A Handbook for Jewish Resistance, pt 3

Matthew Gindin
19 min readJan 30, 2024


Rav Yehudah Ashlag (1885–1954)

“From Moshe to Moshe, there was no one like Moshe.”

This is a traditional saying about Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, also known as Musa Ibn Maimon (since he wrote mostly in Arabic and was the personal physician of the Sultan of Cairo) and as Maimonides, since he was embraced by Latin-using Christian theologians more than any other Rabbi in history. Orthodox Jews generally call him the Rambam, using the acronym of his name.

After the Mishna and Talmud, the most influential legal text in Judaism is the Mishneh Torah, a compendium of Jewish law written for the common person by the Rambam in the 11th century. To this day it is the final authority recognized by the Jews of Yemen (Temanim). It would be misleading to portray the Rambam as holding political and social values we would agree with today, many of his opinions are a mixed bag: for instance he provided a legal framework for Jewish Kings which had more to do with Islamic and Graeco-Roman standards then ones from the Torah, and was famously elitist, arguing that the highest expression of Jewish life was found in intellectual contemplation and meditation on the ineffable, incomprehensible nature of the one-ness of God. Yet it is interesting to see the way the Rambam’s thought continues to ethically echo the sensitivities mentioned in our last class, seeing mercy and non-combativeness as essential to Jewish identity. As we all know, the question “who is a Jew?” tends to provoke debate in the Jewish community, and throughout Jewish history the question of tribal lineage and Jewishness has provoked contention and struggle, as it does in the Canadian Indigenous and Metis communities today, for a parallel. The Rambam codified (made Jewish law) an interesting answer in the Mishneh Torah, albeit one that has not been accepted by later Rabbis.

כָּל מִשְׁפָּחוֹת בְּחֶזְקַת כְּשֵׁרוֹת וּמֻתָּר לִשָּׂא מֵהֶן לְכַתְּחִלָּה. וְאַף עַל פִּי כֵן אִם רָאִיתָ שְׁתֵּי מִשְׁפָּחוֹת שֶׁמִּתְגָּרוֹת זוֹ בָּזוֹ תָּמִיד אוֹ רָאִיתָ מִשְׁפָּחָה שֶׁהִיא בַּעֲלַת מַצָּה וּמְרִיבָה תָּמִיד. אוֹ רָאִיתָ אִישׁ שֶׁהוּא מַרְבֶּה מְרִיבָה עִם הַכּל וְעַז פָּנִים בְּיוֹתֵר. חוֹשְׁשִׁין לָהֶן וְרָאוּי לְהִתְרַחֵק מֵהֶן שֶׁאֵלּוּ סִימָנֵי פַּסְלוּת הֵם. וְכֵן הַפּוֹסֵל אֶת אֲחֵרִים תָּמִיד. כְּגוֹן שֶׁנּוֹתֵן שֶׁמֶץ בְּמִשְׁפָּחוֹת אוֹ בִּיחִידִים וְאוֹמֵר עֲלֵיהֶן שֶׁהֵן מַמְזֵרִים. חוֹשְׁשִׁין לוֹ שֶׁמָּא מַמְזֵר הוּא. וְאִם אָמַר לָהֶן שֶׁהֵם עֲבָדִים חוֹשְׁשִׁין לוֹ שֶׁמָּא עֶבֶד הוּא. שֶׁכָּל הַפּוֹסֵל בְּמוּמוֹ פּוֹסֵל. וְכֵן כָּל מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ עַזּוּת פָּנִים אוֹ אַכְזָרִיּוּת וְשׂוֹנֵא אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת וְאֵינוֹ גּוֹמֵל לָהֶם חֶסֶד חוֹשְׁשִׁין לוֹ בְּיוֹתֵר שֶׁמָּא גִּבְעוֹנִי הוּא. שֶׁסִּימָנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הָאֻמָּה הַקְּדוֹשָׁה בַּיְשָׁנִין רַחֲמָנִים וְגוֹמְלֵי חֲסָדִים. וּבַגִּבְעוֹנִים הוּא אוֹמֵר (שמואל ב כא ב) “וְהַגִּבְעֹנִים לֹא מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הֵמָּה” לְפִי שֶׁהֵעֵזּוּ פְּנֵיהֶם וְלֹא נִתְפַּיְּסוּ וְלֹא רִחֲמוּ עַל בְּנֵי שָׁאוּל וְלֹא גָּמְלוּ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל חֶסֶד לִמְחל לִבְנֵי מַלְכָּם וְהֵם עָשׂוּ עִמָּהֶם חֶסֶד וְהֶחֱיוּם בַּתְּחִלָּה:

We operate under the presumption that all families are of acceptable lineage and it is permitted to marry their descendants as an initial and preferred option. Nevertheless, if you see two families continuously quarreling with each other, you see one family that is always involved with strife and controversy, or you see a person who frequently quarrels with people at large and is very insolent, we suspect [their lineage]. It is fitting to distance oneself from such people for these are disqualifying characteristics.

