The Ideology of the Further Development of the Religious Zionism: A Shift and Correction of Objectives According to the Second Part of Rabbi Kook’s Program
A brief synopsis
The full article follows below.
- What must be done today to further the success of the Religious Zionism? Is it enough to strengthen what we are already doing (learning Torah from a contemporary and Zionist perspective, building settlements in Judea and Samaria, promoting national-religious values, participating in the life of the State of Israel by developing it in accordance the ideals of the Jewish tradition)? Or is it time to look around and adjust the course to be taken by Religious Zionism itself, to designate new goals and objectives?
In the past, the success of the Religious Zionism was based on the approach of Rav Abraham Isaac Kook. This includes work on the two levels: practical policies for today and laying the groundwork for the future. Rav Kook implemented this approach by establishing Mercaz ha-Rav (Central Universal Yeshiva), that in the 1930s-1950s was already working on ideas ensuring the advancement of the Religious Zionism in the 1970s-1990s. This dual approach—maintaining the current work while developing concepts for the future—is absolutely necessary to continue today.
Many decades have passed since Rav Kook’s time, and what was once a perspective is now a reality. However, the new perspective—new horizons of the Religious Zionism—has not been outlined yet. As a result, the Religious Zionist movement is losing its spiritual authority and leadership in Israeli society. So, to formulate such a perspective is an urgent and vital task.
We will try to do this below.
- The basis of the ideology of modern Religious Zionism is Rav Kook’s idea that the non-religious Zionism of Theodor Herzl is to be identified with the concept of Mashiach ben Yosef, i.e., King Saul of contemporaneity. This equation, which Rav Kook made in 1904 in his article on Herzl’s death “Misped b’Yerushalaim” (“The Lamentation in Jerusalem,” 1904). Hence Rav Kook directed Religious Zionism on a practical level to support the Herzl’s secular Zionist movement, as it was the beginning of the messianic process. At the same time, according to Rav Kook, on a level of laying the groundwork for the future, the agenda of Religious Zionism should include building the foundation for the next phase of messianic process—Mashiach ben David, who would replace Mashiach ben Yosef and complete Geula, the redemption.
This ideology worked in the era when Mashiach ben Yosef was just beginning its journey. Today, however, the situation has changed, so the direct application of a century-old fundamental premise runs into problems. Over the past century, Mashiach ben Yosef—the secular Zionism—has successfully achieved its goals, realized in the modern State of Israel. (Although there remained some technical aspects of its mission still to be finalized, practical work on this lacks inspiration.) So, in messianic perspective, as Mashiach ben Yosef, the secular Zionist movement should be “dying” and be replaced by Mashiach ben David. However, there is still no sign of him—no political or social movement in today’s Israel could identify with him. Hence, the Religious Zionism gets stuck without a vision of its further goals and next steps.
- In order to correct the ideology, we must look at another, much less well-known passage by Rav Kook, which, however, allows for a much broader perspective. The passage from Rav Kook’s 1910 book Shmonah Kvatsim (3:1) describes development of Judaism in modern times as the integration of the ideals of three groups—ideological camps within the Jewish people:
- Orthodox (Torah study and observance of the commandments).
- Secular nationalist Zionists (development of the Land, state-building, national security and economy).
- Liberals-universalists (commitment to universal human values).
One hundred years ago Rav Kook believed that the Judaism of the future would be a synthesis of all three. So far, we have reached exactly halfway: the Orthodox and national Zionist ideals coexist in Religious Zionism, however the universalist ideals are not integrated yet.
This means that today we must focus on the remaining half of the work: the integration of universalist ideals into Judaism.
We should adapt the universal values in accordance with Jewish tradition and Rav Kook—without compromising the national and orthodox religious elements of Religious Zionism. We must proceed carefully, adopting only what we can define as “sparks of Divine Light.” For a thorough practical discussion of how the integration of the universalist ideals can be realized, see the following articles:
- In English: “Religious Zionism of Rav Kook” at http://orot-yerushalaim.org/rav_kook.html
- In Hebrew: התפתחות היהדות בימינו על פי תורת הראי”ה קוק at http://orot-yerushalaim.org/rav_kook.html
- However, in addition to understanding the present situation in practical terms—that is, “how to develop Judaism”—we should also frame it in terms of the messianic process. It is the realization of the messianic process and contribution to it that gives purpose and meaning to the Religious Zionism and infuses it with energy.
Today, when Mashiach ben Yosef has already completed its mission and is dying, and still there are no sign of Mashiach ben David in political and social life of contemporary Israel, how could we answer the question—in which phase of messianic process do we live now?
