Misunderstood?

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Rarely have I felt that a piece of mine was so misunderstood as the one from Mishpacha Magazine entitled “Trauma Ahead” posted a couple of weeks ago. More than a few readers accused me of some form of chareidi triumphalism and, as it were, rubbing the noses of the national religious world in the apparent setback to the vision of Eretz Yisrael Hashleimah.

I cannot say that this reading is wrong or that there is nothing in the piece that could lead one to think that was my intention. What I can say is that what I thought I was doing was something just the opposite. In my own mind, I was addressing the message to the chareidi that we should NOT look upon the withdrawal from Gaza with a feeling of “I told you so” or with any hopes of the chareidi ranks swelling as a consequence. Rather the withdrawal should be seen as a disaster from the point of view of the religious world in general because of the crisis of faith that it will engender. (Of course, there were readers who denied that any such crisis would take place no matter whether the withdrawal takes place or not.)

I mention this now only as a prelude to a question. Last week, I spent a long time discussing the withdrawal with a major Torah leader. As it happens, his geopolitical analysis leads him to conclude that the withdrawal is a necessity for Israel, and he has shared that view with me a number of times over the past year. (Yes, he is aware of the security threats.)

At the same time, he told me that he feels it is crucial that the residents of Gush Katif and Northern Samaria who are going to be removed from their homes feel that the chareidi world is with them in their suffering. He told me of a visit he had made to Gush Katif two years ago, and how thrilled he was with the dedication to Torah U’Mitzvos that he witnessed there — kala k’chumaro — and the beauty of the lives of the residents.
I told him that I doubted that any expressions of sympathy or empathy would be accepted from a fellow religious Jew who does not agree that the withdrawal is an unprecedented national tragedy, whether from a security or a theological point of view (a view, incidentally shared, at least in part, by a broad swath of the chareidi community). I am not sure, however, if I’m right. Is there any way to meaningfully to express identity with those about to be uprooted from their homes, even if one does not oppose the withdrawal? If so, how?

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22 Responses

  1. Netanel Livni says:

    Dear orthodox conservative,

    If you choose a Rav for yourself to follow LeKula and LeChumra that is one thing. The moment that you do always follow the oppinion of a particular posek no matter what, you have started to use your own koach of understanding to choose the psak that you feel is emmes. This is not random picking and choosing based on convenience but the process by which a Jew must decide how to believe and act in life. The whole first chapter of Horayot is about this exact issue, the possibility of an individual sinning even when he listens to the Sanhedrin itself. And the Rambam paskens lehalacha that one must bring a korban if they listened to the mistaken psak of the Sanhedrin.

    Now, I assume that you do not check on every halachic issue, what Rav Soloveitchik’s opinion was and act in an according way. Thus, you must decide how Rav Soloveitchik’s psak is more consistent with the earlier sources than Rav Tzvi Yehuda’s or Rav Yisraeli’s psak. Only then can you choose a proper course.

    I feel that Rav Tzvi Yehuda’s derech is the correct one and that the Oslo accords give us a bit of hindsight to see that in the metzius, one sides predictions were correct and any pikuach nefesh heiter actually led to tremendous bloodshed. Also, I was not Zoche to know the Rav since I am only 29 years old, but as I mentioned, none of his talmidim have given proper answers to the difficulties with his position.

    All in all, the Gedolim’s power comes from the Emmes of their teachings and to accept their psak only because they said it does not give them the kavod they deserve. I refer you again to the Hakdama to Iggrot Moshe. Also see the Hayei Addam’s response to his critics. His critics said that the chayei adam was wrong for going against piskei halacha of the Gra. the Hayei Addam’s response was that the Gra loved those who disagreed with him the most because his true goal was the Emmes. Those who agree blindly are impressed by personality, not by the Torah underlying the personality do not give the Gedolim the kavod they deserve.