Similarly, a person who always slurs the lineage of others, casting aspersions on the ancestry of families or individuals, claiming that they are mamzerim, we are suspicious that he himself is a mamzer. Similarly, if he calls others servants, we suspect that he is a servant. For whoever denigrates others, denigrates them with a blemish that he himself possesses.

Similarly, whenever a person is characterized by insolence and cruelty, hating people and not showing kindness to them, we seriously suspect that he is not really a Jew but a Gibeonite. For the distinguishing signs of the holy nation of Israel is that they are meek, merciful, and kind. With regard to the Gibeonites, [II Samuel 21:2] states: “The Gibeonites are not of the Jewish people.” For they acted extremely brazenly and would not be appeased. They did not show mercy to the sons of [King] Saul, nor did they show kindness to the Jews to forgive the descendants of their king, while [the Jews] had shown them kindness and allowed them to live.

For Rabbis from the time of the Mishnah onward, to be a merciful person was to be God-like:

“This is my God and I will glorify Him ” (Exod 15 :2). Abba Shaul says: This means “I will be like Him — just as the One is merciful and gracious, so you be merciful and gracious.” (Mekhilta Shirah 3) 39. Why is it written: “After YHVH your God you will walk”? — And would it be possible for a human to walk after the Shekhinah, and wasn’t it already said, “For YHVH your God is a consuming fire” (Deut 4:24)? Rather it means to walk after the Holy One’s qualities/midot. Just as the One clothes the naked, so should you clothe the naked; just as the Holy One visits the sick, so should you visit the sick, comfort mourners, bury the dead.

(Talmud Bavli Sotah 14a)

The Talmud points out that the Torah begins and concludes with God’s acts of kindness to people. Elsewhere, the Midrash says that chesed (loving-kindness) is the central value of the Torah. The Mishnah also says that chesed is one of three values for which the world was created and, therefore, upon which the continued existence of the world is dependent. It also states that chesed is rewarded more than most other commandments.

Warren Goldstein and Berel Wein undertook a project of remembering the forgotten in The Legacy: Teachings For Life From The Great Lithuanian Rabbis, where they describe a world of Rabbis focused on personal morality, humility, and unflinching integrity. These great Rabbis– still revered by the Orthodox Jews today– would even avoid religious dress in public because they thought it was pretentious and misleading, and suggest a Jew should not hang tzitzit outside of their pants or grow long peyos, or wear a “pious uniform” since it suggested a level of holiness higher than others, when inside they might not be so holy. They point out that in the Litvak ethical tradition of Jewish law, “One is prohibited from doing things that are not nice. Public opinion of the probity of a person’s behavior was always to be taken into account. A good Jew was usually defined in Jewish life in terms of pleasantness and goodness toward others and not exclusively in terms of observance and piety. The common response of Lithuanian Jews regarding the frumkeit of a person was “frum iz a galach,” (being frum is for Catholic priests) i.e., that superficial religiosity — exclusively concentrating on personal spirituality and punctilious observances of the law — is not the measure of a good Jew.”

As Rabbi Simchah Zissel Ziev, the “Alter” of Kelm, wrote, “How great is the requirement that a person care about the feelings of others, that they should not be pained by him! We see that the prophet Jeremiah, while in great personal mental agony over the prophecy of the impending destruction of the Temple, nevertheless did not forget to greet and bless others whom he chanced to meet on the way.” In short, the Alter states, “Concern about the welfare of others is in reality the ultimate concern regarding one’s own self and one’s own soul.”

As Goldstein and Wein write, “The concept of being a mensch is multi-faceted, but can be distilled to three basic principles: derech eretz (appropriate behavior), middos tovos (good character traits), and, of course, the mitzvos bein adam lechaveiro (the actual commandments that relate to human interactions).” These commandments include not taking revenge, not harboring grudges, not dwelling in or expressing anger, not speaking negatively of other people without very good reason, not distressing others with one’s speech, not harming anyone’s livelihood, giving tzedakah, not shaming anyone in public, and a host of other ethical commandments which have the same gravity as kosher laws or the laws of the prayer.