We could answer this question if we consider that the traditional model of messianic process—from Mashiach ben Yosef to Mashiach ben David—has two phases based on two archetypic dynasties of the ancient Jewish kingdom: one—from the Tribe of Joseph (King Saul), another—from the House of David (King Solomon). At the same time, the ancient Jewish kingdom went through three, not two phases of development, represented by the reigns of three, not two Biblical monarchs: Saul, David, and Solomon.
King Saul is seen as a messianic projection of Mashiach ben Yosef and King Solomon—as a messianic projection of Mashiach ben David. That is, it was Solomon, who followed Saul as Mashiach ben David, and not David, who followed Saul as just the king. So, David (whom we could call Mashiach ben Yehuda), was left out from the two-phase model of messianic process and should be restored to it.
Therefore, in order to adjust the ideology of the Religious Zionism we propose a three-phase messianic process corresponding to the three, not two Biblical kings, each phase reflecting the main values and goals of respective generations of the Jewish people.
King Saul sought security and normalization of his people: “That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles” (1 Samuel 8:20). Secular Zionism pursued the same goals, as noted by Rav Kook who identified Theodor Herzl with Mashiach ben Yosef. Under King David the life of the nation had an ongoing connection to the Divine authority and national-religious revival took priority. David finally restored the Ark of the Covenant to its proper place in Jerusalem, the national capital. King Solomon’s goal was to spread the Jewish faith in Torah’s One God among the nations. So, his reign became a messianic projection of the Mashiach ben David phase. However, it was impossible to go directly from Saul, Mashiach ben Yosef to Solomon, Mashiach ben David without the work done by David.
If we realize that there is an intermediate phase—“David himself,” or Mashiach ben Yehuda—between the Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David phases, then we could see clearer our position in the Messianic process today. The era of Saul, the secular Zionism, is coming to a successful end (and we are grateful for the work it did). Indeed, Solomon is not yet in sight, but David—in terms of the ongoing messianic process—is clearly present in modern Israel: it is the Religious Zionists, with their settlements in Judea and Samaria. Their goals are fully consistent with those of the Biblical David: a national-religious (not just national-secular) revival.
This means that in terms of Rav Kook, on a practical level we must support David (this includes the activities we already do by supporting the settlements and participating in the life of the State of Israel); on a level of laying the groundwork for the future we must begin building a base for the coming of Solomon, Mashiach ben David.
- In the current phase of redemption, the phase of King David, we must take the following steps to transform Judaism in order to bring the phase of King Solomon, the era of Mashiach ben David, closer:
- Integrating universal human values into Religious Zionism, as in the vision of Rav Kook. Understanding history of all humanity, not only Jewish history as an ongoing dialogue between humans and God.
- Developing a deep dialogue between Judaism and Christianity, which would contribute to the development of Judaism itself. Development of the Noahide Movement, making Judaism accessible to non-Jews. Making Judaism a religion for anyone willing, without becoming a Jew.
- Developing the concept of universal significance of the Temple in Jerusalem and its future role as a beacon of Divine Light for all humanity and the point of connection between the nations of the world and God of Israel.
Religious Zionism—just as in the 1970s and 2000s—should take the lead in realizing these goals by establishing educational programs for all ages and levels, organizing conferences, creating working groups that will specifically promote public discussion of these topics in Israel.
Of course, it is not easy for the Religious Zionism to turn toward such goals. We are used to the Religious Zionism emphasizing and reinforcing the national agenda, while overlooking and even ignoring the universal matters. However, we must acknowledge that the national agenda including its ideological component is being successfully realized, so we need not only to continue and complete our current practical work but to look at it in broader perspective and set our new goals for the future.
Hence our principle: Thank Saul, support David, pave the way for Solomon.
We thank Saul, the secular Zionist movement, for creating our wonderful State of Israel. All shortcomings are temporary and will be overcome.
We support David, the settlement movement, national-religious values, participation in all areas of the State of Israel and bringing it closer to the ideals of the Jewish tradition.
We pave the way for Solomon by developing and promoting the orthodox modernization of Judaism and the integration into it of universal human values.
Only in this way can we reach the next level of the orthodox modernization and make the Religious Zionism the basis for the further development of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
The full article
Discussion of Mashiach or Messianic process usually perceived as involving eschatological notions. Yet, this is not at all the case in the worldview of Religious Zionism. In 1904 Rav Kook applied the concept of messianic process to secular Zionist movement. Since then, the whole ideology of Religious Zionism is based on this concept, and messianic process according to Religious Zionism includes involvement into all areas of life of Israeli society, even entirely secular. In other words, the Messianic era is not necessarily eschatology, it is also reflection on contemporary life.
