Thursday, September 01, 2005

De Profundis clamat...

The totally unconstructive game, 'What would the Rov have said?" is going into overtime and overdrive. The latest developments are described by Gil Student, in the wake of R. Aharon Lichtenstein's letter to Rav Avraham Schapira, and Rav Shalom Gold's reply thereto. Judging from his posting, and the comments it engendered, this issue is far from resolved. I have already offered my opinion on this issue, but I think there is room for a few more words.

R. Lichtenstein is not only the Rov's son-in-law, he's a Gadol ba-Torah in his own right. Therefore, his words must be read with great care and precision in their formulation must be assumed. I don't see that he anywhere declared that it was a mitzvah to give away parts of Eretz Yisrael. He only stated that it was a legitimate legal possibility (which is what the Rav said, in the first place). Citing the Rav in that context is perfectly appropriate, because R. Avraham Schapira's position on the question of refusal to fulfill orders is grounded on the axiological position that it is forbidden to do so under any circumstances (based on Lo Tehanem). R. Lichtenstein, based upon the question of Piqquah Nefesh, is raising the point that saving lives is not just measured by the nature of the enemy, but by the capacity of the army to fight and to serve as a deterrent. Many people who virulently opposed leaving Gaza, opposed insubordination on the same grounds.

I do not see that R. Lichtenstein was presuming to present a 'What would the Rav have said if he were alive?' I think it is unfair to accuse him of doing so. He engaged in an halakhic debate on the question of refusing orders. In that context he cited the Rov, as a enunciating a shitta ba-Halakhah. Such opinons are time transcending. Application, of course, is another thing. That's the hardest part of Halakhic decising (See Iggerot Hazon Ish, I, no. 37). It is, however, a matter for the living.

1 comment: said...

When RYBS made the statement that the "kotel was not worth the life of one soldier", was he stating a halachik shitta, or was he just paraphrasing Amos Oz' earlier (that same year) formulation of the quote from the mother on his kibbutz that "the kotel is not worth the life of micha (i.e. her son the solider)" i.e. a general, political or ideological statement? And, if halachic, how does RYBS define the parameters of pikuach nefesh? does it apply to individuals as well as the collective? how does he deal with the questions the minchat chinuch raises in dealing with the mitzvah of milchemet mitzvah, insofar as pickuach nefesh of individuals within the yishuv is concerned? These are all unanswered questions. To the best of my knowledge, no one in the government has ever claimed that the yishuv in EY could not survive were we to hold on to Gaza Strip in the current circumstances. I don't think they even claimed the number of casualties would go down beyond what they were from 1967 through 1992 when the army was there. So how is the pikuach nefesh defined? I have never found a comprehensive understaning of how these questions are dealt with within RYBS' halachik shitta, and did RYBS himself make these formulations at any point in time?

For more on the connection between RYBS and the professors/intellectuals who formed Amos Oz' intellectual wellspring - those who ousted Ben-Gurion from power in th early 1960's, it is instructive to read the letter the Aguda of America sent to the Brit Shalom (mostly the Berlin type intellectuals that RYBS would have been interacting with during an earlier period of his life) in the early 1940's (quoted in Yoram Hazony's book) regarding their ideological affinities opposing a Jewish state. I do not believe this letter could have been sent without RYBS having seen it - owing to his senior position in the Aguda Yisrael of America at that point in time. True, he later changed his position regarding the state of Israel in 1948 (as did most charedi gedolim in one way or another - see Gil Student's blog for more on all of this). However, did RYBS then make the same retreat from religious zionism that his agudist contemporaries later did? I'm not at all certain that he didn't in one way or another - but I could be wrong.