Yosef, Rothschild, and Dual Loyalty

With the resurfacing of public anti-Semitism in much of the world, how careful do we have to be in America to avoid the old charge of dual loyalty? A week ago, that question became a very real one for me, but more of that later.

We tend to underestimate the difficulty of what Yaakov asked Yosef to do in guaranteeing that he, Yaakov, would be buried in Israel. Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik z”l once illuminated the difficulty of Yaakov’s request with a bit of modern history:

Edmund de Rothschild died during Israel’s War of Independence, and could therefore not be buried there, as he had wished. After the war, his family sought to move his remains to the new State. The family was puzzled by the red tape they encountered. Probing further, they discovered that Charles de Gaulle himself was behind it. They contacted him. He told them, “I always regarded your father as a Frenchman first. A Frenchman is born in France, dies in France, and is buried in France.” He gave permission for the reburial, but was cool to the family thereafter.

Yosef was a foreigner in a xenophobic country, who nonetheless tenaciously held power. (Many centuries later, Rav Shmuel HaNagid would rise to a similar position in medieval Spain. A few days ago, the ninth of Teves, was the yahrzeit of his son and successor, who was murdered by a mob which had had enough of a foreigner wielding such power.) Insisting that his father not be buried in Egypt would be seen by some as politically incorrect, and by others as treachery.

Yosef, though, was particularly suited to the task. His commitment to Eretz Yisrael was in his bones. He, too, insists that he not be permanently interred in Egypt, and his wish was granted.

Ironically, Moshe’s remains did not make the short journey into Israel. Chazal (Devarim Rabbah 2:8) link the difference between them to their public affirmation of ancestry. Mrs. Potiphar disparagingly described Yosef as an Ivri slave; Yosef not only fails to resist the label, but uses it himself when relating his past to Pharoh. Moshe, on the other hand, when introduced as an Egyptian by Yisro’s daughters, lets the remark pass without objecting. Yosef’s vigorous identification with the Land led him to be buried in it; Moshe’s failure to emphasize his connection to the Land meant that the Land would not insist on claiming him as its own.

We dare not minimize for a moment our deep connection to our Land. But what about in a public forum? Surely it should be worse to downplay the role that Eretz Yisrael plays in our hearts and lives. On the other hand, there may be risks involved.

Not so long before Shabbos a week and a half ago, Teresa Watanabe of the Los Angeles Times called. She wanted my comments on two stories she was working on. (When she noticed the lack of enthusiasm in my voice, I explained that I was happy to speak to her, but Shabbos was approaching so I was a bit hurried. She sounded surprised. “Rabbi! Shabbos isn’t till 4:29!” Only in America.)

The rush piece was on Jews who make aliyah. She asked what Jewish law said about this. Was it obligatory for a Jew to live in Israel? I explained that there was a difference of opinions about the law. Something inside told me that this was not all I should say about the importance of our Holy Land. Yosef did it instinctively; I had to make a conscious choice. I did opt to add a dimension beyond the law. I told her that a good child doesn’t obey the wishes of his parent because he fears the consequences, but because he wants to please his parent. After two millennia of forced separation from our Land, G-d gave us the opportunity to come back and build a center of Jewish life, hopefully as the first step towards the full redemption. How could we not respond to that gift? I considered it a personal failing that I hadn’t made aliyah yet, but hoped to do so, and my married daughter did make the move.

The jitters set in not long after I concluded the phone call. Had I made a mistake and opened a Pandora’s box? Were enemies of ours waiting to pounce upon us, and charge us with insufficient fidelity to this great country in which we live, since we look forward to the opportunity to relocate? With the explosion of anti-Semitism across the globe (albeit not in the United States) was it wise to open us up to the old charge of dual loyalty?

A few days later, the article appeared in the Times. It did not raise the dual loyalty charge, nor did readers. That allayed my fears somewhat, but a week later, I’m still not sure which course I should have taken. It’s at times like this that I mourn the absence in our times of people like Rabbi Moshe Sherer z”l and Rabbi Naftoli Neuberger z”l. They would have known what to do.

