Tuesday, August 09, 2005

In the Rav's Name...

So, again we've been treated to an invocation of Rav Soloveitchik's much bruited opinion on the question of Land for Peace. Last week, the full citation was provided to the membership of the Rabbinical Council of America through its in-house e-mail list. It's really quite famous. Even Nissim Mishal, in his book for Israel's Jubilee, made sure to cite it (along with the Rov's picture).

This is the central portion of the Rov's remarks (in Tishre, 5727), as cited in the above e-mail. The full text is found here ):

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 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 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 give anything 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.

There are two points to be made here. First, the Rov was opposing rabbinic pronouncements on the issue.

Second, and more important, he was not sayng that it's a mitzvah to hand over parts of Eretz Yisrael. He assumes here that some sort of security consemsus can be reached as to what borders Israel needs. He, himself, took no stand on that point. He had the humility to say that he could not take a position in an area where he had no expertise. That's it. Given that there is no consensus about the security impact of the destruction of Gush Qatif, there is no way of knowing whether the Rov's theoretical discussion applies, or not.

On the contrary, invoking it today is extremely misleading and distorting (as are a host of other, one sided citations of his obiter dicta). Consider this, in 1967 the State of Israel was considering territorial compromise with a sovereign Arab country with whom it had a long history of sub-rosa relations, namely Jordan. Today, we are talking about handing over territory to a terrorist entity which has no cohesion, except its blood lust to wipe out the Zionist entity. There is no Palestine Authority (see the article in the Atlantic cited in my earlier post).

Would the Rov have supported such a move? I personally think not, but there is absolutely no way of knowing. He was a big believer in people making up their own minds. Besides, necromancy is a sin, according to the Torah.

So please, in the name of intellectual honesty and out of deference to the Rov's memory. Please keep him out of this. He said what he said almost forty years ago. If he always critically revisited his shiurim, I am sure that he would have done so in matters of Life and Death. Tragically, he's no longer here.

חבל על דאבדין ולא משתכחין


settler@zion.org said...

I think that you're being a bit disingenious here - in your comment to an earlier posting (http://myobiterdicta.blogspot.com/2005/04/defining-moment.html#comments) you stated that you have received a trasncript where the "Rov emphatically stated his opposition to the establishment of a PLO state in EY. Such a state, he is recorded as saying, would be no better than a genocidal Nazi State."

So you (and we) do have a way of knowing how the Rov would have felt about handing over territory to a terrorist organization. Based upon what he said about it.....

Please, please, please publish the document so it is available to all who want to read it.

Anonymous said...

Israel is sacred to all, Jews and Non - Jews, especially Christian Non-Jews.

It matters to me [a non-Jew] that thousands of Welsh Baptists travesl from Wales each year to see the Land of Jesus. These people do not want to see part of the land, they do not want to see some of the land, they want to see all of it, and with the same boundaries, city's, and towns, as shown and recognised in biblical times. They also want to visit Israel under the rule of its rightful owners and keepers - the Israeli's. Anything else - does not seem right or proper.

No one can give part of Israel away, allow it to become occupied by another Nation, or sell it too foreigners. Israel is Israel and lets keep it sacred. And anothere thing Israel was established on January 27th 1945, that was the day the gates opened in Europe
and the barbed wire came down.

Dave said...

I think the main point of the Rav's statement is that the question of whether or not to withdraw from parts of Eretz Yisrael is a security/military question, not a religious one.

Perhaps if those opposing the disengagement plan had focused on that, instead of having rabbis speak and tehillim said at every demonstration, the general (largely non religious) public would have given it more support.

settler@zion.org said...

That's NOT what RYBS said! He said that Pikuach Nefesh can supercede most religious stricture. Lo T'chanem is still a religious questions, as is all the other issues listed in Rav Bar-Ilan's כפתור ופלא. They are religious issues. According to RYBS the determination if there are sufficient Pikuach Nefesh needs to override these religious concerns is a security/military question. That's all. he didn't remove 20 mitzvot and lavim from the realm of religious doctrine. Maybe Leibovitz did, but some of us can read the Rav and not necessarily get to Hartman and Leibovitz.

Of course that determination must take into account ALL elements of Pkiuach nefesh - direct and indirect, as well as economic impacts on Pikuach Nefesh.

Moshe, resident of Gush Etzion said...

I don't think that we should keeping the Rav's name out of this discussion. Clearly, we don't know what the Rav would say about today's situation. But we do know what the Rav would not say. And perhaps that is even more important.

Unlike Rav Avraham Shapira, the Rav would NOT say--as a religious pronouncement--that he who hands over Gaza will not be forgiven (lo yi'nake).

Unlike Rav Avraham Shapira, the Rav woud NOT say that soldiers should refuse orders. After all, as Rav Lichtenstein points out (http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol15/v15n056.shtml#17): In the final analysis, we - the government, the army, and it goes without saying the citizens and their spiritual leadership - face a hazy reality.... Even if we agree that it is the arbiters of halakha who define the level of danger and of utility that permits eating on Yom Kippur, only physicians know how to determine the extent to which a certain meal is needed for a said patient. Similarly, diplomatic issues that are veiled in the darkness of the decision-making apparatus should be entrusted to the government, partly because it has the tools and the perspective that are not always available to others. The prime minister's statement, "We see things here that you can't see from over there," is not an empty slogan. It has been proven, in other countries and other periods, as concrete truth. Primarily, however, because of its status. Although there is no absolute certainty that the realistic assessments of the government are correct, there is absolute certainty that it is the administration and that it has the right and obligation to govern. Its authority is not all encompassing or unhindered. A well-run state has a system of law and order that differentiates between law of the kingdom and oppression of the kingdom. But when it comes to taking initiatives that fall within its decision-making purview, in accordance with an assessment of the reality it faces, the government's opinion and will are sovereign.

Based on this, Rav Lichtenstein concludes that even if one personally believes that handing over Gaza is detrimental to security, the army has the right--and obligation--to follow the decisions of governmental and military leaders who believe that the handover will save lives over the long run. Consequently, a commander's order to participate in the disengagement is not analogous to an order to be mechalel Shabbat.