The Capital Tragedy

Not the violent takeover of the Capitol building, bur the choice of what we call 'our nation's capital' is the Jewish tragedy here. Opinion.

Tzvi Fishman ,

The US Capitol building
The US Capitol building

How crestfallen I felt yesterday when I read the tragic headline: “The National Council of Young Israel today issued a statement: 'We strongly condemn the attack on our nation’s capital....'"

I am not referring to the temporary 'takeover' of the Capitol, but the tragedy of a major Orthodox movement in America calling Washington D.C. “our nation’s capital.” After all, every six-year-old in Israel knows that the capital of the Jewish People is Jerusalem.

Since when did Washington D.C. become the capital of our nation? That is like a Jew in Germany saying that his capital is Berlin! We all remember where that led.

Today in America, because the Jews identify themselves as 100% American, assimilation is spreading faster than the new mutant strains of Corona. When a Jew in America believes that W.D.C. is his or her capital, then Judaism becomes merely a religion and not a nationality. Judaism is viewed as the person’s faith, like being a Catholic, or Protestant, or Episcopalian.

The true national aspect of Judaism is forgotten – along with Jerusalem. Instead of Torah, with its commandments concerning kings, the Israelite army, the Sanhedrin, Beit HaMikdash, and mitzvot dependent on the Land of Israel, you have a watered-down Diasporism of Judaism in foreign Gentile lands.

Instead of the goal of the Torah – the establishment of the holy Jewish Nation in Israel – repeated over and over again in the Torah, and by the Prophets of Israel – you have the goal of being a good and successful American who keeps the individual precepts of Kashrut, Tefillin, and Shabbos as best as one can.

Let me cite two other examples to help clarify this tragic misconception whereby Jews in foreign lands forget to set Jerusalem above their highest aspiration, and thus adopt the identity of the alien land in which they live, whether it be America, France, or Germany.

Once when I was visiting my parents in Florida before they made Aliyah, I went to daven shacharit in the local Modern Orthodox synagogue. On the bulletin board in the lobby, I noticed a flyer with a photo of the Capitol Building in W.D.C. The caption read: “This Summer Visit our Nation’s Capital with the Rabbi.”

On a different morning, I davened in a beautiful Chabad shul overlooking a pastoral-looking Boca golf course. In the lobby, educational Chabad brochures were stacked, free-of-charge, on several long tables. There were pamphlets on Kashrut, Tefillin, Shabbat, Family Purity, Torah Learning, Tzedaka, and Prayer, but nothing on Eretz Yisrael and Aliyah.

Rabbi Kook teaches that this “juiceless perspective” of Judaism must be fought against with wisdom, holiness, and valor. He writes:

“The concept of Judaism in the Diaspora will only find true strength through the depth of its involvement in Eretz Yisrael. Only through its longing for Eretz Yisrael will Diaspora Judaism consistently receive its raison d'être. The yearning for Salvation gives the Judaism of the Diaspora its power of stamina; whereas the Judaism of Eretz Yisrael is the Salvation itself,” (Orot, Eretz Yisrael, 1).

When Jews in the Diaspora replace Jerusalem with Washington D.C., assimilation becomes an unstoppable virus. Rabbi Kook continues:

“By being alienated from the recognition of the deeper understandings of Torah, the holiness of Eretz Yisrael is understood in a foggy, unfocused fashion. By alienating oneself from the secrets of Hashem, the highest treasures of the deep Divine life become extraneous, secondary matters which do not enter the depths of the soul, and as a result, the most potent force of the individual's and the nation's soul will be missing, and the Exile is found to be pleasant in its own accord. For to someone who only comprehends the superficial level, nothing basic will be lacking in the absence of the Land of Israel, the Jewish Kingdom, and all of the facets of the nation in its built form.

“For him, the foundation of the yearning for Salvation is like a side branch that cannot be united with the deep understanding of Judaism, and this itself testifies to the poverty of insight which is found in this juiceless perspective. We are not rejecting any form or contemplation which is founded on truthfulness, on sensitivity of thought, or on the fear of Heaven, in whatever form it takes; but only rejecting the specific aspect of this perspective which seeks to negate the secrets of Torah and their great influence on the spirit of the nation -- for this is a tragedy which we are obligated to fight against with counsel and wisdom, with holiness and with valor,” (Orot, Eretz Yisrael, 2).

It’s either Washington D.C. or Jerusalem. One or the other. If you want your children to remain Jewish, you can’t have them both.

Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Jewish Culture and Creativity. Before making Aliyah to Israel in 1984, he was a successful Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbis A. Y. Kook and T. Y. Kook. His other books include: "The Kuzari For Young Readers" and "Tuvia in the Promised Land". His books are available on Amazon. Recently, he directed the movie, "Stories of Rebbe Nachman."

Tzvi Fishman books