In ancient Israel, the term Mashiach (literally “anointed”) was also applied to both eschatological distant future redemption and to current national history. Tanach uses the term to describe kings Saul, David, Solomon, later Judean kings, and also Persian king Cyrus (I Samuel 24:6, 10, 26:9, 11; II Samuel 19:22, 23:1; Lament. 4:20; Isaiah 45:1).
Rav Kook saw two stages of messianic process, the stage of Mashiach ben Yoseph and stage of Mashiach ben David as periods in development of Nation of Israel. We would like to present an analysis based on the approach of Rav Kook and propose an introduction of an additional intermediate stage in Messianic process, stage between Mashiach ben Yoseph and Mashiach ben David. We believe that it allows us to achieve better understanding of modern history of Israel based on the concept of three-stage Messianic process.
Modern perspective on stages of the messianic process
According to traditional Jewish sources, including the Talmud and Kabbalah, the Redemption will unfold in two distinct phases linked to two messiahs: Mashiach ben Yoseph (Messiah the son of Yoseph, henceforth MBY) and Mashiach ben David (Messiah the son of David, MBD). MBY would do the groundwork and put in place the material conditions for the Redemption. Once this stage is completed, MBY would “die” and become replaced by MBD, whose goal is to bring the process of Geula, Redemption, to fruition.
We base our discussion on Rav Kook’s idea that the non-religious Zionism of Herzl is identified with the concept of Mashiach ben Yoseph, i.e., King Saul of contemporaneity. This equation, which Rav Kook made in 1904 in his famous article on Herzl’s death Misped b’Yerushalaim (“The Lamentation in Jerusalem”, acc. Zechariah 12:11), has since become one of the fundamentals of Religious Zionism and is a premise upon which this article rests. Our article’s goal is to adopt Rav Kook’s well accepted concepts to our day and age.
So long as the time of Mashiach was seen as an event in the distant future, his coming was perceived to be a “moment”, a single point in time with no distinct stages. As the time of the Mashiach approached, the details became more discernable and it became possible to separate the time of Mashiach into two phases, MBY and MBD. The Vilna Gaon defined the concept of MBY as an epoch which brings forth changes in society (Kol ha-Tor, Ch. 1). Later Rav Kook equated MBY with Herzl’s Zionism.
Today, after a hundred years have passed, we are able to see additional details which were not recognized earlier. These new details are the subject of this article. It stands to reason that we can see these new details only because we are standing on the shoulders of giants and due to the fact that as we approach temporally the object under consideration, we are able to visualize it clearer than our predecessors.
Religious Zionists’ reconceptualization of the messianic process
In the modern period, the traditional perceptions of Geula and the two messiahs were reassessed by leading Jewish thinkers, including the founders of Religious Zionism.
In the end of eighteenth century, Rabbi Elijah the Vilna Gaon, depersonalized MBY and defined him not as a person or a leader — but an epoch, a time of change.
In the middle of nineteenth century, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer challenged traditional Talmudic eschatology. In Talmudic times, in order to reduce the desperate violent Jewish resistance to Rome and to prevent the destruction and disappearance of the Jewish nation, the Sages maintained that messianic hopes were not to be realized by the efforts of humans in the historical process but would only come at the “end of times.” Rabbi Kalischer, in his book Drishat Zion (“Quest for Zion”), contended that the messianic era was still part of ongoing human history and that it is the Jewish people who are responsible for bringing the messiah.
Following this trend, in the early twentieth century, Rav Abraham Isaac Kook identifying the Zionist movement as the messianic process and MBY – since his goals, according to the First Zionist Congress in Basel, to normalize the Jewish people (i.e. to make the Jews a sovereign nation like other nations) and to protect them — resonated with the goals for which king Saul was appointed: “That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles” (I Samuel 8:20).
Where are we now?
These two main goals, the normalization and protection of the Jewish people, have been the guiding principles of today’s State of Israel. They have essentially been accomplished in the modern State of Israel.
Now, new goals need to be set for both Zionism and the Jewish state.
Presently, while MBY’s mission is coming to an end, there are still no signs of MBD in Israel today. Thus, the question arises: If MBD is to follow MBY, where are we now in the messianic process?
According to the Tanach, the Jewish Kingdom went through three phases of development represented by the reigns of three Biblical monarchs; namely, Saul, David, and Solomon. However, in the conception of MBY-MBD, there are only two phases.
