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Hungarian Halutzim and the question of aliyah

Chareidi Israel

It’s amazing how much real Jewish history I’m learning from translating some of Rav Berland’s old classes.

Before we dive in, I just want to state up front that I am trying, very much, to adopt a more ‘neutral’ approach with this information.

That means that I will share all the information I’m coming across with you, but with the caveat that we should assume wherever feasible and not ridiculous, that people are making teshuva all the time.

Also, just to restate the obvious, that just being in the same family tree as a bunch of Sabbatean-Frankists, Roman Emperors and George Soros doesn’t automatically make someone ‘bad’. It all comes down to each person’s individual actions and free will. As always.

And with that, let’s begin.

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First, there’s the stuff I was in the middle of translating for the Rav, about shalom bayit, when all of a sudden he digressed to the topic of who came up with the idea of creating a ‘Jewish State’ in modern times.

Here’s what he said:

Chareidim built the State of Israel

Yavniel was built by the chareidim.

Afterwards, there was a centre of the Palmach there, and also in Rosh Pinna and Petah Tikva. All of these places were built by the charedim. The idea of having a Jewish State didn’t belong to Herzl at all, this was all happening a long time before.

Already between the years of 5580 and 5760 (1820-1840) they were talking about this.

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The voice in the desert

There was Rabbi Eliyahu Guttmacher, and Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Kalisher, and Rabbi Yehuda Alkali, who were great geniuses, and who said that we had to ascend to Eretz Yisrael.

It was like a kol koreh b’midbar, a proclamation from the midst of the desert, but we didn’t merit it for the chareidim to ascend to the land.

And then there was in 5630 (1870) Rabbi Akiva Yosef Shlesinger and Rabbi Hillel Kolomeyer, who ascended to the land already in 5630. Rabbi Akiva Yosef built Petah Tikva. Afterwards, it was destroyed by a flood that came up from the Yarkon.

There was malaria there, and people died from it, and only a few people remained. So they said that it looked like Hashem didn’t want it to happen. Afterwards, another person came along called Yehoshua Shtumpfer, who rebuilt Petah Tikva anew, and the main road there is called by his name.

Rothschild was also busy building up the land of Israel. Amongst other things, he built Metulla. They asked him: Why are you building in a place that that?! He replied that he knew they were going to create a Jewish State, and that the border was going to be there.

And so it was.

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Long before Herzl

It was only after the Dreyfus affair, that happened in 1894, and when Herzl saw all of the hatred towards the Jews, that he started promoting the idea of a Jewish State, in 1896, a year after the Dreyfus affair.

The whole story with Dreyfus happened after France lost the war. So they slandered Dreyfus that he had sent a letter to an enemy country. They forged a letter and then libelled him, that he was a spy.

But the whole idea had been widespread a long time before this. They were talking about a Jewish state, and they even said that Rabbi Nachman of Tulchin would be the Finance Minister. They were talking about a state, and they were already distributing the positions. But we didn’t have the merit that this would come about via the chareidim.

After the Balfour Declaration, the Ohr Sameach said that those who were scared of the ‘three oaths’ that Hashem swore about knesset Israel (abjuring the ingathering of the Jewish people, back to the land of Israel by force) – that now there was no problem.

Because now, it was being done with the agreement of the nations. The biggest countries in the world agreed with the Balfour Declaration.

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There is always so much to unpack, in even the Rav’s most ‘throwaway’ comments.

So, I’d never really heard of most of these people, excepting R’ Tzvi Hirsh Kalisher, so I started looking them up, to see what I could learn about these chareidi ‘Hungarian Halutzim’.

In the middle of doing all that, one of the commentators, Simon, posted something up about how billionaire Hungarian financier George Soros is also related to the Chatam Sofer, indirectly, on the bottom of THIS post about Roman Emperors and Welsh Royalty.

I took a quick look – and that’s when I saw the same names I’d literally just typed up when I was doing the translation for the Rav.

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Long story short, this is Akiva Eiger’s tree, that has been repeatedly tied to known Sabbatean-Frankists.

(Now, remember the caveat above, that just appearing in this tree doesn’t mean someone is a Sabbatean-Frankist, but it does tell us that these people were growing up in families that were deeply compromised, in terms of their religious beliefs and teachings. But of course, it was still open to each person to change course, and make teshuva – as so many baal teshuvas in our days have also done.)

