If Rav Hayyim Landau (next weeks shiur) began the idea of ‘Torah Va’Avodah’, Yeshayahu Shapira was the one to bring it into reality. Not surprisingly, both came from similar backgrounds, and both were actual rebels against their immediate surroundings. Born in Grodzisk, Poland, Rav Shapira was the youngest son of the Hasidic Rebbe, Elimelech of Grodzisk. His father died when he was one year old and he was taken and educated by his grandfather. In his house, Yeshayahu received an education deeply rooted in Hasidism, being groomed to take over for his father the rather substantial following that existed. But part of his education included the instillment of a deep love for Eretz Yisrael (if not for Zionism) and when the time came to become Rebbe, Rav Shapira decided to go to Eretz Yisrael instead. Upon arriving in Jaffa, he met with Rabbi A.I. Kook who had a tremendous influence on the young hasid. Unfortunately, World War I broke out and Rav Shapira decided that his place was with the family he had left behind in Poland.
Here Rav Shapira began to teach the ideas of Religious Zionism among the various hasidic communities, and began his involvement in Mizrachi. He joined the First Mizrachi Convention of 1917 and there called upon all Orthodox Jews to sell their businesses and possessions and go and live in Eretz Yisrael. He became convinced that agriculture and farming were the surest of ways to reclaim the landof Israel and to bring about the redemption. In 1919 he spoke to the Congress in Hebrew and reiterated the Religious Zionist stance, concentrating on the need to establish agricultural settlements.
In 1920, Rav Shapira came on Aliya and immediately took over as head of the Immigration and Labor Department at the World Mizrachi Headquarters in Jerusalem. In this capacity, he initiated the building of the Rosh Pina – Tangah Roadand the cleaning of Solomon’s Pools outside of Bethlehem. Personally participating in these efforts, he soon became known as the Pioneer Rebbe. In addition, he began a movement to help those people who could find no other work, thereby combating problems of unemployment.
In 1921, he took part in what was to become the foundation meeting of Ha’Poel Ha’Mizrachi. He was one of the chief instigators behind the creation of a Religious Zionist Labor movement to answer the needs of those religious youth who wished to fuse their lives which were dedicated to Torah with the ideology of Labor. At the first Ha’Poel Ha’Mizrachi Congress of 1922, Rav Shapira was the keynote speaker and soon became one of the three directors of the movement, as well as head of the settlement division for Ha’Poel Ha’Mizrachi. Though most of his energies were devoted to establishing Religious Zionist Labor communities, he continued to serve on the board of the Mizrachi Party. When Ha’Poel Ha’Mizrachi became embroiled in its first identity crisis, Rav Shapira supported the faction which desired to enter the general Labor movement of Israel, i.e., the Histadrut. After the crisis had passed, he devoted his time to buying land for settlement. However, he continued to represent Ha’Poel Ha’Mizrachi at inter-governmental meetings and in public forums.
In 1924, Rav Shapira traveled back to Polandto try and influence some of the Hasidic community to come to Eretz Yisrael. To the end he was largely successful in convincing two fairly young rebbes, Rabbi Yehezkel Taub and Rabbi Israel Hoffstein, to move to Israel with their hasidim. They bought land with the help of Rav Shapira and founded the settlements of Nahalat Ya’akov and Avodat Yisrael, which later merged into Kfar Hasidim. He went on to found Kfar Ata.
For ten years, from 1933-43, Rav Shapira managed ‘Zerubbavel’, a cooperative bank in Yerushalayim. But desiring to reenter agriculture, he settled in Kfar Pines and there his house served as a spiritual center for the Ha’Poel Ha’Mizrachi movement until his death in 1945. He wrote many articles on economic and agricultural problems, foreseeing in many ways the problematic halacha issues to emerge with the new State. Synagogues in Kfar Pines, Kfar Ata, and Tel Aviv, as well as a forest in the Galilee, were named after him.
