice, the harder the answer.


Knowing the gravity of one's offense is, according to Rabbenu Yonah, an
ingredient of repentance. Another component in the work of teshuva,
according to Halakha, is the recognition that the sin wasn't worth
it. Are we better off now that Rabin has been murdered? Can religious
Zionism continue to make substantial moral and political claims on a
government and on a society that has reason to doubt the firmness of our
commitment to lo tirtzah as a principle of civilized discourse? The act
of murder, and the perception that too many of the teachers who set the
tone in our community condone, or do not strongly object to, the
intimidation or liquidation of political opponents, suggests frightening
questions about our educational institutions. Precisely what are we
conveying, in addition to (or in place of?) the Ketzot and the Shaagat

This act of murder adds new zest to the indiscriminate cultivation of
hatred (sinat hinnam), providing the religious Zionist with the
opportunity to play both homicidal maniac and scapegoat. R. Kook
diagnosed "that hatred of mankind...  characteristic of the evil passion
which does its work under the banner of nationalism" and knew that this
hatred "eventually becomes an inner curse; the hatred of brothers
increases and destroys all national weal." What he foresaw ninety years
ago is coming true before our horrified eyes. How much farther must we
travel along the trajectory of the one sin that, above all others, led
to the destruction of the Second Bet haMikdash? Is that what we truly


Repentance weaves together the past and the future, disease tutoring
cure, therapy redeeming diagnosis. Though we still tremble with the
initial horror and shame of the tragedy, it is perhaps not too early to
reflect on the noble and exciting dimension of teshuva devoted to the
resolve for the future. Two thoughts, among the many that have crossed
my mind this week.

Regarding our duties as representatives of Torah, whether in Israel or
in America: We have squandered many opportunities to present Torah in a
manner that commands respect and fosters commitment. We must now, and in
the foreseeable future, labor under unpropitious conditions: the
desecration of G-d's Name intrudes a thick layer of revulsion,
skepticism and suspicion. If we are to penetrate this fresh resistance
on the part of others, we must ruthlessly pare away the causes of
interference on our side: the disdain for what R. Kook called "natural
morality" (musar tiv'i) that has made healthy moral intuitions an object
of distrust and contempt within our camp; the communal self-
centeredness that so easily hardens into a callous disregard of the
humanity of people who differ or dare to disagree with us; the
intellectual timidity and fear of self-examination that render us
pitiful to ourselves and blind to others. All these deficiencies are
indulgences we cannot afford. Nor can we any longer afford to submit
uncritically to the mindless militant trash self-important persons
shout. We must learn to say no to moral rubbish, no matter how assured
the orator's voice or how impressive the beard.

"The words of the wise are heard in quiet (be-nahat nishma'im) more than
the shouting of him who governs over the fools (Kohelet 9:17)." Much has
been said, in the past few days, about the evil of vicious language, and
my own remarks have not been kind to adherents of the loudmouth school
of Jewish philosophy. Yet the pasuk is more than disapproval of the
bellowing bully and his audience of dunces; it is also a praise of the
wise. Note carefully: the words of the wise are not only spoken in
quiet; they are heard in quiet. It is possible to speak quietly, to
modulate one's voice, at least for a time, by a simple application of
will. To hear in quiet requires a more radical reordering of one's
attention; it is less the product of sheer will power than the fruit of
a sustained process of education.

The shouter rules not only because he intimidates the competition, but
also because his listeners have learned to take comfort in the
meaningless noise and overheated rhetoric, in all that helps us to gaze
at the mirror enchanted by the view, or look at our reflection and see
nothing. The quiet listener has summoned up the courage to defy the
shouter, but he has also discovered the power to overcome the attraction
of the shouter's message.

Onkelos, in translating the phrase nefesh hayya as ruah memallela,
points to the central place of language in determining man's purpose in
the world. It is the power to think, to reflect, to criticize oneself
and one's society, to understand oneself, to speak to others and to
listen. The blustering bully, with his cult of amnesia and
irresponsibility, contaminates the value of words. He erodes his own
standing as a unique person, created in the image of his Maker, long
before he succeeds in dehumanizing the target of his thoughtlessness. If
philosophy has been described as an activity that condemns us to mean
what we say, then many of our functionaries, teachers and other communal
ornaments, have strenuously avoided it. It is our place, as benei Torah
who are privileged to have at our disposal the most sophisticated tools
of self-examination, to remind them, and ourselves, that words have
meaning not only in the liberal arts, but in real life as well.

May G-d, who consoles the bereaved and forgives the penitent, grant us
the power and the integrity to extract light from our present
darkness. May all the house of Jacob dwell together in fraternity and
true peace, to do the will of Avinu she-ba- shamayim, in whose light we


From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Wed, 8 Nov 1995 13:01:15 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Rav Kook, Arlosoroff, and Rabin

I have not been active on this list for a long time, but recent events
have compelled me to take some time and make a contribution.  I saw in
one of the postings about Rabin's murder a question posed about Rav
Kook, and how he might have reacted, specifically in the context of the
assassination of Dr. Chaim Arlosoroff in 1933.

