(Seri Tokoh Zionist 2) RABBI ZVI HIRSCH KALISCHER 1795-1874

kalischerKALISCHER, LIKE ALJtALAJ, was born in a buffer area-not
in the Balkans but in Posen. This province was the western part of
Poland, which Prussia had acquired in the second partition of that
country in ‘793. In Jewish life this region was the border between the
older Jewish ghetto culture of the traditional pieties and learning,
which Kalischer represented in his person with great distinction, and
the newer milieu of western European Jewry, which was rapidly entering
modern secular life. Nationalism was the major force of European
history during the whole of Kalischer’s adult life, but he was particularly
aware of it because of his geographic position. In 1830-1831 and
again in 1863 unsuccessful revolts occurred across the border in the
Russian part of Poland in attempts to re-establish the independence
of the Poles. Jewish population in this region was numerically significant,
and in some places, including Warsaw during the two Polish
revolutions, it was of political, and even military, importance whether
the Jews would regard themselves as Poles, Russians, or as a separate
Kalischer’s early career coincided with the rise of the Reform mov~
ment in Judaism, which was calling for the abandonment of many of
the inherited beliefs and rituals. He participated in these controversies
as a convinced defender of the inherited tradition and especially of the
commandments prescribing the faith in the Messiah and emphasizing
the special relationship of the Jew to the Holy Land. 1110ugh most of
his literary activity was in the genre of talmudic legalism, of which he
was an acknowledged master, he published a philosophical work and
even produced one article in defense of Maimonides (it appeared in
German translation in 1846).
His first expression of Zionism is to be found in a letter that he
wrote in 1836 to the head of the Berlin branch of the Rothschild
family. There he explained that “the beginning of the Redemption

the governmcnts to gathcr thc scattered of Israel into the Holy Land.”
These notions, however, did not engage him seriously until 1860,
whcn an otherwise unknown doctor, Bayyim Lurie, organizcd a society
in Frankfort on the Oder to foster Jewish settlement in the Holy
Land. Kalischer joined this group, and though the organiz”tion was
short-lived and h”d 110 practical achievements to its credit, it provided
him with the impulse to write his important Zionist work, Derislwt
Zion (Seeking Zion), which appcared in 1862. This volume,the major
ideas of which are represented in the excerpts below, was relatively
well receivcd by some of the reviewers in the ren”seent Hebrew litcrature
of eastern Europe and it was quotcd in Hess’s Rome and Jerusalem,
which appeared that same year.
Kalischer’s professional career was nndramatie. After completing his
education in the conventional modes of the ghetto, hc settled in
Thorn, where he served as the rabbi of the community for forty years.
Financially independent in his own right, he was able to engagc after
1860 in innumerable journeys, meetings, and myriad literary and practical
activities in behalf of the ideal to which he was hcncdorth devotcd.
Some tangible results flowed from his efforts, for he was
instrumental in getting a group to buy land for colonization on the
outskirts of Jaffa in 1866, His prodding finally moved thc Alliance
Israelite Universelle, the organization that had been crcated in France
in 1860 for the international defense of Jewish rights, to found an
agricultural school in Jaffa, Palestine, in 1870′
Even more than Alkalni, Kalischer was aware of the erowing miscry
of the Jews of eastern Europe and he preached his Zionism as a solution
to their problem. Nonetheless the pietists of these communities,
who respected Kalischer as a master of the Talmud, would not follow
him in these radical notions of self-redemption. There were evcn denunciations
of his views in Jerusalem, issued by the beneficiaries of the
traditional collections of alms for the pious poor of the Holy Land. In
their eyes the creation of agricultural settlements, in which Jews would
labor with their own hands, would lead people away from the study of
thc Torah and open the door to dangerous heresics.
11lOugh far beller remembered than Alkalai, Kalischer too died with
his vision app”rently stillborn.