So, George Soros’ g-grandma was one Jittel Raizel Schlesinger, who descends from R’ Akiva Eger the Elder, amongst many others.

Her brother, or half-brother is one Tzvi Dov Schlesinger – and he is the father of the ‘Divrei Yehiel’, who in turn was the father of Akiva Yosef Schlesinger, one of the main people the Rav spoke about as being ‘chareidi halutzim’ of Eretz Yisrael.

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So, I took a closer look.

These snippets come from YIVO, here.

(1837–1922), pioneer of ultra-Orthodoxy, early Jewish nationalist, and Yiddishist.

Akiva Yosef Schlesinger’s father, Yeḥi’el (1814–1891), a close disciple of Rabbi Mosheh Sofer, was a minor rabbinical functionary in his hometown of Pressburg.

After attending the yeshiva of Avraham Shemu’el Binyamin Sofer in Pressburg, Schlesinger studied briefly with Ḥayim Sofer and Mosheh Schick.

He then went to Leipnik in Moravia to the yeshiva of Shelomoh Quetsch (1798–1856).

This was an interesting choice, as yeshivas in Moravia had a reputation for openness to general culture that was rare in Hungary. Schlesinger would later write that at this stage in his life he seriously considered the path of modern Orthodoxy, and that the experience granted him insight into the mindset of those tempted to succumb to its temptations….

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[I]n 1860 he married Liba (1842–1917), the daughter of Hillel Lichtenstein, who was then serving as rabbi of the small community of Margareten in eastern Hungary.

When Lichtenstein became a widower, he then married Schlesinger’s younger sister Fradel, at his son-in-law’s urging. Until the Schlesinger family moved to the Land of Israel in 1870, the two couples lived together.

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This ‘Hillel Lichtenstein’ is the same as the ‘Hillel of Kolomiya,’ referenced by the Rav in the piece I translated.

Already by the third par of this YIVO piece, I was getting that niggling feeling that something is a bit off here….

Let’s continue quoting from the YIVO piece:

At a time when Hungarian Orthodoxy was entering a period of deep crisis, the two men, along with Ḥayim Sofer, were close ideological collaborators, laying the foundations of ultra-Orthodoxy.

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You can read more about Hayim Sofer HERE.

YIVO tells us that he was not a relative of Moshe Sofer, the Chatam Sofer, despite being very close to him and learning in his yeshiva. You can see his family tree HERE, and there’s quite a few strange things that seem to me something is being covered up there. (‘Nathan Ashkenazi’ happens to also be the name of ‘Nathan of Gaza’, Shabtai Tzvi’s main prophet who was raised in Eretz Yisrael.)

Over on the Jewish Encyclopaedia, we learn a bit more about where else Hayim Sofer learned:

He studied at Presburg and at Ungvar, where he attended the celebrated yeshibot of Ḥatam Sofer and Meïr Ash (Meïr Eisenstädter).

For now, let’s can that side of things, and go back to Akiva Yosef Schlesinger and Hillel Lichtenstein of Kolomiya.

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More from YIVO:

Schlesinger argued passionately for the need to safeguard the most basic markers Jewish of identity and culture such as namelanguage, and dress. The acronym of the three words shem, lashon, and malbush—shalem—encapsulated for him the ideal of the complete Jew, the “Hebrew” possessed of staunch integrity.

In this way, he redefined the battlefront of the culture war. In its metaphorical trenches, no longer did the Orthodox face a Neolog (Reform) foe, but rather the lines of confrontation were drawn between the authentic Orthodox and the enemy within, the counterfeit Jews, the modern Orthodox.

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In 1870, Schlesinger moved to Jerusalem, and he started fighting against a lot of the corrupt organisations here in the Holy Land:

The ḥalukah system, distributing charity from abroad, controlled by corrupt overseers, the memunim, could not provide a satisfactory economic solution to the rising tide of immigration from Eastern Europe. Many of the kolels sought to discourage immigration by denying the ḥalukah during the initial years of stay in Palestine.

To Schlesinger’s mind this state of affairs was not only criminally unjust and economically disastrous, but it also ran counter to his messianic expectations.

