ישעיהו ליבוביץ - Yeshayahu Leibowitz
מצאתם טעות בטקסט המאמר? אנא דווחו לנו

אליעזר גולדמן
Introduction by Eliezer Goldman
פורסם ב - Judaism, Human Values, and the Jewish State (Harvard, 1992)O

פתח מסמך ב-Word

Aptly characterized as the "conscience of Israel," Yeshayahu Leibowitz has been, since the early 1940s, perhaps the most incisive and controversial critic of Israeli culture and politics. His stance has been characteristically polemical, his criticism trenchant and caustic: government policies, the religious establishment, shibboleths of Israeli society, conceptions have all been derided by him in turn. He is hard-hitting, persistent in argument, and still indefatigable in pressing his views. (At the age of 86 he thought nothing of flying to Germany to participate in a television panel on an issue close to his heart and returning the following day to Israel to meet several appointments.) Because of his highly individual views and uncompromising adherence to principle, he has never remained attached for long to a political party – although he was, at least on one occasion, instrumental in founding one. On specific issue he has small groups of ardent supporters, whom he has succeeded in goading into effective action. Quite often they disagree with him on other issues; they may even fail to follow his line of thought. Because his conclusions are often grounded in idiosyncratic considerations, he is often admired for the wrong reasons. His views on political questions meet with angry dissent and often provoke vehement reactions from the general public, but he seems to enjoy the Socratic role of the gadfly and remains undaunted by an unfavorable reception of his message.

In a tribute to Leibowitz on the occasion of his eightieth birthday, Sir Isaiah Berlin remarked: "It is not so much his intellectual attainments and achievements as a thinker and teacher that have made so profound an impression on me…as the unshakable moral and political stand which he took up for so many years in the face of so much pressure to be sensible, to be realistic, not to let down the side, not to give comfort to the enemy, not to fight against conventional current wisdom… Professor Leibowitz has never betrayed the ideals and beliefs which brought him to this country [Israel]. He was, and is, a Zionist. He holds, so I believe, that it is possible and right to create a free, democratic, tolerant, socially harmonious sovereign Jewish state, a self-governing and independent community of socially and politically equal citizen, enjoying full civil liberties, free from exploitation of one body of men by another, and, above all, free from that kind of political control by the majority over minorities which we [Jews] have suffered so long and so cruelly as defenceless strangers in every land… Of him, I believe, it can be said more truly than of anyone else that he is the conscience of Israel: the clearest and more honorable champion of those principles which justify the creation of a movement and of a sovereign state achieved at so high a human cost both to the Jewish nation and to its neighbors."[1]

This is a just characterization of Leibowitz, the political and moral critic. Leibowitz himself does not accept this assessment. He does not deny his public activity and moral and political positions, but disclaims the motives attributed to him. Sir Isaiah is a humanist, but while his political stand may be consistent with the humanist position, his own reasons are entirely different. In a published letter that that was both an expression of gratitude and a rejoinder to Sir Isaiah, Leibowitz wrote: "As far as I understand, humanism, in the spirit of Kant, envisages the human person as the supreme value and end within any reality which man is capable of knowing. It follows that all thought and action are to be judged and evaluated in terms of their relation to this end. From the stand-point of Judaism… man as a natural creature, like all of natural reality, is of neutral value. His existence can be meaningfully evaluated only in terms of his position before God has expressed in his mode of life. Judaism recognized no expression of such a position other than the "acceptance of the yoke of Kingdom of Heaven and the yoke of Torah and its Mitzvoth."[2]Leibowitz expresses his indefatigable opposition to the Israeli occupation of the territories conquered in 1967 in terms of political and religious considerations, not humanistic ones. Politically, the occupation is corrupting the state of Israel. All its mental and physical resources are squandered on dominating the recalcitrant population of the territories. It has none left for dealing with what ought to be at the center of attention of a Jewish state. The exigencies of political and military domination are converting it into a police state with its attendant evils. Power interests of the state tend to become ends in themselves, thus giving rise to the most insidious form of idolatry in the modern world.

Leibowitz is especially concerned with the impact of this situation upon religious circles. As he sees it, the very essence of Judaism is the denial of inherent sanctity to any natural phenomenon. Only God is holy, and any sanctity in the human sphere is bound up with the divine commandments. The conquest of the territories has fanned the ever-smoldering embers of idolatrous tendencies, the overcoming of which is a constant religious challenge. One instance of idolatry, prevalent among religious Zionists today, is to ascribe inherent holiness to the land and even to the state. For Leibowitz, himself a pious Jew, this is one of the most fearful consequences of the occupation.

Biographical Note

Yeshayahu Leibowitz was born in Riga in 1903 and brought up in a home which belonged, in his words, to "a Jewish world in which Judaism and European culture were interwoven." He received his elementary education at home, where he continued his Jewish studies after entering secondary school. During the civil war in Russia in 1919, the family fled to Berlin, where Leibowitz studied chemistry and philosophy at the University of Berlin, then one of the great centers of scientific research. After receiving his doctorate in 1924, he spent several years at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute and went on to study medicine at Köln and Heidelberg. Because of anti-Semitic discrimination in the German universities after the Nazis came to power, he took his M.D. in Basel.

In 1934 he arrived in Palestine, where he began teaching chemistry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Very soon he came to be regarded as a brilliant teacher. Hundreds of students used to flock to his lectures on the physiological bases of the mental processes. His teaching extended beyond the campus to teachers' enrichment courses, adult education programs, and even youth groups. The subjects on which he lectured reflected the encyclopedic breadth of his interests. His appearances on television and radio as teacher, lecturer, and commentator on the weekly reading of the Torah have brought him to wider audiences. Many Jerusalemites recall the small-study-groups that gathered regularly to study some classic text of Jewish thought under his direction. The discussion of one such group on Maimonides' introduction to his commentary on the mishnaic Tractate Aboth has been published. It is a sample of give-and-take of ideas which took place at such sessions.[3]With these groups he has completed several cycles of study of the text of Maimonides' Guide of perplexed. After retirement from his academic post, he continues lecturing and conducting seminars at the university of the philosophy and history of science.

The years of intensive teaching and research did not prevent him from constant engagement with public issues. His views were rarely popular with the general public and almost never met with approval of the relevant establishments. This never daunted him. At times he even seemed enjoy to outraging his audiences. In retrospect, he can claim much greater foresight than his antagonists. Early in the 1940s, speaking at one of the Kibbutzim in the valley of Yizra'el, then considered the exemplar of Jewish settlement in Palestine, he called the entire valley a huge cemetery – referring thereby to the extremely low birth-rate in the region at the time. His listeners considered him a crank. Today, few people would deny the critical significance of the demographic factor for the future of the Jewish state.