In Tradition vol 24, num 1 (1988), Sid Leiman discussed Rav Kook's
response to the Arlosoroff assassination in his semi-regular "From the
Pages of Tradition."  The background material is as follows (all this is
paraphrased from the article, which is entitled "R. Abraham Isaac
Ha-Kohen Kook: Letter on Ahavat Yisrael").  Arlosoroff was assassinated
while walking with his wife along on a Tel Aviv beach at 10:30 PM, June
16, 1933.  He had just returned from Germany after attempting to make a
deal with Hitler involving the mass emigration of German Jews to Israel.
He was a rising star in the Labor Zionist movement.  In contrast, the
Zionist Revisionists, led by Jabotinsky, called for a complete boycott
of Hitler and Germany.  The assassination was immediately interpreted by
the Labor Zionists as a planned, political assassination by the Zionist
Revisionists.  Two days later, Abraham Stavsky, an unknown Zionist
Revisionist, was arrested and charged with the murder.  Zvi Rosenblatt
and Abba Ahimeir (who was the leader of the Zionist Revisionists in
Palestine) were also arrested.  After a one year trial, Rosenblatt and
Ahimeir were acquitted, but Stavsky, declaring his innocence, was found
guilty and sentenced to death.  In 1934, Staksy's conviction was
overturned by the highest British Court of Appeals in Palestine.  In
1982, a Hebrew book (The Arlosoroff Murder) was published that
re-ignited the controversy, and Menachem Begin set up a commission to
investigate the matter.  The commission vindicated all those who had
been accused of involvement by the British courts in 1933 and 1934.

Rav Kook was a member of neither movement and respected the
contributions that both had made to the Yishuv.  Though stunned by the
murder, Rav Kook took no public stance during the trial.  In 1934,
Ahimeir sent a letter to Rav Kook asking why, in spite of the fact that
3 Jews were standing falsley accused of murder, he had chosen to remain
silent.  Nevertheless, Rav Kook remained silent, until June 8, 1934,
when Stavsky was found guilty and sentenced to hang.  He then began a
campaign to free Stavsky, by postering and publishing I statement in
which he declared that Stavsky was innocent, and that all must protest.
He sent telegrams to the Jewish and non-Jewish political and religious
authorities throughout the world (including Steohen Wise and the
Archbishop of Canterbury).  The Labor Zionists denounced Rav kook as a
traitor and attacked him in the newspapers.  Nevertheless, Rav Kook
continued in his efforts.  After the appeals court acquitted Jabotinsky,
who had orchestrated Stavsky's defense, publicly thanked Rav Kook for
his efforts.  Stavsky went on to rescue thousands of Jews until his
death in 1948, when he died on the ship he had commissioned, the
Altalena, which was loaded with munitions and sunk by the Israeli army
outside of Tel Aviv.

Dr. Leiman discussed why Rav Kook might have acted as he did.  Was it to
counteract what he sensed as a blood libel?  Or was it that he believed
that no Jew would kill another Jew.  Were this the case, Dr. Leiman
points out, there would have been no reason to wait almost a year to
speak out.  Instead, Dr. Leiman suggests, either Rav Kook became privy
to information, the source of which he could not reveal but which
convinced him of Stravsky's innocence, or, he was the recipient of
Divine knowledge of the future role Stavsky would play in Jewish

As the controversy went on, with Rav Kook declaring Stavsky's innocence
in the face of harsh public criticism, Rav Kook's most ardent supporters
wrote an open letter to him stating that his stance was being viewed as
a political one.  The conclusion that was being drawn was that Rav Kook
had aligned himself with the Zionist Revisionists against the workers,
i.e. the Histadrut and the Mapai party.  Thus, the man who had stood so
strongly for unity in the yishuv and who had united so many diverse
elements had become a divisive force in eretz yisrael.  Rav Kook
responded to his admirers and critics with a letter to the editor of

He wrote:

 From the depths of my heart, pained by the tribulations of my people, I
respond to your letter.  I adduce heaven and earth as witness to my
unqualified love-with all my heart and all my soul- of the Jewish nation
as a whole, and of every Jew regardless of his political affiliation.
For I believe with perfect faith that every Jew is a unique limb, a part
of that sacred and awesome body known as kenesset yisrael, the community
of Israel in its fullest sense.

Every act and every deed, whether mundane or spiritual, which either
directly or indirectly prepares the way for the ingathering of exiles
and the return of Jewish youth to our land is as dear to me as my own
soul.  I believe and am certain that even by means of these warring
political factoins a permanent structure will be built, leading to the
full redemption of the Jewish people . . . [he goes on to state his
absolute belief that Stavsky was innocent] . . . In every political
party and in every movement, there are matters I disagree with.  This in
no way impaairs my boundless and flaming love for our holy nation and
its various parts.  I love all Jews equally, regardless of whether they
revere or despise me.  I love them all with a boundless love. . . .

I think it is hard to predict, based on this, how Rav Kook might have
responded to the recent tragic events.  It is certain, though, that
under no circumstances would Rav Kook have endorsed the murder of one
Jew by another, the ultimate refutation of ahavat yisrael.  For those
who even have the slightest inclination to live up to the ideals set
forth by Rav Kook, and that includes many who claim to carry on his
philosophies (or perversions of his philosophies) in their violence and
fanaticism, perhaps the time has come to focus on Rav Kook's other
ideal, that of ahavat yisrael, rather than on yishuv haaretz.

Eitan Fiorino


End of Volume 21 Issue 90