The Vilna Gaon says that middos tovos are not explicitly mentioned in the Torah “because they encompass the entire Torah, as it states [in the Talmud], ‘Whoever becomes angry — it is as if he worships idols,’ and ‘Whoever speaks lashon hara (negative gossip)– it is as though he denies God.’” In another passage, he writes that the main purpose of the Torah is refinement and the inculcation of good character traits.

Goldstein and Wein wrote that “ethical maturity here means going to great lengths to avoid causing any harm to another person, no matter how indirect that harm may be. A righteous person is someone who goes beyond the letter of the law in this respect. The Gemara gives an example of the “early saintly people” (the great people of earlier generations) who buried broken glass or pottery deep in the ground so that no one could be injured by the sharp edges of the broken pieces. This conduct exemplifies excellence in bein adam lechaveiro (interpersonal commandments).”

Rabbi Aharon Yitzchak Halevi Epstein (father of Rabbi Yechiel Michel Halevi Epstein, the esteemed Aruch Hashulchan), wrote:

“All those who had business dealings with my grandfather, Jew or non-Jew, recall their relationship with him with the utmost admiration. Not only was he more than fair in paying his workers a proper wage, but whenever the slightest question arose as to whether he owed money, he would immediately agree to pay, no questions asked. He used to say, ‘If a spoon with even the slightest trace of suspicion of being treif became mixed up with many kosher spoons, I would certainly kasher all of them as the din (law) requires. Why should I treat a monetary question with any less gravity than a question in kashrus? On the contrary, in a question of kashrus the sin is only between myself and Heaven, whereas in a monetary matter it includes both Heaven and my fellow human.’”

Goldstein and Wein point out that “the mitzvah of emulating God includes behaving with kindness and compassion to all human beings; as the verse states: ‘His compassion is on all His works.’ Again, we can look for guidance to Rabbi Baruch Epstein: My grandfather was particularly careful when doing business with a non-Jew. A general order went out to all his clerks and business managers that if there was even one chance in a hundred that a non-Jewish worker might be owed wages, to pay him anyway, lest the oversight would cause a Chillul Hashem [public desecration of Gods name]…. Indeed, as the Smag explains, stealing from a non-Jew is worse than stealing from a Jew because of the Chillul Hashem involved.”

The Gaon broadens the concept of sinful speech beyond lashon hara to include scoffing, breaking vows and oaths, and conflict-laden speech, all of which constitute bad middos. He urges his wife to guide everyone in their household to speak in ways that avoid conflict, “rather, everything [said] must only be in peace, in love, and in affection and in gentleness.”

There’s an old Lithuanian Yiddish saying that expresses a unique worldview: “A Jew is not frum — a Jew is eirlich.” Or as my coparent’s Zaida once said to me, “Besser a gute, than a frum yid.”: yid Frum means religious and eirlich means honest and upright. The ultimate accolade, the very essence of a Jew is not his level of religiosity, but his level of eirlichkeit, connoting his honesty, integrity, and uprightness.


To turn to the Hasidic side of the isle (as will do again with Rav Ashlag below), here are some quotes on war and peace from Rabbi Nachman (1772–1810), the grandson of the founder of Hasidism and a great mystic and visionary:

On the subject of wars between nations and needless bloodshed, [Rabbi Nachman] said:

“Many foolish beliefs that people once held, such as forms of idol-worship that demanded child sacrifice, etc., have disappeared. But, as of yet, the foolish belief in the pursuit of war has not disappeared.”

He used to ridicule certain scientists, saying: “What great thinkers they must be, what ingenuity they must possess to invent amazing weapons that can kill thousands of people at once! Is there any greater foolishness than this — to murder so many people for nothing?” (Chayei Moharan 546).

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov predicted, “The Moshiach will conquer the world without a shot being fired” (Siach Sarfei Kodesh II, 1:67).