Traditionally, the era of MBY is seen as the messianic projection of King Saul’s reign, while the era of MBD is seen as the messianic projection of the reign of King Solomon (literally Ben David – the son of David). The interim reign of King David does not appear in this scheme.
As Maimonides put it, we will only be able to grasp the messianic process fully when we actually experience it firsthand (Laws of Kings and Wars, 12:2). Therefore, at present, while the MBY era is clearly fading out and the MBD era has not yet dawned, we need to revisit and attempt to reevaluate the two-phase scheme of the messianic process.
Hence, we are proposing a new conceptualization of Geula based on the three-phase messianic process with eras corresponding to the three Biblical kings: Saul (MBY), David, and Solomon (MBD).
In order to position our generation within the process of Redemption, we must examine the reigns of kings Saul, David and Solomon and their relationship to the contemporary history of the State of Israel.
The Reign of Saul (MBY): normalization and security of the nation
The reigns of each of the three kings had distinct agendas. Each kingdom had its own raison d’être. They built in different ways their relationships with the prophets and took a different approach to the Temple.
During his reign, King Saul sought security and normalization — unification of the nation and firm settlement on the land of his people by their own request. He focused on fighting wars to secure national sovereignty for the Jewish people.
King Saul had an uneasy relationship with Prophet Samuel. On one hand, to legitimize his power, Saul frequently appeared in front of the people together with Samuel, who publicly endorsed the authority of the king (I Samuel 13:8, 15:30). On the other hand, Saul was reluctant to obey the prophet’s command to destroy the Amalekites.
During his reign, King Saul made no attempt to bring back the Ark of the Covenant, which was kept in Kiriath-Jearim after the Philistines returned it to the Israelites. The story of Saul’s kingdom in the Bible makes no mention of the Tabernacle of the Covenant, showing the lack of a spiritual component in King Saul’s agenda. Its material goals — the normalization and protection of the nation — overshadowed spiritual objectives such as the Temple, which would neither politically normalize nor physically protect the Jewish people.
These goals, specific to the reign of King Saul, also apply to the Zionist movement and modern Israel, where the secular state, endorsed by Jewish religious authorities, shows respect to Judaism, while keeping it at a distance in matters of policymaking.
The Reign of David: spiritual revival of the nation
King David’s attitude toward religious matters differed significantly from King Saul’s ambivalence. King David’s attitude was already manifesting before his duel with Goliath. When confronting the enemy, Saul’s army regarded the Philistines’ verbal insults as an attempt “to defy Israel,” referring to the people and the nation (I Samuel 17:25). David, by contrast, saw these insults as aimed against God. Hence, he asked: “Who is that uncircumcised Philistine that he dares defy the ranks of the living God?” (I Samuel 17:26).
In King David’s view, Israel as a nation is first and foremost the manifestation of Divine Providence. Therefore, in King David’s view, the life of the nation is intrinsically linked to the Heavens and maintained through an ongoing connection with the Divine authority. Thus, during King David’s reign, the religious revival of the people took priority over the material planning. King David paid special attention to the advice and guidance of the prophet Nathan, who often strongly reprimanded the King. David finally restored the Ark of the Covenant to its proper place in Jerusalem. Still, he was anxious that his capital city had no home suitable for the Lord. And though he was eager to build the Temple, King David was never commanded to do so. God conveyed His message to David through Nathan: “When your days are done, and you lie with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own issues, and I will establish his kingship. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish his royal throne forever” (II Samuel, 7:12). The reason why David cannot build the Temple is not explained here. It is clear, though, that it must be some essential difference between David and his successor, as a result of which the building of the Temple will be postponed to the next generation.
The Reign of Solomon (MBD): universal appeal to humanity
The Temple built by King Solomon became powerful means of spreading the Light of God to the peoples. Solomon made this message clear at the dedication of the Temple, when he included in his prayer a plea to God to hear the requests of the foreigner: “If a foreigner who is not of Your people Israel comes from a distant land for the sake of Your name, for they shall hear about Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm — when he comes to pray toward this House, oh, hear in Your heavenly abode and grant all that the foreigner asks You for. Thus, all the peoples of the earth will know Your name and revere You, as does Your people Israel; and they will recognize that Your name is attached to this House that I have built.” (I Kings 8:41-43). King Solomon could now preach his faith to individuals and entire peoples attracted by the magnetic force of the Temple. Such was the case for the Queen of Sheba who, upon hearing about the Temple, paid a visit to King Solomon to learn about his religion.
