Embrace the abnormal

Daniel Gordis is perhaps the most eloquent writer from a traditional Zionist perspective in English today. Yet even he admits in a recent essay, “A Place Called Hope” , that Zionism has demonstrably failed to deliver on either of its two great promises: the first that a Jewish state would provide increased security for Jews; the second that it would result in the normalization of the Jewish people.

With respect to security, only a UN Security Council cease-fire resolution brought a cessation of 34 days of Hizbullah shelling of Israel’s North last summer, after the IDF failed to do so.

Soon over half the world’s Jewish children may well find themselves in “the crosshairs of a nuclear Iran.” Bottom line: “It is now more dangerous to be a Jew in Israel than any other place in the world.” Still worse, Israel’s existence today makes life more dangerous for Jews around the world.

Nor is Gordis more sanguine with respect to normalization. As a journalist covering the Dreyfus trial, Theodor Herzl concluded that Jews could never be assimilated as individuals in European society. But he thought that a Jewish state could assimilate among the nations of the world.

That has not happened. The UN is a debating society for the passage of anti-Israel resolutions and maintains several large bureaucracies devoted to promoting the image of Palestinian victimization. Nearly 60 years after its birth, Israel’s right to exist is still a matter of international debate and it lacks recognized borders.

The death of Rachel Corrie – run over by an IDF bulldozer (whose driver could not see her) as she sought to prevent the destruction of tunnels through which deadly weapons were being smuggled into Gaza – became a bigger cause celebre than the murders of 300,000 black Muslims in Darfur or 500,000 Tutsi tribesmen in Rwanda. North Korea and Pakistan export nuclear weapons technology around the globe, and Iran’s president threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Yet every poll of Europeans overwhelmingly names Israel as the greatest threat to world peace.

IN THE FACE of this depressing situation, Gordis calls nostalgically for a renewal of hope, for a return to days when Jews danced the hora upon the opening of a sprinkler signaling the completion of the national water carrier. But he offers few, if any, concrete suggestions how that might be done.

No doubt the hatred directed at Jews and Israel wearies the soul. And even more so the piling on of so many Jews here and abroad in that hatred. Amnon Rubinstein described in Haaretz a few weeks back how the academic discourse in many Israeli humanities and social science departments takes place exclusively from Meretz leftwards. The president of one of Israel’s leading universities told him there are departments in which no one espousing a Zionist worldview would be accepted.

What we need, it seems to me, is an alternative post-Zionism. Rather than decrying the failure of Zionism to normalize the situation of the Jews, let us recognize that failure as the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy, “[I]t will not be! As for what you say, ‘We will be like the nations, like the families of the lands.” (Ezekiel 20:23).

It is time to embrace our abnormal existence.

The enduring, irrational, and protean nature of the hatred directed at us in all generations and all places is the greatest proof of that we have been singled out for a unique mission. The “miracle” of anti-Semitism is something that even non-religious Jews can grasp.

Rather than depressing us, we should view the rapid metamorphosis of anti-Zionism into the same old Jew-hatred as one of the clearest proofs of our chosenness, and, incidentally, of the world’s unconscious recognition of that fact. Not by accident does the UN Human Rights Commission occupy itself with no subject other than Israel, or every European paper seemingly devote two or three articles to Israel every day.

In any event, Israelis have no choice but to embrace their predicament. Alain Finkelkraut, speaking in Jerusalem Sunday night both as a Jew and as a defender of French civilization, dismissed as futile efforts to improve Israeli propaganda, for such efforts fail to comprehend the nature of the hatred.

The idee fixe of our age, according to Finkelkraut, is one that De Tocqueville associated with early American democracy: le passion de semblance, the quest for sameness. Europe’s vaunted cosmopolitanism is nothing more than an assertion of its own nullity, the denial of all differences between cultures and civilizations.