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25 Responses

  1. Leon says:

    The great majority of Americans are ‘believers’ of some sort or another, with over 90% being Christians, so I cannot imagine how explaining one’s desire to live in the Holy Land due to religious strivings to be interpreted as dual loyalty. In fact, I would imagine that most Christians and even some Jews and Moslems would think this would be a natural response of a devout person regarding the Holy Land.
    Let us not be overly afraid to proclaim our religious values and sentiments, of course in a reasonable and personable manner.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    There are many Americans of other religious persuasions (e.g., Muslims, Catholics…) who believe and say openly that G-d’s law as they see it is paramount. Consistency (if that matters!) would demand that they also be scrutinized for “dual loyalties” if religious Jews are. In fact, their enemies often do scrutinize them in that way. However, we Jews have to realize that (despite the fudged numbers we see published) our decreasing population in the US has reduced our political clout, so we are more open to attack.

  3. Jacob Haller says:

    1. I hope that the first part of Leon’s reply is as positive as he portrays. I concur with the second part.

    2. Regarding our ties to Eretz Yisroel. Should we really be shivering in our boots if our ties are due to honest and consistent fealty to the Torah as opposed to some counterfeit philosophy such as secularized nationalism?

    3. Considering point #2, should AIPAC among other groups be looked upon as something problematic for us?

    4. Should we be anymore wary of “Patriots” regarding our ties to Eretz Yisroel as “dual-loyalty” than to let’s say the politically correct mafias that accuse us of “homophobia” and compare us to the Taliban due to our opposition of recent ideas to redefine marriage? In both cases, cabals with an axe to grind attempt to portray us as nefarious. The caveat of course is once again honest and consistent fealty to a Divinely transmitted set of laws before stating such principles.

    5. In the late 18th century, Napoleon referred to the Jews as “A state within a state”. After he tore down the ghetto walls it’s likely he expected that each town and city in France would subsequently boast a Jewish population in proportion with that of the overall country. He among others expressed dismay and perhaps some exasperation that Jewish communities continued to resemble unwalled ghettos. You might call it reverse social engineering. Therefore, is the concern with the State of Israel and accompanying questions of loyalty to our country of residence really anything new and unprecedented?

    6. What do our leaders say about proper modes of behavior regarding our status as a nation in exile?

  4. Shira Schmidt says:

    15 b Tevet
    I want you to know that at least one reader appreciates your puns and fine tuning of language. I especially liked these expressions:

    1)”Surely it should be worse to downPLAY the role that Eretz Yisrael PLAYS in our hearts and lives” [capitalization mine]

    2) About Joseph insisting his bones be brought to Eretz Israel —
    “His commitment to Eretz Yisrael was in his bones”

    Since you are so attentive to language issues, I was surprised when you wrote anachronistically –
    3) “We tend to underestimate the difficulty of what Yaakov asked Yosef to do in guaranteeing that he, Yaakov, would be buried in Israel.”

    Why not use the term “Eretz Israel” or “the Land” ? THere was no place “Israel” at that time (in fact, I think in the Pentateuch the term used is Eretz Canaan, and not even Eretz Israel)
    I think it is important for readers to know the difference between Eretz Israel and Israel (the State)

    This is only a small criticism on a very thought-stimulating posting.

  5. Fern R says:

    The problem with the dual loyalty charge is that it is true. We do have loyalty to two countries. What is so insidious about the dual loyalty allegation is what is left unsaid: the assumption that it is impossible to truly love two countries/peoples/lands. Of course that assumption is false. People love two things equally but differently all the time. I love, cherish and respect both of my parents equally, but for different reasons. So too can Jews be loyal Americans and yet yearn to be reunited with Israel. It would be wrong not to appreciate what America has meant to the Jews and to Israel. But at the same time, I think almost every expatriate yearns for the conditions to be right so that they can go home. If Americans were forced to live without a homeland they too would want to return to the land that produced the Constitution and Bill of Rights, Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King, the Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Rushmore.