During the late 1930s and the 1940s Leibowitz was preoccupied with the inability of the rabbinical establishment to appreciate the halakhic implications of the Zionists effort. Political and social Jewish autonomy was bound to raise religious dilemmas.[4]Leibowitz had been active in organizing a company of religious observant people within the Hagganah, the Jewish self-defense organization which eventually became the nucleus of the Israel Defense Force (IDF). At the time, observant Jews found it difficult to integrate directly into the Hagganah organization because their insistence on observing the Sabbath brought them into conflict with the command. However, it soon became evident that military activity, even within the ranks of the observant, raised difficult halakhic problems resulting from unprecedented situations. Rabbinic authorities tended to shy away from taking a stand. They seemed to hint that religious Jews might keep away from such matters, which could be better-handled by the nonobservant. This brought Leibowitz up against what he considered to be a parasitic tendency that boded ill for the future of the Jewish religion in a future Jewish state. For millennia, religious authorities had not been confronted with the functions of a sovereign authority. These had been in the hands of the foreign governments. It was therefore necessary to deal with questions of internal and external security and the economic needs of an all-encompassing society, as distinct from those of individuals. Much of Leibowitz's writing during this period was devoted to pointing out the need for a novel approach to halakhic decision under conditions of independent statehood. With the emergence of the state of Israel, such questions became acute.

In the 1950s and early 1960s Leibowitz took up cudgels in a variety of causes. He was active in a committee of scientists and public figures which agitated against the introduction of nuclear weaponry to the Israeli arsenal. His detestation of parasitism in any form led him to join a heterodox group fighting for a change in the economic order. During the mandatory period, political parties in Israel engaged in agriculture settlement and a variety of economic enterprises. This was especially true of the Labor party, which, through its control of the Histadruth, the general association of Jewish workers in Palestine, also directed its extensive business operations.[5]The economic effort was funded largely by the Jewish agency. These moneys were funnelled to their destinations through the channels of the political parties. After the establishment of the state, many regarded this system as distorting the structure of the economy. But it continued, with the government as a primary source of funding. Enterprise, public and private, became increasingly dependent in this respect upon government. Political pressures could be brought to bear upon governmental departments to come to aid of firms which were not economically viable. Appropriations which should have gone toward development of the infrastructure were doled out directly to various private and cooperative entrepreneurs, who lost any sense for the genuine profitability of their operations. Leibowitz and members of the group in question were convinced that this must lead to political corruption and foster an economy which was unable to stand on its own legs. Instead of utilizing the contributions of world Jewry and the aid of foreign governments for developing its productive resources on a firm economic basis, Israel was squandering them on maintaining a standard of living which was beyond its own capacity. Much of the agitation of this group was conducted on the pages of the periodical Beterem, which published many of Leibowitz's articles on a variety of subjects. The group was successful in disclosing and ending some particular cases of corruption. It did not succeed in putting across its massage and eventually disbanded. Its prognoses were only too well confirmed by recent developments of the Israeli economy. Pressure of political parties for support of favored projects has made a travesty of budgetary policy.

The Kibiyeh incident of 1953 directed Leibowitz's attention to a question which to him seemed ever more pressing.[6]The Zionist armed forces in the period antedating the state and the Israel Defense Force (IDF) in the early years had always avoided killing outside the direct context of warfare or self-defense. What change of attitude made possible the wanton killing of civilians in Kibiyeh? The motive was clear, retaliation for a series of murders by Palestinian terrorists. But what was is that removed the inhibitions to the murder of innocent civilians? Leibowitz's answer was that secular motifs and institutions had been endowed with a sanctity which is valid only within a religious context. Leibowitz finds no fault with secular Zionism as such. In fact he considered Zionism, including his own variety, as being essentially secular, with the clear limitations of secularity. Imputations of holiness to the secular, however, is religiously a form of idolatry and morally pernicious. The nation and its state acquire supreme value, and their interests are considered capable of justifying any action which promotes them.

In their time these causes seemed to interest a rather narrow public. It has been quite otherwise with the question of the occupied territories, which has divided Israeli opinion ever since 1967. for many it is an issue loaded with emotions that make clear and unbiased thinking very difficult. Leibowitz's foresight in predicting the consequences of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is all the more remarkable. In the article which, in slightly different versions, was published in several periodicals as early as 1968, he attempted to point out the likely effects of the occupation on Israeli society and government, as well as on its security and international status.[7]To almost all readers he seemed at the time to exaggerate matters beyond all proportion, and even today some of his contentions seem too far-fetched. Yet from year to year more of his predictions appear to be confirmed. To ignore them requires one to be oblivious to the facts. Unfortunately, too many Israelis prefer not to have unpleasant realities brought to their attention. One consequence of the politics of occupation – which Leibowitz fair to foresee – is an unwillingness to be confronted with information which runs counter to widespread prejudices. The more reliable the coverage of the communications media, the more convinced are many people of their intention to distort.

During the Lebanese campaign of 1982-83, Leibowitz was not only active in demanding the withdrawal of troops from Lebanon, but lent his moral backing to members of the reserves who refused to serve in Lebanon and officers who resigned their posts. At the time, this refusal gathered momentum and gained considerable popular support owing to widespread public opinion favoring withdrawal from Lebanon. He still continues his support, now in the face of public opinion, for the conscientious objectors who refuse to serve in the occupied territories, especially after the Palestinian uprising of 1987. In this, his position has not met with sympathy. Even among those who share his criticism of Israel's policy in the territories, many fell that conscientious objection is unjustified. The public at large supports the official policy and favors a strong arm in dealing with the uprising. Nevertheless he continues, in private conversation and public lecture, to justify refusal to serve in the territories.

His statements rarely discuss the casuistics of conscientious objection, which seems to occupy the attention of those who deal with this issue. The concept he constantly reiterates is that no matter how important political obedience may be, the state and its politics have only instrumental functions. Their value is not absolute and their demands not always overriding. The religious person, for religious reasons, and the humanist, for moral reasons, may have decisive grounds for disobedience.

Religious-Philosophical Premises

The brief retort to Sir Isaiah Berlin's tribute should serve as a warning against abstracting Leibowitz's views on current political issues from the broader context of his thought. Theological considerations entered even into his opinions on so distinctly political an issue as that of the occupied territories. His enduring importance as a contemporary Jewish thinker is associated with his radical theological conceptions and their implications for Judaism and Jewish nationhood. These, in turn, must be understood against a background of philosophic premises.

Human knowledge. Two distinct traditions affect Leibowitz's conceptions of the nature and limitations of knowledge. The first is the theology of Maimonides, with its emphasis on the absolute transcendence of God, who cannot be conceived by the human mind. He can be known only through his works, that is to say, through the natural order of things. The second tradition stems from the Kantian critique of theoretical reason and supplies an epistemological underpinning for the agnostic type of theology, but also radicalizes it. The domain of knowledge is restricted to that which can be a datum for experience. Not only must the transcendent remain unknown, but even its existence cannot be demonstrated. Critics of Leibowitz have taken this theological agnosticism for atheism without realizing that it is but a working out of the implications of a theology which, like of the Maimonides, insists on the total transcendence of the divine.

