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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Rabbis from the other side

So, being the good YU Alumnus that I am, I like to keep track on how things are going in YC and Stern. I read both the Observer and the Commentator. Most of the time, there really isn't anything good to read, but some-times I come across a story or two that are really worth reading. Yesterday, that happened. Throughout the Disengagement Process, we've heard Rabbis making calls and "edicts" for soldiers to disobey orders and mutiny. We've heard Rabbis screaming about how much against halacha the Disengagement is. With them screaming these things at the top of their lungs, and the anti-disengagement far-right screaming it with them, and threatening to harm police and army personnel in the process, every-one else's voice has mainly been kept silent. Or, you just can't hear them with all the shouting going on. Well, I have come across an article from the Commentator that screams from the other side of the halachic table. I feel that it is my job to make their voices heard. If we can't or won't hear both sides of the argument, then we're not really getting anywhere.
It's an article entitled, Disengagement and Halacha
Panel of Yeshiva Rabbis Say Disengagement Is Halachically Sound

By; Eitan Kastner ( Full Article)
Three very prominent YU Rabbis spoke on the halachic and religious aspects of the Disengagement Plan. The three Rabbis were: Chancellor Rabbi Dr Norman Lamm, Dean of RIETS Rabbi Zevulun Charlop, and Mashgiach Ruchani Rabbi Yosef Blau.
Questions were given in advance, and Rabbi Blau was the first to address them. He first qualified his statement by saying that politics were not his expertise, and he would only be answering from his Rabbinical back-ground and expertise. Here's what Rabbi Blau had to say:
"I consider the government of Israel to be halakhically serious, and it can make decisions about its welfare." He quoted the opinion of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, saying that "Eretz Yisroel is obviously very important but it is not an absolute. Therefore, if the government feels that the welfare of the country depends on giving back territory then they have the right to do so. I do not understand the concept of making yishuv Yisrael (settling Israel) yehareg v'al yavor (be killed, rather than transgress)."
Rabbi Blau then went on to talk about the concept and call for Israeli soldiers to disobey and refuse orders to evacuate settlers. "It is my position that it is not appropriate for someone to refuse orders even if he finds the order to be distasteful." To support his position, he quoted biblical laws where someone who is afraid of battle may not serve in the army because he will wound the morale of his fellow soldiers. So too in the contemporary case, Rabbi Blau argued, if some soldiers disregard orders, it will no doubt bruise the morale of the other soldiers and go against the very nature of the army. (As we see, there are many religious soldiers that support this claim. One example that was publicised was when Arik met with many officers about the Disengagement plan a few months ago. One religious officer stood up and basically said that if they were to refuse orders, they would corrupt Klal Yisroel and delay the coming of Mashiach and the rebuilding of the Temple.)

Rabbi Lamm was the next speaker and agreed with what Rabbi Blau said. First he discussed the concept of the law of the land. (I think many Charedim that live here and do not acknowledge the Israeli gov or the State would have a hard time listening to him and would squirm, knowing that he was right) "The law of the land is the law," quoted Rabbi Lamm from the Talmud. "Therefore, if the government comes up with a law to give up certain territories, that is the law. It is true that certain rabbis have said differently. So what? That does not mean that all of us are bound by that," continued Rabbi Lamm. He gave an analogy to explain that it is not the place of a rabbi to make a political judgment on such on issue. "If you ask a rabbi how to treat Hutchins disease...don't. If you do, there is something very wrong with you. The rabbanim are experts in halacha. They are not experts in other fields."
Rabbi Lamm then confronted the ideology of fundamentalist settlers. "When you take any mitzvah and you make it a supreme mitzvah above all other things in a way that Chazal (our Rabbis) do not say, then it is a form of idolatry." He continued by quoting 1 Kings in which King Solomon offered to give away parts of the Galilee in payment to Hiram, king of Tyre, for assisting in the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. After equating the rule of the Israeli government, Rabbi Lamm extrapolated from this passage (noting that no commentators or tractates disagree with him) "that if a king decides to exchange territory he has the right to do so."
Rabbi Lamm concluded by discussing Israeli soldiers refusing orders. "Whether the government should do it or should not do it is irrelevant. The government, having done what they did, we have no choice but to support them." He repeatedly stressed that any soldier considering disregarding orders is detrimental to the whole army and should receive an appropriate punishment.

Rabbi Charlop was the last speaker and was just as, if not, more impassioned about the issue. Rabbi Charlop related many stories, such as his experiences surrounding the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin, the fear that the Oslo peace accords caused him, and his prediction of the intifada following the peace accords. Following his lengthy anecdotes, Rabbi Charlop concurred with the opinion of the other members of the panel. "When push comes to shove, I would not go against [the orders of the army]." However, he insisted that disengagement was not being done in an ideal way, saying a national referendum should be conducted to make sure that the country is truly in favor of it. "We can't make these things successful in democracy without a safety valve," he insisted. This sparked a political discussion among the panelists, which they originally hoped to avoid, and it was Rabbi Blau who had the final word. "Those who are so adamantly opposed to it [disengagement] should come up with an alternate policy with a long range approach."