THE REDEMPTrON OF rSRAEL, for which we long, is not to
be imagined as a sudden miracle. The Almighty, blessed be His Name,
will not suddenly descend from on high and command His people to
go forth. He will not send the Messiah from heaven in a twinkling of
an eye, to sound the great trumpet for the scattered of Israel and
gather them into Jerusalem. He will not surround the Holy City with
a wall of fire or cause the Holy Temple to descend from the heavens.
The bliss and the miracles that were promised by His servants, the
prophets, will certainly come to pass-everything will be fulfilled-but
we will not run in terror and flight, for the Redemption of Israel will
come by slow degrees and the ray of dcliverance will shine forth gradually.
My dear readerl Cast aside the conventional view that the ‘Messiah
will suddenly sound a blast on the great trumpet and cause all the
inhabitants of the earth to tremble. On the contrary, the Redemption
will begin by awakening support among the philanthropists and by
gaining the consent of the nations to the gathering of some of the
scattered of Israel into the Holy Land.
11,e prophet Isaiah (27:6 and 12-13) expressed this thought as follows:
“In the days to come shall Jacob take root, Israel shall blossom
and bud; and the face of the world shall be filled with fruitage. And
it shall COme to pass in that day, that the Lord will beat off his fruit
from the flood of the River unto the Brook of Egypt, and ye shall be
gathered one by one, a ye children of Israel. And it shall come to pass
in that day, that a great horn shall be blown; and they that were lost
in the land of Assyria, and they that were dispersed in the land of
Egypt; and they shall worship the Lord in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.”
He thus revealed that all of Israel would not return from exile
at one time, but would be gathered by degrees, as the grain is slowly
gathered from the beaten corn. The meaning of, “In the days to come
Jacob shall take root,” in the first verse above, is that the Almighty
would make those who came first-at the beginning of the Redemption-the root planted in the earth to produce many sprigs. Afterward
Israel will blossom forth in the Holy Land, for the root will yield buds
which will increase and multiply until they cover the face of the earth
with fruit. 1bis conception of the Redemption is also implied in the
statement (Isaiah 11:11): “And it shall come to pass in that day, that
the Lord will set His hand again the second time to recover the
remnant of His people, that shall remain from Assyria and from
Egypt … ” It is evident that both a first and a second ingathering are
intended: the function of the first will be to pioneer the land, after
which Israel will blossom forth to a most exalted degree.
Can we logically explain why the Redemption will begin in a natural
manner and why the Lord, in His love for His people, will not
immediately send the Messiah in an obvious miracle? Yes, we can. We
know that all our worship of God is in the form of trials by which He
tests us. When God created man and placed him in the Garden of
Eden, He also planted the Tree of Knowledge and then commanded
man not to eat of it. Why did he put the Tree in the Garden, if not as
a trial? Why did He allow the Snake to enter the Garden, to tempt
man, if not to test whether man would observe God’s command?
When Isracl went forth from Egypt, God again tested man’s faith
with hunger and thirst along the way. The laws given us in the Torah’
about unclean animals which are forbidden us as food are also a continuous
trial-else why did the Almighty make them so tempting and
succulent? Throughout the days of our dispersion we have suffered
martyrdom for the sanctity of God’s Name; we have been dragged
from land to land and have borne the yoke of exile through the ages,
all for the sake of His holy Torah and as a further stage of the testing
of our faith.
If the Almighty would suddenly appear, one day in the future,
through undeniable miracles, this would be no trial. What straining
of our faith would there be in the face of the miracles and wonders
attending a clear heavenly command to go up and inherit the land
and enjoy its good fruit? Under such circumstances what fool would
not go there, not because of his love of God, but for his own selfish
sake? Only a natural beginning of the Redcmption is a true tcst of
those who initiate it. To concentrate all one’s energy on this holy work
and to renounce home and fortune for the sakc of living in Zion before
“thc voice of gladness” and “the voice of joy” are heard-there is no
greater merit or trial than this.
I have found snpport for this vicw in The Paths of Faith:’ “Whcn
many jews, pious and Icarncd in the Torah, will voluntecr to go to theLand of Israel and settle in jerusalem, motivated by a desire to serve,
by purity of spirit, and by love of holiness; when they will come, by
ones and twos, from all four corners of the world; and when many will
settle there and their prayers will increase at the holy mountain in
Jerusalem-the Creator will then heed them and hasten the Day of
Redemption.” For all this to come about there must first be jewish
settlement in the Land; without such settlement, how can the ingathering

