Rav Amital’s Torah

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A couple of months ago I mentioned — with great fondness — Rav Yehuda Amital, the founder of Yeshivat Har Etzion, in a blog post.

Amital.JPG Well, over the weekend I started reading the first English-language book of Rav Amital’s writings.

Commitment and Complexity is a translation of a Hebrew book compiled in honor of Rav Amital’s 80th birthday. It consists of very short selections from his varied writings on numerous topics.

Rav Amital has a unique story: Holocaust survivor, student of the famed Hevron (aka Slabodka) Yeshiva, pioneer of the Hesder program, founder of Meimad, and most interestingly, a proponent of both the settlement movement and the peace process.

As the title of the book implies, Rav Amital is not a man who appreciates simple answers and his teachings derive their wisdom from this fact.

Rav Amital is, above all, a humane thinker, who forcefully asserts that stressing Torah or the Land of Israel over and above the concerns of Am Yisrael and human life is a corruption of Judaism.

There is a hierarchy of values if Judaism, and anyone who fails to differentiate “bein kodesh le-kodesh” (between one level of holiness and another) will end up unable to differentiate “bein kodesh le-chol” (between the holy and the profane), as we say in the Havdala prayer. The proper order is: the nation, the Torah, the land. Chazal address the importance of this hierarchy in Tana De-vei Eliyahu Rabba, Chapter 14: “He said to me, ‘My master, there are two things in my heart which I love greatly – Torah and [the nation] of Israel, but I do not know which of them takes precedence.’ I said to him: ‘People usually say that Torah takes precedence over everything else, as it is written: “God acquired me at the beginning of His way” (Mishlei 8:22), but I say that the holy [nation of] Israel takes precedence, as it is written, “Israel is holy to God; the first of His produce” (Yirmiyahu 2:3).'” The interests of Am Yisrael certainly take precedence over the interests of Eretz Yisrael.

Posted on July 21, 2008

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