Chabad & Zionism – Complicated Relationship

Western Wall

By: Sholom Kesselman

Chabad is in a very complicated relationship with the State of Israel. We are pro Israel but anti Zionism. We support the country and its military and work / pray for its success but don’t sing Hatikavah or hang any Israeli flags in our Shuls. We love Israel but we don’t mark or celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut.

I would like to shed some light on this otherwise complex issue and perhaps suggest an approach which might be helpful to anyone looking for the genuine Chabad ideology vis a vis Israel.

There are three main reasons why the Chabad Rebbes were vehemently anti Zionism.

  1. The state was being founded by secular- anti religious people with a deliberate anti religious agenda. Many G-d fearing Jews lost or gave up being religious because of Zionism.
  2. Founding an independent Jewish state before the coming of Moshiach is Halachically problematic.
  3. The establishment of the state was being considered “Aschalta D’Geulah” – “the beginning of the redemption” and this was seen as almost blasphemous.

Because of these reasons, the Chabad Rebbes fought the Zionist movement and were against the establishment of the State.

It seems though that their position softened somewhat during and after the Holocaust. It became apparent then that we Jews had nowhere to go and we needed a safe haven somewhere. As such the only viable option was Israel and the founding of the state.

Furthermore once the state was established, there was no longer a point to fighting its existence. The fact was that there was a state and it was there to stay. So we accepted the situation and turned our effort instead to helping Israel in any way we could.

The further reality that millions of Jews were settling there meant that the fate of the Jews was tied to the fate of the land and therefore the state had to be supported. So Chabad became pro Israel because we are pro Jews and it was no longer possible to separate the issues. The country had to flourish economically and militarily for the sake of the Jewish people and so Chabad threw all their resources into “Yishuv Ha’aretz” – developing the land.

However we remained anti Zionism.

The nature of the founding of the state in 1948 remains problematic and the anti religiousness of it forever cast it and its founders in a negative and sad light. We can never celebrate that accomplishment or see it as redemption like.

To us Israel is the country given to us by G-d in the Torah, it is a Jewish country that should be filled with holiness and Torah and that is the country we will support and work to establish.

We won’t celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, sing Hatikvah, raise an Israeli flag or say Hallel, in fact quite the contrary. We will forever contemplate what could’ve been and how Jews coming back to Israel could’ve constituted a revival of Torah and Judaism and possibly then had Messianic meaning.

But at the same time we will strongly support the Jews there, the military, the economy and the development of the state. We love Israel and we love Jews and wish only success for our country.

Instead of fighting the secularism of the state, we have made it our mission to spread Torah and Judaism there and reach out with love to all our Jewish brothers and sisters there to help them see the light and beauty of the Torah.

We don’t believe that the founding of the state was the beginning of the redemption but we are at the forefront of the effort to bring Moshiach. We believe that very soon Moshiach will come and then we will see G-d’s presence return to Zion!


p.s We would love to hear your feedback and comments on this article. Please use the comments section to continue this discussion further.

25 responses

  1. Very well stated.
    Its sad how so many Lubvitchers and Shluchim have forgotten how much Agmas Nefesh this whole Parsha gave the Rabeim.
    You state our objections in no uncertain terms but still have us come across as lovers of Israel as we are.
    Yasher Koach

    • 2.000 years of a cruel diaspora didn’t teach us nothing ?
      6 million Jews ,among them 1.5 million children slaughter in the Holocaust didn’t make us think about the importance to have a Jewish State, with a Jews army,for “never again” be a reality and not just another prayer?
      Mashiach will come when the time is the right one. And in the meantime we went from powerless to powerful.
      Zionism is the Liberation Movement (from death !!) of the Jewish Nation, and is amazing that chasidim and antisemitics delegitimize the existence of the State of Israel. How sad is it ?

  2. Does the State of Israel need to be re-established to fulfill the vision of Moshiach? Or can it grow naturally from the present situation?
    In other words, is it compatible with Chabad ideology to say that the establishment of the State of Israel can be used (or transformed) into a step in the direction of Moshiach — that now קיבוץ גלויות, מלכות ישראל, בנין בית המקדש, etc. will be easier to accomplish? Or do we hold that the State in its currently established form can never be part of the era of Moshiach?

