Pamphlet — “On the Exalted Nature of Israel and Understanding Its Exile” by Rabbi Saadya Grama, Lakewood, NJ, USA, 5763
Were the year of publication not specified, we would have thought that we had the text of a Qumran scroll before us, describing the war of the sons of light against the sons of darkness. Were it not given letters of approbation and encouragement by the head of the Lakewood yeshiva in the USA and the head of the Slobodka yeshiva in Bnei Brak, we would have thought it was written by some bizarre and peculiar settlers.
But that is not the case. The book, which I will summarize in terms simple enough for anyone to understand, is based on the great rabbis of our days and of recent generations.
The morally disgusting contents of the book are given more validity from the introductory remarks: “How much purity of heart and of spirit is required to completely understand the truth of the Torah’s view. Therefore it is indeed appropriate for the teachings to be presented by the elders.”
Just so. The words which will chase sleep from the eyes of those who champion equality, freedom, and liberty were written with purity of heart, purity of spirit, and come from the mouth of an elder. I will not add critique of my own, because the contents of the book speak for themselves. Therefore I will only summarize the main points through which the author presents the totalistic world view — good versus bad — of the Orthodox rabbinate in Israel and abroad, of the rabbis who are considered the successors of the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Chaim Volozhin, the Chofetz Chaim, and the Chazon Ish (the Litvish stream). It is important to emphasize that the issues brought below are part of the worldview prevalent in the Charedi public.
The goals of the book: To give the Torah world the tools to deal with “the greatest challenge of this age — democracy” in the final exile before the arrival of the Messiah. In other words, how to maintain the old religious view of the world (from the Middle Ages) in face of the enlightened world view of the modern era.
These are the contents of the book:
The difference between the Jew and the gentile is intrinsic [genetic, hereditary] and not a faith-based, religious difference — After the sin of Adam the human population divided into two camps: the Jews on the one hand and the rest of the nations on the other.
The Jewish nation, from the seed of Abraham, is the superior humanity, and the rest of the nations are the inferior humanity.
The root of the other nations and their essence is evil — the root of Esau’s evil is murder, of Ammon and Moab in adultery, of Ishmael in theft. Even the “righteous gentiles”: when they do good for the Jews it is not because they are good, it is due to the holy One, blessed be He, saving us from our enemies’ hands. The charity and kindness gentiles do for the Jews is dangerous for the Jews, while the Jews — their root and essence is good. The Jew is not a good gentile, he is a more elevated sort of person, totally different from the gentile. The two species are totally different.
The war of the gentiles against the Jews and vice versa is eternal — Since the people of Israel and the other nations are opposites they stand at the forefront of opposing camps — good versus evil. And just as light and dark cannot be mixed, so, too, Israel and the nations. If one succeeds and thrives, the other falls. The war between Jews and the nations is a necessity of reality, the battle between the sons of light and the sons of darkness, the war between sanctity and impurity, between evil and good. When there are battles between the gentiles it stems from exploitation or some quarrel, and when the reason for the battle is removed, the war ends. But the war between the Jews and the gentiles is eternal. Support for this view is brought by the author from Hitler’s teachings, in which he claims: “The Jewish nation is the historic nation which worships the god of the spirit, and in contrast the German nation is the new chosen nation which worships the god of nature, and therefore it is impossible for these two nations to complement each other.” The author attributes Nazi ideology to all gentiles, though there are those who are more so and those who are less so. The denominator common to all is that all stem from the roots of evil and impurity. The author supports Hitler’s words and says, “That is the issue: the battle of the nations against Israel is a deep internal battle, the war of evil and good. Evil tries to degrade and uproot good.” More than that, the Hitlerist situation is the natural situation, and it is no surprise.
How the Jews deal with the eternal war between themselves and the gentiles — The absolute separation from the gentiles called for due to “a nation which dwells by itself” is not only differences in clothing and residence. The matter is simple and clear. “Just as a reasonable person does not imitate the customs and lifestyle of animals, so a Jew who is reasonable in his Judaism does not imitate the customs and lifestyle of the gentile.” The true face of the gentiles, even intelligent, wise, and polite gentiles, is but a façade, all external. Inside, the gentile is an evil animal, his reality is that of a murderer and demon. There is no difference between a German gentile and an American or English gentile; they are all equal. The only difference between one gentile and the next is which culture covers the animal within him. We Jews have a different sort of life, a different process, different ambitions, a different way of looking at this world, a different heart, different feelings. Our entire way of life is different and superior to theirs! Why should we lower ourselves and mix with them?