The main purpose of the Temple was not only to become the center of the national religion, but to represent the Light of God to the peoples of the world. Normalization of the nation under King Saul and spiritual revival under King David prepared the Jewish people for their mission: to spread the faith in one God among the nations of the world. Now, this mission can be realized with the help of the Temple. Therefore, while the Temple barely played a role during the reigns of Kings Saul and David, during the reign of King Solomon the erection of the Temple became imperative.
King David himself tells Solomon that God did not allow him to build the Temple because he “has shed much blood and fought great battles” (I Chronicles 22:8), and the time of Solomon was peaceful. But a state of war is precisely such a situation when spiritual influence on the surrounding nations is impossible, and peaceful relations provide the potential for influence.
King Solomon’s kingdom did not last long, disintegrating shortly after his death. However, King Solomon’s accomplishments helped to map out the historical path of the Jewish people and set their goals for the future.
During King Solomon’s reign, the nations of the world were not yet ready to recognize the word of God, as the Jewish people had not yet attained global recognition.
In the nearly three thousand years that followed the time of King Solomon, spreading King Solomon’s message to the world was almost impossible. But in the past century, the situation has changed for Israel and Humanity, as both entered a new stage of the messianic process.
Having said that, King Solomon had to allow his wives some cultural autonomy (result of this autonomy was even idolatry). They were noble women whose connections helped King Solomon make political contacts and it was therefore impossible to take away completely their cultural freedom. This situation became problematic to such a degree that it is even supposed that this cultural freedom had a negative impact on King Solomon himself. Note that contact is always problematic: any time we want to influence someone we must allow them to make contact with us as an equal with all his/her cultural background and this may be potentially dangerous for us.
Understanding King Solomon as the “universal phase of development of Judaism”, the history of King Solomon’s wives shows us that the process of “incorporating universal values into Judaism” may entail danger. However, the existence of danger does not cancel out the centrality of the process: without it the Jewish People would be unable to fulfill their mission. Thus, King Solomon’s marriages, although potentially spiritually dangerous, were not a whim but a necessity. By analogy, today we understand that the process of spreading universal values might entail the possibility of making mistakes and integrating something into Judaism in a wrong way – but this danger mustn’t be a reason for not being involved in this process. Rather, a clear evaluation of the possible danger is the base for any successful progress.
The three kings and the relationships between them
As we have demonstrated, the ancient Jewish state has passed through three stages in its development. Each of these stages had a distinct agenda and had accomplished distinct goals while building upon the accomplishments of the previous phase.
In the first phase, King Saul successfully fought with Israel’s enemies, and built the state. In the second phase, King David linked the life of the nation to Divine Providence. In the third phase, King Solomon carried out the national mission in order to spread the Light of God to the peoples of the world.
During the first phase, the emerging nation did not yet need the Temple. As part of the spiritual revival of the nation during the second phase, the Temple was conceived by David but not yet built. Finally, during the third phase, the Temple was erected to represent the Divine among the nations.
This is summarized in the following table:
|The king and corresponding messianic stage||The king’s priorities||The king’s attitude toward the Temple|
|Saul — Mashiach ben Yoseph||Normalization and security||No clearly defined attitude|
|David — Mashiach ben Yishai/Peretz/Yehuda||Spiritual revival, strengthening connection to God||King David was eager to build the Temple, but the nation and the king were not prepared yet.|
|Solomon — Mashiach ben David||Spreading Torah’s faith among the nations||King Solomon has built the Temple|
Each phase of this process is built upon the foundation laid down during the previous phase. King David was able to base the spiritual revival of the people on the solid national foundation built by King Saul, and King Solomon was able to carry out his mission of spreading faith in one God by building on the spirituality of the nation developed by King David. We can symbolically view this as a pyramid of three concentric circles, one on top of the other: from state — to the city — to the central building. I.e., from the State of the Holy People of Saul — to the Holy City of David — to the Holy Temple of Solomon.
The transition between phases required a considerable shift in the priorities and policies of the kingdom — from national security to the people’s spirituality to a global mission. Such sharp turns cannot happen without increasing tensions between the outgoing and forthcoming kings. Each king had an uneasy relationship with his successor, was reluctant to recognize his heir, and sometimes even attacked him. King Saul was seeking to destroy David. And King David did not initiate the inauguration of his son Solomon to succeed him, until the conflict with Adonija erupted and David was forced to do it by Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan.
