The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

“Erev Rav” and the State of Israel: Rabbi Israel Eliyah Weintraub`s Political Kabbalah

Rabbi Israel Eliyahu Weintraub (1932-2010) was a Lithuanian Kabbalist, a disciple of R. Yitzchok Hutner (1906-1980) and an associate of R. Elazar Schach (1899-2001). So far, except for brief discussions in Jonathan Garb`s work, Weintraub`s character and philosophy have not been researched. In my lecture, I will focus on Weintraub`s Political Theology and argue that there is a reciprocal relationship between Weintraub`s Kabbalistic thought - especially the Kabbalah teachings of the Villna Goan and of Ba`al HaLeshem - and his political ideology that I will define as a non-Zionist ideology (opposed to Anti-Zionist). Furthermore, I will show how Kabbalistic charges such as Erev Rav (mixed multitude) and Zera Amalek (Amalekite descent) were used by Weintraub in his reference to the concrete Israeli reality and motivated him to strongly oppose Zionist ideology and the existence of the State of Israel.

Moreover, I will argue that his description of the Beit Midrash as a Noah`s Ark fits in with Weintraub`s eschatological thinking, and I will suggest that his positions regarding Zionism had a significant influence on ultra-Orthodox society in Israel. Finally, I will argue that Weintraub should be understood in the context of a vast framework of Kabbalah in relation to the state of Israel, i.e., Kabbalistic thought operating not as a theoretical philosophy, but rather amidst a reality in which Jews hold power and therefore can apply Kabbalistic thought on reality. This kabbalistic correspondence with Jewish sovereignty is a relatively new phenomenon that requires devoted academic treatment. This treatment will be presented in my lecture using Weintraub as a study case.