Rabbi Yehoshua Alt
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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.
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On Friday, November 29, 1947, the United Nations debated the issue of partitioning the British mandate for Palestine into two countries—one Arab and one Jewish. R’ Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz (1886-1948) prayed fervently for partition. He had no radio in his house but that Friday, he borrowed one and set it to the news, leaving it on for Shabbos. He waited with such intense anticipation to hear the outcome of the UN vote that he didn’t come to Shalosh Seudos. When he heard the UN’s decision to establish a Jewish state, he recited the bracha of הטוב והמטיב. Without losing sight of the antireligious nature of the leaders of Eretz Yisrael, he still saw the creation of the Jewish state as an act of providence and as a cause for rejoicing. At the very least, there would now be one country in the world whose gates would be open to the thousands of Holocaust survivors still languishing in displaced persons camps in Germany and Austria. R’ Shraga Feivel once said that even though Eretz Yisrael is controlled by nonreligious and anti-religious Jews, one must still admit the good that Hashem had done in causing the gates to the Land to be open once again to Jewish immigration.
R’ Shraga Feivel compared the new state of Israel to a breech birth. When a baby is born normally, head-first, the delivery is easiest and safest for the mother and augurs best for the future development of the infant. In the context of the establishment of Jewish political sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael, a “head-first” birth would have been one in which the great Torah leaders—the real head so the nation—led the way. But even in a breech birth, despite the danger to the infant, one can still hope that it will live and be healthy.
In 1948, R’ Ovadia Yosef was living in Cairo, Egypt. The next year he spoke very optimistically about the possibility that the Jewish people were facing the beginning stages of redemption. However, he tempered this enthusiasm by clarifying that this is not actually the beginning of the redemption but a foreshadowing, a pekida of the coming redemption. As in the exit from Egypt, the way was yet long between the pekida and the redemption itself. He warned against the aggressive secularism that was rampant in Eretz Yisrael. He witnessed religious Jews turn their backs on their traditions once they reached Israel. In such cases R’ Ovadia insisted that it would be better for them to have remained in their home countries. A response written in 1948 to a Jew in Iraq posits that it definitely is a mitzva to move to Israel nowadays, as it is full of yeshivos and Torah. Yet he advised that if someone was unsure of which path he would take once he arrived in Israel, better to remain a religious Jew in the diaspora.
Hearing R’ Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz’s criticisms of Zionism, someone once said, “I too hate the Zionists. They should be cursed,” R’ Shraga Feivel said, “G-d forbid. To the contrary, they should be blessed, along with all those who are building up our Holy Land. I only pray that they observe mitzvos but G-d forbid to curse or hate them. They are tinokos she’nishbu” (people who never received a Jewish education and so were led astray).
R’ Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld was once asked by Chaim Weitzman (1874-1952), president of the Zionist Organization and later as the first president of Israel, how a tzadik could hate the Zionists who are his fellow Jews? R’ Yosef Chaim answered, “I will prove that I love the Zionists. For a loved one, a person wishes only the best. To me Torah and mitzvos are what’s most precious in the world, and I wish these for every Zionist. I object only to their anti-Torah actions.”
In another episode, upon hearing complaints from people that the early Zionists settlers were irreligious and not observing mitzvos, R’ Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld (1848-1932) replied “I hope the merit of their devotion to the Land will help them, and they will repent and eventually return fully to Torah and faith in Hashem.”
In a newspaper interview where the shas party was accused of being anti-Zionist, R’ Ovadia Yosef responded: “What is anti-Zionist? It is a lie. It is a term which they concocted themselves. I served for ten years as a chief rabbi—a key public position in the state of Israel. In what way are we not Zionists? We pray for Zion, for Yerushalayim and its inhabitants, for Israel, and the rabbis and their students. What is Zionist? By our understanding a Zionist is a person who loves Zion and practices the commandments of settling the land. Whenever I am overseas, I encourage Aliyah. In what way are they more Zionists than we?”
 In 1948, after the Arabs attacked the new Jewish state and soldiers were dying on the battlefield, some Roshei Yeshiva criticized R’ Shraga Feivel for having made the bracha. R’ Shraga Feivel turned to R’ Aharon Kotler who agreed with him that the favorable UN resolution was indeed worthy of a bracha.
 In the 1930s and 40s, there was virtually not an event or simcha in the religious Jewish world that didn’t begin with the playing of the Zionist’s national anthem, Hatikvah. During its playing, R’ Shraga Feivel would sit fixed in his place. He explained, “their hope (tikva means hope) is not ours because it doesn’t include the Beis Hamikdash or the coming of Moshiach.”
