My Existentialist Zionism Answer in my Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Column for May 31, 2019

Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Column for May 31, 2019

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

I visited Israel recently, and from what I saw I admired the continued growth of the country. But at the same time, I felt a deep apprehension about the manifold internal and external dangers that it faces. I am worried that Israel has lost its way and is no longer serving to fulfill its Zionist missions. How can I regain my confidence in the present vitality and the future prospects of the State of Israel?

Fearful in Fair Lawn

Dear Fearful,

I too have spent a lot of time in Israel of late and I do share your concerns. It’s a complex country of more than nine million inhabitants. It faces many internal conflicting points of view and differing aspirations. And yes, it is beset by the external challenges of hostile foes who seek to damage or even destroy the state.

But my take on the situations it faces is positive and confident, and not simply by virtue of any of the classical definitions of Zionism. I have a personal and original take on the matter.

Let me explain first a bit about the historical context of past Zionist visions and then tell you how I now formulate my own conception of Zionism for the modern State of Israel.

The great historians of Zionism tell us about its major forms: political Zionism, socialist Zionism, cultural Zionism, and religious Zionism. I respect and venerate all the past great Zionist thinkers and activists. To some degree the modern state is the successful expression of the four classical forms of Zionism. And to some extent it represents a failed or incomplete implementation of each of them.


How a Jewish Soul Becomes Immortal Vertically and Horizontally - Remarks for my Father's Yahrzeit

The seventh yahrzeit of my father, Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy, is tonight and tomorrow.

At the breakfast at the Park East Synagogue in honor of my dad's first yahrzeit in 2013 I spoke briefly about the dimensions of the immortality of his soul. I explained that by observing the mourning customs and reciting Kaddish for the soul of the departed, we seek immortality on its behalf in heaven above and on earth as part of the eternal Jewish people. I summarized my thoughts on this process as follows below.

Is the Jewish soul immortal? Yes, tradition teaches us that if the proper procedures are followed, the Jewish soul is immortal. And the immortality is redundant. The soul of a departed loved one lives on in a vertical immortality in heaven and in a horizontal immortality as part of the collective of the Jewish people.

To guarantee the duplex immortality of a soul, a mourner must say the Kaddish prayer for eleven months in the synagogue. As an agent on behalf of my father's soul, I completed that process in 2013 for the recitation of the Kaddish for my dad, who passed away in 2012.