That is why European intellectuals reject the possibility of a clash of civilizations and cannot bring themselves to view Islamists as the enemy. The oft-made statement that the new Europe was born in Auschwitz is a profoundly dangerous one, Finkelkraut asserted, for it denies all history, all culture.

Against this homogenizing trend and post-national Europe, stands Israel and its claim to be both a democratic and Jewish national state. That claim enrages the Europeans in a way that Islamic theocracies and dictatorships do not. Just one more chapter in the Jew’s age-old assertion of his difference.

Contrary to the cosmopolitan quest for a world without borders, the Torah describes a world in which God created 70 different nations and assigned each its own place. And of those seventy nations, one was chosen and assigned the task of spreading the knowledge of Him.

It is that choice we will celebrate next week at the Seder. Now more than ever must we do so.

Appeared in the Jerusalem Post, March 22, 2007.

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41 comments to Embrace the abnormal

  • L.Oberstein

    The “miracle” of anti-Semitism is something that even non-religious Jews can grasp.

    Rather than depressing us, we should view the rapid metamorphosis of anti-Zionism into the same old Jew-hatred as one of the clearest proofs of our chosenness, and, incidentally, of the world’s unconscious recognition of that fact.

    Since you are tying this into Pesach, you remind me of the time when I espoused this reasoning at the seder. I repeated what they told me in yeshiva that “Esau hates Jacob” and that it is unalterable and permanent. My mild mannered and very intelligent father became very upset. He said that it is talk like this that causes the gentiles to hate us.

    Now, I am older, and not necessarily wiser and willing to accept that JO nathan may be right, but it saddens me that anti-semitism is permanent. As far as Israel’s future is concerned, who knows.Deep down, intelligent people are afraid and some voice it. Can we survive in a state of permanent war and in the midst of such an unstable reagion? I hope we can survive as Jews in a state of our own, that is Jewish and Demoratic. I hope so .

  • Yehoshua Friedman

    There are people in the world who at all cost will hang onto their illusions even unto death. This happened at the destruction of both Temples, in Spain, in Soviet Russia and in Holocaust Europe. The gemara in Sanhedrin tells us of the child who clung to an idol even as death closed in as punishment for that very sin. Yitzhak Rabin proclaimed, “Lo od am levadad yishkon” (no longer a people who dwell alone”. Saying so does not make it so, but it is not easy for people to realize and admit that they have been so wrong. The historian Barbara Tuchman in her book _The Pursuit of Folly_ points out that otherwise great leaders sometimes make a fatal error and then refuse to correct it for whatever reason, ego, blind stubbornness or whatever. The only answer to this blind spot is teshuva, return to Hashem and the Torah and mitzvot. Anything less is woefully insufficient.

  • easterner

    as it becomes apparant to even us MO/DL/RZ people that zionism failed, the haredi camp must offer an alternative besides ‘will the last hiloni leaving to the Golah please leave the lights on ‘ ie if the zionist entity collapses, al derech hateveh there is no room for the haredi either in an arab controlled Palestine….for whatever reason Hashem of [ the Satan] has seen fit to tie their fate to that of the Zionist, secular or otherewise…….

  • Nachum Lamm

    “zionism failed”

    This is a disturbingly common meme among charedim today. Please explain how “Zionism failed.” There are almost six million Jews living in Israel today. By any stretch of the imagination, Zionism has been- and continues to be- a staggering success.

  • APOV

    “This is a disturbingly common meme among charedim today. Please explain how “Zionism failed.” There are almost six million Jews living in Israel today. By any stretch of the imagination, Zionism has been- and continues to be- a staggering success.”
    CLAP CLAP CLAP
    How many millions of Jew’s in new york ? another Staggering Zionist Success ? Perhaps even more staggering because in NY they don’t fear for their lives ? How does a population figure determine the success of zionism ?
    Nachum , please address Rabbi Rosenblum’s well reasoned arguments .
    Or Don’t .

  • Ori Pomerantz

    It was hard for Jews to assimilate into European society in the early 20th century. It is easy for Jews to assimilate into US society in the early 21st century.