THE REA REMANY who will refuse to support the poor of the
Holy Land by saying: “Why should we support people who choose
idleness, who are lazy and not interested in working, and who prefer to
depend upon the jews of the Diasparas to support them?” To be sure,
this is an argument put forth by Satan, for the people of Palestine are
students of the Torah, unaccustomed from the time of their youth to
physical labor. Most of them came from distant shores, risking their
very lives for the privilege of living in the Holy Land. In this country,
which is strange to them, how could they go about finding a business
or an occupation, when they had never in their lives done anything of
this kind? Their eyes can only turn to their philanthropic brethren, of
whom they ask only enough to keep body and soul together, so that
they can dwell in that Land which is God’s portion on earth.
Yet, in order to silence this argument once and for all, I would
suggest that an organization be established to encourage settlement in
the Holy Land, for the purpose of purchasing and cultivating farms
and vineyards. Such a program would appear as a ray of deliverance to
those now living in the Land in poverty and famine. The pittance that
is gathered from the entire jewish world for their support is not
enough to satisfy their hunger; indeed, in jerusalem, the city which
should be a source of blessing and well-being, many pious and saintly
people are fainting of hunger in the streets.
The situation would be different if we were inspired by the fervor
of working the land with our Own hands. Surely, God would bless {)lH
labor and there would be no need to import grain from Egypt and
other neighboring countries, for our harvest would prosper greatly.
Once the jews in the Holy Land began to eat of their own produce the
financial aid of the Diaspora would suffice.
Another great advantage of agricultural settlement is that we would have the privilege of observing the religious commandments that attach
to working the soil of the Holy Land.’ The Jews who supervised
the actual laborers would be aiding in the working of the land and
would therefore have the same status as if they had personally fulfilled
these commandments.
But, beyond all this, Jewish farming would be a spur to the ultimate
Messianic Redemption. As we bring redemption to the land in a “thisworldly”
way, the rays of heavenly deliverance will gradually appear.
Let no stubborn opponent of these thoughts maintain that those
who labor day and night will be taken away from the study of the
Torah and from spiritual to secular concerns. This counterargument is
shortsighted. On the contrary, the policy we propose will add dignity
to the Torah. “If there is no bread, there can be no study”; if there will
be bread in the land, people will then be able to study with peace of
mind. In addition, we are sure that there are many in the Holy Land
who are not students of the Torah and who long to work the land.
These will support the physically infirm scholars to whom no man
would dare say: Work the land! but to whom all would say that they
should devote themselves entirely to serving the Lord.
Such a policy would also raise our dignity among the nations, for
they would say that the children of Israel, too, have the will to redeem
the land of their ancestors, which is now so barren and forsaken.
Why do the people of Italy and of other countries sacrifice their lives
for the land of their fathers, while we, like men bereft of strength and
courage, do nothing? Are we inferior to all other peoples, who have no
regard for life and fortune as compared with Jove of their land and
nation? Let us take to heart the examples of the Italians, Poles, and
Hungarians, who laid down their lives and possessions in the struggle
for national independence, while we, the children of Israel, who have
the most glorious and holiest of lands as our inheritance, are spiritless
and silent. We should be ashamed of ourselves! All the other peoples
have striven only for the sake of their own national honor; how much
more should we exert ourselves, for our duty is to labor not only for the
glory of our ancestors but for the glory of God who chose Zion


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