Knowledge, in the proper sense of the word, is the result of the application of the scientific method. This is the only way we have of obtaining reliable information about natural reality. But if reality is understood in terms of a system of functional relations, as it is by those utilizing this method, and not as a system of ends and materials, as it was in ancient and medieval times, the natural world is religiously indifferent. Hence it is absurd to regard revelation as a surrogate or supplement for natural knowledge. Whatever relation may exist between man and God must be a normative character.

Radical decision. Leibowitz accept Kant's dichotomy of factual and normative, but his interpretation of this dichotomy is more along positivistic lines. His discussion of the subject calls to mind Max Weber's. Ultimately, all normative obligations and value-imputations are dependent upon personal decision. A valuation may, of course, be justified in terms of already recognized values, but one's ultimate values cannot be validated by anything beyond them. They cannot be the subject of rational argument. Their validity for a person results from decision, not from recognition. Since Leibowitz regards religion as an exclusively normative domain denies that Scripture was intended to be a body of information, this is as true of religious commitment as it is of all other basic life-values. Factual knowledge may be forced upon us by experience. There is nothing to compel one into acceptance of any ultimate value-commitments, including that of religious faith.

This leads to a curious dialectic of autonomy and heteronomy. The religious value of an act consists in its being performed because it is a divine command. Yet the very idea of a divine commandment and acceptance of any specific system of norms as a body of divine prescriptions can only follow from an autonomous decision. The very ascription of a normative force to a divine command is a matter for decision. Like other weighty decisions, this one may be tacit rather than explicit. In the typical case, one is committed to halakhic practice as a result of socialization. Only in situations in which it cannot be taken for granted need the decision enter one's awareness. The tradition presents the decision to accept the Halakhah as a unique historical event which committed the future generations of Israel. However, if we follow out the logic of Leibowitz's position, it would appear that recognition of the validity of this commitment requires constant renewal of the basic decision. The heteronomous force of the Torah and its Mitzvoth is dependent upon continued autonomous commitment (either explicit or tacit) on both communal and personal level.

Decision is not merely a condition for entertaining value; it is constitutive of value. Only what is freely chosen – a goal to which one aspires or a property one seeks to embody in reality – is, properly speaking, a value. In Leibowitz's opinion, a need cannot possibly be a value since it is given, not chosen. Freedom of choice is not a value in its own right, but a condition of all valuation. It is something imposed, part of the human condition, not an end in itself. Autonomy does not commit one to any specified norms, not even to "the Moral Law". Hence there is nothing contradictory about the idea of autonomous commitment to a heteronomous system of rules.[8]

Religion and morality. Few of the author's contentions have been as confusing to his readers and audiences as the often retired statement that morality is an atheistic category. If so, how to account for the moral criticism to which much of his writings is devoted? To a certain extant, such statements may be attributed to his penchant for shocking formulations. It may reflect Leibowitz's failure to organize his ethical theorizing systematically. However, careful study of the contexts in which morality and religion are presented as conflicting should make Leibowitz's position more plausible. He is not claiming that a religious person cannot be a moral agent. At no point does he maintain that religious demands upon the person or the community are total in the sense of all-inclusive. On many matters the Halakhah is silent. At such points, moral considerations may very well come into play and ought to govern one's actions. The immorality of a religious person under such circumstances may even reflect upon his religiosity and constitute what is called Hillul Hashem, desecration of God's name.

Leibowitz does insist that a person acting as a moral agent cannot be acting as a religious agent and that a religious action cannot be simultaneously a moral action. This is a corollary of his view that human actions, as contrasted with natural events, can only be identified in terms of the agent's intention. The morality of an action is determined not by its consequences (though this enter into normal deliberation) but by the agent's intention to perform his duty. The religious character of an action is determined by the motive of worshipful service of God. The same external act may on one occasion be moral and on another religious, depending upon the agent's motivation. The idea of a religious duty to act morally when this seems to be required would not be a contradiction of Leibowitz's basic position, even if it may not be consonant with some of his formulations. A moral act done out of respect for religious duty would be a religious act. The person's proximate motive would be moral, but his ultimate motive religious. The intrinsic ultimacy of the religious motive is the point Leibowitz is trying to bring out.

Ends and means. Leibowitz make a large distinction, drawn by Maimonides and reflecting Aristotelian influence, between ends-in-themselves and secondary ends, which are ends for us only because they subserve some further end. The original context of this distinction was a theological concept of nature according to which things had their natural ends. As used by Leibowitz, without any reference to such a context, the distinction is rather similar to the familiar classification of values as instinct and instrumental. Yet there is a difference. Though there is no natural hierarchy of ends, some ends, once recognized must be taken as ultimate. They are incapable of being validated by reference to further ends. But Leibowitz goes further. He adopts two crucial doctrines of Maimonides on this matter: first, the religious end is not only an end-in-itself but is the ultimate end; second, an ultimate end is desecrated when it is made to serve as a means to some other end.

What is the religious end? For Leibowitz is the worshipful service of God, or halakhic praxis. It could not affect God, and bears no comparison with ordinary human values. The religious practitioner will divorce his religious action from any hope for reward or fear of punishment other than the status before God achieved in living the life of Halakhah. This is a religious contention, not a sociological one. One need not deny the functionality of religious practices for social solidarity or their role in preserving the national identity of Jews. But these are empirical questions that are religiously irrelevant. To attempt to justify adherence to Mitzvoth by its consequences, whether for society, nation, or individual is to take up a secular point of view which does not recognize the primacy and ultimacy of the worshipful service of God. Religiously, this is an inversion of the scale of values.

Jewish Faith

The thesis that Jewish faith is basically the commitment to observance of the Halakhah as worshipful service of God has a polemical thrust. Among others, it is directed against Reform Judaism, which regards the Halakhah as a husk hiding the essential core of religion. Some take it to be morality, others a set of metaphysical beliefs, or even the inner religious experience of the individual. On Leibowitz's premise, none of these would be of distinctly religious significance. However, one cannot argue effectively with people who reject these premises. Leibowitz, therefore, conducts his argument at the historical level.