    Arguably this removes the point of secular Zionism. If the easiest way to be like everybody else is to just live normal lives in the US, then why bother maintaining an outpost in the Middle East?

    This leaves Israel with two things:

    1. Israeli patriotism – the wish to live where one grew up, which is called patriotism in every other country. An American or Englishman doesn’t need ideology to be a patriot. This might be good enough to keep most secular Israelis, especially those who lack the job skills to move elsewhere. It will not bring in many Olim or donations, but Israel should be big enough to be able to do without this external help.

    2. Religious Zionism – the belief that as Jews we have a special mission, and that that mission is best fulfilled in this generation by a Jewish country.

    I expect that if Israel survives for the next two generations, it will become a much more religious state.

  • Jewish Observer

    “zionism failed”

    - per the other comments; this is a wrongheaded way of framing the problem. it is not that zionism failed; rather, it has run its course. the big value that it sought to provide has been provided; witness the incredible and miraculous vaitality of Eretz / Medinas Yisroel.

    this phenomenon may be compared to movements such as agudas yisroel and young israel, both of which had noble missions and served them well, but are now being sustained out of nostalgia and inertia; not because they are delivering high value against their original missions.

  • Jewish Observer

    “How many millions of Jew’s in new york ? ”

    - I realize the poster was being (non-ntastefully) facetious, but the fact that HKB”H provided a malchus shel chesed of America to absorb eastern european refugee jewry is NOT something to mock, and IS very much a testament to the miracle of our nation’s ongoing survival and thrival (I made that word up). And the fact that there are SO MANY torah jews in NY is in fact quite a bonus (and seemingly supernatural) in light of the derech ha’teva outlook 80 years ago.

  • Eugene Kontorovich

    Israel does provide greater security for Jews. Fewer Jews have been killed in Israel since its creation than in Europe in the previous sixty years, even not counting the Holocaust. And if counting it…

    As for not making people like us, that is not surprising. We had to leave their lands because their hatred was irrational… why should getting out of their hair have appeased them?

    Finally, Israel has the lowest intermarriage rate of any secular Jewish community in the world.

  • APOV

    JO ,
    In fact , my point exactly ! New York ( and America )is just further proof that ” Medinat yisrael ” plays very little role in our survival and ” thrival ” . The Torah sustained us for Thousands of years and will continue to do so ad bias goel tzedek ( ve’ad bechlal ).

    To think that Hertzl , Ben Gurion , Ben Yehuda , Rabin , Peres ,Sharon ,
    chilul Shabbos , yaldei Tehran , desecration of kvarim ,rampant coruption ,other unmentionable allegations at the highest level of the ” Medina ” and the rest of the things that represent and have always represented Zionism and the medina , Play any role in our continued ” triumph of Survival , is laughable at best .

  • Menachem Lipkin

    That Zionism has been unable to eliminate anti-Semitism as its founders had hoped does not mean it failed. As others have pointed out, Zionism was hugely successful in creating this magnificent state, which by many measures is simply miraculous. Gordis says as much in his article and Rosenblum does not deny it.

    If anything both Rosenblum and Gordis have given testimony to G-d’s hand in creating the State and bringing us to this point. There’s no way such success, both physical and spiritual, could have occurred without His help.

    Furthermore, the current situation gives testimony to the foresight of the early Religious Zionists. They operated under no illusion that the founding of the state would either normalize Jews or eliminate anti-Semitism. What they did foresee was that the Zionists were creating a vessel which the Torah world was then to fill with Kedusha. To the extent that a good chunk of the Chareidi world were unable to make the distinction between the Zionsit’s goals and their actions they showed a lack of insight and trust in HKB”H. However, they still have a chance to rectify this colossal failure of ideology. Whether he realizes it or not that is what Rosenblum is challenging them to do.