The three stages in development of the Kingdom of Israel and their connection to the ongoing Geula in modern Israel
Based on our discussion of the three kings and the vision of Rav Kook, who established the connection between the Zionist movement and the messianic process and identified the movement initiated by Theodor Herzl as MBY, we can relate the history of modern Israel to the ancient Jewish state and its kings. The two main goals of Zionism set by Theodor Herzl — normalization and protection of the Jewish people — have been realized in today’s State of Israel. In terms of the ancient Jewish kingdom and the messianic process, the present moment corresponds to the completion of the first phase of redemption – the reign of King Saul, or MBY.
The next stage in the messianic process is the addition of a religious-spiritual level to the regular state life. In other words, recognition that the Jewish State is a higher level of dialogue of the Jewish people with God, as it was in ancient Israel when King David replaced King Saul. There is one movement in Israel today which aims to do precisely this. It is the Religious Zionist movement. Its impact can be seen in all aspects of life of the State of Israel – in government, in economy, in agriculture, in science, in serving in the army. One of the aspects, which is particularly based on ideology of Religious Zionism and distinct for this movement is settlement in Judea and Samaria.
In this context, we can see remarkable parallels in the confrontation between Religious Zionists and settlement movement, the emerging King David, and the “classic Zionists” in Israel, the outgoing King Saul. As Saul feared that David was coming to replace him as the king of Israel and tried to eliminate his successor, the old Zionist elite is confronting the settlement movement and attempting to discredit and eliminate it. And as Saul’s pursuit of David was ultimately unsuccessful because it was interrupted by the invasion of the Philistine armies, the attempts of the old Zionist elites to tear down the settlement movement are also unsuccessful because of the mounting national security issues with Palestinian Arabs. Importantly, as David himself did not fight against Saul and revered him as the King of Israel, the Religious Zionists respect and support the ideals of the Zionism of Herzl, whose major goal was the creation of the state and the security of the nation.
Now we can answer the question we posed in the beginning of this article: Where, in which phase of the redemption process, are we in the modern State of Israel now? — We are in the transition period between the two phases of the messianic process: between the reign of Saul, MBY, the secular Zionism of Theodor Herzl — and the reign of David, the interim messiah of spiritual revival of the nation, religious Zionism of settlements. The third phase — the reign of Solomon, the era of MBD — is still beyond the horizon.
Two levels: real politics and future goals
What should we do now in the transitional period between King Saul and King David?
In the beginning of the twentieth century, Rav Kook called upon religious Jews, at the level of real politics, to support secular Zionism, his practical work aimed at King Saul’s priorities, normalization and protection of the nation. At the same time, Rav Kook was anticipating King David and was setting goals for the future work. In 1924, he established the Central Universal Yeshiva (Mercaz ha-Rav) in Jerusalem for the education of the next generation of national spiritual leaders. They would have to prepare the political change of national priorities from the building of the Jewish state as a safe haven for Jews to the spiritual revival of the people in the State of Israel. The new leadership would welcome King David and lay the groundwork for King Solomon — the forthcoming MBD.
Today, while engaging, at the level of real politics, in the practical work of the settlement movement aimed at King David’s priorities, the spiritual revival of the nation – the present generation of Religious Zionist leaders should also focus on future changes that will usher in the reign of King Solomon, the era of MBD.
The main difference between King David and King Solomon is in the scope of their mission. While David pursues national goals, Solomon’s agenda is universal. David seeks the spiritual revival of the Jewish people and therefore makes Jerusalem, the political center of the nation, the focal point of the national religion. Solomon seeks the spiritual transformation of Humanity on a global scale and therefore makes Jerusalem, the Jewish spiritual center, the focal point of Humanity’s connection to the God of Judaism, so that “all the families of the Earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3).
To prepare for the reign of King Solomon attention should be paid to making the Divine spirit accessible to the nations of the world.
Three factions within the Jewish people
Rav Kook argued that the Jewish people, according to their cultural values, are divided into three ideological camps: these correspond to those focused on God (Religious), those focused on nationhood (Zionistic) and those focused on Humanity (Universal). In Rav Kook’s opinion, the Judaism of the future will be a synthesis of all three ideologies (Shmonah Kvatzim 3:1). The synthesis goes through the three phases of the Redemption described in this article.
In the first phase, the reign of King Saul, secular Zionism realized the national ideal by establishing the Jewish state. In the second phase, the reign of King David, national and religious ideals are integrated. In the third phase, the reign of King Solomon, the ideals of national-religious Zionism
are combined with universal values. Thus, the synthesis of all three ideologies would be complete in Universal Religious Zionism.