Given the long history of the Jewish religion, the varying circumstances in which its adherents lived, the movements of Jewish thought in the course of Jewish history, and the diverse life styles of Jews in different epochs, what is that fixed the identity of Judaism over the ages? Leibowitz's answer is: the religious practice determined by the Halakhah? No other facet of Jewish religion had its continuity and relative invariance. Jewish theologies were so diverse and so dependent upon the variant philosophic assumptions of different schools and different ages that they can hardly be said to present a significant unity. Inner religious experience varies from individual to individual. Leibowitz seems to feel that it cannot be communicated.[9]One cannot ignore the fact that the Jewish religion was practiced by the collective, and that the practice had a highly institutionalized structure. Systems of beliefs and personal religious experience can hardly account for the unity of the institutions of the Jewish religion. Furthermore, at any given point in time, it is the life of Halakhah that distinguished the Jewish religion from others. Even its monotheism cannot be said to constitute its identity vis-à-vis Islam or Christianity. Islamic monotheism does not different from that of Judaism. As for Christian Trinitarianism, one need only recall that Kabbalists were accused by their opponents of belief in a decimalian deity. Historically, what definitively served Christianity from Judaism was its rejection of "the Law".

To understand the meaning of the Halakhah way of life is to understand Jewish religion. It is a method of orienting one's day-by-day existence by the sense of one's standing before God, which can be expressed only in worshipful action. To live with such of orientation involves a normatively significant decision. This is the basis act of faith: "Acceptance of the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven and the yoke of the Mitzvoth," in the idiom of the rabbinic sages.

To what end?

The very question reflects a misunderstanding of the religious attitude best summed up in the words of the psalmist: "Whom have I in heaven (but you) and there is non upon earth I desire but you… But for me to draw near to God is good" (Ps. 73:25, 28). To stand before God is the ultimate good, which is to be pursued only for its own sake. But how does one draw near the absolutely transcendent? By observing his Mitzvoth for the sole reason that in so doing we are worshiping him. The rabbis denote such motivation by the word lishma (for its own sake) and distinguish him who serves God lishma from him who serves not-lishma, that is, for some ulterior good. One who serves God lishma sets aside all consideration of advantages which may accrue from so doing or of loss from failing to do so. In the talmudic literature this is a distinction of rank, of different levels of religiosity.

Two man of faith are paradigmatic for Leibowitz. The first was Abraham, who was ready to sacrifice what was humanly most valuable for the sake of God. The other is Maimonides, for whom being motivated lishma was of the essence of religiosity. This follows from his view that an ultimate end is desecrated by being utilized as a means. It is no mere theoretical opinion. It is applied halakhically in his strict prohibition of studying Torah at the public expense or receiving remuneration for teaching it. Expectation of reward and punishment trivialized the religious act, which is the highest attainment of which man is capable. Halakhah is religious practice in the present; the religion of man in his natural condition. Religion does not bring about a radical change in the human condition. This is a denial of the concept of salvation as it is understood by Christians. The religious condition of man, as contrasted with his technological or cognitive attainment, remains constant. Although any individual, or the community as a whole, may advance their level of adherence to the norms of religious observance, their basic religious status does not change. A recurrent simile for the religious condition is the figure of the housewife, persisting in her work which begins ever anew. There is no further goal beyond that of living a halakhic life geared to the service of God. The religious life is a ceaseless cyclical process. Messianic expectations have no genuinely religious significance. At best, the messianic idea represents an ever receding goal. At worst, an anticipation of a nearby redemption, it disrupts the religious life of the community. In historically typical instances, it has led to apostasy.

What then can be meant by "Jewish faith" if it is neither a set of beliefs nor a body of expectations? Leibowitz's answer probably sounds more plausible in Hebrew than in English, since the word Emunah, by which the equivalents of the Greek pistis are usually translated, means, in its biblical usage and in most of its talmudic occurrences, "steadfastness," "dependability," or "righteousness." Jewish faith consists in the steadfast commitment to the life of religious observance, to the halakhic service of God. Since the inner religious experience, according to Leibowitz, varies from person to person, the inner awareness accompanying such commitment will also vary, and, as a matter of fact, always was differently perceived by different individuals and different groups. For a life of halakhic practice to be religiously meaningful, it must be motivated by the intention to worship God. It may have no ulterior motive. This does not mean that every halakhic act at the moment of performance must be accompanied by a subjective intention. It does imply that one's life of halakhic observance as a whole be intentionally directed to the service of God. It involves some awareness, however vague, of living in the presence of the wholly transcendent God, an evaluation of this as of the utmost importance, and acceptance of the Torah as the divinely ordained, though humanly interpreted, way of living "before" God.

Purity of faith is most likely to come to those who recognize the natural world as governed by functional relations which are indifferent to man's hopes and aspirations, and who do not interpret the religious idea of Providence as a kind of divine interference with the order of nature. In our religious observance, our intensions transcend any natural interest. This great conception means that the concern of the truly religious person is not with the relation of God to man but with the relation of man to God.

Jewish Peoplehood

For centuries the Jews existed as a people apart without any of the attributes which nineteenth-century nationalist ideology regarded as the marks of nationhood: language, territory, state and so on. Yet they themselves, as well as the peoples among whom they lived, never doubt their identity as a nation. That this national identity was determined by their religion was never questioned. Only late in the eighteenth century, in the emerging European nation-states and with the urge of emancipation, did the nature of this identity become problematic for those Jews who rejected the alternative of complete assimilation. Those who wanted to keep their religion and at the same time merge with their host-nations attempted to separate religion from nationality and retain their religious identity in some form, while relinquishing their Jewish nationality. The wave of secularization, which spread even to Jews who wished to retain their Jewish identity, raised new questions and new programs for Jewish existence. Zionism has proved to be the most viable of these.

Mainstream Zionism set itself the goal of achieving "normalization" of the Jewish national existence, by acquiring for it the features which nineteenth-century theory considered characteristic of nationality. Return to the historic land of Israel, revival of Hebrew as a spoken language, and creation of the state of Israel were realizations of this program. Since a common culture was considered to be an important aspect of national life, an attempt was made to reinterpret the literary sources and the traditional symbols so as to make them appear elements of a national culture which were not essentially religious .the Halakhah was represented as a product of life in Exile. Jewish religion was accorded an historic function as having preserved Jewish life under conditions of exile. With the reconstitution of normal Jewish life in the homeland, it became otiose.

Leibowitz strongly derides the idea of a secular Jewish identity. As a matter of empirical fact, the identity of the Jewish people over the ages has consisted in adherence to the religion of Halakhah. Moreover, the very idea of "normalization" is questionable. No particular set of properties is definitive of nationality. Different factors have determined the nationhood of different peoples. Whatever, in fact, makes for the national solidarity of a people may be taken as the essential constituent of its nationhood. In every instance, this will be a matter of subjective consciousness. As Leibowitz puts it, a nation is a being of the mind. A group's self-perception as a nation makes it a nation, and the attributes it perceives as identifying its nationality are what constitutes its nationhood. In the case of Israel that attribute has been its religious praxis. Given Leibowitz's conception of the supremacy of religious commitment over all over values, it follows that evaluating the Jewish religion in terms of its contribution to Jewish survival is an egregious distortion of the value-scale. Such a contribution may be a historic fact, but that does not make Jewish survival the end of Halakhah. Commitment to Halakhah is the constitutive factor in Jewish nationality; it confers the special significance upon the existence of the Jewish people. To impute the value of halakhic religion to its function in providing for the national survival is sheer idolatry – worship of the nation.