    So now we arrive at this point in time where the Chareidim are clucking about the “failure” of Zionism from the magnificent edifice which the Zionists built for them. Ironically, the Chareidi chant to the Religious Zionists of late that “You were wrong, we were right, come join us” is just about totally wrong. If anything the chant should be the other way around. The Chareidim now must step up to the plate, in the way the Religious Zionists have from the beginning, and join the Religious Zionists in their mission help create a state based on Torah ideals. However, this can not be accomplished by sitting on the sidelines and throwing rocks. (Both physically and figuratively.) They are going to have to roll up their sleeves and figure out how they can become a constructive part of the continuity of this nation.

  • Bob Miller

    Jewish Observer, I’ll put you on the spot:

    From your point of view, which Jewish organizations are now “delivering high value against their original missions?”

  • NLG

    This is a wonderful essay. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the rise in anti-Semitism around the globe, as well as its possible meaning to me.

    There is no such thing as honor without hardship. Those who receive the highest honors are typically those who have undergone tremendous adversity, risk, and just plain hard work. Hashem chose us from among all the nations for His highest honor; we are His chosen people. If honors bestowed by humans to other humans are typically given to those who have sacrificed, how much more so perhaps for the highest possible honor that can be bestowed upon a people?

    I personally do not know any other way to understand this aspect of our history. No matter where we have gone, no matter how much good we have done, we have eventually become the targets of enmity, scorn and hatred. It is a seemingly innate characteristic of disparate populations of non-Jews.

    Perhaps for purposes well beyond my ability to comprehend, this is part of the price we must pay for being the recipients of His greatest honor.

  • Yisrael Moshe

    “(secular) Zionism failed.”

    Perhaps a better way of putting it is “Secular Zionism has died.”

    My rebbe once told me a Mashal, of two men who found a Jew dying in the street on Shabbos. The first one said to the other “we have an obligation to be Mechalel Shabbat in order to try and save his life.” The other man responded “don’t be Mechalel Shabbus, the man is certainly going to die.” Sure enough, the first man calls an ambulance, and before it arrives, the patient dies. The second man turns to the first man and says “you should never have called the ambulance, he was going to die all along. You were Mechalel Shabbus for no reason.”

    The parrelel to this story is the founding of the state of Israel. There is total agreement that the patient (secular Zionism) is dead. The final nail in the coffin was the cruel expulsion of the holy Jews of Gush Katif from their homes. However the Religious Zionist movement tried its best to save the patient, albeit to no avail.

    Perhaps we can improve our summation as follows:

    “Religous Zionism FAILED to save Secular Zionism, which has DIED.”

    My hope is that Hakodosh Baruch Hu will streghthen those who failed to save secular Zionism to rise up and fill the void left by this death. The void which is currently being filled by some of the worst anti-Torah Reshaim in our history who currently run the Government of the Sate of Israel.

    (note: The halachah is that one must attempt to save a persons life on Shabbos, even if the expectation is that the patient is going to die. If I am incorrect, can someone please correct me?)

  • Jewish Observer

    “From your point of view, which Jewish organizations are now “delivering high value against their original missions?”

    - fair question. the answer lies in the klal that most orgs outlive their mission, so high vvalue will come from younger orgs. quick swipe at some high-value* orgs incudes:

    - Keren Nesivos Moshe
    - Chinuch Atzmai (not growth; but steady “revenue stream” of value)
    - Partners in Torah
    - Yeshiva system in general (i.e. Mir, Ponovezh, hesder system, etc.)
    - Shuvu

    *not a value judgment on the “value of the value” but whether they are deliveribg against their stated value

  • Jewish Observer

    “To think that Hertzl , Ben Gurion , Ben Yehuda , Rabin , Peres ,Sharon , chilul Shabbos ”

    - now you’re ranting and “semant”ing. you are juding zionism’s success against your own definition of success. the shaila should not be whether it succeeded or failed (which leaves it subject to artbitrary definitions) but whether it achieved own own stated purpose. I submit that it didn’t do so any less than some heimish org’s (e.g. agudah, etc.) who have done some good but did not succeed completely (e.g. agudah did NOT fullly succeed in uniting Torah Jewry, though it did much good along the way). Don’t forget – much as our salvation does not come from Herzl neither does it come from Rabbi Scherer.