  6. Ori Pomerantz says:

    There is a huge difference between yearning for the LAND of Israel, and loyalty to the STATE of Israel. The first is an emotion, and one that gentiles can relate to (I’m sure there are also refugees in the US who would love to go back home). The second is allegiance to a foreign government, which is incompatible with some roles in US society.

    To take this distinction to the extreme, look at Jonathan Pollard. AFAIK, he could have resigned and gone to live in Israel. That would have been perfectly legitimate. However, he used his US position as an intelligence analyst for Israel’s benefit. That was a crime and he is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison.

    The US does not require that much from regular citizens, so I doubt a US citizen having loyalty to an allied government is a serious issue. However, people who think about taking a job that DOES require full loyalty (the military, anything requiring a security clearance, or elected office) should probably examine their conscience first. If they have an incompatible loyalty to the state of Israel, they should avoid putting themselves in a situation that will tear them apart.

  7. dovid says:

    There have been rumors that the CIA has reservations about recruiting Jews due to dual-loyalty concerns. Instead of our making a big fuss about alleged discrimination, I think Jews should avoid careers in security-related and policy-making fields as long as they are in the Diaspora because they may be forced to make a choice which by necessity will be a wrong one, regardless of which way they go. The US has national interests which sometimes will be in conflict with those of Eretz Israel, which is OK. But Jews employed in the fields mentioned above, whom the Torah commands to carry out their responsibilities to their employer faithfully, may be faced with making or carrying out a decision which will hurt Eretz Israel. Assuming that Joe Lieberman has all the necessary credetials for the top spot, can he possibly be both a good US president and a loyal Jew? Tell me how?

  8. Jewish Observer says:

    “Why not use the term “Eretz Israel” or “the Land” ? There was no place “Israel” at that time”

    what is wrong with an assumed “Eretz”? Our holy writings are filled with refernces to Eretz Yisrael. So is is so bad stylistically to leave out the “Land of” and be mekatzer to just “Israel”, not unlike how we e.g. refer to Rishon Litziyon as just Rishon?

    Is it a mere cooicidence that Israel is the nam of the modern day country? Obviously, it is a kitzur loshon for Ertez Yisrael. And is it so bad to revel in the similarity metween the government called Israel and the biblical land called Israel, versus laboring to point out that they are not the same?

  9. Ari says:

    Great post, thank you. For several reasons, I wouldn’t be consumed too much with second-guessing on whether you ought to have expressed loyalty for this country. First, a remark about your appreciation for the U.S. might never have been made the article’s final cut anyway. It’s just not as interesting as your clever analogy about pleasing one’s parents. Second, we live in a remarkably tolerant country, where newspaper reporters are more familiar with candle lighting times than are most Jews, and where the White House kashers its kitchen. The relatively few bigots who might question your loyalty are going do irregardless of your claims to the contrary. Would it have been desirable to have remembered to have said as much? Sure. Does it ultimately matter? Nah.

  10. bg says:

    I am not so sure about that Chazal that you quote. Moshe was not present when he is described as an “Ish Mitzri” by Yisro’s daughters (This is obvious from the next posuk where Yisro instructs his daughters to bring Moshe home). Perhaps Moshe was faulted for looking or acting like a Mitzri (instead of an Ivri), but he had no reason to protest something that he did not hear.

  11. DBS says:

    I’m just wondering if it the official OU position that R’ Yosef Dov Soloveitchik is not to be granted the description of ‘tzaddik’.

  12. G.W. says:

    I read the L.A. Times article; your remarks were well worded. You know your audience well; fortunately the gentiles among whom we live are decent people and supportive of Jews and Israel.

  13. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:


    See Matnos Kehunah on the Midrash Rabbah.

  14. bg says:

    Thank you, Rabbi, for the tip.

  15. David says:

    “I think Jews should avoid careers in security-related and policy-making fields as long as they are in the Diaspora because they may be forced to make a choice which by necessity will be a wrong one, regardless of which way they go…”

    Wrong. Moreover, on behalf of your fellow Jews who serve the United States in many capacities, I’ll thank you to avoid making pronouncements about how patriotic we’re permitted to be.