The creed of secularized Jewish nationalism is not the only current form of idolatry. A type of religious nationalism which has gained popularity in recent years fosters a more insidious idolatry: imputing an immanent sanctity to Israel, to the land of Israel, and to the state. In one sense, it is true, holiness may be predicated of things human or mundane, namely, as being assigned a special halakhic status or as heightening the religious commitment. To attribute holiness to a people because of a hereditary strain of which they are (absurdly) considered the carriers, to a state because it is the state of that people, or to a piece of land because it is their land, independently of any halakhic norms applying to it, is mere fetishism. People, land, or state may, of course, be held precious and valuable. But in attributing to them, as intrinsic, the specifically religious value of holiness, one is setting up a false God. The consequences of such attribution are likely to be morally vicious; ever more so than those of the secular idolatry. Such religious nationalism leads to the overriding of moral considerations by political interest, subordination of regard for humanity to irredentist aspirations, and complete disregard for the claims of others when they conflict with those of the sacred people. Leibowitz is critical of the attempts to base Jewish nationalism on a specific Jewish culture which is severed from Jewish religion. In divorcing elements of Jewish culture from their religion matrix, we deprive them of any significance. Compared to parallel cultural contributions of others, their value is negligible. This is not to deny that some elements of culture are distinctively Jewish. However, insofar as they are authentically Jewish, they derive their meanings from the religious context in which they originated. Apart from this context, the cultural achievements of Jews have been either universal in import, or contributions to the culture of societies within which they were active. The antecedents of such cultural creativity are non-Jewish, even when the Jewish writers and artists draw on their personal experience as Jews.

Religion, State, and Society

Many believe that Leibowitz's views on the relation of religion, state, and society have undergone great changes. Some go so far as to refer to the early Leibowitz and the later Leibowitz. They find a serious discrepancy between the earlier emphasis on adapting the Halakhah to conditions of political independence and the latter call for separation of state and religion; between the initial concern with the religious significance of the state and the eventual insistence upon the secular character of the state. This assessment neglects some conceptual distinctions as well as the implications which developments in Israeli society and polity have had for Leibowitz.

In maintaining that the state, by its very nature, is a secular institution, he is applying his criterion of motivation. Has it been instituted, and does it continue to be maintained, as worshipful service of God or does it have another end in view? The very functions of the state indicate its secular nature. This does not preclude the possibility that the Halakhah is intended to govern the political life no less than that of the individual: many halakhic prescriptions appear to be intended for regulation of the polity. In the 1920s and 1930s many religious settlers considered the Torah as practiced in exile to be a truncated Torah, because it could not be applied to the political life of the community of Israel. Realization of the Torah in its full scope became a major goal of their Zionism. The state was still a dream. The tightly knit and well-disciplined quasi-political organization of the Yishuv (pre-state Jewish community) was conducted on a voluntary basis. The social as well as geographical space was sufficiently wide to permit each of various sectors of the Yishuv to try to realize its own utopia. The society was to be built up from scratch. In this situation religious pioneers established tightly organized model communities, guided by the Halakhah in conducting modern economic and social activities, even in providing for their defense against marauders. These the considered pilot plants to test and develop ways of application of Halakhah to the life of a politically independent Jewish society. Their experiment paralleled the project of the Labor wing of the Zionist movement to create nuclei of a socialist society. Leibowitz's positions on the public issues of the time were oriented to this voluntaristic configuration.

One question of both theoretical and practical significance was how the Halakhah would be applied in an autarchic religious community, all members of which were Torah-observant. Leibowitz and like-minded people insisted that any responsible halakhic introduction had to cover all citizens. Yet nation-wide observance of the Halakhah as it has come down through the ages could be disastrous. For instance, exemptions of religious personal engaged in police or security activities involving desecration of the Sabbath might be feasible, but total abstention from all such activity on the Sabbath could well be calamitous. The dilemma for the religious leadership was whether to continue in religious isolation or to work out new halakhic solutions to these and other problems of statehood.

The official rabbinate in the late thirties did not meet this challenge. It failed to come to grips with the problems; there was a good deal of evasion. At times, the implication seemed to be that the observant should avoid problematic situations and leave them to the nonobservant. Most rabbis avoided taking a stand on Sabbath observance as it conflicted with defense activity, and hinted that these matters might be left to others who were not troubled by questions of Sabbath observance. In answer to farmers confronted with problems of halakhic observance, some rabbis suggested they might avoid such problems if they were to engage in commerce rather than agriculture. Leibowitz felt this was to make halakhic observance by religious Jews parasitic upon the nonobservance of the secular. On such a basis, halakhic observance by the totality of the community was impossible. This conflicted with the conception of Halakhah as intended for realization by the whole Jewish community.

With his penchant for defining issues in the sharpest form, Leibowitz posed the question: Was the Halakhah capable of prescribing forms of life for a politically independent community of Jewish committed to its observance? His own answer was that, because halakhic life had been conducted for so long under conditions of political subservience and depended upon socioeconomic structures over which Jews had no control, such dependence had become a basic assumption of halakhic observance. The potentially applicable principles of the Halakhah required restatement. However, the mentality of the halakhic authorities was so conditioned by the context of life in exile that they were unable to adjust their thinking to the demands of new circumstances. The required shape of halakhic observance would have to be developed by the practice of the general community of those faithful to the Torah.

Another kind of question seemed no less pressing: was religious relevant to solution of the grave social problems of the time? In the 1920s and 1930s this question was troubling young religious Jews the world over, in Palestine, Poland, Germany, even in the United States, just at it was troubling Christian thinkers such as Paul Tillich in Germany, Leonhardt Ragaz in Switzerland, and Reinhold Neibuhr in the United States. In the Jewish formulation, if the Torah is truly an encompassing way of life for the people of Israel, surely it must offer some guidance with respect to the social and political order.

In the Diaspora individual Jews could voice opinions, participate actively in political movements, and be politically committed in their literary and artistic activities. In a Jewish commonwealth, however, they would have to participate actively in shaping the social and political order of a Jewish polity. What did halakhic Judaism have to say as to the nature of the sociopolitical system? One might have expected the religious leadership of rabbis and scholars to address this issue. For the most part, however, this community tended to oppose Zionism to the point of regarding it as religiously illegitimate. Even those who were sympathetic to the project of reconstituting Jewish national independence were not too well versed in the time and hardly understood what wanted of them. The matter was taken up by the religious workers and by members of the religious youth movements.