He also said, “To the extent that there is peace in the world, mankind can be brought to serve G-d with one accord. Because of the peace that exists between people, they are able to enter into dialogue with one another and together think about the purpose of the world and its vanities. They can discuss the truth with one another­ that ultimately nothing will remain of a person but the prepara­tions he makes for the Eternal World. “Nothing accompanies a man, neither silver or gold, precious gems or pearls, but only Torah and good deeds” (Avos 6:9). By realizing this, each person will cast away his false gods of silver and turn to the Creator, His Torah, and Divine service; he will bring himself to the truth. However, when there is no peace, G-d forbid, or, worse, when there is actual strife, people cannot get together to discuss the ultimate purpose of life. Even when, on occasion, they do meet and talk to one another, [if someone speaks the truth] his words are not heard due to the climate of jealousy, conflict, spite, and disdain. Aggression and the desire to win arguments cannot bear the truth. Thus, the main thing that keeps most people far from the Creator is strife, which has become widespread because of our many sins. May G-d have mercy upon us (Likutei Eitzos, Shalom 4; also see Likutei Moharan I: 27, quoted by Reb Dovid Sears).

His disciple, Reb Nosson, who preserved all of his teachings and wrote Kabbalistic works and collections of prayers, wrote the following prayer:

Lord of Peace, Divine Ruler, to whom peace belongs!

Master of Peace, Creator of all things!

May it be your will to put an end to war and bloodshed on earth, and to spread a great and wonderful peace over the whole world, so that nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

Help us and save us all and let us cling tightly to the virtue of peace. Let there truly be great peace between every person and their fellow, and between spouses, and let there be no discord between people even in their hearts.

Let us never shame any person on earth, great or small. May it be granted unto us to fulfill your commandment to “love your fellow as yourself” with all of our hearts and souls and bodies and possessions.

And let it come to pass in our time as it is written, “And I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down and none shall make you afraid, I will drive the destructive from the land, and neither shall the sword go through your land.”

God who is peace, bless us with peace!

Rabbi Aharon Shmuel Tamares 1869–1931

“Woe to those creatures who see, but know not what they see.”

(Talmud Hagigah 21b, quoted in the Rasht’s “The Community of Israel and The Wars of The Nations.”)

Rabbi Tamares, the Rasht, was born in Poland (then Belarus) not far from where my family originates. Rabbi Everett Gendler has made a treasure trove of his writings available in the book The Passionate Pacificist, from which the information here comes. In the Rasht’s autobiographical writings, the rabbi talks about growing up as a religious and idealistic young man fiercely dedicated to intense Torah study. Witnessing the poverty among his fellow Jews and the tensions with their Gentile neighbors, he became interested in the Zionist movement. He traveled to attend Zionist congresses and read Zionist literature. However, what he discovered among the Zionists horrified him. Instead of an ethically idealistic movement for the common people, he perceived the Zionists as violent nationalists all too willing to collaborate with oppressive empires.

Turning away from the Zionist movement, he spent the next decades of his life articulating a humane, non-violent, ethically focused Judaism. This Judaism promoted good relations between Jews and non-Jews and a concern for the well-being of all people. It was intensely critical of the Zionist movement.

One of his criticisms of the Zionist movement was the way it diverted energy and funds away from where they were most needed in the Jewish community: the project of addressing the poverty and despair of Jews and Jewish/gentile conflict. He saw the Zionist project as misconceived and immoral. In his pamphlet on Judaism and Liberty in 1905, he wrote, “If we devoted to such a project but one small part of the precious funds that Zionism yearly collects for its Herzlism, people would receive from the project sevenfold the blessing that it receives from Zionism. But why do I say sevenfold? Zionism is the complete opposite of this project. Anyone who looks into the Zionist literature with a penetrating eye can see that Zionism strives constantly to pour the spirit of depression and despair into the heart of our persecuted people and attempts to deny its eternal hope based on the promise of its holy scriptures that worldwide justice will in the end reign supreme. Zionism never misses any incident in the world, be it great or small, without proclaiming from it at the top of its voice that anti-Semitism is growing ever stronger. All this in order to prove that only from Dr. Herzl does salvation arise for Israel.”

“Zionist journals have released throughout the world a flock of black ravens, harbingers of evil tidings ready to pounce upon any foul deed at the furthest ends of the earth and immediately publicize it to prove thereby that anti-Semitism has cropped up in places. Discouraged by this of any hope for the cure of the disease in places already afflicted, we read continuously in the World Events sections of Hebrew newspapers reports providing balm for our already aching hearts from London, New York, Cape Town, or other places where Jews are scattered. The reporter, certain that we have not yet received all the blows we deserve, invariably begins the report with these words: ‘Anyone who says that here, in the lands of freedom, Jews can live in security, kindly let him know such and such an incident that should hit him where it hurts,’ or, ‘Let him please read newspaper such and such, and he will see signs of hatred and the indications of a program against the Jews are unmistakable; it will surely come; it will not tarry.’