  • Nachum Lamm

    “Hertzl , Ben Gurion , Ben Yehuda , Rabin , Peres ,Sharon ,
    chilul Shabbos , yaldei Tehran , desecration of kvarim ,rampant coruption ,other unmentionable allegations”

    Yup, that sums up Israel perfectly. We can do just fine without it, you’re right.

    You know what? You go ahead and be just fine without it. I don’t feel like arguing with someone who thinks he knows enough about Israel to condemn it out of hand and yet doesn’t know how to spell “Herzl.”

    Bob, excluding educational institutions, yeshivos and the like? Very, very few. That’s why this whole WJC temptest is such a joke.

  • HILLEL

    Another idol bites the dust!

  • Menachem Lipkin

    It’s a testament to the rose-colored-glasses industry that so many of you see US Jewery as some sort of success story. Yes, orthodoxy in America has come back from the brink of extinction, but more than 90% of American Jews are not Shomrei Torah Umitzvos. The vast majority of them know zilch. For all the evils that you folks assign to the Medina, over 90% of the Jews here have a Pesach sedar and light Chanuka candles, our national holidays are Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Succos, Pesach and Shavuos. Yes, relative to the state of Judaism in the rest of the world, this is a “Triumph of Survival”. Maybe if some of you proverbial rock throwers would get out of your glass houses and become constructive members of this society the things you bellyache about would improve.

  • SM

    The ability to say that Zionism (of any description or type) has failed is wholly dependent on there not being government ordered persecution of Jews in any country where Jews live.

    Those who want to bet the Jewish future on that never happening again should think hard and then repent.

    The non-Zionist orthodox world is poor at thinking in these terms – as it was pre 1939. But that does not prevent Medinat Yisrael from fulfilling the purpose of being a place that Jews can go to when they cannot go anywhere else. And if that should happen again (lo aylenu) then everyone will be a Zionist.

  • APOV

    ” I don’t feel like arguing with someone who thinks he knows enough about Israel to condemn it out of hand and yet doesn’t know how to spell “Herzl.” ” .
    Very lame way of not adressing any of the issue’s .
    Rabbi Rosenblum I’m sure , can spell Herzl , so perhaps you can at least adress some of his point’s .
    I don’t condemn it ” out of hand ” . I live there and I do recognise that there may be some good ( though rarely without an ulterior motive far removed from Torah or even Judaism ) . My point was its lack of importance in the big picture that Netzach Yisrael represents ( unless you count the introduction of falafel ) . [ really Reb Nachum , my ability to spell has no bearing on what I know or don't know about Israel ] .
    Also , why is Aguda being dragged into this ? Let’s discuss the Medina .

  • APOV

    SM , first of all , Jews are in fact persecuted in the land of Israel .Just ask the Sefardim ( even secular ) , chareidim , national religious and many others .Its worse because the persecution is done by Jews .
    Second , if lo aleinu a 1939 should CH’vsh happen again , who’s to say we will be safe in Israel ?! Just ask all the resident’s of the North how safe they feel from outside aggresion ( not to compare of course with the Holocaust ) .
    Ain lonu al me lishon ela avinu shabishomayim . He is to be found in America as well !

  • Ori Pomerantz

    SM: But that does not prevent Medinat Yisrael from fulfilling the purpose of being a place that Jews can go to when they cannot go anywhere else. And if that should happen again (lo aylenu) then everyone will be a Zionist.

    Ori: Yes, but that’s not a valid argument because worse case hypotheticals work both ways. If Israel was the only place to flee to, everybody would be a Zionist. OTOH, if Israel had to be evacuated (chas veshalom – but it could happen if Iran is not stopped, or if Al Qaeda manages to buy an atom bomb from Pakistan or the former USSR), nobody would be a Zionist.