He had by this time fully internalized Tsevi Hirsh Kalischer’s activist messianism, which called for the restoration of Jews to the Holy Land and the creation of agricultural settlements as a means of both fulfilling religious commandments and solving pressing economic problems.

In 1873, he wrote a pamphlet setting out his vision of:

[A]n Orthodox utopia with many elements of a modern Jewish nation-state—Hebrew language, Jewish attire, a flag, a militia, an elected assembly—that would best secure traditional Jewish culture. Yet nowhere in the pamphlet was there an outright call for a Jewish state.

That came a year later, in a letter to Moses Montefiore, in which Schlesinger made explicit his goal to establish a Jewish state, albeit under Ottoman suzerainty, in Palestine.

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Just stop for a moment, and understand what we’re dealing with here.

This is one of the main guys behind the whole ‘ultra orthodox’ insistence on Yiddish, no secular education, retaining the black and white clothing of 250 years ago, ‘no changes to anything’ – agitating to create a Jewish State in the land of Israel, that speaks Hebrew, has an elected parliament of some sort – and an army.

This is mind-boggling.

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Ultimately, it didn’t happen.

Schlesinger was running an ongoing war against his arch-enemy, ‘modern orthodox Trojan horse’, Ezriel Hildesheimer, and a bunch of other secular Frankists, too, plus the existing corrupt overseers of the ‘haluka’ charity system then in place supporting the orthodox communites of Israel.

(Notice: there is nothing new under the sun. Also remember, most of those ‘established’ orthodox communities in Israel had actually been built and maintained by Sabbateans who flocked here to await ‘the second coming’ of Shabtai Tzvi, in 1700.)

Schlesinger was over-stretching. Here’s what happened next:

In 1875, disaster struck. Schlesinger published a work, Bet Yosef ḥadash, that went beyond all previous vilifications of acculturation and reform, but also contained a sensational proposal to suspend, in Palestine, Rabenu Gershom’s ban on marriage to two wives…

His book was banned and publicly consigned to the flames, his reputation destroyed overnight. Though his life was threatened, he refused to heed calls that he return to Hungary.

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Well!

The weirdness continues.

So after that, Schlesinger put all of his energies into trying to buy land for agricultural colonies in Eretz Yisrael.

He convinced his father-in-law [Hillel Lichtenstein] to help raise money, and the first Jewish agricultural settlement, Petaḥ Tikvah, was purchased in 1878 in no small part with these funds.

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Now, let’s take a closer look at Hillel Lichtenstein of Kolomiya.

Remember, he put up a lot of the money to buy the agricultural colony of Petah Tikva, in the land of Israel, in tandem with his son-in-law and brother-in-law, Akiva Yosef Schlesinger, above, who had published a widely known work calling for a Jewish state in Israel.

So, read this snippet from an Arutz 7 news story from 2015, when Hillel of Kolomiya’s grave in the Ukraine was repeatedly vandalised, and spot the inconsistencies yourself:

Rabbi Hillel Lichtenstein was the outspoken leader of the ultra-Orthodox in Hungary. He was an ardent admirer of the Hasidim and made pilgrimages to the  Rebbe of Sanz, the Divrei Chaim.

Rabbi Lichtenstein was a preacher and a popular writer who denounced not only secular education, but even the playing of musical instruments and social games like chess and checkers.

He was an opponent also of all agitation for the political emancipation of the Jews, saying that it is the duty of the Jews to suffer the tribulations of the Exile until God finds them ready for Messianic redemption.

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Except…. that’s not true.

At least, his actions in real life were not at all matching these words ascribed to him, above.

So, what is really going on here?

Let’s see if we can shed some more light on this.

(In another strange thing, take a look at THIS article, describing how Hillel of Kolomiya and Akiva Yosef Schlesinger came into possession of the ‘Holy Sword of Hungarian Jewry’, dated to the 15th century. This tale is getting stranger and stranger.)

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Here’s some snippets from YIVO, here:

Lichtenstein gloried in his distinguished rabbinic lineage: he was a descendant of both Mordekhai Yafeh and Yesha‘yahu Horowitz (known as Shlah)….

