Blast from the Past
G-d’s Providence and the Balfour Declaration
Marking the 105th Anniversary of the Balfour Declaration – November 2, 2022
Rabbi Reuven Katz zt”l (1880–1963), one of the great Torah scholars of the first half of the 20th century, served as a community rabbi on three continents. After years of study in the Chofetz Chayim’s yeshivah in Radin, Slabodka and the kollel of Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, he served for many years as a rabbi in Russia before moving to America in 1929 to become the rabbi of Bayonne, New Jersey. In 1932, the community of Petach Tikva brought Rabbi Katz to Israel to become its Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, where he played a central role in building the broader Israeli rabbinate.
In 1936, Rabbi Katz presented the following speech to Great Britain’s Palestine Royal Commission, known as the Peel Commission, appointed to investigate the causes of unrest in Palestine. It was later published in 1952 in Sha’ar Reuven, a collection of Rabbi Katz’s essays on contemporary issues.
Through the long period of our exile, the Land of Israel has always remained ours, by virtue of the eternal right of Divine Providence, the commandments and the larger purpose of our Torah. But with the Balfour Declaration granted to us by the British nation, our eternal right to the Land has now been confirmed by mankind as well. The Declaration revealed the Hand of Providence in the destiny of our nation, and its ultimate goal: to bring the children [of Israel] back to their borders. It serves as the nations’ de facto recognition of the de jure recognition of Providence.
Well remembered are the words of King George V to Dr. Weizmann: “It is promised in the Bible that the nation of Israel will return in the future to the Land of Israel. I am happy that this lofty act will come to fruition through my government.” And so it is written in the Bible: “Then Hashem your G-d will restore your fortunes and take you back in love. He will bring you together again from all the peoples where Hashem your G-d has scattered you… And Hashem your G-d will bring you to the Land that your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it” (Devarim 30:3–5). Even if the nation of Israel is scattered all over the world, its ownership of the Land and its right to return and take hold of the Land is not altered one iota, just as a man has the right to return to his home, even if he has been absent from it for an extended period of time.
The Balfour Declaration only strengthens and upholds the foundational right of the people of Israel to the land of its fathers… And if it is possible to impose restrictions on the meaning of the Declaration and to burden the Declaration with “commentaries” relating to its fulfillment [and to thereby restrict the meaning of the Declaration], it is in no way possible to blur or minimize its spirit and essence, which constitutes the Arm and Hand of Providence and its revelation.
The Declaration serves as a testimony and seal to the eternality of G-d’s promise, the original “declaration” made thousands of years ago, that He would return us to this Land. It is the beginning of the realization of this vision of hope. And as a result of this clear recognition, the British government’s right to deny our right to the Land of Israel, given to us at Mount Sinai, has expired.