While I disagree with Rabbi Charlop's idea of the Referendum, and we've all seen that it was unanymously struck down, I think the ideas and halachic explanations were intelligent and laid the groundworks for discussion from both sides. At the very least, these are 3 extremely intelligent and extremely well respected Rabbis, and every-one has an obligation, even those so adamently against the disengagement, to look at the other side of the halachic table and acknowledge its presence.


At 4:17 PM, Blogger menachem said...

i can maybe understand listening to american rabbis when it comes to halachot like shabbat or kashrut. but what possible bearing can they have on your life in israel? they've chosen not to make aliya... what gives them the right to pasken on the situation here?

we don't need more americans ponificating from the other side of the ocean, we've enough opinions here

At 4:52 PM, Blogger Oleh Yahshan said...

last time I checked location of living was not a standerd for observionce or for halacha.
Although I agree with you on the idea that we should all live in Israel, I don't think we can pick and choose what Halachot we want to follow from one rabbi or another.
but let's take your argument for a second. what do you say about such "insignificant" rabbis in Israel who are against it as well, like Rav Aviner and alike who are also against soldiers disobeying orders.

At 5:14 PM, Blogger Olah Chadasha said...

While you are right that these Rabbis have the luxury of sitting on the other side of the world and are not experiencing the Disengagement, their halachic "ponTificating" as you call is no less significant, relevant, and obligatory than if they were sitting on Israeli soil. You would actually dare to call Rabbi Soloveichik and Reb Moshe Finestein not halachically authorized to comment on Israeli matters just b/c they didn't live here? As Rabbis, these 3 highly respected authorities have every right to pasken on any and all halachic matters, where-ever they may be. To say they have no clout b/c they're not on the soil is to say that that their Smicha stops at the borders of the USA. That's simply not true since the Torah and its halchot have no borders or boundaries. It's a lame excuse not to take what they have to say seriously b/c they're not Israeli Rabbis. You don't have to follow them or agree with them, but there's is absolutely nothing intelligent in saying that b/c they're American Rabbis their HALACHIC opinions are null and void. Try again.

At 5:43 PM, Blogger menachem said...

OY: i never said there isn't a valid halachik opinion to disengagement. i believe that there is, and i actually agree with these three rabbis your fiance quoted. that wasn't my point. my point is, would you trust a rabbi who eats pork to pasken on kashrut? i don't believe there's any valid reason for a jew to live in america. why would you let one who does just that tell you what to do when it comes to israel. "aseh l'chah rav.." find somebody from the dati leumi community in israel, not YU/ner yisroel/lakewood

OC: perhaps "halachikly authorized" as you put it, and "dare to pasken" as i put it were poorly used, and didn't convey properly what i intended. let me try again this way:

you ever go back to america, and talk to some of the balei batim in your shul? i dont know about yours, but mine is very zionistic, and often shabbas table discussion when there are guests over revolves around israel issues. you hear the word "we" thrown around alot. "we" need to stay in gaza. "we" need to get out of gaza. "we" need to teach those arabs a lesson they'll never forget. "we" need to draft the chareidim. i find it disgusting and repulsive. on the one hand, it's nice they're identifying with israel, but their statements an unspoken second half that gets attatched to israelis expression those same opinions, namely, "we need to get out of/stay in gaza because if we don't, I/my family might get killed by terrorists. An american says the same thing, but means only "we need to get out of/stay in gaza because i feel like it. and, back to my point, as sick as i am of that, i'm sick of rabbis doing the same exact thing, only from the pulpit, and with presumed halachik authority.

At 6:30 PM, Blogger Olah Chadasha said...

I agree with the second half of what you said. If you knew the Rabbi of my shul (even-though, it's a Young Israel), you would never talk to him about these issues. He's an a$$. However, these Rabbis' halachic authority are not PRESUMED. They have earned it. They have a right to speak their thoughts and interpretations. They're RABBIS. They are speaking from a pulpit, but their halachic interpretations are no less presumed, as you call it.
Ummm...if I had said that this article came from 3 prominent Israeli Rabbis, would we even be having this conversation? As you said, would what they have said be any less or more valid?
They're also not telling anybody what to do when it comes to Israel, they are giving their halachic interpretaions of the issues. They are perfectly within their jurisdiction by doing so.
BTW, I don't know any Rabbis from Ner Yisroel or Lakewood, not would I take any of their opinions. I don't go by their Hashkafa.

At 6:30 PM, Blogger Olah Chadasha said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:05 PM, Blogger menachem said...

both ways of looking at disengagement are valid, both from a security/diplomatic standpoint, as well as the halachik/moral. if you had said 3 israeli rabbis (and there are plenty, including, as dov (sorry, OY, but you gave that away like 10 posts ago) pointed out, rav aviner.

derech agav, i'm sick of halachik posturing with regards to disengagement. every single (and i believe this to be without exception) religious person who has an opinion on this matter, and claims that halacha backs him up, decided his opinion first, and then found halachic justification after.

At 11:07 PM, Blogger Olah Chadasha said...

That's true, but it can be said about any issue, to be honest. I guess that means, that in the long run, we're just going to have make up our own damn minds about it and hope, for all our sakes, that what happens in the end will be for the best, and may G-d protect us. Thanks for your great posts, menachem, I really like reading what you have to say.


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