He married Rezi Kolman, the daughter of a wealthy man in nearby Galanta. Supported by his in-laws for five years, he opened a yeshiva in Galanta that became famous for the piety of its students. He also taught householders and poor workers, anticipating his future publications geared toward the lay public….

He would travel about the countryside, his fire-and-brimstone jeremiads arousing great religious passion among the common people, especially attracting female audiences. In Margareten, he also encountered Hasidism at close quarters and came to view it with great sympathy.

As his own reputation as a holy man grew, Lichtenstein adopted some of the trappings of a Hasidic rebbe. In time, his amulets were sought from as far away as Baghdad.

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Well, the weird bell is starting to ding off pretty loudly again.

But in the meantime, here’s the real kicker:

 He insisted that Jews not be tempted by emancipation, but rather retain their status as tolerated aliens.

Their fatherland was not Hungary, he claimed, but Palestine.

Smart readers will already have spotted the problem: this is diametrically opposed to what was said above, i.e. “it is the duty of the Jews to suffer the tribulations of the Exile until God finds them ready for Messianic redemption.”

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More from YIVO:

Lichtenstein was the architect of the ultra-Orthodox manifesto, the famous nine-point pesak din of Michalowitz issued by 24 rabbis from northeastern Hungarian communities in the autumn of 1865…Not only neo-Orthodox rabbis, but almost all the leading mainstream Orthodox authorities in Hungary as well were scandalized by what they viewed as the pesak din’s distortion of halakhah, and refused to join the signatories….

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…He is probably the only Hungarian rabbi to have had several passages of his work (in Jüdisch-Deutsch!) read into the [Hungarian] parliamentary minutes.

One member of parliament interpolated with sarcasm that Lichtenstein’s views denying that Hungary could be a Jew’s fatherland and his denunciation of assimilation seemed to be in full accord with the antisemite Gyözö Istóczy’s plan to have Hungary’s Jews immigrate to Palestine….

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Remember, this is a good 70 years before Hitler rose to power, and basically started saying the same thing as Gyozo Istoczy.

And clearly, Lichtenstein must have said Hungary could never be a Jew’s real homeland, because it was actually recorded in the Hungarian Parliament’s minutes.

But it seems that the plan to create a Jewish state in Israel only started to solidify a little later:

As late as 1863, Lichtenstein wrote that he preferred militant activism in the Diaspora to a life of learning in the Holy Land, but he later came to espouse the active messianism preached by Tsevi Hirsh Kalischer.

We’ll get to Tzvi Hirsh Kalischer in a minute.

Before we do, let’s just find out who helped Lichtenstein buy Petah Tikva, and then what actually happened to that Hungarian-ultra-orthodox-owned agricultural settlement:

[I]n 1876, [Lichtenstein] wrote a letter endorsing the Society for the Settlement of the Holy Land (behind which stood his son-in-law), wherein he expressed the view that such activities marked the first stage of the messianic era.

He was induced by Schlesinger to raise money (mainly from the Frankfurt Rothschilds) to buy land in Palestine.

The purchase of Petaḥ Tikvah, the first Jewish agricultural settlement in modern times, was funded substantially by Lichtenstein in 1878.

However, he soon came under enormous pressure and was threatened with blackmail by the Hungarian kolel in Jerusalem, which viewed the entire project askance as siphoning off funds that by rights belonged to them.

He was compelled to yield his shares to the kolel, which promptly sold them off.

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So.

One of the main ‘planks’ used to support the view that Jews should just stay in the diaspora and wait for God to bring them to the Holy Land…. didn’t actually hold by that.

(Take a look at THIS piece on the ‘TrueTorahJews’ anti-aliya website, to see how Hillel Lichtenstein’s words are being routinely twisted.)

But in fact, he himself bought land in Eretz Yisrael for agricultural settlement, way before ‘the secular Zionists’ even existed as a movement, and he wrote a  letter in 1876 where he publically said about buying and settling land in Israel:

“[M]arked the first stage of the messianic era.”

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This is astounding!

So, how did we get from there, to where we are today?

First, let’s just do some housekeeping.

The Frankfurt Rothschild who probably put the money up for Lichtenstein to buy ‘Petah Tikva’ was almost certainly Wilhelm Carl Von Rothschild.