    I’m a Jew in government service (and, yes, I have a security clearance), and I’m damned if I’d betray America for anybody or anything, Israel included. This country has sheltered my family, given us opportunity, justice, freedom, protection and an equality that we’ve never had anywhere else.

    Frankly, that’s enough to ensure my gratitude and loyalty for the rest of my life.

    If a gentile had written what you wrote, I’d be offended. Now, I’m offended and disappointed. If you don’t feel that you can be a loyal American, then, by all means, go somewhere else.

  16. dovid says:

    “I’m damned if I’d betray America for anybody or anything, Israel included.”

    The tone of your post suggests that I touched a raw nerve. I meant no offense. If you ever had to choose (may you be spared such a nissayon) between loyalty to your host country, or loyalty to Eretz Israel, no matter what your choice would be, you are “damned”. This is especially true in the case where America is the host country, because of all the good that it did for all of us (“opportunity, justice, freedom, protection and equality that we’ve never had anywhere else”). Notwithstanding all this, you can’t go against Eretz Israel, because if you did, you betrayed your mehus (esence). You can’t deny that one can be a loyal American citizen without his holding a job that requires security clearance. Otherwise, you are accusing the majority of the Americans of disloyalty and per your suggestion they should go packing. My suggestion merely echoed Yoseph’s advice to his brothers (parshas v’Ygash) prior to their meeting with Pharaoh to keep a low profile.

    I will add to the above that it is documented that there have been Jews who in their quest to prove their loyalty, would go as far as betraying their fellow Jews. Alan Dershowitz reportedly asked former president Clinton, before the end of Clinton’s second term, to pardon Pollard. Clinton answered he couldn’t because of the strong opposition from several Jewish senators. Ruddy Guiliani had no problem stating for the record that “I think that given comparative sentences, his sentence — this I happen to know because I have seen the documents — his sentence is way beyond the sentence served by other people that have been convicted of the same offense”. This is what negios do to us.

  17. David says:


    You’re right you touched a nerve. You just hit it again.

    I have no need to keep a low profile, because I have no conflict. Further, I did not suggest that people without security clearances should leave; I stated that people whose loyalty is elsewhere should leave. The last thing I (or any Jew) needs is another Jew who wants to tell everybody that, as a group, we’re unworthy of trust where Israel’s interests are concerned.

    Moreover, your claim that Jews prove their loyalty by “betraying their fellow Jews” is not well demonstrated by reference to the Pollard case.

    Pollard (as you may recall) spied on this country. He’s the one that did the betraying; not those of us (myself included) who think he belongs in prison.

  18. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Dovid, what does loyalty to Eretz Israel, the land of Israel, mean?

    Does it mean loyalty to the rulers of Eretz Israel? If so, were the Zionists who fought for the British Empire in WWI (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zion_Mule_Corps) traitors? At the time, Eretz Israel was ruled by the Ottoman Empire, whom they fought.

    Does it mean loyalty to the current rulers, Medinat Israel (the state of Israel) because Medinat Israel is ruled primarily by Jews? In this case, are Satmar, who consider Medinat Israel invalid, traitors?

    Does it mean loyalty to Malchut Israel, the kingdom of Israel, when Mashiach comes and establishes it? Given everything I read about Yemot HaMashiach, the world after Mashiach comes, everybody in the world will accept the Judaism was right all along, and therefore there will be no conflict of interest between the US and Malchut Israel.

  19. Michoel says:

    “Obviously, it is a kitzur loshon for Ertez Yisrael.”
    Halavai that would be p’shat. It is a usurping of the historic term the Jewish People, Israel.