|From His Writings:
“And you shall do what is right and what is good”
“There are those who may question the wisdom of combining Torah and the concepts of Avodah into one concrete unit. These people claim that there is no connection, nor has there ever been any connection, between the two ideological framework. Their argument rests upon the fact that the Torah does not differentiate between laborer and businessman, and those who attempt to place Torah and Avodah into one entity are in effect bringing foreign matter into the vineyard of Israel…
…We simply believe that labor and the consequent fruits of our labor are part of the overall Jewish heritage. Even if we were to ignore one of the most fundamental positive aspects of labor, i.e. that the world around us benefits and becomes better by it, Judaism sees another positive goal to independent labor, which is the possibility that through it come may lead a totally Jewish life. One may view the value of the work ethic not only in the Halacha, In Midrash and Aggadah, but within the entire range of our vast and replete literature…
We must strive to keep all the commandments including “Thou shall be Holy (Leviticus 19:2) and “Thou shalt do what is right and good in the eyes of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:18). In the Diaspora, many of our people did not pay close attention to these warnings because of our bitter exile, but now we must renew our vigilance in Eretz Israel, where we desire to create a new life for our people. Thus, if we are to weigh the idea of personal property in regards to these commandments, we will find that the Jewish religion is irrefutably opposed to ownership in its private form.
Therefore, during the Shmitta year when we are not allowed to work the land…It seems clear to me, that these verses tell us tat the only possession one can retain in this world is one’s on labor. Only that which man creates through his own labor can be considered his property…And even regarding work it is incumbent upon us to remember that it is G-D who gives us the strength to labor.
…Yet, it must be noted that when our sages saw the days of exile approaching, they recognized the need to institute certain innovations which would assure that loans be given out in all case. This, we have the injunction of Pruzubul and the allowance to collect interest under specific guidelines and actions.
But now that we are beginning to return to our land, we must aim once again to have our civil law conform to the principle, “Thou shalt do what is right and good.” “
Source – “Netiva” published 1929
“As for the religious Zionists, they sought to reconcile the national myth of the Maccabees with the traditional elements of Hanukkah. They held that the struggle of the Hasmoneans was fuelled by both religio-spiritual and national-political goals. Rabbi Yeshayahu Shapira, the Hapoel-Hamizrachi leader, considered the exploits of the Hasmoneans to be a shining example of the special obligation on the Orthodox community to rally to the cause of national redemption: `In the days of the Hasmoneans, the banner of the revolt was raised expressly by Torah followers, and they risked their lives for the liberation of the land and of the Jewish spirit. Today, we face a similar war, a war for the redemption of our land, and a war for the liberation of the Jewish spirit from the alien cultures that we have absorbed’.”
A unique approach to Hanukkah was presented by a group which called itself `Covenant of the Hasmoneans’, and advocated a fusion of religiosity with radical Messianic nationalism. The Hasmoneans were their models, because they exemplified the ideal fusion of the religious believer and the hero-warrior. In `Hahashmonai’, they… asserted that the lesson of the revolt against the Greeks was that the national struggle should be conducted in a revolutionary and uncompromising style: “It is not by building and ploughing and sowing well, or even by defending ourselves with arms that we will attain… liberty, but by establishing the irrevocable fact by irrevocable means: `Who shall be sole ruler here?'”. As Orthodox Jews, the members of the `Covenant’ had to confront the problem of the apparent contrast between their militant nationalistic attitude and the political passivity of traditional religious Jewry. They resolved the problem by blaming the conditions of Jewish exile for the abandonment of the heritage of heroism, associated with the Hasmoneans.
Source: The Jerusalem Jewish Voice
|The Living Land: Kfar Hasidim
Kfar Hasidim established by Rav Shapira, was founded in 1926. It was established on land owned by the Keren Kayemet L’israel (Jewish National Fund) with the assistance of the Keren HaYesod. New immigrants from Romania who built a single building that was surrounded by Arabs founded it. As time went by new immigrants from Bulgaria, Kurdistan, Turkey and Crete, along with some sabras joined them. Kfar Hasidim is located just south of Haifa.