Snippet from Wiki:

In 1855 von Rothschild became joint head with his brother Mayer Karl of the Frankfurt house. When his brother died in 1886, he became sole head. As he and his brother left no male heirs, the Frankfurt house was discontinued at his death.

Von Rothschild, who was religious his entire life, was eulogized by Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Teomim at the Yeshivas Knesses Beis Yitzchak-Kaminetz in Kaunas as הצדיק השר הטפסר (the righteous, the nobleman, the aristocracy)

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Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Teomim, aka the ADERET was the father-in-law of R’ Avraham Yitzhak Kook, the first ‘chief rabbi’ appointed by the secular zionists.

Rav Kook famously had an ongoing dispute with R’ Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, co-founder of the Edah HaCharedit in Jerusalem.

R’ Sonnenfeld was apparently one of the people who put the pressure on Hillel Liechtenstein to ‘donate’ his shares in the Petah Tikva agricultural colony to his kollel – which were then sold.

Also this from Wikipedia:

Sonnenfeld was a student of Rabbi Samuel Benjamin Sofer (the Ksav Sofer), the son of Rabbi Moses Sofer (the Chasam Sofer).

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You can see the geni tree for R’ Sonnenfeld HERE.

It bears all the hallmarks of having being deliberately truncated. If you look closely, you’ll see that his mother was one ‘Zelda Rosalia Deutch’, whose father was a ‘Rabbi Aharon Deutch’ who appears to be floating in space. But when you look for possible fits for this ‘Rabbi Aharon Deutch’, you get to THIS tree, and this person:

Chief Rabbi Aaron David Deutsch or Aharon David Deutsch (also known as Rabbi David Prag) z’tl was born in 1812, in Raudnitz, Bohemia (today Roudnice nad Labem, Czech Republic) – died at Balassagyarmat, on 26, April 1878….

He received his early education under his grandfather, Joseph Emanuel ben Menachem Deutsch, who was district rabbi (Bezirksrabbiner) in Raudnitz, and then frequented the yeshivot of Prague and Pozsony (Pressburg, today Bratislava, Slovakia) being one of the favored disciples of the famous Moses Schreiber (the “Chatam Sofer”).

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He fits the time, he fits the place, he fits the circumstances, to be R’ Sonnenfeld’s actual maternal grandfather.

It’s highly unlikely that anyone could have risen to be the head of the Ashkenazi Jewish community in Jerusalem, without being a full-blooded member of ‘the cabal’.

Again, remember the caveat that it’s not the yichus that makes the difference, it’s the person’s own actions, for good and bad.

But also understand, so much of the story we’ve been told about what happened before the founding of the secular State of Israel is a lie.

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Meanwhile, Carl Wilhelm von Rothschild’s daughter Adelheid married her cousin, one Edmund James de Rothschild.

And he is the guy who went around buying up loads of bits of Eretz Yisrael, and whose money and land holdings basically launched ‘secular’ Zionism and the secular State of Israel:

He became a leading proponent of the Zionist movement, financing the first site at Rishon LeZion.

In his goal for the establishment of a Jewish homeland, he promoted industrialization and economic development. In 1924, he established the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (PICA), which acquired more than 125,000 acres (50,586 ha) of land and set up business ventures.

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Are you starting to see that the ‘problem’ with the idea of settling Eretz Yisrael was not so much a religious one, as has been portrayed by so many ‘ultra-orthodox’ leaders in the diaspora, but  more a political issue over who got to control the country and the money and the land?

This has massive implications for the whole subject of making aliya today.

I’m not going to go into that here, but let’s see if we can just pin down a little bit more of this.

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HERE is what YIVO has to say about Tzvi Hirsch Kalischer, the person whose ‘messianic’ vision for a Jewish State in Israel apparently inspired all these ultra-orthodox Hungarian halutzim:

(1795–1874), rabbi and the most prominent “harbinger of Zionism.” Tsevi Hirsh Kalischer was born in Leszno (Lissa) in western Poland. He was a disciple of Ya‘akov Lorbeerbaum of Lissa and of Akiva Eger.

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There is a TON  of weirdness around the family tree of Ya’akov Lorbeerbaum, a great-grandchild of the Chacham Tzvi.

