The popular expression says, “Rabbi Kahane was right.” Reading the new and profoundly documented book, “Rabbi Meir Kahane – His Life and Thought – Volume Two,” written by the Rabbi’s wife, Libby Kahane, and translated from the English by their daughter, Tzippy Kaplan, z”tzal, you realize, again and again, that Rabbi Kahane is as “right on” as ever.
We read stories about our Tzaddikim in order to be inspired by their ways, and to learn how the Torah is meant to be actualized in life, in its most exalted fashion. In our time, the names of a few spiritual giants come to mind: Rabbi Aryeh Levine, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, the Lubavitch Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, and others. Certainly, Rabbi Meir Kahane is in this same major league.
As this fascinating biography depicts, every minute of his life was totally dedicated to Am Yisrael, to Torah, and to Eretz Yisrael. Whether in the battle against assimilation in America, his constant call for Aliyah, the struggle to free Soviet Jewry, the campaign to increase settlement throughout Israel and to make the Jewish State more Jewish, and in tirelessly pursuing his non-stop goal of spreading the “Authentic Jewish Idea” and inspiring Jews to “come out of the closet” and feel proud to be Jews, Rabbi Kahane’s around-the-clock mission was truly larger than life.
As recorded in this insider’s, diary-like account of his days, his life was an indefatigable, Divinely-fueled odyssey of lectures, radio shows, demonstrations, TV interviews, plane rides, meetings, debates, campaigns, prolific essay and book writing, Torah classes, Talmudic study, court cases and prison sentences for the crime of being overly committed to the Jewish People, and for his super-human devotion to the causes he championed, which invariably set him at odds with Jews who were terrified of “rocking the boat” by being and acting “too Jewish.”
This detailed and carefully researched second volume of Rabbi Kahane’s life, from the year 1976 to 1983, has all the action and suspense of a political thriller. Rebbetzin Kahane, who worked for many years at the National Library in Jerusalem, lets the day-to-day events in her husband’s life tell the story, adding her own professionalism as a researcher to highlight the monumental amount of activity and achievement which characterized her husband’s literally sleepless endeavors.
In this respect, the biography is amazingly objective. While the writer clearly supports her husband’s activities and beliefs, she never moralizes about his deeds, or deifies his character, but rather let’s his actions and words do the talking themselves. And here is where Rabbi Meir Kahane is unique – in his cleaving to the Torah with total miserut nefesh and self-sacrifice, willing, again and again, to challenge the norm, to stridently oppose the Jewish establishment and mighty governments, to serve time in jail, if need be, and make himself scorned by people he called “comfortable Jews,” rather than relinquish one tiny truth of the word of G-d, as he saw it written so clearly, black letters on white, in the Torah and words of the Prophets.
Here are a few of Rabbi Kahana’s statements from the book, setting forth his solution to the Arab problem in Israel, as relevant today as ever:
“I am against killing Arabs. If stones are thrown from an Arab village, the entire village should be banished to Jordan.”
“It all lies in the perception…. If the perception is that of Jewish strength; cold, merciless strength against any gentile effort to hurt him – then the enemy will be still…. The lack of a tough, merciless, Israeli reaction… only confirms the perception of Israeli weakness. It will only guarantee more Arab attacks and more Jewish deaths.”
When Israel’s Supreme Court decreed that the Israeli police had the right to prevent Jews from praying on the Temple Mount because it created a threat to public order, Rabbi Kahane wrote:
“This means (in the eyes of the Supreme Court of Israel) that the presence of a Jew which leads to Arab anger and violence must be stopped, not by putting down the Arab violence, but by taking away Jewish rights.”
In this fast-paced chronicle of Rabbi Kahane’s life, like with Volume One, the reader is confronted with a truly fearless fighter for the Jewish People and for the honor of Hashem. Rabbi Kahane often said that he only feared G-d. More powerful than his words were his actions. In newspapers essays and lectures throughout the United States, Rabbi Kahane constantly challenged the leaders of American Jewry for not urging the Jews of America to make Aliyah.
Warning of the spiritual and physical graveyard of assimilation, which was destined to decimate the Jews of the Diaspora, he called for a new, independent Aliyah organization (the ideological beginnings of Nefesh b’Nefesh?), totally separate from the Israeli government and Jewish Agency, to be funded by synagogues all over America. His mind was always searching for new ways, better solutions, always in line with the Torah, and with the upraised fist of Jewish bravery and honor.
For someone like me who makes movies, as I read this suspenseful account of Rabbi Kahane’s life, I couldn’t help but picture the story as a suspenseful thriller that tells the saga of his generation, encompassing some of the most dramatic moments in modern Jewish history. The detailed accounts of the valorous, and sometimes quixotic adventures of the Rabbi as he sets off to battle the Establishment, make you feel like you are down on the playing field with him, charging forward at the towering windmills whatever the personal cost. You feel his exhaustion as he waits for the next plane flight on a coast-to-coast speaking tour in America, and his pain at being separated from his beloved family during his seven month incarceration in Ramle prison in Israel.
Among the highlights of the decade which the biography covers are his strident activism on behalf of Soviet Jewry; his campaign for Jewish settlement in Hevron and Shechem; his vehement opposition to President Carter and to the Neo-Nazis in Skokie; his term in Maasiyahu prison, where he writes to his wife: “Here I am in Maasiyahu, and it is better than other prisons, though the food is truly bad, and not so kosher (thanks to the Arab cooks). But I have time to learn all day which is the best part of this interlude. How was Rosh Hashannah? Were you are home both days? How are the children?”
Other episodes which kept me riveted were the creation of the Kach movement and the campaign for the Knesset; the struggle to save Yamit; the battle for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount; military reserve duty in Ramallah; and his always creative war with the political and ideological Left.
These are only a few of the news-making stories which fill the 500 page book, which is also replete with Rabbi Kahane’s great wit, uncompromised beliefs, and clips from the eloquent essays which he wrote in free moments and sent off to The Jewish Press for publication. And it is a rare glimpse of his private life as well, as a dedicated husband and loving father, always concerned for the education and welfare of his children, even in the midst of his most tumultuous times.
All in all, the biography is a remarkable account of a remarkable Jew. It is an inspiring read, and a model for all of us.
The book can be ordered at Amazon. In Israel, the book is available at Yeshivat HaRaayon HaYehudi (02-5823540).
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."