Thursday, January 31, 2008

Rav Soloveitchik on Territorial Compromise

This morning, a close friend sent me a recording of the Rav's זצ"ל famous remarks on territorial compromise. The remarks were made at the annual Teshuva Drasha, and have been siezed upon, used and misused, by all sorts of people.

Basically, the Rov makes three points. 1) The Six Day War was important because it saved Israel and its Jews. 2) Judaism is not a religion of shrines and dead saints. Thus, concern for Human Life should always trump holy places (the Kotel, Rachel's Tomb, Mearat ha-Makhpela). 3) The question of territorial compromise is best left up to the generals and the statesmen. It's not an halakhic issue.

I agree with all three points, though I may differ with the Rav over the degree of importance one should attribute to sacred spaces in Judaism (I think they are very important. The Rov thought they were less important).

However, Rav Soloveitchik never said that it was a mitzvah to hand over parts of Eretz Yisrael to the Arabs. He had too much respect for other religions and their power to think that the Muslims or the Christians would love us if we would only compromise a bit more. I wonder if he would have said these words if he had witnessed the weakening of Kookian messianism in the wake of the Disengagement from Gaza.

Finally, I really wonder if he would have been so strident if he saw that the Israeli Left (and their Diaspora supporters) are trying to advance a kulturkampf to denude Israel of any Jewish content or significance.

I guess we'll never know.

10 comments:

Ben Bayit said...

One last thing to wonder was whether he would have said what he said seeing how corrupt the IDF brass (and the politicians they morph into) have become.

RYBS made his comments with a non- or a-political army modeled on the American army in mind. Not the corrupt IDF and political leadership that has developed in order to keeo the elites in power (a la the Turkish army - see my last post).

Unfortunately, RYBS's comments are nice in theory - one can quibble on the value of sacred spaces. One can also discuss the limitations of applying pikuach nefesh to various situations. However they simply have no relevance halacha lemayseh to the State of Israel circa 2008 - nor did they circa the end of Moshe Levy's stint as COS and onwards and probably even earlier.

Ben Bayit said...

I wanted to add that I seriously doubt that RYBS had any thoughts of Rav Kook & Co. when he made his statement. You're projecting your views anachronistically on the situation. Gush Emunim started in 1974. The only "major" statements being made "loudly" at the time was either those on the left by such as Leibovitz and others, or those on the right which was done Eretz Yisrael HaShlayma movement which was mostly secular in nature.

Yosef said...

The ongoingsignificance of the Rav's comments is religious not political. Speculating about what he would have thought about the present government and the wisdom of negotiating with the Palestinian Authority is worthless. He did fundamentally differ from the religious sensibility of Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook. The interpretation of Rav. A.Y. Kook that stress Eretz Yisrael and Messianic potential predates the founding of Gush Emunim.
If there is any political implication it would lie in an increased focus on education and in maintaining some religious character to the state. THe Rav had said this earlier in Chamesh Derashot.
Yosef Blau

deraba said...

You can use an "I guess we'll never know" argument to put your own slant on an issue and thus devalue anyone's opinion.

For example: "R' Kook's thought greatly emphasized the value of both am yisrael and eretz yisrael. But when push comes to shove, the idea of am yisrael was more important to him. Nowadays, when the large majority of the Israeli public accepts territorial compromise, perhaps R' Kook would have wanted us to recognize the spirit of our generation and negotiate to form a Palestinian state? I guess we'll never know."

You owe it to yourself not to sink to the level of using such dubious rhetorical devices.

Anonymous said...

Yosef said...
The ongoingsignificance of the Rav's comments is religious not political. Speculating about what he would have thought about the present government and the wisdom of negotiating with the Palestinian Authority is worthless. He did fundamentally differ from the religious sensibility of Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook. The interpretation of Rav. A.Y. Kook that stress Eretz Yisrael and Messianic potential predates the founding of Gush Emunim.

