All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Monday, 22 August 2005

The Disengagement - A Rabbinic Viewpoint

My father has been blessed to learn at the feet of a human being who was, without a doubt, one of the greatest Torah scholars of the Twentieth Century, Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, known throughout the Jewish World as The Rav. My world view of Judaism stems from the knowledge my father taught me and so, by extension, I feel that in many ways, The Rav was also my teacher.

I would therefore like to reprint an article which I found, that explains The Rav's views on territorial compromise in Israel. I feel that it completely vocalises my opinions regarding the involvement of numerous Rabbi's ( both inside and out of Israel) in the disengagement debate. I am reprinting this article from, a superb site which I subscribe to and support.

I have translated any Hebrew words that may not be understood by some of our visitors to the site.

Translation of a five-minute segment of the Rav’s 1967
Teshuva drasha (speech) (although the drasha was summarized in
“Al Hateshuva”, this portion never appeared.From Arnold Lustiger)

“I don’t intend here to engage in politics, but this is a matter that has weighed heavily upon me since last June. I am very unqualified to assess the extent of the deliverance that the Ribono Shel Olam (lit. Master of the World) accomplished on behalf of Klal Yisrael (the Nation of Israel) and the Jewish victory over those who hate Israel. But in my opinion, the greatest deliverance, and the greatest miracle, is simply that He saved the population of Israel from total annihilation.

Don’t forget that the Arabs were Hitler’s students, Amalekites, and in regard to the Arabs there is a Mitzvah (positive commandment in the Torah) of utterly blotting out Amalek’s memory. Today, they are Hitler, they want to uproot the Jewish people, and it is possible that Russia is together with them in this regard, so the status of Amalek falls upon Russia as well.

The blood congeals when one considers what would have happened to the Yishuv (i.e. the Jewish people living in the Land of Israel), to the hundreds of thousands of religious Jews, of gedolei Yisrael (lit. great people of Israel - the Learned Rabbis), or to all the Jews in Israel for that matter--”there is no difference”--all Jews are Jews. This is the greatest salvation--but also that the State itself was saved.

Because even if the population would remain alive, but if G-d forbid the fate of Israel would fall, there would be a wave of assimilation and apostasy in
America as well as in all Western countries. In England I heard that Rothchild said that Israel’s victory saved Judaism in France. He is 100% correct--this was better articulated by him than many Rabbis in Israel regarding the ultimate significance of the victory.

But one thing I want to say. These reasons constitute the primary salvation behind the Six Day War. Indeed, we rejoice in the [capture of] the Western Wall, in the Cave of the Patriarchs, in Rachel’s tomb.I understand the holiness of the Kotel Hamaarovi (Western Wall). I studied Kodshim (a tractate of the Talmud dealing with holiness) since I was a child: Kidsha le’asid lavo , kedushas makom,kedushas mechitzos, lifnei Hashem (lit. the various issues of holiness ascribed to the status of holy places) - these are concepts with which I grew up in the cradle.

The Kotel Hamaarovi is very dear, and the Har Habayis (Temple Mount)is very dear to me: I understand the kedusha (holiness) perhaps much more than many religious journalists who have written so much about the Kotel Hamaarovi.

But we exaggerate its importance.

Our Judaism is not a religion of shrines, and it seems from this that it lies in the interests of the Ministry of Religions to institute a [foreign]concept of holy sites in Judaism - a concept we never had. We indeedhave the concept of kedushas mokom (the holy status of a place such as the Temple Mount), this is the Bais Hamikdash (The Temple), [but]graves are not mekomos hakedoshim (holy places). As important as kivrei tzaddikim (the graves of pious men) are, they are not holy. Perhaps there is a different halacha (Jewish law). To visit kivrei tzaddikim is important, like mekomos hakedoshim (the holy places such as the Western Wall or the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron).

I will tell you a secret--it doesn’t matter under whose jurisdiction the Kotel
Hamaarovi lies--whether it is under the Ministry of Parks or under the Ministry of Religions, either way no Jew will disturb the site of the Kotel Hamaarovi.
One is indeed on a great spiritual level if he desires to pray at the Kotel Hamaarovi. But many mistakenly believe that the significance of the victory lies more in regaining the Kotel Hamaarovi than the fact that 2 million Jews were saved, and that the Malkhut Yisrael (kingship of Israel) was saved. Because really, a Jew does not need the Kotel Hamaarovi to be lifnei (in front of) Hashem. Naturally, mikdash (the Temple) has a separate kedusha which is lifnei Hashem. But there is a lifnei Hashem which spreads out over the entire world, wherever a Jew does not sin, wherever a Jew learns Torah, wherever a Jew does mitzvos (positive commandments), “minayen sheshnayim yoshvim ve’oskim beTorah hashechinah imahem”--through the entire world (lit whereever two people sit and learn Torah, the holy Spirit is inside them.)

I want you to understand, I give praise and thanks to the Ribono Shel Olam (Master of the World or G-d) for liberating the Kotel Hamaarovi and for liberating and for removing all Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) from the Arabs, so that it now belongs to us. But I don’t need to rule whether we should give the West Bank back to the Arabs or not to give the West Bank to the Arabs: we Rabbis should not be involved in decisions regarding the safety and security of the population. These are not merely Halakhic rulings: these decisions are a matter of pikuach nefesh (saving lives) for the entire population. And if the government were to rule that the safety of the population requires that specific territories must be returned, whether I issue a halakhic ruling or not, their decision is the deciding factor.

If pikuach nefesh supercedes all other mitzvos,it supercedes all prohibitions of the Torah, especially pikuach nefesh of the yishuv (Jewish population) in Eretz Yisrael. And all the silly statements I read in the newspapers-- one journalist says that we must give all the territory back, another says that we must give only some territory back, another releases edicts, strictures and warnings not to giveanything back. These Jews are playing with 2 million lives.

I will say that as dear as the Kotel Hamaarovi is, the 2 million lives of Jews are more important. We have to negotiate with common sense, as the security of the yishuv requires. What specifically these security requirements are, I don’t know, I don’t understand these things. These decisions require a military perspective, which one must research assiduously. The borders that must be established should be based upon that which will provide more security.

It is not a topic appropriate for which Rabbis should release statements or for Rabbinical conferences.”

–Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik


BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Being unable to sleep, I have decided to read comments, in the hopes of achieving some peace. Reading about Israel in this matter is disturbing, and as you can imagines, just works me up even more. I do not hold hope for peace, nor respect by any of our neighbors who hate us. You are right when you talk about the importantce of the lives of the Jews, and the security of the state of Israel.

The Teacher said...

Erm...I don't think that with all the anguish I'm going through right now, my site's not the best one to look at if you are trying for a good night's sleep!!!

Thanks for popping by anyway!