“There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael” (BeReishit Rabbah 16:4).

A QUESTION OF REDEMPTION - Can the Modern State of Israel be the Beginning of Redemption? Questions and Answers in Halachah


From the Back Cover


Can the State of Israel Really be the First Flowering of our Redemption?

  • Can a state that recognizes Reform conversions and tramples the sanctity of the Sabbath be called redemption?
  • Is this the redemption that we dreamt about and prayed for throughout the generations?
  • Do we have any prophets who can affirm that this is the beginning of the final redemption?
  • Aren’t the Zionists guilty of causing thousands to abandon their faith?
  • How can we rejoice and say Hallel over the State of Israel when thousands of Jews do not even know how to recite the Shema?
  • Aren’t most gedolim opposed to Zionism?
  • Why is it so important to know whether the redemptive process has begun? Shouldn’t we just concentrate on keeping the mitzvot and let God do as He sees fit?


The answers to these and many other questions are now within reach.

When this remarkable work first came out in Hebrew (under the title HaMedinah HaYehudit), it was an instant success, selling almost 6,000 copies in its first year alone. Now, English speakers, as well, can benefit from its clear style, concise format, and convincing arguments.



So, if you’ve ever been bothered by Questions of Redemption,

the time has come to discover the answers.

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 In My Own Words

I believe that one of the greatest obstacles to aliyah, for religious youth at least, is ignorance – ignorance of the sources, ignorance of the history of the State of Israel, and ignorance of the position that many great rabbis took on Zionism. Many people think that the Chareidi viewpoint is the only legitimate one in the eyes of halachah, and that Religious Zionism compromises on Torah values, and its adherents are not intellectually honest. Therefore, the moment I saw R. Ya’akov Moshe Bergman’s HaMedinah HaYehudit, I said “This must be translated into English.” And so I did, entitling it “A Question of Redemption.” As its subtitle indicates, the book discusses the halachic status of the Modern State of Israel vis-à-vis the redemptive process (“Can the Modern State of Israel be the Beginning of Redemption? Questions and Answers in Halachah”). R. Bergman confronts the most commonly asked questions on Religious-Zionist philosophy, answering them succinctly with universally accepted sources, showing that not only do we have a leg to stand on but that our viewpoint might very well be the most logical and legitimate of all. The book has helped many English-speaking Zionists defend their position against attacks from both left and right and has convinced many skeptics to adopt this viewpoint as their own.



HaRav HaGaon R. Hershel (Tzvi) Schachter shlita:

I read through most of the booklet HaMedinah HaYehudit, written by the esteemed scholar, R. Ya’akov Moshe Bergman (may he live), who studied in Kollel Eretz Chemdah, and I enjoyed the way he presented the material. It is very worthy for this book to appear in English for the sake of young, American Jews, who – due to our numerous sins – will not read it in the original [Hebrew]. I was, therefore, happy to hear that my dear friend, R. Moshe Lichtman (may he live)… took upon himself the holy task of translating [the work]. He has already proven his expertise [in the field] with his [previous] important translations. May it be [God’s] will that the important words of this small book enter the hearts of young Torah Jews and [help] increase knowledge about this special topic – the State [of Israel].

Written and signed in honor of the Torah and in honor of the State, Tzvi Schachter



Someone just introduced me to your latest book that came out last year… I borrowed the book and because I was so excited, I read most of it in one sitting last shabbat night. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this book… When I picked up your book I was so happy to see many of the issues that bothered me were covered in your book… After reading most of your book, I felt so good and so strong that I wanted to go out and let people know the truth…

I recently had the pleasure of reading the sefer you translated, A Question of Redemption. Having been religious Zionist for a long time, I still did not know many of the sources. This book truly helped me in presenting them and illustrating how sensible the position of being dati leumi is. I am also writing to you because I think that there is a serious niche for this type of book in the yeshiva world. At least in terms of English speaking yeshivot, many students who don't know of this book would be fascinated by it (especially those who resort to haredi tendencies because they see it as the only way of being more religious). Just as an example in the yeshiva I learn at, I left my copy on the table where I was learning a number of times (rather than putting it back with my other books) and noticed many people picking it up and reading through it. The issues discussed in it are ones that many English speakers (and I am sure Israelis too) discuss constantl,y and I would really wish that it were somehow more available to such people. Please let me know if I can be of any help or to brainstorm ideas to spread such an important message.



