What Happened To Tanach?

I have spent many a day wrestling with the disturbing question: What happened, over the course of time, to cause a warping and corrupting change in true Judaism, in that which we call Torah Judaism? To me, it is abundantly clear that there has been a dangerous and fundamental change, one that has caused us to lose sight of the authentic Jewish Idea and which has led us astray to an extent that we have, in great measure, lost our very way.

The morbid truth is that those who call themselves Orthodox Jews have, in overwhelming measure, lost the sense of nationhood that is such an integral part of Judaism, and without which Torah Judaism, in its true sense, cannot possibly grow in the healthy, normal and designed way that the Almighty sought.

The disturbing growth of such utterly un-Jewish concepts as �to fight is not the Jewish way�; �one does not anger the nations�; �Judaism does not need Zionism or a country to survive�; �if only we do
mitzvahs, G-d will protect us�; "Israel is also galus", - is a product of the very fact of Jewish existence in an exile, without a homeland, government and the normalcy of nationhood. For a people cannot be normal without a state of its own any more than a child can be truly normal without a loving family and home that he can call his own. It is in the nature of the nation, as created by G-d, that normalcy and natural, healthy growth be within the context of the sovereignty, self-rule and proprietorship of its own land.

To be a minority is to be the immutable victim of the fears, complexes, insecurities and guilt that are unshakable and permanent parts of the essence of minority status. It is impossible to escape this; it comes along with the "lease". And to be a minority is, of course, to adopt and assimilate, without even realizing it, the norms, mores and concepts of the host country. (More than they realized it, did German Jews - including the Orthodox of Frankfort - become as the German gentile.) But there is more than that for the Jew.

The Jew was not only a minority and, thus, a victim of all the above, but he was a minority for such a long period of time that he lost sight and knowledge and remembrance of the country in which he had lived and then he forgot the very fact of Jewish nationhood.

And so, all the normalcies of a people - a government, an army, sovereignty, self-rule, self-respect, strength, pride, independence and freedom - were lost. Judaism became a Religion, with its national aspect forgotten and then scorned. This was the beginning of the corruption and warping of the Jewish Idea, of true Torah Judaism.

This is the source of the incredible glorification of weakness and exile, and the assault on Jewish State and strength. The Exile bred in us a loss of sovereignty and a loss of the Jewish nationhood that a G-d of Israel demanded from a Children of Israel whom He insisted on removing from the exile of Egypt, and their entry into a Jewish state of their own, where they became a People of Israel.

And, hand in hand with this, came the inexplicable withdrawal of the most fundamental of Jewish books and sources from the world of the yeshiva and scholar. While the Talmud and commentaries became a central part of the House of Study, as well they should, the basis of Judaism, the Tanach (Bible) grew steadily less important, less a part of the regular curriculum, until today, the average yeshiva student is so grossly ignorant of its contents that a baptist missionary can run intellectual rings around him.

I do not understand the incredible disappearance of Tanach study as
the central part of Judaism in the yeshiva. I cannot comprehend the fact that the so-called Torah world simply ignores a clear halachic injunction concerning how a Jew is supposed to learn: "The age of five is for Mikra (Bible); the age of ten is for Mishna..." (Pirkei Avot 5).

While I simply cannot understand the disappearance of Tanach from the central place of learning, I certainly fathom and see, all too clearly, its effects. For if the cutting  of the umbilical cord of the Land of Israel has produced such a warped loss of nationhood, at least the remembrance of that nationhood and the authenticity of Jewish life might have been retained through the study of Tanach.  It is only in Tanach that we see the lives of our ancestors in normal setting. To be sure, Abraham is a spiritual figure, but here is the real Abraham who also is a shepherd, who works for his living, who fights a war to save his nephew, Lot.

Of course, David is the sweet singer of Israel, the writer of the magnificent Psalms. But in the Tanach, he appears in his loyalty, as the slayer of Goliath, the one who burns with anger at the humiliation and desecration of the name of G-d and His people Israel. He is the fighter, the warrior, the soldier in the
milchemet mitzvah, war of obligation, who also writes Psalms, and who teaches us the true role model of the Jew.

Without the Tanach, how are we to know of the valiant and obligatory struggles of the Judges against their enemies, their rejection of the nonsense that "to fight is not the Jewish way", or "one does not antagonize the nations"? When we threw away Tanach, we threw away the authenticity of Jewish nationhood. When we ignored Tanach, we ignored the fundamental centrality of the Land of Israel and all the true teachings by the Jewish leaders of its pages as to how a Jew should really behave. If it is true that Saul and David were scholars of the Sanhedrin, then a look at the pages of the Tanach tells us how a leader of the Sanhedrin, a Rosh Yeshiva, a scholar is obligated to behave in the total national sense of his Judaism.

When we ceased learning Tanach, we lost all the true Jewish concepts of power, vengeance, Kiddush Hashem in the national sense and our nationhood itself. In a sense, it was our being in the Exile that made the Tanach a foreign thing to us. And when we abandoned it, it escalated that terrible process of Jewish flight from nationhood, land and normalcy. When we understand what happened to Tanach, we will understand what happened to authentic Judaism. We can then begin to comprehend what turned us from a powerful, magnificent, proud, vigorous and sanctified Religio-Nation, into a warped and sadly confused "religion".

By Rabbi Meir Kahane
January 14, 1983
On Jews And Judaism
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