Rabbi Hillel Lichtenstein of Kolomaya (1814-1891)

Why did Pharaoh fear that the Jews would rebel and join his enemies? Certainly the good Jews, who constituted the majority, entertained no such thoughts. The oath prohibits it, Shlomo Hamelech warns us to fear the king (Mishlei 24:21 and Koheles 8:2) and Yirmiyah (29:7) commands us to seek the welfare of our host country in exile. The Midrash says that Hashem and Avraham chose exile rather than Gehinom (Bereishis Rabbah 44:21). But there were bad Jews as well, Jews who rejected the prophets and lived a modern lifestyle. It is regarding these Jews that the Torah says, “And the land was filled with them,” and the Tanchuma comments: “The theaters and circuses were filled with them.” Immediately after that verse, the Torah tells us that Pharaoh worried “that they might increase, and when there is a war they will join our enemies and fight against us and go up from the land.” These modern Jews were the ones he worried about. Since they did not follow Hashem’s prohibition on sitting in a “seat of scoffers” (Tehillim 1:1 and Avodah Zarah 18b), perhaps they would also violate His command to accept the yoke of exile.

The above words appear in Maskil El Dal (v. 4, 3:4:5), published in 1871 – many years before the Zionist movement began. Rabbi Hillel of Kolomaya probably had in mind the Reform Jews of Hungary. But a prophetic spirit rested on him and he foresaw that Zionism would emerge from the ranks of the liberals, not from the Orthodox.

In a footnote to that piece, he considers the opposite scenario: that Zionism would emerge only from the Orthodox, since they are the ones who pray three times daily for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the coming of moshiach, while the Reform have deliberately omitted all reference to these things from their prayers. But he declares, “It is not so, for one who is knowledgeable and understands these matters knows that these two concepts – waiting for the redemption, and the oath prohibiting rebellion against the nations – are actually one and the same. Because when the time comes and moshiach arrives, the redemption will not come about by a flesh and blood victory and the success of humans.”

To prove this assertion, he proceeds to bring a list of verses and statements of Chazal about the redemption:

1. ‘They will not do evil nor destroy in all of my holy mountain’ (Yishaya 11:9).
2. ‘They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, and they will not learn war anymore’ (Yishaya 2:4).
3. ‘They will bring all of your brethren from the nations as a gift to Hashem in wagons, with dances’ (Yishaya 66:20).
4. ‘The earth will be full of knowledge of Hashem, as the waters cover the sea’ (Yishaya 11:9).
5. ‘For then I will change the peoples to a clear speech, and all of them will call in the name of Hashem, and serve Him with one shoulder’ (Tzefaniah 3:9).
6. ‘Nations will seek him [moshiach] out, and his resting place will be honor’ (Yishaya 11:10).
7. ‘Kings will be your babysitters, and princesses your nurses; they will prostrate their faces to the ground before you, and lick the dust of your feet’ (Yishaya 49:23).
8. ‘The kings of Tarshish and the islands will bring a gift’ (Tehillim 72:10).
9. The Yalkut Shimoni on Yishaya 52:7 says, ‘Three days before moshiach comes, Eliyahu will stand on the mountains of Israel and cry out, “Mountains of Eretz Yisroel! How long will you stand in a desolate land?” And his voice will be heard from one end of the earth to the other. And then he will say, “Peace is coming to the world…Goodness is coming to the world…Salvation is coming to the world.”‘
10. A Heavenly Voice will be heard, saying to the imprisoned, come out! And those in the darkness, be revealed (Yishaya 49:9)! The Yalkut Shimoni says that this refers to the Jews beyond the Sambatyon River and the Jews beyond the Mountains of Darkness.

So this is what we are praying for: that we should merit to see these things soon. But until that time comes, we are faithful servants and taxpayers to the kings under which we live. The heretics, on the other hand, do not believe in any of the above.”

Rabbi Hillel of Kolomaya is saying that only a Jew who doesn’t believe in what the Neviim tell us about the redemption could be a Zionist and rebel against the exile.

Unfortunately, today it is the religious Zionists who are the strongest Zionists. It can only be that they’ve forgotten what the real geulah is supposed to look like.


Rabbinic Quotations

Reform Jews