Not only must we distance ourselves from the gentile life and their culture, but also from their wisdom — the more wisdom multiplies in the nations of the world, the more evil and corruption. The gentiles deal only with externals, and the internal nature of things is in any case more hidden. The result is: apostasy! Developments in science and technology give us the feeling that we are masters over nature, and we forget G-d. Nature is deceiving and hides the holy One, blessed be He, and was given to the world only to mislead the nations so they will immerse themselves in it and not see or recognize the Creator, may He be blessed.
The true wisdom is found in the holy Torah. Dealing with the Torah and properly fulfilling the commandments purifies the mind, and one who deals with natural wisdom cannot understand Torah logic. Natural logic and Torah logic are two different types of logic.
Only the study of Torah serves as our refuge and defense in the face of the gentiles who come to do us harm.
We are forbidden to use force in rebelling against the nations; we must accept the reality of exile with humility and solemnity because the state of exile saves us from utter annihilation. In other words, all of our strength and existence is based on our being separate and humiliated. Woe to us if we are in the position of being the pursuers, for then we will have no renewal at all. If there are problems with the gentiles we must pray to G-d and give the gentile gifts to appease them.
The right to the Land of Israel — The Arabs, from the seed of Ishmael (the son of our forefather Abraham), are different than the rest of the nations. If the rest of the gentiles are not defined as “man,” but are compared to animals, the Arabs have a higher status and are classified as men, though not complete men. They are considered “wild asses of men” (Genesis 16:12). They are men for they do circumcisions, and any who is circumcised has a portion in the kingdom of heaven, but wild asses for they do not do the complete circumcision (they cut, but they do not uncover the membrane).
Since the promise of the Land of Israel was made to our forefather Abraham and his offspring — including Isaac and Ishmael — and afterwards it was promised to the people of Israel on condition we observe the Torah and the commandments. Without the fulfillment of this condition the promise is nullified. Therefore the Jews have no priority over the Arabs, for both are sons of Abraham, and moreover, Ishmael was born first, giving him priority over Isaac on the promise of the land!
Therefore the battle between the Jews and the Arabs about sovereignty over the Land of Israel is not a political war, but a war between the ministering angels in the worlds above. The angel of Ishmael demands sovereignty over the Land of Israel due to the promise made to Abraham and the fact that Ishmael is his eldest son. If we wish to prevail, we must strengthen the claim of the promise made to us about the Land of Israel by observing the Torah and the commandments. No physical force will help us drive the Arabs from the Land of Israel if we do not fulfill the Torah and the commandments. It is just like religious people to always give religious significance to any event, and the author brings as support the sainted genius Rabbi Dan Segal shlita who interpreted the capture of Joseph’s Tomb thus: The second intifada began at Joseph’s Tomb. It is the first place the Palestinians conquered and took from the control of the Jews. The attribute of Joseph is yesod (the ninth of the 10sefirot) which is the sanctity of the covenant — and from there the war began. This is a clear sign from the heavens, showing with which powers the Arabs come to fight the people of Israel and with which merit they come to take the land, by merit of their empty circumcision! We must make certain that the merit of our circumcision is not an empty one.
Democracy as the last test of the exile — The American exile is the tenth and last exile of the Jewish people before the redemption. The ideology of America is “democracy,” the giving of unlimited freedom to citizens, of allowing each person to do whatever he wishes. When there are no laws or limits everyone seeks desires and ways to fulfill them, with none to stop him. The spirit of democracy even influences us Jews, and such a fall in the Jewish people, such a casting off of the yoke of responsibilities — introducing elements of democracy into the worship of G-d — has never before happened. This is the lowest level of all. The way to survive this difficult exile is to repent, to learn Torah, and to fulfill the commandments with a full heart.
Thus far the summary of Rabbi Grama’s words.
We will end with our conclusion:
A person who has been educated upon the modern values of the new age will find it very difficult to understand and internalize the view of people who lived in the Middle Ages. This book opens a window onto the faith and views of the old world for any who wish to understand its values. The modern Charedi public are a sort of tribe which scrupulously and fanatically maintains the outlook of that period. A modern historian or anthropologist who wants to understand the religious outlook of the ancient era would do well to head to the Lakewood yeshiva in the United States or to any yeshiva in Israel; he will then understand and know to what extent there are polar differences which cannot be bridged between the religious outlook and the Western.