One Shepherd or Several?

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Acharei Mot 5771 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: Do we, the religious Zionists, have one shepherd as do the Charedim, or several?
Answer: There are several shepherds, and all of them are beloved. Once we could say that we had one shepherd: Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook, and after him, Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, but now we have several shepherds.
Yet when we say "shepherd", we have a preliminary question to clarify: upon which green pastures is he shepherding the flocks, and where is he leading them? And if the shepherd does not know which direction to go, he must look at the flock: “If you do not know, fairest of women, Go follow the tracks of the sheep” (Shir Ha-Shirim 1:8). As is well-known, Ikvei HaTzon [the tracks of the sheep] is the name of a book by Maran Ha-Rav Kook, in which the Shepherd explains the characteristics of the sheep, as far as how to lead them.
Now then, where are the sheep headed? The answer is simple: we are rising to rebirth.
We are not ignoring all the shortcomings in our communal lives, writes Rav Kook in his book Orot. Yet even taking all that into account, we have to concede that we are being born anew as a Nation, a Nation in its Land and in its State.
And here is where the shepherd’s task comes into play: we need workers and soldiers, and no less than that, we need men of faith and men of spirit. That is the shepherd’s task: to invest a soul into the Nation’s rebirth, or, more precisely, to uncover the soul hidden within the Nation's rebirth.
In this regard, Maran Ha-Rav Kook had four ideas about who should do this:
1. The Charedim. Certainly the Charedim, who are devoted to Torah and Mitzvot, to the fear of G-d and to sterling character, should be the natural spiritual leaders of the Nation's rebirth. Yet, as is well-known, that has not materialized. Why not? This is not the place to analyze that. It suffices for us to accept the fact that the Charedim have not taken an interest in the Nation’s rebirth in its Land.
2. The Mizrachi. Seemingly the Mizrachi is suited precisely to this. After all, engraved upon its flag are the words: the Nation of Israel in the Land of Israel according to the Torah of
Israel. Yet here a problem arose, writes Rav Kook in his letters: the Mizrachi are compromisers. They compromise both on Torah and on the Land of Israel. Since they compromise on Torah, the Charedim are not attracted by them, and since they compromise
on the Land of Israel, the Zionists are not attracted by them.
Yet, let us not fall prey to slander. Their compromises do not necessarily stem from weakness, but from a calculation of national responsibility, that in order to gather vast numbers under that umbrella, they mustn't be overly precise - they should round out corners. Once more, this is not the place to discuss this. Suffice it to say that in actual fact, the Mizrachi did not fulfill its role of leading the Nation.
3. Degel Yerushalayim. Therefore, Maran Ha-Rav Kook conceived the idea of establishing a new movement that would bind together within it Charedim devoted to the Nation’s rebirth. After all, they will be Charedim, hence the God-fearing public will place their trust in them, and since they will be devoted to the Nation's rebirth, the Zionists and the nationalists and the builders will derive from them a lofty spiritual soul. Obviously, all this would not happen in one day, but through a prolonged process. Yet this plan did not succeed either. Once more, we will not discuss why, although that is very important. Rather, we will advance in our analysis.
4. Mercaz HaRav. The fourth idea, which has in fact succeeded, was Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, the Central Universal Yeshiva. The Yeshiva itself has undergone changes and transitions, but
it addresses young people profoundly connected to the Nation’s rebirth, to the rebuilding of
the Nation in its Land, to the Army and to the State, and it raises them up in Torah until they
become great Torah scholars. Rav Kook and Rav Tzvi Yehuda envisioned the correct process, and from the Yeshiva, whose beginnings were small, were born numerous Yeshivot, spread throughout our Land, each with its own special hue. The result has been hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands of great Torah scholars glorifying the Nation and serving as
its spiritual leadership. Myriads of women have obviously contributed as well.
Clearly, when we say "leader", we do not mean a dictator before whom all stand at attention, but somebody who gradually taps into all of the spiritual resources stored away in the
Nation. As with any human process, ups and downs are likely to occur. It is important to note, however, that while dozens and dozens of Yeshivot stemmed from Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, each with its own particular character, anyone who takes a look at them in the spirit of intellectual tranquility, must admit that there are no great differences between these "daughters" of the mother-Yeshiva. What divides them is minor compare to what unites them: the Nation's rebirth in its land according to its Torah.
True, these small differences bring with them large arguments, yet such is the nature of the lively world of the spirit. This is also the impression one gets from studying Talmud and Jewish law. He thinks he is drowning in a sea of crashing waves, of countless debates, but the truth is that the Rabbis agree on 99% of the issues, with the “world wars” being fought over that 1%.
Yet the very existence of those hues needn't bother us. The main thing is that everybody should respect everybody else. Differences of opinion -- yes. Divided hearts -- no.
It is natural for there to be differences of opinion. There always have been and there always
will be. Even when the Sanhedrin arises and there is one law, there
will still be diverse opinions. But out of this plethora of views will come a single halachic decision, and even that decision could be reversed over time. As is explained in the first chapter of Mishnayot Eduyot, that is the “banquet hall” to which we aspire – a time of uniform law. In the meantime, however, we remain in the “waiting room,” where we are expected to honor one another. We needn’t agree, but we have to show respect. We mustn't ridicule. We mustn't engage in name-calling. We mustn't compartmentalize or assign labels. After all, the ends do not justify the means. One does not perform a Mitzvah by way of a sin. And even for the sake of the greater goal of one's view winning out, one mustn't ridicule anybody, let alone a Torah scholar. And even more so we must not ridicule anybody in the public media for all to hear. That is not the “waiting room” that will lead us to the “banquet hall”.
Indeed, amongst the Rabbis who have spread out from the central Yeshiva, there are many variants: some are more open, some are less so; some love secular knowledge more and some less; some take an interest in culture, and some back away from it; some are more devoted to the State and to the Army, and some less so, and so on, through all the various differences.
At such a time, we have to remember that it is impossible to unite by force or to force our views upon others. After all, we are not talking about small details which one can sometimes forgo for the sake of unity and peace, but about differences in approach that very often are deeply ingrained in the life force of that Torah scholar. It may represent his raison d'etre, through which he views his entire mission.
Therefore, there is also a blessing in the fact that each sapling keeps a distance from the other saplings, as in the metaphor of Maran Ha-Rav Kook (Orot HaKodesh 3:15), lest they steal air and sun and water from one another. Each sapling can develop in a totally free manner. And when it grows up and becomes strong, all of the saplings will join together and the entire row will appear in all its perfection.
Indeed, every approach has to be clarified and strengthened on its own terms, for when all is said and done, a new question stands here before us: the Nation's rebirth. Certainly this is an age-old question, yet for us, no question could be newer. And such was the practice of the first scholars of the Mishnah: every one of them delved as deeply as he could into his
master’s words, in order to pass them on as an inheritance down through the generations.
They did not engage in comparing their master’s approach to other approaches, with questions and answers. Rather, their mission was this: to delve deeply and to understand and to clarify and to strengthen the words of one's master. Only later generations could engage in the work of comparing and unifying after each approach had been well fortified, as may be understood from Rashi on Niddah 8b, at the bottom.
The guiding principle must be for each one to tend to his own garden without trampling the garden of his fellow, and the magnificent end will come.
Parenthetically, it is not clear that among the Charedim there is only one shepherd.
And indeed, this whole communal division between Charedim and Religious Zionists has
no place. There is only one Torah. Neither does the communal division between secular and religious have any place. We are all one people. “And who is like Your Nation, Israel, one Nation in the Land" (Shmuel 1 7:23).