Samuel Hayyim Landau remains unique among the leaders and originators of Religious Zionism. The impact that he had on the Mizrachi movement far surpassed his shortened life span of thirty-six years. But more so, he is one of the very few whose roots lie within the Hasidic community, he remained a devout follower of Mezritch Hasidism (from the Kotzke Rebbe) all his life. Indeed, it was from Hasidut that he inherited his love for Eretz Yisrael. The treatise Shalom Yerushalayim, written by Rebbe Yisrael Mi’Philov on the subject of Israeland the redemption was part of Kotzker education and was an important influence on Landau.
World War I caught Rabbi Landau in Polandin the middle of the most terrible battles of the war. He was first taken hostage by the Germans and accused, convicted and sentenced to death on the grounds that he was an English spy. Managing to escape, he was taken captive by the returning Polish army and then was accused of being a Bolshevist, but managed to get some resident Poles to testify on his behalf, thereby assuring his freedom.
The combination of the virulent anti-Semitism with the emergence of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 influenced Landau and he immediately joined the Polish Mizrachi movement which was set up after World War I. In 1919 he attended (as a delegate) the Second Polish Mizrachi Congress and was invited to Warsawin 1921 for the Mizrachi Convention. It was at this Congress that he formulated and laid the foundations for the Mizrachi Youth Movement – ‘Zeirei Mizrachi’ and was elected to the Central Committee. He became editor of the Movement’s paper – Ha’Kedem and went on to participate in the Twelfth Zionist Congress. At the Thirteenth Congress he was elected to the Zionist General Council.
Not only did Landau almost single – handedly bring the Mizrachi youth movement into existence, but he kept it responsive to its members. Through it, he was able to bring much needed changes into the burgeoning Mizrachi so that it would stay attuned to the emerging second generation of Religious Zionists, whose priorities became the settling of Eretz Yisrael by a significant religious population. To this end, he coined the phrase ‘Torah V’Avoda’, a phrase which became the by – word of Ha’Poel Ha’Mizrachi and the Bnei Akiva Movement to emerge from it. Torah Va’Avodah signified the synthesis of three ideological factors: 1)Torah, 2) Zionism, 3)Socialism, combining them into one movement.
From 1922 onward, Landau ran the Mizrachi movement in Poland. He participated in many Zionist organizations but devoted most of his energies to encouraging aliya and establishing training programs for youth to teach them modern agricultural methods for their eventual settlement on kibbutzim in Eretz Yisrael. At the International Congress of Mizrachi in 1925 which took place in Vienna, Landau was also chosen as a member of the board of the Pioneer Youth HaPoel Ha’Mizrachi. In order to fulfill his obligations, in 1925, Landau and his family went on aliya, settling in Jerusalem. He quickly established himself as the leader of Ha’Poel Ha’Mizrachi and published many articles explaining the goals of the movement. Yet the first two years of his directorship were mostly devoted to bringing together two opposing factions in the Ha’Poel HaMizrachi party. Without his dedication to the principle of ‘shalom bayit’ the movement could well have split in two. In 1928, Landau suddenly took ill as the result of exhaustion and died at the young age of thirty-six. In his memory, the Landau Forest near Sede Ya’akov was named, as well as Kiryat Shmuel, a suburb of Haifa.
From His Writings
In Explanation of our Ideology
Jewry, and religious Jewry in particular, has always attached prime importance to the rebuilding of Eretz Israel. The Hovevei Zion regarded it as a national duty; for the religious, it was a divine commandment as well, one equal in important to all the other precepts of the Torah. In the religious view it was, therefore, an ultimate value, and the sense of obligation to this task was unconditioned even by national loyalty. To dwell in the Holy Landis a mitzvah – the commandment might be interpreted as either national or religious, but it was essentially abstract and mystical. The role of the nation in the process of rebuilding the land was realized solely through the obedience of its individuals to this commandment…
Zionism came into the world to announce a fundamental change. This movement emphasized that the concept of nationhood is the primal value of our people. The entire program of Zionism, therefore, revolves around this idea, and all other national values are significant only to the degree that they serve as instruments of the absolute – the nation. Even the rebuilding of the land is secondary, for the land was created for the nation and not the nation for the land.
This approach is shared by the religious wing of the Jewish national movement as well; even though it may derive its reason for rebuilding Eretz Yisrael from the divine commandment mentioned above, this mitzvah itself is understood as rooted in the idea of the national renaissance. Did not the Talmud teach that the Torah was created for the sake of Israel? It is therefore self-evident that our approach to the rebuilding of the land must be governed by the ultimate goal, the national renaissance. We can admit only such guidelines as indispensable to our labors as are logically implied by the one absolute value. Even the idea of Torah Va’Avoda (“Torah and Labor”), which we have made our fundamental blueprint for the regeneration of Eretz Yisrael, must be measured by this yardstick. How might we realistically fulfill the ideal of Torah and Avodah?
The Torah, which is the inheritance of Israel, contains two major conceptual ideas. First, we must view the Torah in light of its laws and statues to which each and every Jew must adhere. Second, the Torah must also be seen as the spirit of our nation, the source of our culture and the essence of our souls. It is within this category that the public – nationalistic ideals that the Torah espouses are to be found.