When Rabbi Blau comments it is almost wuperflous for me to comment-but I would like to emphasize "The ongoingsignificance of the Rav's comments is religious not political. Speculating about what he would have thought about the present government and the wisdom of negotiating with the Palestinian Authority is worthless."
Not opnly is it worthless but what is important is the Ravs viewpoint of the nature of the non messianic religious Zionism that he had-Gush Emunim may have been founded later but the Kookian hashkafa was very widespread right after June 5, 1967-who can forget his famous words in May 67 when R Kook at his Yeshiva made his statement about various cities in the West Bank-in the wake of the victory he was treated as prophetic by many. I remeber being in Israel before Gush Emunim was founded with a big Land ofIsrael movement-if memory serves me correctly an English professor from Bar Illan Fisch? was big on it-it had much religious backing.

mycroft

Ben Bayit said...

The Greater Land of Israel movement founded in 1967 was largely secular. It's leading lights were Tabenkin, Moshe Shamir, Judge Benyamin HaCohen (who left the high court to become an MK for Gahal) and others.

In his introduction to Prof. Eliav Shochetman's book and land-for-peace and on disobeying militarey orders, Rav Avraham Kahane Shapiro Z"L says clearly that one can give up land for peace. The idea that somehow the educational "message" is only prevalent in RYBS' world-view and that his view has not become a political tool is simply inaccurate.

Anonymous said...

can you post a link to the audio file. i had it but somehow cant find it now.
thanx

YMedad said...

Just an historical note: His talk over the YU radio was a result of an agreement we reached with the Rav after a group of Betarim (myself, Chaim Fischgrund, Reuven Genn and a few others) initiated a petition to have the invitation for Lord Caradon, UK UN rep, to speak at YU withdrawn. The school administration was a bit embarassed at our activity and asked the Rav to apply pressure for us to cease our activity. We were called in to a face-to-face meeting in hsi room at Furst Hall and after about 45 minutes, we convinced him that it would be best for YU to find a way to rescind the invitation. Part of the deal was that the Rav would speak (not quite "instead") but he would address the issue and that's when he made his remarks that just as we go to a doctor for medicine, we go to a general for security matters.

We were disappointed that he didn't really "expand the horizon" and deal with the intrinsic Halachic issues rather than leaving it sort of "up in the air".

Anonymous said...

His talk over the YU radio was a result of an agreement we reached with the Rav after a group of Betarim (myself, Chaim Fischgrund, Reuven Genn and a few others)

I heard the speech live in Rubin schul-I was obviously not a Betarnik but clear from the Ravs public statement was his disdain for the way the Betar students were treating Lord Carradon wo respect.

initiated a petition to have the invitation for Lord Caradon, UK UN rep, to speak at YU withdrawn. The school administration was a bit embarassed at our activity

and by public words the Rav was upset at the Betarist actions

and asked the Rav to apply pressure for us to cease our activity. We were called in to a face-to-face meeting in hsi room at Furst Hall and after about 45 minutes, we convinced him

if true what were the implied actiosns that would cause in his mind a chilleh hashem that were promised ifLord Carradon showed up

that it would be best for YU to find a way to rescind the invitation. Part of the deal was that the Rav would speak (not quite "instead") but he would address the issue and that's when he made his remarks that just as we go to a doctor for medicine, we go to a general for security matters.

Clearly the Rav was not a follower of Trumpeldor-disagreed with Begin on Lebanon and certainly about the territories.

mycroft

YMedad said...

Since Mycroft prefers anonymity, I doubt if quoting him will bring any redemption of any sort to the world but a few comments are in order.

The matter of disdain: since I was there, I felt none of that. Maybe Mycroft's animosity or just plain grumpiness is/was at work. The Rav was very neutral although I am sure he was upset at the situation the students who had no commonsense and the administration which proved lackluster in leadership had gotten him and his institution into. Maybe that was what NMycroft was feeling.

I don't mind someone being embarassed at what I do and especially, when I know I am right, I delight in that embarassment. Lord Caradon deserved much worse than our legitimate petition campaign and it's a shame the invitation was extended in the first place by people who had no knowledge of the man's personal history (District Commissioner for Shchem during the Mandate period in 1937 during the Arab distrubances when scores of Jews were being killed) and the diplomatic policy he was representing.

I am not at liberty to reveal the considerations that the Rav made in reaching his decision. But in case Mycroft wishes to turn Sherlock Holmes, I can safely say no death threats were issued. The way the man thinks about Betar, who knows what he'll come up with in his feverish mind.

The Rav perhaps disagreed with Begin on issues but Begin didn't disagree that the Rav was his candidate for Chief Rabbi, in the 50s and later.