The typical apologetic response was that, after all, a body of Jewish civil law operated for hundreds of years in the Diaspora wherever, as was usually the case, the Jewish community possessed legal autonomy. Principles of administration and political structure might be culled from talmudic sources, which Maimonides codified as late as the twelfth century. Leibowitz was not alone in pointing out that this could not answer the need of the hour. A civil code does not institute a social order; it regulates transactions within it. The supposedly relevant Halakhah was adapted to a technological and social milieu quite different from ours.

Another common suggestion was to have recourse to general principles of justice and equity. This idea was justified by various authoritative rabbinic pronouncements to the effect that the formality of halakhic law required supplementation by ethical guidance. Leibowitz pointed out, however, that the ethical guidelines were applicable to a variety of social orders. Even in a system based on slavery, relations between master and slave could reflect higher or lower standards of justice. What is called for is halakhic legislation. Again, free decision is unavoidable. We could only try to surmise what kind of sociopolitical order, given the circumstances of our time, would be most consonant with what appears to us to be the intention of the Torah. In view of the relative alienation of the community of rabbinic scholars from the contemporary world, this must be undertaken by the general community of Torah observers on the basis of their understanding of the implications of the broad aims of Halakhah for our times.

The foundation of the state of Israel brought about complex changes, with implications that were barely perceived by the intellectual and political leadership of religious Jewry in Israel. Within the Zionist Organization and the administrative and political institutions of the Yishuv under the mandatory regime, a modus vivendi had been attained in religious matters. This resulted partly from the need for voluntary cooperation between the religious and secular sectors in the Zionist Organization, but more considerably from the mandatory power's having taken over many of the provisions governing religious minorities under Ottoman rule. The local Jewish communities, all of them composed of voluntary participants, were empowered to tax members for the maintenance of schools. Such community-supported schools might be religious or affiliated with one of the existing secular educational systems. The local communities were united in an overall organization called Knesseth Israel, which de facto constituted the political organization of the Yishuv. All members of Knesseth Israel were subject to the rabbinic courts, which had jurisdiction in matters of personal status and were supported by the local communities who were empowered to levy taxes for this purpose.[10]The Chief Rabbinate was established as the highest rabbinic instance, and the Great Rabbinic Court was a rabbinic court of appeals. The modus vivendi in question also included a modicum of religious observance to be maintained in the public sphere and by enterprises conducted by the Zionist Organization. The Sabbath was the recognized day of rest. In Jewish townships such as Tel-Aviv places of business were closed down on the Sabbath, and public transportation suspended.

The transformations under the state of Israel did not so much change the substantive nature of the modus vivendi as modify the institutional structure of the religious establishment. The rabbinic courts, which had previously functioned within the framework of a voluntarily organized community, became official judicial organs of the state. Their jurisdiction, which had been limited to members of that community, was now extended to all Jewish residents of Israel. Moreover, The Halakhah was established as the only law applying to marriage and divorce among Jews in Israel.[11]The Sabbath became the legal day of rest, with Friday an option for Moslems and Sunday for Christians. The state funded and supervised two school systems, one of secular and one of religious schools. A Ministry of Religious Affairs was set up to take care of religious needs. In fact, principles of the welfare state were applied to religious matters. The government subsidized religious services, building of synagogues, mosques and churches. Salaries of religious functionaries were paid by the state or the municipalities. A vast body of vested interests developed within the religious establishment, dependent on the government apparatus and part of it.

Under these circumstances, it is no wonder that various religious groups – even those that had previously opposed Zionism and, in a sense, continued to consider the state religiously illegitimate – came to regard government as a constant source of fiscal benefits. Religious parties tended to become pressure groups for the interests of a variety of religious organizations and institutions.

The deeper problems following the transition from the voluntarily organized society of the mandatory period to statehood may be illustrated by two incidents which occurred in the early fifties. The first of these was the debate over the constitution. The first Knesseth (legislative body) was elected as a constituent assembly empowered to adopt a constitution. In accordance with European political tradition, most participants felt that the constitution ought, first of all, to be declaratory of the principles on which the state was to be conducted. The various parties strove to have their ideologies incorporated into the constitution. Only a handful of participants in these debates appreciated that the chief purpose of a constitution was to create the framework of a polity within which groups committed to clashing ideologies might be able to work together. All the religious parties opposed a constitution, some for opportunistic reasons – fear that it would severely restrict introducing halakhic principles into the law of the land – other of grounds of principle. The latter argued that the people of Israel already had a binding constitution, the Torah, and the adoption of any other constitution by the state of Israel would be an abrogation of the authentic constitution of Israel. These debates were replete with conceptual confusion. Many failed to appreciate the function of basic law in pluralistic society. As Leibowitz held in other contexts, the community organized in the state of Israel ought to be the forum where basic issues of Jewish identity and of the norms of Jewish life would be fought out. It was not the function of the state to decide such matters.[12]

The other affair illustrative of the problems of statehood had to do with the education of children in the transition camps for new immigrants and later in their settlements. In the fifties massive immigration came to Israel from the Moslem countries. The vast majority of immigrant families were from a traditionally religious milieu. The parents were not yet used to their new surroundings. Without many qualms, the officials responsible for immigrant absorption set up secular schools in the transition camps in later in a good many of the villages in which these immigrants settled. At the time Leibowitz was a member of the executive committee of the Histadruth (General Federation of Jewish Workers), and he endeavored to convince his colleagues that this required rectification. He was dismayed by the utter disregard for the traditional religious background of the new immigrants. In his estimation, power consideration made it politically convenient to alienate them from their tradition. He was impressed by the etatism of David Ben Gurion, who would have the life of the nation center about the state and regarded religion, especially deep religious concern with the manner in which the state was conducted, as a nuisance.

The Kibiyeh incident of 1953 seems to have marked a turning point in Leibowitz's political thought.[13]It showed him that the state had become virtually an object of worship and, as a result, raison d'etat would be a likely excuse for knavery of all kinds. In this situation, the task confronting religious Jewry was to constitute a bulwark against deification of the state and to conduct a struggle within the state over the religious national identity of the people of Israel. This did not imply that the demand for restatement of Halakhah so as to offer viable guidance to the conduct of the state was no longer valid, but its urgency was diminished by the need of the struggle over the substance of Jewish peoplehood. The battle was thwarted, however, by the status of the religious establishment as part of the machinery of the state, which prevented it from acting as a countervailing force within the community. Its efforts were spent in protecting narrow sectional interests. Problems of the Jewish people as the bearers of Judaism were beyond their concern. But precisely these problems were of the utmost importance. It was perhaps the supreme function of the state of Israel, as a Jewish state, to supply a framework in which the struggle over the identity of the Jewish people could be conducted. Integration of the religious establishment of the political structure tied its hands and limited its motivation. Concern with official status, fiscal benefits, and political influence made it vulnerable to corruption. In the interest of the integrity of Jewish religion, separation of religion and state now appeared to be a desideratum.