  3. I think that the main problem of Zionism is missing over here. like the Rebbe N”E (rash”b) writes in his famous letter about Zionism: until Zionism it was clear that being Jewish meant keeping Torah laws, whoever left the practice of Judaism was clearly making a statement that he doesn’t want to remain part of the Jewish people and it was clear that there was no alternative to it. Zionsim came and said that being Jewish doesn’t consist in practicing Torah but rather the Jewish nation is a nation like any other, and so being Jewish is being nationalist. If you speak Hebrew, live in Israel and celebrate independence day you’re a good Jew.

    This issue remains till today unfortunately.

    • I don’t know if thats accurate. The haskalah movement existed before zionism. Jews existed in Israel in various states of religiosity prior to the establishment of Israel. And, finally, this perspective excludes the entire Sephardic world (many of whom immigrated to israel and are fundamental to the establishment of it) who did identify/act not in the most observant ways.

      • This article isn’t discussing immigrants to and residents of EY, but the *philosophy* of Zionism, both pre- and post-state. In that regard, I think it’s quite accurate–Zionism came to replace Jewish identity through Torah observance with a Jewish identity through secular nationalism.

        • We need to study a little. Inside to the Zionist Movement there were many orthodox rabbis. Is anybody discussing the Rabbinical statue of Rabbi Kook, or a zionist religious movement that build kibutzim while living a life of mitzvot?
          Zionism didn’t come to replace any Jewish identity,but to create a democratic State where all streams of Judaism will have a place to develop and express themselves as they wish.

      • Thank you Benny for being the voice of reason. Chabad is self-righteous and full of hippocracy, just like all of us Jews. It’s time for them to get off their high horse and raise an Israeli flag for crying out loud. They probably just want to finally be taken seriously by Satmar so they don’t celebrate Israeli Independence. Wow, that has so much integrity…

  4. Just stumbled upon your blog, and I identify with everything you wrote regarding this matter and about chabad lite. From what I read so far, your Hashkofos are very much correct, and well written. Please continue to write.

  5. I heard from my father that the Rebbe stated that, if the State of Israel had declared that the 6-Day war was miraculous, Moshiach would have come.
    He also said the impact of the 6-Day war on Americans Jews publicly identifying as Jewish was unmatched. Jews started wearing kippot on the street, and G.I. Joe came out with a Jewish soldier.
    In other words, I think it’s like the process of teshuva. It can be gradual… or it can be overnight… but the person before and after teshuva is both exactly the same person and completely different at the same time.

  6. No one had answered Zalman’s question above.

    Further, how can the restoration of Jewish sovereignty and the ingathering of a large proportion of the exiles be said not to have any messianic import?

  7. It’s hypocritical of Chabad not to celebrate Yom Ha tzma’ut and it lacks major integrity, especially in this day and age. It’s time for Chabad to get off it’s high horse. Are they afraid of Satmar further dismissing there hassidus, is this part of the reason? As far as I’m concerned all the reasons you mention lack integrity and it’s time to re-think this decision.

  8. Yasher koach!
    Very well written and BH finally clarified for a lot of us… Yes, an answer Zalman’s and Avi’s questions would be much appreciated…

    Is the Author former YG Melbourne Shliach (2006) and Menahel of Cheder Menachem in Los Angeles/ a relative of current YG Melbourne Shliach

  9. We’re in great shape. Everybody is dancing at their own wedding. There are hundreds of nusachos, customs vary in abundance, this one doesn’t eat that ones shchita, a plethora of kashrut agencies and neighborhoods that are exclusive according to which Rebbe you follow.
    What a great army we make. It’s pathetic and all the so called religious leaders will one day have to answer for why they were more interested in themselves than in the Jewish people and their needs.

  10. chabad forgives countless jews for their past actions and opens its heart to the possibility of improving its future, yet chabad cannot forgive the leaders of zionism for what they had to do in order to create a state that has saved or improved the lives of millions of jews. more torah is studied today in israel than was studied in the entire world before 1948. the creation of the state was a miracle and the zionist leaders were strengthened by hashem’s hand to perform the will of hashem.

  11. My thinking is that 70 years after the establishment of the state of Israel the Moshiah did not come and Israel is a democratic state with freedom for its citizens.It is a thriving state opening up new financial opportunities with India ,China,Japan and other countries in the east. Israel is now helping African countries to improve their farming output. Therefore Israel is doing well without the Moshiah who will never come.The story of Moshiah is a phoney fable without any mention in the Torah.Why should Hashem abrogate his authority to a fictional personage?If the Moshiah did not come during the holocaust or life of the Rebbe he will never come. Time to realize the futility of this folk tale.

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