Introduction to the Book:

The Origins of the Zionist Movement

Ever since the Zionist movement began (some two hundred years ago), many people have risen up against it. This was true even when great rabbis like Rav Tzvi Hirsch Kalischer, Rav Yehudah Alcalay, and Rav Eliyahu Gutmacher promoted the cause. Sixty-four years before Herzl published his famous Der Judenstaat (“The Jewish State”), the Zionist idea already began to take form and stimulate ideological debate. The early antagonists were motivated mainly by a fundamental opposition to the concept of natural redemption. They believed that we are forbidden to do anything to hasten the redemption. Instead, we must sit back and wait for God to perform miracles on our behalf. In their opinion, the only efforts that we are permitted to make are spiritual ones, like prayer and studying the laws relating to the Temple service. Some rabbis claimed that the mitzvah to dwell in the Land of Israel does not apply nowadays. The issue of the Three Oaths also came up on occasion, along with practical concerns. Some worried that monetary support for the Zionist enterprise would deplete sources of income for the yeshivas in Eretz Yisrael and bring about their ultimate demise. Others opposed the movement because they felt that the entire issue was completely irrelevant. Who could even entertain the thought of establishing a Jewish state by natural means? The Gentiles would never allow us to do such a thing. Therefore, they reasoned, rallying world Jewry to this cause was nothing more than a delirious, utterly inconceivable dream.

Many books have been written in response to these claims, but we will not deal with them in the framework of this book. Perhaps we will summarize the main points some time in the future, God willing.

The harbingers of Religious Zionism called upon the Jewish people to return to their Homeland, but their call went largely unanswered. It is important to emphasize that most Jews who remained in the Diaspora did so not out of a fundamental or ideological opposition to aliyah. Diaspora life was an established fact, while mass immigration to a primitive land seemed to be an extremely difficult, if not impossible, undertaking. The relatively orderly life of Chutz LaAretz was far easier than draining swamps, contending with the ruling powers in Eretz Yisrael, and establishing a national political leadership. Very few people came to dwell in the Land, leaving the vast majority of Jews in the Diaspora.

The Enlightenment

At the same time that R. Kalischer and R. Alcalay were laying the groundwork for redemption, another movement arose in the Jewish world. As a result of the French Revolution and other major upheavals taking place throughout Europe, thousands of Jews established the Haskalah (Enlightenment) movement. Among the many “progressive” and “modern” values that they advocated was Jewish assimilation, which they believed was the only answer to anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, large numbers of Jews grew up without the Sabbath and without Jewish dietary laws because of this movement. The Haskalah movement grew stronger by the day, carrying off numerous souls who saw traditional Judaism as an ancient, outdated religion.

Decades after its inauguration, the Haskalah movement underwent a transformation. Many of its members (called maskilim) decided to return to Judaism, albeit to a brand quite different from the one their ancestors kept for thousands of years. Ever since its inception, Judaism has been defined as a religion. It may contain a significant number of national precepts, and nationalism may be an essential part of our faith, but it is still primarily a religion. These newly enlightened Jews, however, gave Judaism – for the first time in history – a new definition: a nation with no binding connection to religion. One of these new-fashioned maskilim was Theodore (Binyamin Ze’ev) Herzl. Raised in an assimilated home, completely devoid of Jewish tradition, Herzl originally opined that we must encourage Jews to intermingle with the Gentiles. The Dreyfus Affair made him realize that this solution was doomed to failure. There is something about the Jewish People, which Herzl could not pinpoint or explain, that prevents it from assimilating.

