Sunday, February 05, 2006

Zionism and Chabad

President of Israel Zalmen Shazar toasts the Lubavitcher Rebbe
at 770, Crown Heights, Brooklyn, 1973
Black and white photograph by Jerry Dantzic

For as long as I can remember the Rebbe always spoke positively about Israel as the "Holy Land" - the land where the eyes of Hashem were always focused. Among many issues over the years the Rebbe was concerned that only people born of a Jewish mother or who converted halachically be legally considered Jews in Israel and there were a number of campaigns to ensure this. In later years he emphasised not giving up land which belongs to us and appointed our own Yossel Gutnick as shaliach for the integrity of the Land of Israel. The Rebbe always seemed to have time for Israeli politicians and many came to Sunday "dollars" - not to mention major visits by Zalman Shazar, Menachem Begin and others.

Be that as it may, the chassidim had by and large ignored Israel. Before Gimmel Tammuz some parents sent their children to learn in Israel but most seemed to go to yeshivos in America. As chassidim we were concerned in general about Israel and the Jews that live there but did not take a proactive stand.

All of a sudden, Chabadniks are the biggest Zionists! There is even a Lubavitcher running for the World Zionist Conference - which I find mind boggling. Chabadniks in Chutz La'aretz were at the forefront of the anti-disengagement rallys and in Israel the ubiquitous yellow flag was seen at all the demonstrations. In Melbourne it seems that the anti-disengagement crowd scared away Mizrachi which, one would have logically assumed, would have been extremely active in this area.

It is obvious that Eretz Israel is of major importance to us a Jews. We should be concerned about what is happening there at least as a matter of Ahavas Yisroel. It is only right that we should be taking an active part in supporting Torah values in Israel.

But it seems to me that Lubavitchers today, rather than spreading yiddishkeit, see our main role in politics and at demonstrations. Maybe if those of us who aren't actually on shlichus - ie. Rabbis in Chabad Houses, teachers etc - would put more of our energies towards mivtzoim as the Rebbe seems to have wanted, rather than getting involved in politics, our movement would be in better shape.

There is no shortage of work to be done and many different ways to do it. Apart from the YG bochrim and Ohel Chana girls who go on Mivtzoim each Friday there is much that can be achieved. If you want to be involved and don't know where to start my advice would be to contact the various Chabad Houses to see how you can be of assistance. Another avenue is the Shluchim at Yeshivah Gedolah who do a great job of organising mivtzoim and would be pleased to recruit Anash to help. Nshei Chabad also provides opportunities for "outreach".

In expending our energies on mivtzoim rather than politics hopefully we can refocus on the core values of Chabad as expressed by the Rebbe.