Complaints about unfair competition are not novel to our times. The holy Ruzhiner Rebbe, zy”a, commented that once upon a time Jewish people kept Shabbos properly and thus local gentiles were not granted the power to interfere with Jewish business affairs. The essence of the Jewish People is ruchani; the spiritual is their territory. Since Shabbos defines Jewish conduct it creates the boundaries of the Jewish territory. As long as Jewish people upheld the integrity of their territory, their boundaries were secure and gentiles could not invade and impede Jewish parnassah. Once Jewish businesses started to diminish their level of observance, they crossed into the gentiles’ territory. Reciprocally, the gentiles no longer had the barriers and were able to hurt Jewish businesses.
Borders that separate two nations cannot be easily approached. Guards stand ready, not at the dividing line itself, but at the entrance to a buffer zone that has been established to protect the nation’s security. The fences that Chazal have established to prevent the transgression of Shabbos, or any mitzvah in the Torah, serve as a bulwark, not only for the mitzvah itself, but for the very boundaries that protect the Jewish People’s physical and spiritual security.
As such, those who argue for bending or compromising observance of the Divine Law must be aware that they are endangering the very foundation on which we stand as a people. Dancing along the edge of the canyon infinitely raises the risk of falling off the cliff. This is precisely the danger of movementsthat operate on the borderline.
The normative understanding of Torah min HaShamayim is the premise that our essence is ruchani. This sets Torah and Klal Yisrael apart from other nations. Torah is not a code of moral or civil standards that can be manipulated to accommodate the mores of each generation. Judaism is not a set of values, but the acceptance of Hashem as the Creator of the world Who established a set of rules for the physical and spiritual alike. Any other declaration is a simple misrepresentation of what Judaism is.
Obviously, any group that fails to accept the principle of Torah min HaShamayim, in the simplest sense of those words, cannot be considered to be within the normative boundaries of Judaism. The various non-Orthodox denominations claim that it is within their rights to “interpret” the Torah and the facts of Revelation at Sinai differently, while still remaining in the tent of Judaism. However, this is nothing less than an outright falsification of what it means to be a believing Jew, the very basis of which is faith in Torah’s Divinity.
This acceptance is the dividing line between those who areTorah Jews and those who are not. This is the line of demarcation not only between Orthodoxy and the Reform and Conservative movements, who openly deny the principle of Torah min HaShamayim, but also between Orthodoxy and those who call themselves “Open Orthodox.”
It matters little that this group’s official proclamations profess loyalty to halachah and belief in Torah miSinai. Their leaders have made countless statements that betray their feelings that the Torah and its mitzvos are little more than a metaphor, which can be manipulated to accommodate the evolving moral standards of each generation. This double talk itself, in a certain sense, poses more of a danger than their very lack of faith.
Even in their most apologetic and pious of moments, the leaders of Open Orthodoxy make it patently clear that their modus operandi is to push the envelope of what is halachically and hashkafically acceptable as far as they possibly can. Their ideology proudly declares that they are trying to assimilate as much of the norms and mores of the modern non-Jewish world as they can, while still claiming to be in the tent of Orthodoxy. What they fail to realize is that in doing so, they are denying the authenticity of Torah Judaism, which is predicated on deference to Rabbanim as the ultimate theological authority.
In this context, the recent news of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s offer of legitimacy and support for the Reform and Conservative movements, which openly deny the Divinity of Torah, is disturbing, even in light of his strictly Zionist perspective. By definition, these groups do not accept the boundaries of Torah and mitzvos as eternal and intrinsic to the very meaning of Judaism.
The delineation of the physical borders of Eretz Yisrael is a subject that takes up a great deal of verse in the Torah. The boundaries of Eretz Yisrael as the central place for the performance of mitzvos reveals the essentiality of borders to Judaism itself. Just as the physical world is defined by its laws and limits, so too is the observance of Torah and mitzvos defined by its boundaries.
Our very claim to Eretz Yisrael is based on Tanach. The Torah is not a book of history comprised of factors that change with the times, but based on Hashem’s Omnipresence. Our connection and claim to the Land, ultimately even for those who do not profess belief, is rooted in the Word of Hakadosh Baruch Hu and not in nationalism.
It is no wonder that the Reform movement in its former incarnations opposed Zionism and the concept of Jews settling in Eretz Yisrael. Their goal was and still is assimilation and not the perpetuation of the Jewish People. At the time of its inception, assimilation meant eventual conversion to Christianity. Seeing that we live in an age dominated by secularism, such a concept is antiquated. However, the core of what assimilation represents — that is, transformation to a foreign set of values — is very much in vogue. This is and always has been the goal of the Reform, Conservative and, more recently, the Open Orthodox movements — to “adapt” Judaism to the mores of modern-day society. It is an invitation for the nations of the world to breach our boundaries and enter our camp in the realm of ideas, which, as the Ruzhiner Rebbe taught us, will ultimately manifest itself physically as well. From the beginning of his long political career, the prime minister has always made the protection of the Land — or the state, as he sees it — the focal point of his ideological platform. Furthermore, he has always claimed that the borders of the nation, their extent and protection, are key to Israel’s security. For him to legitimize and even encourage movements whose core beliefs are antithetical to those of the Jewish People breaches our protective barriers and represents the greatest endangerment of national security imaginable.