Head of the Religious Council of Gush Etzion
In 5699 (1939), near the Torah portion of Bamidbar, the British published their “White Paper” which limited Jewish entry into Eretz Yisrael. The Rebbe of Husiatyn did not mince words in his reaction to this decree, and in his writing we can sense his tempestuous reaction. The following is what he wrote.
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[This week the government of England published a “White Paper” which was an expression of its betrayal of the nation of Yisrael.]
The Haftarah of the Torah portion of Bamidbar is the prophecy of Hoshaya. “And the number of Bnei Yisrael will be as the sands of the sea, which cannot be measured and cannot be counted. And it will be that instead of saying to them, ‘You are not My nation,’ it will be said to them, ‘the sons of the Living G-d.’ And the children of Yehuda and Yisrael will be gathered together, and they will choose a single leader, and they will rise up from the land, for the day of Yizrael is great.” [2:1-2].
The day of the ingathering of the exiles is as great as the day when heaven and earth were created (Pesachim 88a). And Yisrael is called by the nickname “Yizrael” because they were planted among the nations (from “lizro’a,” to plant).
Our hope and our belief and confidence that we will return to Eretz Yisrael and rebuild its ruins are based on the promises of the prophets, who spoke in the name of G-d, and whose words will never fall by the wayside when the time comes for them to be fulfilled. We do not base our aspirations on the Balfour Declaration and on the promises of England. We have known from the beginning that their mouths speak untruth, and that their right hand attests to a lie.
However, when the declaration was made many Jews came and invested money and blood in the enterprise of building up Eretz Yisrael, for we can never afford to pass up any opportunity to rebuild and to settle our holy land, since the sages have taught us in Sifri that living in Eretz Yisrael is the equivalent of observing all the mitzvot. And that is also what the Ramban wrote in his commentary of the Sefer Hamitzvot of the Rambam: When the Torah wrote, “You shall take possession of the land and dwell there, for I have given the land to you” [Bamidbar 33:53], that was not only an ideal and a promise, it was a positive mitzva. We must settle the land if we have an opportunity and not leave it as a wilderness. That is, not only is there a mitzva to live on the land, we must also build there and plant. This is a positive mitzva for all generations which obligates each and every one of us even during the time of exile, as can be seen from many sources in the Talmud.
And there is another reason why many of our people took advantage of this opportunity and came to Eretz Yisrael to rebuild it. Some of our ancestors saw our time as the beginning of the ingathering of the exiles. For example, RADAK writes (commentary on Tehillim 146:3): Just as Koresh in the exile of Babylon was a messenger in the hands of the Divine guidance to give a license to rebuild Eretz Yisrael, so in the future G-d will arrange for rebuilding by virtue of a license given by the kings of the other nations... Thus, just as we did not rely on England and its promises, so we should not despair when it betrays us, heaven forbid.
The distortion of traitors and all of their falsehoods and intrigue cannot block the fulfillment of the prophecy quoted above, “And the children of Yehuda and Yisrael will be gathered together, and they will choose a single leader,” referring to Mashiach, the King. And all of our demonstrations and protests are good, we must continue to protest and demonstrate against evil that is done to us, even though we know and have faith that with G-d’s help the others will not be able to harm us, heaven forbid.
According to a well-known folk tale, the other nations of the world are crossing an iron bridge while Yisrael goes on a bridge made of paper. In the future, the bridge made of iron will break and they will fall into the water and drown, while we continue to go on to our destination. The meaning of this is that the other nations put their trust in their iron swords, but they will falter and fall. We go on a bridge made of paper, symbolizing the holy Torah. How a great reward awaits those who follow its path!
There are some Jews in Eretz Yisrael who are faithful to their people and their land. They build and work, and they are ready at any time to sacrifice their lives for Yisrael and for Eretz Yisrael, and this is without a doubt a great thing. However, it is a shame that some of them forget that the nation of Yisrael must forever be linked to the name of G-d. They forget that the nation of Yisrael is different from all the other nations. The others are nothing more than nations, while Yisrael is the nation of G-d. However, I am confident that these people too will return to the understanding that Yisrael is the nation of G-d and they will then come to the right conclusion based on this recognition.
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Next week we mark 30 years since the passing of Rabbi Yisrael Yosef Shalom Friedman, the Pashkiner Rebbe.
Rabbi Yisrael was a seventh-generation descendent of Rabbi Yisrael, who founded the Rozhin Dynasty of Chassidut. In his manner and behavior, he continued according to the unique path of the Husiatyn Dynasty, which is part of the Rozhin tradition. Their ideal is a humble sect, combining true modesty and Zionism. In this way, Rabbi Yisrael showed by his life an example of everything that is beautiful in Chassidut.
Rabbi Yisrael’s sons continue on his path in Chassidut. They are intimately embedded within the community of Yisrael, they take part in social missions throughout Israel, and day by day they carry on his way of life, along with hundreds of his students.
May his memory guide us along the path of Torah!