And Akiva Eger’s tree we’ve already ascertained contains hordes of known Sabbatean-Frankists.

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Kalischer was a leader of the Jewish Company for the Settlement of the Holy Land, founded by Ḥayim Lorje of Frankfurt am Oder (1860), which was the first group to propagate the idea of renewing settlement in the Land of Israel….

Kalischer remained in close contact with contemporary Jewish leaders, both rabbinic and lay.

He corresponded with Moses Montefiore, Anschel Rothschild, and Albert Cohen; with rabbis in Germany (Esriel Hildesheimer, Samson Raphael Hirsch, and Seligmann Baer Bamberger); with rabbis and public figures in Russia (Yitsḥak Elḥanan Spektor, David Friedmann, Yehoshu‘a Heshel Levin, and Eliyahu Krotinger), and with Rabbi Me’ir Auerbach in Jerusalem.

He had a hand in every initiative connected to the Land of Israel, whether sponsored by the Alliance Israélite Universelle (in Paris), the Jewish Company for the Settlement of the Holy Land (in Germany), or the Dorshe Tsiyon vi-Yerushalayim society (in Grodno).

In particular, he gave his support to the mission to various Jewish communities of Hungarian Rabbi Yosef Natonek on behalf of the Company for the Settlement of the Holy Land.

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When I was looking at the YIVO entry for Yosef Natonek, the man entrusted by Tzvi Hirsh Kalischer to raise and distribute most of the funds via the ‘Company for the Settlement of the Holy Land’, a very strange paragraph caught my eye:

Natonek’s most important work…’Messiah, or Discourse on Jewish Emancipation: A Study Equally Pleasing to Jew and Christian; 1861′, was published in Hungarian under the pseudonym Ábir Amiéli, “an Orthodox Jew” (igazhitü izraelita). The pseudonym, as he explains (p. 30), hints at the restoration of national independence (‘ami) that the spirit of Talmudic Judaism (el) is meant to direct to…

In Mesiás, he presents himself as a liberal Orthodox Jew who nevertheless would not permit his religious zeal to overshadow his humanity, nor his liberalism “to swallow up my Israelite nationality.”

His wide-ranging critique of Jewish society and religious indifference includes a harsh condemnation of both the Orthodox and their opponents, focusing upon their purposeful abandonment of hope for “the restoration of Israel’s national independence in Palestine.”

He concludes his essay with puzzling Christological references to a separate work wherein he claims to have demonstrated that the Talmud considered Jesus the genuine Messiah and that according to Talmudic reckoning the Messianic era was imminent in the second half of the nineteenth century.

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In other words…. Natonek was a Jew-for-Jesus.

As always, each post on this subject takes our knowledge a huge jump forward…. but also leaves us with a lot more questions to ask, and a lot more research to do.

But I have the feeling this was a very important post, especially in light of what we’ve discovered about what was actually going on in the land of Israel, and with the idea of ‘aliya’, even before the modern secular Zionist movement began.

Lots and lots to think about…

And lots and lots still more to research and uncover.

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3 replies
  1. אור הגאולה
    אור הגאולה says:

    משיח תשפ”ג

    אנחנו בפתח הגאולה האדמו”ר יאושיהו יוסף פינטו שליט”א משיח תשפ”ג

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0_UqRF8PB8
    “השנה
    משיח תשפ”ג תיהיה שמחה תגידי למשפחה. “השנה .”
    ככה אמר קול לאישתי בחלום יום לפני עשרה בטבת
    כולנו משפחה לכן אני מפרסם

    https://ravberland.com/these-are-the-sufferings-of-moshiach-rav-badani/

    השנה משיח תשפ”ג

    הרב בעדני זצ”ל “אנחנו בסוף הגלות איך מזרזים?” אצל הינוקא
    השנה משיח תשפ”ג

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIP-uSvD6EI
    https://ravberland.com/these-are-the-sufferings-of-moshiach-rav-badani/

    Reply
  2. Becky
    Becky says:

    I would love to see more posts about this general topic.
    The post got my wheels turning about אתחלתא דגאולה vs עקבתא דמשיחא.
    What’s funny is that maybe there’s a way to say that they’re one in the same.
    There’s a lot to uncover here.

    Reply

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