Zionism, the Arabs, and the Occupied Territories

The Arab-Jewish conflict, in Leibowitz's view, results from the clash of rival national aspirations. Both parties consider Palestine their homeland, each for good historic reasons. Neither is willing to live under the other's rule. One can hardly envisage a solution which would be entirely satisfactory to both sides. Thus Leibowitz is pessimistic about the prospects of resolving the conflict within the foreseeable future. Even if a settlement is reached, it is hardly likely to be a durable peace like that which obtains today between neighboring nations in Western Europe.

To construe the issue as one of conflicting rights is confusing and misleading. Talk of a right to a piece of property or a territory implies the existence of legal norms which confer the right, and of machinery for enforcing valid claims to such a right. Such rights pertain only to persons or to corporate bodies recognized as persons by law.[14]They do not apply to collectives as such. Zionism was never a violation of Arab "rights" to Palestine, thought it came into conflict with the national aspirations of the Palestinians. Equally, the historic ties of the Jewish people to the land of Israel do not confer rights of sovereignty over the territory.

Partition appeared to be a feasible solution. As a matter of historic fact, the resolution of the United Nations was accepted by the Zionists but rejected by the Arabs, who attempted to thwart its realization by military action. Partition would not have satisfied the territorial aspirations of either Jews or Arabs, but it would have granted the Palestinians political independence just as it offered Jews the opportunity to establish the state of Israel. The current attempt to coerce the Arabs of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank into submission to Israeli rule can only lead to a permanent struggle for their independence. The adversaries, like all who undertook such struggles in the post-World War II era, will not be squeamish about the means employed. Another all-out war between Israel and the Arab states is likely. Hence repartitioning the land of Israel between Jews and Arabs is a necessary condition for peace, even though not a sufficient one.

In his assessment to the situation shortly after the war of 1967, Leibowitz exhibited remarkable foresight. He predicted that after a few years of occupation not a Jewish worker or a Jewish farmer would be left. The Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, and officials. A state ruling a hostile population of a probable two million foreigners would necessarily become a police state with all this implies for education, free speech, and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also infect the state of Israel. The administration would have to suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab Quislings on the other. Leibowitz found good reasons to fear that the Israel defense Force, which had been the people's army, would degenerate as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, and its commanders, who will have become military rulers, will resemble their colleagues in other nations. Twenty-one years later, in an overview of the state of the nation after forty years of political independence, Leibowitz could ruefully indicate that if his prognosis had not yet been confirmed in all its details by actual developments, its realization was close.

His gravest apprehensions concern the survival of Israel as a Jewish state. Unlike many other Zionists and especially religious Zionists, Leibowitz clearly discerns the implications of the modern state's territorial principle. A state can bear a national character by virtue of either of two factors. It may have a strong indigenous national culture to which newcomers tend to assimilate. This is obviously not the case in Israel, where the Arabs are not newcomers and have no wish to assimilate. Or the state may reflect the characteristic of the demographically predominant nationality. This indeed was the case in Israel before 1967. It would obviously no longer be so if Israel were to annex the occupied territories.

Even now, however, Israeli presence in Gaza and the West Bank undermines the capacity of Israel to fulfill the role of a Jewish state. In Leibowitz's view the Jewishness of the state could only consist in its concern with the problem with the Jewish people, both in the land of Israel and in the Diaspora. A state constantly engaged in suppressing potential or actual insurgency is focused on considerations of power which consume its material and organizational resources and distort its spiritual perspective. Most disturbing for Leibowitz himself is the debasement of religion by its use as a rationalization for vicious chauvinism and fetishistic irredentism.

Leibowitz is pessimistic about the prospect of genuine peace. Awaiting the agreement of the Palestinians to what the Israelis consider acceptable terms would result in its indefinite postponement. A continuing status quo will lead to progressive corruption of Israeli society, alienation of Jews in the Diaspora, and, in all likelihood, to out-and-out, possibly catastrophic warfare against a broad coalition of Arab countries. Meanwhile the military balance is shifting in favor of the Arabs, and continued occupation of the territories by Israel results in the constant deterioration of its standing in the international community.

This evaluation points to unilateral withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories as the way to extricate Israel from the morass of occupation. As early as 1968, Leibowitz was arguing that the strategic benefits of occupying the territories have been exaggerated and that the occupation has, in fact, strategic disadvantages: the need to quell internal belligerence while facing the enemy across the borders. Only recently has his position come to be accepted by growing numbers of military experts.

Though many would agree with Leibowitz's diagnoses, few are ready to accept his proposal for a one-sided withdrawal. A common rejoinder is that withdrawal may be desirable, but is feasible only if certain safeguards are guaranteed. These require some kind of preliminary agreement between the adversaries. Certain questions, such as control of the water sources, which are not pressing at the moment, would constitute a casus belli if not settled prior to withdrawal. Furthermore, while such a withdrawal may have been possible in the early years of the occupation, today the vested material and ideological interests are so strong that it might be well-nigh impossible to implement such a policy even if the Knesseth and government were to adopt it. Leibowitz himself seems to feel that only strong external pressure of the powers, as in 1956 and again in 1973, could bring about some form of agreement.


Leibowitz's view of Christianity as a form of paganism is not new. One can adduce good halakhic authority for such an evaluation, in particular that of Maimonides, just as it is possible to cite halakhic opinion to the contrary. However, is image of Christianity as the great historic adversary of Judaism, not merely its competitor, follows from his conception of the halakhic life as the essence of Judaism. If, as he believes, the founding documents of Christianity are the Pauline epistles rather than the Gospels, then Christianity originated with the abrogation of "the Law," in other words, with the negation of Judaism. He goes so far as to argue that in no true sense can Christianity be regarded as an offspring of Judaism. It originated in entirely different spiritual milieu and the supposed ties with Judaism merely follow from the origin myth. But this myth had far-reaching effects. The caustic historic antagonism between Christianity and Judaism results from the claim of Christianity that it is the legitimate heir of Judaism. As Leibowitz puts it, the heir cannot admit that he testator is still alive. The very existence of Judaism is a scandal from this standpoint.

Leibowitz is not conducting a polemic against Christianity as a religion. Had the Marcionite heresy gained the upper hand and the Church repudiated the Hebrew Bible, coexistence of the two religions would not have involved the tremendous tension that has always characterized their relations. They would have been two separate and very different religions each going its own way. The stresses exist because Christianity claims to offer the true interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, and the Church contends it is the true Israel. Not only do Jews deny this claim, but the very survival of Judaism as practiced by Jews tends to refute it. It is a veritable stumbling-block. This ressentiment toward Judaism is deep enough to affect the thought even of the great Christian theologian Karl Barth, who certainly cannot be accused of anti-Semitism in the ordinary sense. A felt antipathy to Judaism is shared by many intellectuals, who can hardly be accounted Christian by faith but have absorbed the attitude from the Christian tradition.