    We lost a third of the world’s Jews in Galut during the holocaust. We also lost a third of the world’s Jews in Israel during the rebellion against the Romans. Unless I misunderstand history, this means neither is inherently safe. Which is more likely in this day and age is a question for prophets, and I hope I’m not stupid enough to pretend to be one.

  • Nachum

    APOV, your views are shocking, but even more so considering that you live in Israel and don’t have the deep hakaras hatov someone whose very life depends on the State should have.

  • APOV

    Nachum , I most certainly do have Hakaras Hatov ( though more towards the IDF or even each individual soldier than towards the Government as a whole ). There is nothing to indicate in anything I’ve written to the contrary .
    Anything Ive said pertains solely to the issue at hand , namely the importance ( or lack thereof ) of the Medina with regard to Klal Yisrael’s continued survival ,vitality and growth .
    once again , Please try to address some of the points being made ( as opposed to my spelling ,ignorance and lack of middos ) .

  • Jewish Observer

    “APOV, your views are shocking”

    - I think he is deliberately benig dense, to spur conversation

  • Nachum

    Who says I disagree with any of the points? I disagree with you.

    “Deliberately ense” may be the most charitabe way to put it. You do realize that “individual soldiers” wouldn’t exist without the IDF, and the IDF wouldn’t exist without the State, right? “Government” has nothing to do with it. Governments change all the time. One day, halevai, there’ll be a religious government. Would you be opposed to that? (There will be those who are; I ask for information.)

  • APOV

    Halevai is exactly my point . There is every reason to assume that this will never happen ( until Moshiach comes ) .
    Also , what do you mean by religious government ? Based on halacha ? Changing most if not all the principles and laws that are currently in place ? ( even without getting into the ” modern civil librties compatibiliy with halacha ” debate ) . Do you realize that unless every resident became religious ( halevai ) , This government would be dealing with enormous and probably insurmountable obstacles .
    As to your other point .If you were to continue with your logic of what wouldnt be if not for somthing else you are starting a dangerous line of reasoning . Even so there probably is some kind of chiyuv hakoras hatov as far back as possible , it simply cannot compare at all with the person or institution ( in our case the individual soldiers and the IDF ) that actually provide the benefit .

  • Nachum Lamm

    APOV, I have every reason to believe it will happen “before Mashiach.” In fact, I imagine Mashiach will *then* come. If you wish it to be different, go right ahead.

    A state run according to halacha? How so? Is there a halachic way to pick up the trash? Or do you mean executing mechaleli shabbos? Apart from that, the State is pretty halachic already.

    I also hope you realize that “individual soldiers” do nothing, as individuals, if they don’t have an army. And an army does nothing without the infrastructure of a government and state supporting it.

  • APOV

    ” Every reason ” . Please share with us one ( or two ) .

    ” pretty halachic ” . That is precisely the difference between halachic and non-halachic .

    We would in fact be obligated to enforce all and any halacha through any means permissible including cherem Knosos and malkos , as was always the case throughout our post churban history whenever we were in a position to do so ( many gentile authorities throughout golus did not mix in to these issues )[ these do not include things that need beis din hagodol].How about removing a child from the care of parents to ensure a Halachic upbringing ?

  • Ori Pomerantz

    Without significant cultural changes, current demographic trends are likely to continue. This means that in a couple of generations Israel will be mostly populated by Charedim, Datiim-Leumiim, and Arabs.

    If APOV’s opinions are at all common, it would behoove young Chilonim to either fight this trend or leave the country.