“With pleasant tidings such as these, we are honored by our newspapers spread about the world to pluck constantly such thorns. It would be impossible to understand why they come to reassure aching hearts with such encouraging news, were it not that reporters themselves never forget to conclude with words such as these: ‘Therefore, we must support the full strength of our great leader, and only in the shadow of his wings shall we find refuge. Selah.’ Let us at least count this to their credit that they were not able to restrain themselves and conceal in their hearts the source from which flow the ideas and the hangouts where their faces are regularly seen.”

“In one word, all the Zionist literature is fed exclusively by this plague. It spends all the day long pointing to the evidence of sickness and disease in the relations between Jews and their neighbors. It is easy to imagine how the air is cleared of all impurity and dross by their perpetual effort to prove that the faithful fail among human beings, to cast doubt and slander upon righteous spirits, and to give absolute assurance that deeds of corruption and violence are everlasting visions, ordinances of the world which shall not be transgressed. How terribly tragic that the Holy Spirit, the spirit of honesty that invested the pages of Hebrew literature in the beginning, has vanished in these later times, these days of shrill slogans of nationalistic movements.”

A taste of the Torah of the Rasht can be found in his Yom Kippur sermon of 1904, Emunah T’horah (Pure Trust). First the Rasht clarifies that Yom Kippur is not a time to appease or serve God, and to underline that explains that the entire purpose of the Torah is in fact to fulfill God’s concern for human beings. “Wherever you find the greatness of the Blessed Holy One, there you also find mentioned God’s humility” he quotes from Megillah 31b.

The humility of YHVH is exemplified His concern for the vulnerable and the stranger, i.e. for the “lowliest” of human beings. The Rasht says, “Assuredly not aquitting those cruel leaders who grind the faces of the poor and helpless, the weak and oppressed, this is the the nature of God, the God of Israel.”

The purpose of abstaining from food, drink, sexuality, adornment and leather clothes is not punishment or mortification, says the Rasht, but the attainment of humility. It is to remind us that “the tragic law of life is that the sustenance of each living creature involves the destruction and consumption of other living creatures.” By abstaining from these things, we are humbled and reminded of our responsibilities to other creatures.

To do Teshuvah, he explains, is to use this humility to return to our source, YHVH, and to remember that this source is abundant. “God as Creator assures us that on this earth there is, indeed, sufficient for us along with all fellow creatures. This is the implication of “I am the Eternal” that concludes the mandate, “You must love your neighbor as yourself. (Lev 19:18).” Look toward the eternal, toward the source of all existence, the First Cause, and you become aware that you and your neighbour are equal in God’s eyes; that insight validates the commandment.”

The Rasht then explains that Yom Kippur is the source of the Yuval, or Jubilee, when debts are forgiven and slaves released. The blow of the Shofar “proclaims the triumph of true freedom in freeing the slaves from the physical shackles of their slavery and their masters from the moral chains of their evil dominance.” Finally he quotes Isaiah’s famous verses, which we read in the first class, proclaiming that the true purpose of Yom Kippur is justice.

The Baal Hasulam

Among the few who know of Rav Yehuda Ashlag (1885–1954), his name is associated with esoteric Jewish thought or with the pop Kabbalah movements led by his second generation students (for some time Madonna made a yearly pilgrimage to his grave). Some may know that he translated the central work of Jewish mysticism, the Zohar, into modern Hebrew in the early 50s, or have studied his brilliant commentary on it, Perush al HaSulaam (The Ladder).

Few remember him as a political pamphleteer and utopian who proposed models for a socialist society. Ashlag was born into a Polish Hasidic family and moved to Israel in 1921, spending most of his life there until his death in 1954. A group of disciples gathered around him and in the 30s he began writing essays and political pamphlets which promoted the popular study of Kabbalah, which he thought would cause revolutionary changes throughout the world. He also promoted a Kabbalistic take on the political movements in pre-mandate Palestine and a universal love ethic intended for both the Jewish and non-Jewish world. Rav Ashlag hoped that Zionism would be the beginning of a return to a universalist love ethic in Palestine which would then rejuvenate the world.