 Meor Yisrael, Drushim. R’ Ovadia Yosef responded to questions posed by sefardic chief rabbis, heads of batei dinim all over Israel and the globe, to chassidim, kabbalists and Lithuanian rabbis. He answered questions from politicians, his own teachers and rabbis, his students and sons. He had a good relationship with Chassidic rabbis and quotes Likutei Moharan (see for example Chazon Ovadia, Yom Tov, p. 362), the Klausenberger Rebbe (Yabia Omer 9, Orach Chaim, 105), various Lubavitcher Rebbes (Yabia Omer 7, Yoreh Deah 20 and Yabia Omer 10, Even Ha’ezer 25), the Kotzker Rebbe (Shu”t Chazon Ovadia, volume 2, p. 531) and the Satmar Rebbe (Yabia Omer 10, Even Ha’ezer 25). He sent the Lubavitcher Rebbe a letter on his 80th birthday, and another commending the Rambam learning program that the Rebbe instituted. He described a meeting with the Tchebiner Rav as “meeting the Divine Presence” (Yechave Daas volume 3, p. 10, footnote). He exchanged letters with the great R’ Menashe Klein, author of Mishna Halachos, who called him “rabbi of rabbis, gaon of gaonim” (Chazon Ovadia, Pesach, volume 2, p. 53). Some of R’ Ovadia Yosef’s international correspondence are with… the Chevra Kadisha of Mexico City (Yabia Omer 7, Yoreh Deah 30), the head of the Chevra Kadisha of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Yabia Omer 7, Yoreh Deah 32), a rav and posek in Tehran, Iran (Yabia Omer 7, Orach Chaim 25), an av beis din of Glasgow, Scotland (Yabia Omer 7, Yoreh Deah 33), the chief rabbi of Argentina (Yabia Omer 7, Yoreh Deah 35), a rav and av beis din of Mexico City (Yabia Omer 7, Yoreh Deah 1), the chief shochet of Mexico City (Yabia Omer, 7 , Yoreh Deah 2), the chief rabbi of Morocco (Yabia Omer 7 , Yoreh Deah 4), an av beis din of Marseille, France (Yabia Omer 7, Yoreh Deah 9), the chief rabbi and av beis din of Zurich, Switzerland (Yabia Omer 7, Even Ha’ezer 4 and Yabia Omer, Even Ha’ezer 8), an av beis din of London (Yabia Omer 7 , Even Ha’ezer 7), an av beis din of Leon, France (Yabia Omer 7, Even Ha’ezer 16), the chief rabbi and rosh av beis din of Vienna, Austria (Yabia Omer 8, Orach Chaim 16), a rav in Los Angeles (Yabia Omer 8, Orach Chaim 28), an av beis din of Johannesburg, South Africa (Yabia Omer 8, Even Ha’ezer 7), a rav in Brooklyn, New York (Yabia Omer 9, Orach Chaim 61), the rav of Madrid, Spain (Yabia Omer 9, Yoreh Deah 5), “Rabbis of America” (Yabia Omer 10, Even Ha’ezer 18) and the assistant head of the Jewish community in Singapore (Chazon Ovadia, Availus, volume 3, p 245).
 When the state of Israel was founded, a letter from Friday, the 20th of Teves תש”ט, 1948 begins נודה לה’ על שזכינו ברוב רחמיו וחסדיו לראות את הניצנים הראשונים של האתחלתא דגאולה עם הקמתה של מדינת ישראל (“We thank Hashem that we merited in his abundant mercy and kindness to see, the beginning of the redemption, with the establishment of the state of Israel”). This letter has the name of around 200 rabbanim including R’ Tzvi Pesach Frank, R’ Yechezkel Sarna, R’ Zalman Sorotskin, R’ Yechiel Michel Tucazinsky and Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.
 Meor Yisrael, volume 1, p. 99.
 In 1977, R’ Ovadia Yosef was asked whether the time has come to change the formula of the tefila of Nachem that is recited on Tisha B’av, especially that which we say about Yerushalayim,העיר האבלה והחרבה והבזויה והשוממה, the city that is mournful, that is ruined, that is scorned and that is desolate? It seems incongruent with the way Yerushalayim is today, as it is developed and built up with many thousands of Jews? People come from all over the world to the Kosel (Yechave Daas, volume 1, siman 43). In response, R’ Ovadia described the low spiritual state of Yerushalayim today, touching on the moral and ethical depravity on the streets of Yerushalayim. Although he marked Yom Yerushalayim with emotional speeches and tearful gratitude for the return of the old city, it was by no means time to trade in the prayer for a truly rebuilt Yerushalayim.
 The Netziv (1816-1893) declares that it is Hashem’s will that Eretz Yisrael be settled over time by Jews of all kinds—religious and non-religious, “from the far reaches of the earth.” He writes, “we must awaken to the voice of the will of Hashem…in every place in the world where our brothers—Jews of every kind—are to be found…to do everything within their power…to make Aliya, to go up and settle the land and build it up” (Ha’Netziv Mi’Volozhin B’ma’aracha L’maan Yishuv Eretz Yisrael U’kedusha, volume 11, part 1).
 Regarding protests against Zionists and the secular Israeli government, the Brisker Rav said that he himself is a Zionist. In Russia, Lithuania, Hungary, and similar countries no Jew would protest like that because he would then be killed. Why is it done in Israel? Because it’s a Jewish country and government and thus they can do what they want, knowing that they won’t be killed.