Rabbi Zevi Hirsch Kalischer (1795-1874)

Polish rabbi and Zionist thinker.

In addition to his books on halakhah and Jewish philosophy, Kalischer's great contribution to Jewish thought was his belief that the settlement of Erez Israel was a necessary first step before the coming of the Messiah. He believed that there had to be an active human element in the redemption of the Jewish people, expressed in a national movement of the Return to Zion.

Pointing to the ongoing struggles of European nations for their independence, Kalischer criticized his fellow Jews for being the only people without national aspirations. In his book Derishat Ziyyon, he explained his idea of the return to Erez Israel and stated his theory that redemption would come in two stages: the natural one through return to Erez Israel and working on the land, and the supernatural one which would follow. Furthermore, he preached that the first stage should involve a healthy economic foundation for the yishuv, a foundation which could only come about through the development of agriculture on a large scale. Accordingly, he recommended the establishment of an agricultural school for the younger generation.

From the time he published Derishat Ziyyon, Kalischer devoted his life to traveling through Europe to enlist support for his idea from the Jewish groups and leading Jewish personalities of the time. In addition, he continued to write sermonizing articles for many Hebrew newspapers and journals as well as works in the field of halakhah.

Shortly before his death, Kalischer saw the beginning of his ideal realized when an agricultural school was opened at Mikveh Israel in 1870. Although Kalischer had planned to settle there to supervise the observance of the mitzvot connected with Erez Israel, his plan was not realized. After his death, his son Ze'ev Wolf Kalischer continued his father's activities, and at his initiative a tract of land near Rachel's tomb was purchased from the funds of Kalischer's estate.

Entry taken from "Junior Judaica, Encyclopedia Judaica for Youth" CD-ROM by C.D.I. Systems 1992 (LTD) and Keter.




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02 May 2005 / 23 Nisan 5765 0