  • Bob Miller

    Are Nachum Lamm’s words “pretty halachic already” meant to imply that:
    1. The State generally enforces halacha in society in the manner prescribed by Torah?
    2. The State falls into a category defined in halacha?
    3. The State uses terminology derived from halacha?
    4. The State generally reveres, consults with, and follows experts in halacha?
    5. The State allows halacha to exist in some form in some parts of society?
    6. The State is not against halacha in principle?
    7. The State generally uses halacha to guide its domestic and foreign policy?
    8. The State is not willing to openly reject all of halacha?

  • Nachum

    APOV, one good reason is that I’m an optimist. Another is that religious Jews already account for a quarter to a third of the population. That’s not far to go until a majority.

    Bob, a “State” is a legal construct. It does not approve or disapprove, etc. etc. I am talking actual halacha- the institutions of the government keeping, say, Shabbos and kashrus. What more that can be done that doesn’t infringe on personal freedoms (which would, of course, require a whole different paradigm)?

    So let’s see: 2,3,5,6,8 definitely. 1 should not be necessary, of course. 4 and 7 are not necessary (see “picking up the trash” above).

  • Bob Miller

    Nachum,
    By “State” I meant the sitting government acting for the State. If the State had a constitution, I’d include that, too.

  • Ori Pomerantz

    Nachum, isn’t there an inherent contradiction between personal freedoms (as practiced in modern western societies, such as Israel) and Halacha (which requires a Jewish society to enforce it)? I’d assume that a Halachic state would do #1, ignoring personal freedoms – that’s the reason I will not live in such a state.

  • Nachum

    Ori, it was Dinesh D’Souza who pointed out, shortly after 9/11, that a society which must enforce religion and virtue by force is not, by definition, a religious or virtuous society. (D’Souza himself seems to have completely reversed himself on the point, but it remains true.) I’m sure- I hope- that in a Messianic age, there will be no need for a Sanhedrin to enforce halacha through capital or corporeal punishment. Like you, I fear the alternative.

  • Ori Pomerantz

    Nachum, I’m talking about a society prior to Yemot HaMashiach. We don’t know when Mashiach will come, and we do know that prior to that Halacha says you should enforce it, by force if needed.

    BTW, AFAIK all human societies need to enforce certain virtues, such as not murdering and not stealing, by force and the threat of force.

  • Aryeh

    Nachum, it’s interesting that you quote Dinesh D’Souza for your definition of a religious or irreligious society. Why not look at what the Torah says instead of a contemporary American intellectual? If you’re going to have an authentically Jewish viewpoint about this you have to go to the primary sources before you go to Dinesh D’Souza. Even a Modern Orthodox viewpoint has to take into account at least two sources. You seem to have a completly “modern” one. The Orthodox one has been lost somewhere along the way.

  • Nachum Lamm

    Aryeh- all I can say is, “Why, thank you!” You’ve obviously read my post to mean what you want it to, and accused me of losing my religion. You want me to quote Torah, I can quote Torah at you as much as you want. This just happened to be appropriate here. And, of course, it’s an undeniable fact: An ideal society would not need coercion, no?

    Speaking of which, it should be pointed out that it’s likely that an ideal halakhic society has never- never- existed in Judaism, apart, perhaps, for a few days in front of Har Sinai and some scattered periods under some kings. Doesn’t mean it can’t happen- and we all hope it will- but facts is facts.

  • Ori Pomerantz

    Nachum Lamm, do you think that such an ideal society is consistent with human beings who have an evil inclination? Maybe I’m too cynical, but it seems to me like an impossible dream, which if pursued will be very dangerous.

  • Nachum Lamm

    Yes, but corporal and capital punishment is not administered to people due to failings attributable to the yetzer hora. The threshold is much higher than that, and in an ideal society, sure, you may have- probably will have- sinners, but not to such a degree that such punishments will be meted out.

    In fact, it makes one wonder: Without an ideal society, perhaps it would be better if punishment did *not* follow halacha strictly, but allowed for punishments harsher than that. There is, of course, ample precedent for such a concept in halachic history: The right of the king (or a substitute) to execute murderers who could not be convicted by strict halacha, for example.