We have all assembled today so that the speakers can explain to the audience the position (“shitah”) of our holy rabbis against Zionism. Although this position has already been made clear, as my uncle, he should live long, has explained it in his books, and in particular Vayoel Moshe, we must understand that in today’s times, when someone is opposed to Zionism and to the state they have made, people say he is a Satmar Hassid. Unfortunately, that’s how it is seen.
We have to remember how it was one generation ago. There was really not one of the gedolei yisroel who held otherwise. There was no other such subject among Jews on which the gedolim, tzaddikim and religious Jews were so unified.
Of course, the Torah wasn’t given to the angels, and there are different opinions on every matter. But when it came to Zionism – the idea that such a thing could exist – no one dreamed or imagined that such a thing could be, that there could be a Jewish state in Eretz Yisroel before the coming of the messiah.
But we see how all the tzaddikim and gedolim of the past generation felt, with their holy inspiration, that a great danger was coming upon the Jewish people. Because usually the rule is that the rabbis don’t speak about cases that rarely occur, and then everyone was so certain, it didn’t occur to anyone that a Jewish state could come into existence. And yet we see that all the gedolei Torah, both from the Hassidic world and the Lithuanian non-Hassidic world, all of them without exception were deeply worried about this, because they realized that this undermined the foundations of the holy Torah.
Let us remember one generation ago, how far tzaddikim went and how worried they were. I remember how in Sighet after the First World War, like everywhere else, the ideas of Zionism began to penetrate. In Sighet there was the old synagogue, where my great-great-great grandfather, the Yismach Moshe, once gave a speech. Then my great-great-grandfather, Rabbi Elazar Nissen Teitelbaum, became rabbi of Sighet and gave speeches and prayed in that synagogue. Then my great-grandfather served as rabbi, and then my grandfather the Kedushas Yom Tov was rabbi. So my family prayed in that synagogue for almost one hundred years. Yet, when Zionism emerged and began to take over the Jewish communities, and they wanted to lay their hands on this synagogue as well, my father said that if the synagogue became Zionist, he would no longer set foot in it.
That’s how it was. All the gedolei Torah held that way. That’s how it was in Hungary, that’s how it was in Galicia. We know that the Cheshianover Rav was a big fighter against Zionism. He said that if one day went by and the Zionists didn’t bother him, he would have to repent (for not fighting them enough). The same was true of the Belzer Rav. He wouldn’t come to the table when there was a rabbi sitting there who was suspected of supporting the Mizrachi. That’s how all the gedolei Torah held. We see from the letter of the Maharshab, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, how far good Jews were able to see. Although it was far off, they saw the danger coming, as clearly as we see it today.
That’s how all gedolei yisroel were, without exception. They saw, even back then, the great danger of Zionism. But that they would set up a state in Eretz Yisroel – no one dreamed that such a thing could ever happen.
But unfortunately, after the war, when the Jewish people suffered the great tragedy, and so many gedolei Torah from that period passed away – some naturally, but most killed by the evil one. We were left so spiritually poor, there had never been anything like it before. And just at that time, when the Jews were still languishing in the DP camps, the Satan succeeded and the state was founded in Eretz Yisroel.
It was truly a great danger. What tzaddikim foresaw a generation earlier came true – but in an unimaginable way. Had this happened in a time of gedolei Torah, religious Jews, when most Jews kept the Torah, it would not have been such a danger. But it had to happen just at the time when the Jewish people was in the lowest possible state, spiritually and physically. That is when the great test took place, when the Satan was given the power to set up a state in Eretz Yisroel, when Jews could be convinced that there was, G-d forbid, some salvation in it, and it might help. (Speech given on the first day of Chol Hamoed Pesach, 1970)