The real butt of Leibowitz's polemic are what he calls Christianizing Jews, proponents of a liberal Judaism that would divorce their religion from the halakhic tradition. In his opinion, a Jew true to the spirit of Halakhah could have no interest in the Judeo-Christian dialogue which these representatives of liberal Judaism are keen on promoting. Such a dialogue is possible only between Jews who have become de-Judaized and Christians who have become de-Christianized. He is careful to note that his words apply to coexistence between Judaism and Christianity, not to coexistence and mutual communication between Jews and Christians outside the concerns of religion.

The discussion of "Hochhut's error" is an interesting projection of Leibowitz's tendency to carry an argument to its logical conclusions. This is certainly an intellectual virtue. But do people act under the guidance of such logic? As depicted in this discussion, the line of thought of Pius XII was as follows: Christian faith demands the annihilation of Judaism, not, of course, of Jews. But almost two thousand years of history indicate that, so long as Jews exist as a people, Judaism will not disappear. The Church would never initiate an extermination of Jews, but if another agent was doing this, the church would not intervene to prevent an action which would bring about a result to desirable from its standpoint. If this was Pius's line of thought, it would explain his action, or rather inaction. But was this really his line of thought? And if it was, was it certain that he was prepared to carry it out?

The Leibowitzian Pathos

To the public, Leibowitz appears as the cold intellectual, oblivious of the deep emotional overtones of the issues he takes up, disregarding the nonrational elements of human situations. It is easy to see what promotes such an impression. Speaking from his extreme halakhic position, he dismisses the feeling-contents of the religious experience and the aspirations to salvation as peripheral, even misleading. He represents the ideal type of the Lithuanian misnagued, the opponent of the Hassidic "enthusiast", engrossed in the study of Torah and its application in life. His conception of halakhic religion as belonging to the "prose" of man's every day natural life and the disparagement of the religiosity of moments of uplift seem to confirm this picture. So do his affirmation of the life of halakhic praxis as itself the ultimate religious end and his denial of the religious value of the aspirations often associated with religion.

Most annoying to many is his capacity for thinking politically about politics: the ability to detach himself from the immediate emotional impact of the data, to take into consideration their practical implications for all affected, to assess policies from a long-range point of view. His readiness to attack "national policy" is taken to reflect lack of attachment to national values and goals. Objects of fetishistic worship such as the historic land of Israel are for him, when he is assessing them politically, elements in a rational calculation.

The assessment of coldness would be an extreme misrepresentation of the man. The most patent evidence against it is the vigorous nature of his polemic, which reflects the deep personal involvement in the issues he takes up. When he comments on instances of parasitism or corruption, one easily senses his indignation. The Lithuanian misnagued is no mere student. Much of what he studies has to be applied in life. His intellectual interest is never completely severed from real life. His conclusions drive him to action. No one has been more emphatic than Leibowitz in urging that a life of Torah is not just study of Torah but its practice. His theoretical conclusions are implemented on the practical level, in speech and writing, at every opportunity.

He has been accused of no longer being a Zionist by people for whom manipulations of meanings is part of their political arsenal. As Sir Isaiah Berlin so clearly perceived, his Zionism is deeply ingrained. On Leibowitz's own admission, the source for his conviction is emotional: as a Jew, he had enough of being ruled by Goyim. Zionism today calls for safeguarding the existence and welfare of the state of Israel. This requires careful analysis of the political situation, working out the consequences of alternative policies, and assessing the probable moves of the parties involved. The objective will not be attained by blind attachment to slogans or fixation on certain particulars, whatever the cost. Attachment to the state may be very deep even when its real interests are defined with critical deliberation.

On the purely religious level, Leibowitz himself points out the deep pathos animating the nonpathetic religiosity. There can be no deeper love of God than to forego human values in order to serve God. The rejection of hope for any radical transformation of the human condition, the readiness to conduct this service as part of man's humdrum existence, is a high peak of sacrificial religion. Whatever is attained is negligible in terms of ordinary human valuation. In the religious sense, it is the recognition of man by God and the sanctification of his drab natural life. Ironically, his discussion of the religiosity of the prose of life brings out a romantic streak in Leibowitz, incorporating Lessing's idea that the eternal search for the true is preferable to the true itself. To cap the irony, Leibowitz returns to the words of a Jewish mystic to say that the effort to attain the end is the only true end for man, since the end itself is God Himself.

[1]A Hebrew translation of Sir Isaiah's tribute appeared in Ha'aretz, March 4, 1983.

[2]Ha'aretz, April 15, 1983

[3]Yeshayahu Leibowitz, with student-colleagues, Conversations about the "Eight Chapters" of Maimonides (Jerusalem, Keter Publishing House, 1986) (Heb.).

[4]The Halakhah is the body of Jewish religious law as set forth in the talmudic sources, elaborated over the centuries in the rabbinic literature, and exemplified in the practice of the Jewish communities.

[5]The Histadruth, to this day, is a trade union organization on the one hand and a conglomerate of cooperatives, agriculture settlements, banking and business concerns on the other.

[6]For a brief description of the incident see the prefatory remarks to chapter 17.

[7]See chapter 22 of this book.

[8]The belief of some critics that Leibowitz is inconsistent in this respect stems from their taking it for granted that autonomy must be valuable in itself. Certainly nothing in Leibowitz's views is inconsistent with regard for freedom from external coercion (Isaiah Berlin's negative freedom) as a most important instrumental value – a basic condition for the possibility for men's striving to realize any value whatsoever.

[9]Leibowitz's failure to make this point in more than one or two explicit statements has misled some critics as well as some followers into attributing to him a total rejection of the inner religious experience. It should have been clear that his conception of worshipful motivation of religious praxis (lishmah) necessarily involves an inner dimension. But the specific content of such an inner experience is unique to each individual and cannot be socially shared.

[10]The relevant clause of the King's Order in Council of 1922 read: "the rabbinical courts of the Jewish community shall have exclusive jurisdiction in matters of marriage and divorce, alimony and confirmation of wills, of members of their community other than foreigners."

[11]It is worth nothing that the Kadi Act of 1961 granted the Moslem courts a status similar to that of the rabbinical courts.

[12]For a concise description and analysis of the Knesseth debates over the proposed constitution see: Eliezer Goldman Religious issues in Israel's Political Life (Jerusalem: World Zionist organization, 1964), pp. 47-66.

[13]See note 4 above.

[14]This does not exclude moral considerations, corresponding to what ate usually called "human rights". But in the present context the terminology of legal discourse is more confusing than enlightening.