  20. dovid says:

    Loyalty to Eretz Israel means loyalty to Jews living in Israel, concern for their security, and their physical and spiritual wellbeing. My post attempted to emphasize the centrality of EY as more than a point on the globe, more than the home of the largest Jewish community. I used the term Eretz Israel the way Zion and Yerushalaim are used in Tanach as euphemism for authentic Judaism (Yahadut or Yiddishkeit for those who relate to any of these terms more easily), stretching from the Avos to the g’dolim of our day. A case in point: Im lo aaleh es Yerushalaim al rosh simchasi (Tehilim, 137, 6). It includes Satmar whose position vs. Israel is strongly rooted in the rishonim, the Charedim worldwide, and Lubavitch who are part of the Charedi world, Mizrachi, and non-observant Jews as well. Adam u’vehemah toshiah HaShem. Chazal explain adam are talmidei chachamim whose maasim are maaseh adam. Behemah are the posh’ei Israel. Nevertheless, they are part of the k’lal and hopefully they will make a U-turn and join those whose maasim are maaseh adam. The Kol Nidrei tefilah’s opening statement explicitly includes them in the k’lal. It does not include mules, Turks, Medinat Israel, and the Israeli establishment.

  21. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Dovid, so what you’re saying is that loyalty to Judaism is incompatible with loyalty to any secular government? In that case, how much Hakarat haTov do you think we owe countries like the US (or, for that matter, the secular Medinat Israel)?

  22. dovid says:

    David: “This country has sheltered my family, given us opportunity, justice, freedom, protection and equality ….”

    David: Pollard is “the one that did the betraying; not those of us (myself included) who think he belongs in prison.”

    Sir, you are wrong. Your use of the word “betray” suggests that you are either ignorant of the Pollard case, or you deliberately spread false information on Pollard. Betray is explained by five dictionaries I consulted as giving aid or information to an enemy of; commit treason against. Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution provides: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” Pollard was indicted on one count of passing classified information to an ally, without intent to harm the United States. Pollard was never indicted for harming the United States. Pollard was never charged with treason.

    Pollard broke the law. He did worse than that. He bit the hand that fed him and all of us. While it does not justify his crime, the reality is that there have been others who did the same or worse and got off more lightly. Senator Chuck Schumer, in his capacity as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime and Criminal Justice of the House Judiciary committee writes in a letter to former President Clinton: “I was dismayed by the disproportionate prison term received by Jonathan Pollard, and wish to urge your attention to his petition for commutation of sentence”. “the lifetime sentence imposed on Mr. Pollard is unduly severe and inconsistent with the sentences awarded to other Americans convicted of similar offenses. Indeed, Mr. Pollard’s sentence is harsher than the sentences meted out to individuals convicted of spying for enemy countries and is the harshest sentence in United States history for the crime of spying for an allied country.” Schumer supports clemency only if three conditions are met: “no danger is posed to society, real contrition is shown and the sentence is disproportionate to others who have committed similar crimes.” He believes Pollard fits that bill. Rudolph Giuliani, one time the third highest ranking official in the Department of Justice, states: “I think that given comparative sentences, his sentence—this I happen to know because I have seen the documents—his sentence is way beyond the sentence served by other people that have been convicted of the same offense”. Even James Woolsey, former head of CIA explains, “Pollard may not have been a prime candidate for commutation, but 20 years is a very long time. At a certain point, it is time to ask if enough is enough – and that is in regard to his release, not to diminishing the seriousness of his actions. There is an obligation to have a different approach to spies for friendly countries.” Woolsey stresses that his words should not be construed as a recommendation for clemency, and says that when clemency requests are weighed it must be ascertained that deterrence has been achieved. Given that most secret information has a short shelf live, and that Pollard was a relatively low-ranking officer, any information in his possession is stale or outright irrelevant due to passing of time. The goal of deterrence has been achieved long ago. (The last two sentences are my assertion.) Are Schumer, Giuliani,and Woolsey incompetent imbeciles and traitors to their nation when they stated about Pollard that enough is enough? Or the opposite is true that they have impeccable credentials as professionals and principled individuals and people of integrity, with comparable or higher security clearance than yours?