(It should be noted that these two types of “new” ideals, national and universal, which at first seem to be opposed to Judaism, are in fact rooted in it. In the process of this integration, “the introduction of alien ideals into Judaism” does not occur at all – but the inner content of Judaism is revealed. Integration occurs through the fact that important parts of Jewish teaching, which were always contained in it but were not actualized in the past centuries, now grow from their own Judaic roots).
However today, as well as a hundred years ago when Rav Kook began to talk about this, the Universalist faction is still reluctant to embrace both religion and national ideals, seeing them as incompatible with universal human values, so a wide gap still exists between the Universalist camp and the Religious Zionist camp. Bridging this gap through integration of universal values into the Religious Zionist ideology would bring the reign of King Solomon closer and usher in the era of MBD.
Integration of universal human values
So, the current goal of Religious Zionism is to integrate such essential aspects of modern life as science, technology, arts, democracy, human rights, feminism and many others. However, we should not embrace all modern values wholesale. We ought to find the best way to frame their adaptation in accordance with Jewish tradition and the methodology of Rav Kook without compromising the national and orthodox religious elements of Religious Zionism.
It is not an easy task. A century ago, many influential orthodox rabbis argued that there was neither a way nor a need for Judaism to embrace national Zionist ideals. But today these ideals coexist well in mass religious Zionism, which has become an important part of Israel’s spectrum.
Now, the time has come for Religious Zionism to embrace universal human values in order to develop and promote the universal Judaism, the one which unites traditional Orthodox, national and universal values. We should not rush and welcome all universal human values with open arms, but we should proceed carefully, seeking and adopting in each value only that part of it, which we define as “sparks of Divine Light.”
Religious Zionists should lead this effort to realize the destiny of Judaism when for all nations “Teaching will go out from Zion; and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). The ideals of Judaism will become universal values and where Israel and Jerusalem will become the global spiritual center.
Of course, only a part of the religious Zionists is ready to get involved in this process. Just like a century ago, when the orthodox world was split into a small group of pro-Zionists, a relatively small group of anti-Zionists and the majority who did not have their position and were disoriented – today religious Zionism are split into Hardal (Haredi Zionists), modernists and centrists. But the modernists in religious Zionism today have no less strength and supporters than were the supporters of Zionism among the Orthodox a century ago. Therefore, I hope that in the coming decades we will see an active formation of Orthodox Universal Judaism.
The universalist approach is being formed primarily as a response to a request for a religious (and not only pragmatic) meaning of science, technology, art, ecology, and contemporary social problems. An important contribution to this is also made by the Noahide Movement (Bnei Noah), i.e. “non-Jews professing Judaism” – because presence of such a movement, teaching such people and taking into account their needs greatly strengthens the universalist elements in Judaism itself.
For many centuries in exile, the Jewish people survived like the “dry bones” from Ezekiel’s vision. Judaism supported them as the exclusive Jewish religion, alien to the rest of the world. Now, as the people’s body is revived from the bones in modern Israel, and God is about to “make breath enter” the body (Ezekiel 37:5), the breath will come “from the four winds” (Ezekiel 37:9), that is, from around the world.
Once again, it needs to be emphasized that we have no intention whatsoever of bringing into Judaism values which are foreign to it. Rather, we believe that universal values are contained in the Torah itself and our goal is only to reveal them. Historically, the Torah has been the source of many universal values for humanity. In the period of Exile, Judaism had to “maintain a low profile” in order to fit into the “four cubits of Halacha” and fight for basic survival. In order to do so, Judaism had to temporarily reject nationalistic values (such as an independent State and everything related to it) and universal values (which include science, art, economy and the building of society, addressing all of humanity). Universal values tend to pull a person into the big world. In order to survive in the Diaspora, a purposeful ideological ghetto was created along with a lack of interest about the problems of the “outside world”. Otherwise, the most talented Jews would abandon Judaism, leaving it in favor of the outside world, thus the Jewish people would lose them and their potential contributions.
Longing for the Temple
During the reign of King Saul, the building of the Temple was not on the list of national priorities in the Jewish kingdom. Likewise, in the twentieth century, in the heyday of secular Zionism, the Temple did not play any role in the Israeli life. When the Israeli army captured the Temple Mount in 1967, Chief Rabbinate issued an official religious ban to ascend to the Temple Mount.
