Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Da’as Torah and the Settler Movement
Da’as Torah is the notion that Jewish religious authorities have special even supernatural knowledge, giving them insight not only into the practice of Judaism, but also everyday life as well. For example, what job to pursue or what policies the government should follow. This concept is usually associated with Haredi Orthodox Judaism. Dr. Samuel Heilman, in discussing the rise of Da’as Torah in modern times, takes it as a given that this applies not only to Haredim, but to the settler movement as well. According to Heilman.
Da'as Torah evolved into charisma and merged the scholar rabbi with the Hasidic rebbe. In spite of the efforts of the yeshiva world, particularly in its Lithuanian tradition, to remove these associations, the rebbeization of the scholars continued. Scholars became saints, or at least saintly rabbis. Thus Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, head of the Merkaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem, and Rabbi Eliezer Schach, yeshiva head at Ponovezh in B'nai B'rak, became for their students no less charismatic figures than the Lubavitcher rebbe or the Belzer rebbe were for their Hasidic disciples. Among the Gush Emunim, some of this has transformed yeshiva heads and scholars into partisan commanders. (Samuel Heilman, “The Vision from the Madrasa and Bes Medrash: Some Parallels between Islam and Judaism” Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 49, No. 4 (Jan., 1996), pg. 24.)
This statement struck me as odd as I am used to thinking of the settler movement as a form of modern orthodoxy. Granted, the settler movement is strongly messianic and even apocalyptic, but I have never seen any tendency to venerate their leaders. It would be one thing for settlers to disobey the Israeli government under orders from their leaders because they believed that Jewish law forbade them to give up land or because intellectually they believed that giving up land was bad policy. But when have settlers claimed that their leaders were, in opposing the government, acting under direct divine inspiration? I am putting a shout out to my readers, some of whom I presume are more knowledgeable about the settler movement than I am. Do you see the settlers as venerating their leaders as a form of Da’as Torah or is Heilman simply talking nonsense here?