A Cosmology of Gifts

Ashlag’s vision of the purpose of creation and the purpose of Judaism were united in one idea: that God had created the universe in order to have an other to give to (this idea had been expounded before him by Hesdai Crescas [1340–1411] and Moshe Chaim Luzzatto [1707–1746]). What God wants to give is Himself, and His way of doing so is to create a creature who unlike God, the Giver, is inherently a Receiver. The Creature receives God by becoming like God, or in other words, becoming a Giver as well.

Through Torah and mitzvot humans develop the will to give benefit (ratzon l’hashpia), the desire to serve God and fellow human beings. Humans evolve towards union with God in one of two ways: either on the basis of wisdom or the basis of suffering. In the end, believed Ashlag, all souls (Jewish and non-) will reincarnate until they have attained affinity of form with the Creator.

This is one vector of evolution; the other takes place on earth where human society, as he put it, “sluggishly and painfully evolves” until all of its relationships reflect love. Ashlag is unusual in claiming that the mitzva of v’ahavta l’reacha kamocha (love your fellow as yourself) generally cannot be fulfilled except in a communitarian society where everyone’s needs are met, thus allowing people to give selflessly because they live free from fear. Whereas some individuals may be ahead of the curve, generally the individual and the world are interdependent.

Humanity evolves together and no one is free of responsibility for the rectification of the world: “There is no difference between people, between the black and white and the yellow, between the wise and the foolish. They are all equal, and each is obligated (Ashlag, Global and Local Spiritualities.).”

Ashlag stressed that every ethnic group in a society must be treated equally to maintain peace, lest resentments lead to violence when those who profit from war play on the inequalities in society to foment conflict. Further, argued Ashlag, every nation must serve the whole world, since the wellbeing of world and nation are inescapably intertwined.

Ashlag wrote that the messianic society would have at its core education towards other-centredness where the greatest human wisdom on “sharing with the other” would be housed in a vast library. The houses of justice would not give out punishments but rather rewards, and citizens would wear badges showing their accomplishments in serving the community. The citizenry would in fact compete in serving others, and even endanger themselves in feats of altruistic daring-do. Those who act in a self-interested manner lose social status, and if they do something concretely wrong they are sent to the house of justice. There they do not receive punishment, though, but some benefit that aims at healing and empowering them. “Every defendant comes out of the house of justice with some profit.” (Ashlag, On World Peace).

Justice is entirely restorative, and extreme cases are sent to houses of healing and treated with appropriate therapy. Everyone is assigned mandatory work hours based on their capacity, with the stronger working more: everyone is rewarded for their level of effort, not the quantity of their work. In addition to mandatory work people are encourage to add volunteer work according to their taste and capacity.

Ashlag felt that revolutionary changes should be made slowly and without violence, and with the attitude of taking what is in the world and refining it, rather than of destroying or eliminating things. He criticised “false repairers of the world” for this destructive attitude, arguing that everything in both nature and human culture has a divinely ordained value and simply needs to be refined; “it is well known that in the beginning God did not finish Creation but left it for us to perfect.” Although Ashlag argued that Utopia would need to ground its values in religion to succeed, and envisioned the whole world ultimately adopting a purified Judaism, he also argued against eliminating other religions through any means whatsoever: “God allows every nation to keep its religious customs that were received by its sages; each people according to its preferences and spirit.”

Ashlag critiqued the forceful elimination of private property (though he called the abandonment of private property “our most exalted concept”). Ashlag also wrote that he disagreed with the attempt of some radicals to destroy religion and nationalism. He argued that the religious and the nationalists be resisted only when they directly fight against revolutionary change, but otherwise harassment against them is “crime and evil-mindedness”. Ashlag asserted that nationalism should be embraced and refined, until in the messianic future it could be “completely uprooted and fought against”. He conceded that religion and nationalism had presented “the most terrible opposition” to the revolutionary programs, “according to the nature they have received from the bourgeoisie”. He also supported the maintenance of national and ethnic identities, and offered the interesting halachic midrash that “every country has it’s own ideas and ancestral heritage, some important and some less, and the prohibition against murder applies to all of them” (i.e. ethnocide, the destruction of a culture, is halachically forbidden as a violation of the commandment against murder).

With Tamares and Ashlag, we arrive at two visionary Orthodox Rabbis, one an anti-Zionist and one a radical utopian Zionist. At this point we should take a step back to look at early responses to Zionism in the Jewish community, from a time before it became a new Orthodoxy itself. I’ll pursue that in my next essay.