During the reign of King David, the Temple was conceived and considered a top national priority but was not built because King David and his people were not yet prepared for this work. Likewise, we recently witnessed an increasing interest among Israeli society in visiting the Temple Mount. Many religious scholars joined the growing group of rabbinic authorities who have given permission to ascend and pray on the Temple Mount. However, presently, in the phase of David, building of the Temple is still off limits to us. Like King David, our generation must accept that the Temple can only be erected during the reign of King Solomon — in the forthcoming era of Mashiach ben David. Thus, we must prepare ourselves to make it happen.
This preparation includes, of course, practical activity aimed at an increase of Jewish pilgrimage to the Temple Mount and organizing prayers there.
But this activity is not enough at all. The Temple cannot be built only for internal Jewish needs – and therefore it is no coincidence that most of even religious people do not at all understand why we need the Temple today.
To build the Temple, it is absolutely necessary to understand its role as a beacon of Divine Light for all nations, and the focal point of all humans’ connection to God.
In conclusion: what is to be done
To summarize, in the current phase of redemption, the phase of King David, we must take the following steps in order to bring the phase of King Solomon, the era of MBD, closer:
- Understands the life and history of mankind as an ongoing dialogue between humanity and God.
- Integration of universal human values into Judaism, harmonizing universal, religious, and national values in agreement with the vision of Rav Kook.
- Support and development of the Noahide Movement, making the values of Judaism accessible to non-Jews. Preparing the ground for Judaism to become a religion for anyone willing to do so, without becoming a Jew. Also to develop a dialogue between Judaism and Christianity, which helps the development of Judaism itself.
- Spreading knowledge about the deeper meaning of the Temple in Jerusalem and its future role as a beacon of Divine Light for all of humanity and the focal point of connection between the nations of the world and God of Israel.
I am very grateful to Rabbi Ouri Cherki who helped me develop the ideas of this article.
I would like to thank Ariel Margulis, with whom we worked together on this text, for our many helpful discussions and his helpful suggestions.
Special thanks to Dr. Zvi Leshem for his very important help and critical comments.
I also would like to thank everyone who helped me work on this article: Alex Shlyankevich, Itzhak Streshinsky, Nechama Simanovich, Svetlana Rousakovski, Vassili Schedrin, Elena Chopko.
 In all cases where Vilna Gaon’s teachings are mentioned we refer to Kol ha-Tor. This book was published in 20th century by descendants of the students of Vilna Gaon and according to their tradition is reflecting Gaon’s messianic vision. Alternative opinions about authenticity of this book exist, but this polemic is outside of the current discussion.
This era is to be tentatively called Mashiach ben Yishai (Jesse), or Mashiach ben Peretz, or Mashiach ben Yehuda. We don’t have a final choice yet.
 According to the Tanach and Jewish tradition, King Solomon had an enormous number of wives which could not be accounted for by his personal needs. The political nature of these matches created connections between King Solomon’s kingdom and many other states and attracted foreign guests to Jerusalem. In particular, the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Jerusalem facilitated the influence of the concepts of Torah on her personally and her country, a situation described in Ethiopian tradition as well (Kebra Nagast, chapter 28). It seems that cross-cultural contacts and exposure of other nations to the ideas of Torah were the goals of King Solomon’s dynastic marriages (Yevamot, 76a: “And Solomon became allied to Pharaoh King of Egypt by marriage and took Pharaoh’s daughter — He caused her to be converted”). The story of the Queen of Sheba can be viewed as a model of this kind of influence. Of course, such a strong influence did not occur everywhere. Apparently, at that phase of historical development, a mere introduction of the ideas of Torah to the world was an important matter
 Note that it is incorrect to think that the conflict between Saul and David was solely of a personal nature. King Saul realizes that David is completely subordinate to him and therefore his seeking the throne is not personal. The question was who will become king after Saul, i.e., this was a matter how the dynasty would develop. That is why King Saul is angry at his son Jonathan who is ready to hand over the throne to David. King Saul also says to his servants: “He said to them, “Listen, men of Benjamin! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds?” (I Samuel 22:7). Here is a description of not only a personal dilemma but a problem of different sectors and groups, maybe even tribes. This is exactly the form in which ideological differences were expressed in ancient times.
 Specifically, the process of reviving universal values in Judaism is a separate topic, and for a detailed discussion the reader can refer to my brochure “Religious Zionism of Rav Kook” at https://www.pinchaspolonsky.org/en/. On the same site the reader can find my new Torah commentary “Bible Dynamics”, which shows the process of Torah’s ideas and personalities evolving.
 Not to mention that the order of worship in the Third Temple can be radically different from the service in the First and the Second Temples – for example, it is very likely that there will be no animal sacrifices, see Rav Kook’s article “The vision of vegetarianism and peace”; however, this is a separate topic.