When the Torah relates to the individual and not to the nation of Israel as a whole it does so in a totally personal manner, establishing the responsibility of each and every individual in relation to its laws, be they in the Diaspora or in our homeland, but it is not a precondition to the revival and rebuilding of Eretz Israel.
The nationalistic concept in the Torah is different, for the Torah expresses the rebuilding of Eretz Israeland the revival of our nation as a cause and effect which must take form. It (Torah) is part and parcel of the rebirth of our nation – it is the burning coal within our souls. The revival of the nation is impossible without its spirit. For our nation is not a nation without the Torah. In this the Torah does not only command or force us to build the land, but rather it is a central pre-condition in regard to revitalizing the land and its essence – it is the cause and effect of such actions. Torah, therefore, must serve as the central theme in our Zionist vision.
We cannot approach the building of Eretz Yisrael as only a national responsibility, or even as a result of a God-given commandment, but rather as a central and focal point in the Torah’s essence…
Now all that has been said about the Torah can be applied to Avodah as well. If we only associate Avodah with economic and the economic consequences, we, by definition, apply to Avodah a temporary role and an individualistic nature which can only pertain to certain elements and not to the nation as a whole.
Our need is to make Avodah part of the central requirement in our nation’s revival as an organic part of the nation’s vital interests. This indeed is the unique aspect of Avodah, which is part of our nation’s resources. Not Avodah for economics, nor even for social justice (though these are certainly important factors) but rather Avodah in a sense that will help ensure and contribute to our nation’s revival. It will produce national unity and contribute immeasurably to our rebirth…
In the Diaspora, Israelabandoned its nationality, or more specifically its living national roots. The term ‘nation’ applies to those specific individuals and aspects which combine together in the formation of a nation. The nation has, by definition, a life in and of itself, acquiring power through the combined number of individuals within its borders. The conglomerate “I” is much greater than the collective voice of individuals speaking as one unit…
There is, as well, an inherent difference between nation and nationality. Nationality encompasses the unique form of the spiritual aspects of the collective I, and takes into account only the spiritual and/or metaphysical aspects in regard to the nation’s purity and historical background. Nation implies all aspects, physical as well as spiritual, needs of the body as well as needs of the soul.
Nationality expresses the spiritual aspects of the people while nation combines these spiritual factors with the physical needs of the conglomerate I as well; it is the essence and entirety of a real functioning entity. In the Diaspora, Israellost its unique status as a ‘nation’ and only retained its nationality.
This situation has had such an effect on Jewry as to cause a total deterioration in its national existence. The nation as a whole and the individual have been forced to live according to the will and whims of others. This has forced our people to become alienated from all its powers as a spiritual entity, thereby losing all semblance of a ‘nation.’ Our scattering and separation, the subjugation that we have undergone, brought upon us by foreign nations, caused us to rely upon others for our well-being. We were placed within the care of other nations and needed these nations to ensure our safety, and thus we became lowly and degraded and were used only to suit the needs of others.
Such a position led to a definite deterioration in our relationship towards work and productivity. We have inherited an apathy towards creating anything new and good, for all that we would accomplish was used by others and not for our own good. In short, we came ‘a nation destroyed’.
Therefore, we must now concentrate on reviving the work ethic. By revival it is meant to cause the collective “I” to create and produce; to go from a scattered and separate people into a collective nation; to create a national entity in its full sense and meaning. Here we find the desire for the return to Zion, and also the foundation of the Labor movement.
‘Avodah’ – with this concept the nation begins to rebuild itself. Independent creation, in spirit, in physical labor, and activity. Existence in and of itself.
There is a fundamental difference between our labor movement and the proletariat revolution and/or socialist ideology among other peoples. The foundation of other nations rests upon an economic structure or upon the inherent justice to be found within the system. Other nations strive to correct the injustice of society through these goals. However, the Labor movement in Eretz Israeldoes not function solely for these reasons, but rather to enhance life at its very source.
These two socialist movements (i.e. of Israeland the nations of the world), though certainly comparable are founded on two distinct ideologies. The first rests upon the goal of benefiting the condition of the masses, where the second rests on fulfilling the very essence of life in order to create the idea of a nation in its living sense!
For the Jewish nation, it is a question of spiritual regeneration; for others a question of physical and monetary betterment…
The relationship between these two concepts of Torah and Avodah might be seen as follows:
The revival of our nation lies at the very root of Torah and Avodah. Torah is the life-giver, creating a world in which all aspects of life and its intricacies from the most mundane to the most holy; for physical and economic well-being, as well as the spiritual condition, all are given expression through the medium of Torah. The Torah is a precondition to our survival. For the observance of the Jewish religion and its commandments, statutes and laws which pertain to the individual in Eretz Israeland in the Diaspora, are incumbent upon each person and upon the collective nation. Thus, the Torah in its truth cannot be a source of life unless it is followed by the individuals and the collective. Torah creates and revives our nation; Avodah forces us to move our ideas from the potential into the real. The combination of the two will lead to the very goal towards which we are striving – the revival of our nation!”
Source: Published in “Netiva” – weekly newspaper of Hapoel Hamzirachi –1926