According to Herzl, the only solution to anti-Semitism and discrimination was the establishment of a Jewish state. Not all of the maskilim agreed. Many continued with their attempts to assimilate the Jews, and some, indeed, succeeded, severing themselves from the Jewish collective eternally. The majority of those who retained their Jewish identity joined Herzl, forming a secular Jewish movement with the goal of establishing a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael. Although the members of this movement had little connection to religion, they attached great importance to preserving the Jewish nation. They were even willing to sacrifice their very lives in order to build a Jewish national home. Quite unexpectedly, this secular, nationalistic movement succeeded where the Religious Zionists failed.

When the Zionist cause gained momentum specifically from the direction of the secularists, the religious anti-Zionists found new theological reasons to oppose the movement. Rabbinic leaders had fought the Enlightenment movement even before it adopted Zionism. Now they voiced new arguments against Religious Zionism, raising questions that stand at the center of the debate until this very day: Would God really redeem His people when they are so far from spiritual perfection? Do we not say in our prayers, “We were exiled from our Land because of our sins”? How, then, can we deserve redemption when we are still steeped in sin? Does the Torah not state that Israel will repent before the redemption? How can God possibly bring redemption through sinners? Aren’t the Zionists guilty of leading many Jews astray? Is this the state that we have anticipated for the past two thousand years of exile? Is it not true that most gedolim oppose Zionism? Does that not obligate us to follow their opinion? After all, “the majority rules.”

A more pivotal question is, why does all of this matter? What difference does it make whether we are living through the redemption or not (besides the issue of thanking God on Yom HaAtzma ’ut and Yom Yerushalayim)? Shouldn’t we focus only on observing God’s commandments? When Mashiach arrives, we will discover the truth about current events. Why, then, does the issue of redemption have such a profound effect on so many other religious issues?

These and similar questions are as relevant and weighty today as they were half-a-century ago. Even within Religious Zionist circles, people are searching for clear answers. This book is intended for them.

Many people are familiar only with Rav Kook’s philosophical and Kabbalistic teachings. Thus, they mistakenly believe that his worldview is insubstantial, having no real basis in the realm of halachah. Because they do not investigate the matter thoroughly, people also think – falsely – that Rav Kook was isolated in his opinions, going against all the other rabbis of his time. Therefore, we have tried, in this work, to deal mainly with the concrete, halachic side of the issues, quoting primarily from the works of those who are not usually identified as “Zionistic” rabbis.

Naturally, many of the questions are interrelated, and some of the sources quoted in the answers are similar, as well. Additionally, I have tried to arrange each chapter such that it could be read as an independent unit. Therefore, some ideas may be repeated in different chapters, but I have tried to add new insights whenever possible.

The Ramban writes that there are no irrefutable proofs or decisive arguments on any halachic matter. The same is true regarding the issues covered in this book. There is certainly room for debate and varying opinions, and one can interpret the sources differently than we do. We are not claiming that Religious Zionism is the only halachically viable approach. Nor is it our intention to engage in polemics and try to convince people who have a different tradition to accept ours. People in our communities are asking many questions – either on their own or after speaking with friends and neighbors – and they want to clarify the issues. The purpose of this book is to demonstrate that our approach is firmly rooted in the foundations of traditional halachah and to provide expla-nations for those who follow it and want to understand it better. It is certainly possible to say that our viewpoint makes more sense and is more plausible, but an absolute determination does not exist. One who studies this book in search of the truth – not just in order to prove others wrong – will find the deep-seated, divine truth contained herein.

Some people feel that the Religious-Zionist way of life is based on compromises in halachah and an overall lack of devotion to Jewish tradition. Thus, another goal of this book is to affirm that God’s Torah is the very essence of our lives. We are completely beholden to halachah, and our entire approach to divine service stems only from it.