    The crux of Pollard’s sentence was based on a 40+-page memorandum. Who authored the memorandum? Caspar Weinberger. Who is Caspar Weinberger? The then Secretary of Defense who was placed under indictment by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh for several felony counts of lying to the Iran-Contra independent counsel during its investigation. Weinberger received a Presidential pardon from President Bush Sr. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caspar_Weinberger). The court placed the memorandum under seal in the court’s docket because the government said it contained classified information. No attorney representing Mr. Pollard has been permitted to see these pages since 1987. The justice system has been notified by qualified people (more qualified than you and me combined) that miscarriage of justice may have occurred. Nevertheless, the system does not allow a re-examining of the facts. Pollard’s current attorneys have the required security clearance to examine all the relevant documents related to the Pollard case. Nonetheless, they are denied access to key information, thus crippling their ability to mount an effective defense. Meaning what? That to this day, that justice system relies on the testimony of a liar to keep Pollard under the lock. While no one representing Mr. Pollard has been allowed access to the sealed pages, Pollard’s adversaries have had carte blanche to spread falsehoods with no risk of rebuttal. His adversaries have succeeded in poisoning the atmosphere for executive clemency by repeatedly leaking speculation, opinion and outright falsehood to the press as if it were fact. Rebutting such tactics requires counsel to have access to the facts. Pollard’s detractors claim to rely on the contents of Weinberg’s memorandum. If they have clearance to read it, did they also have clearance to make public? If Pollard is guilty of additional crimes, why was he never charged, indicted or tried on these charges?

    Do you know that in Jewish Law, if anyone claims to have evidence in favor of a person sentenced to death while this person is being led to the execution place, the execution is stopped and the entire case is re-examined in light of the new evidence? You will probably answer that this is America, and America has its own legal system, which is correct. But you write in your post: “This country has sheltered my family, given us opportunity, justice, freedom, protection and equality ….” A country’s claim to justice and equality is valid only in so far as its laws are applied equally to all of its citizens. I assert that Pollard’s constitutional rights have been violated. Everyone will agree that in the big scheme of things, Jonathan Pollard is miniscule footnote in the modern American history, if at all. If that’s so, why is his sentence so disproportionate to his crime? There is something sinister about this case, especially due to America’s otherwise outstanding track record of justice and fair play.

  23. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Dovid, may I ask you to check a sixth dictionary, http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/betray ? The word “betray” doesn’t just mean treason, of which Pollard is innocent. It also means to betray a confidence.

    I agree that Pollard had the book thrown at him. However, that is the risk you take when you commit a crime, especially one that is committed with forethought such as passing classified information. I suspect that the reason was to discourage other Jews who have a US security clearance from providing Israel with unauthorized help. Precisely because we are so integrated to US society, and can rationalize that it does not really harm the US, this is a serious risk requiring “lema’an yir’u ve’yirau” (so they shall see and be afraid).

  24. dovid says:

    “loyalty to Judaism is incompatible with loyalty to any secular government?”

    Loyalty to Judaism and loyalty to America ARE NOT mutually exclusive. Torah requires us to be loyal to our host country. Dina d’malchusa dina, (the law of the land is the law) is held by most as a Torah commandment which requires the country’s citizens, Jews included, to pay taxes, serve in the armed forces, in generally obey the laws of the land. Jews loyally served in the armed forces of their host countries. A case in point is the Jews in the French army fighting Jews in the German army during WWI. The Soviet Army had Jewish generals during WWII. In truth, there are so many ways to be loyal to America and earn fellow citizens’ respect, while disqualifying oneself from working for CIA’s Middle East desk, as well as any other areas that impinge on one’s Yiddishkeit. If anything, such course of action often earns the admiration of our non-Jewish co-workers. In the same vein, judges in Beis Din frequently disqualify themselves from judging a case if they perceive there is a conflict of interest. It is the same thing.

  25. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Dovid, I think we’re in agreement. While Jews can serve in positions of trust and prominence, we should avoid conflicts of interest. This is similar to the US using Japanesse-American soldiers ib WWII, but only in Europe.

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