  2. Orthodox conservative says:

    Dear Netanel,

    I respectfully disagree with your entire premise. There are 613 mitzvos in the Torah, 5 mitzvos d’rabbanan, and countless syagot and minhagim. Must I be prepared to substantively defend every single psak that I get from my Rov before I can justify following him? If I understand another Rov’s reasoning better on a particular issue, am I now supposed to change Rabbonim and follow that one? Or do I get to pick and choose among piskei halacha, depending upon which psak I can most easily defend? The fact that Rav Soloveitchik held what he held, even if you don’t understand it, should give you enough pause at least so that you refrain from referring those that don’t abide by the Minchas Chinuch’s opposing view as “transgressors.” (see your first post)

  3. Netanel Livni says:

    Dear orthodox conservative,

    I am, of course, aware of other opinions among the Gedolim. However, Rav Moshe says in the hakdama to Iggrot Moshe, that nobody should pasken from this book unless they understand the reasoning of the teshuva from gemara, rishonim, (and sometimes achronim).

    Frankly, not only do I not understand the Rav’s Zt”l shita, but whenever I have asked one of his talmidim regarding it, they were never able to explain to me how his shita preserves the institution of Milchemet Mitzva. Therefore, I follow the shita of Rav Zvi Yehuda Zt”l who I consider to be THE Gadol Hador regarding issues of Klal Yisrael.

    The minchat chinuch says that the only time you can surrender in a milchemet mitzva is when there is a pikuach nefesh for ALL of Klal Israel such as during the churban habayit and obviously if you are captured and defeated then it is a matter of Onnes, not choice, that you stop fighting.

    None of these parameters apply to the current situation at ALL. We have, B”H, a strong army that can defeat the enemy if it wouldn’t constrain itself by the rules of western morality. It simply does not make sense to claim that the lives of individuals can abrogate the law of the war. Do you really want to say that if we don’t leave Aza, there is a danger that Klal Israel will be destroyed?!? We must have a little Emuna in Hashem, especially when going on an obligatory war.

    Of course I do not side with the Biryonim in masechet Gittin. They are the ones that made it impossible to fight against the Romans. They destroyed the city’s staying power. Do you really think that Rav Yochanan would have surrendered if there were 21 years worth of supplies in the city? And don’t forget that Rav Yochanan’s actions were also criticized in the same Gemara. All of this however is irrelevant, since our situation is FAR better now than at Rav Yochanan’s time. I can not imagine that if the Biryonim would have not burned the supplies, Rav Yochanan’s position would have been: “Well if we stand up to the Romans, some soldiers might die, so let’s all surrender.”

    Further, if you say that pikuach nefesh of individuals does abrogate an obligatory war, then It would become FORBIDDEN to fight such a war just like it is forbidden to keep Shabbat in the case of pikuach nefesh. If that is the case, then half of Nach becomes impossible to understand in a way consistent with Halacha.

    All in all, I don’t like it when people quote opinions of Gedolim without feeling the need to explain that position. Especially when there are other gedolim that disagree in the same generation. A Jew must look into the opinions and CHOOSE a Rav. And then he must defend those positions his Rav takes based on earlier sources, not based on the personality of the Rav.

  4. Netanel Livni says:

    Shragie,

    It was unsuccesfull because it is against G-d’s law.

  5. Orthodox conservative says:

    Netanel,

    I have not studied this issue and am the furthest thing from a posek, but I can’t believe that you would argue that “les man d’palig that we are dealing with an “obligatory war” in this instance, or that pikuach nefesh would not apply. In fact, I understand that Rav Soloveitchik disagreed with the Minchas Chinuch you mentioned, and that this is discussed in Nefesh HaRav. (I have not seen it inside myself, so someone please correct me if I am wrong.) Also, it took me all of two minutes of Googling to find this quote, which again, I ask to be corrected about if it is a factual misstatement: “This [THE MINCHAS CHINUCH’S CHIDDUSH] is, however, only if the war is one which the Jews are capable of winning, as documented by Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriah (Maamar on Heter Milchamah B’Shabbos, printed in Choveres “Torah SheBa’al Peh” 5727) and others; there is no obligation to fight a losing battle, as apparently was the case in the story mentioned by the Gemara in Gittin (Ibid.) It must therefore be determined, when weighing whether to surrender land in Eretz Yisrael, not only whether this will in fact lead to peace and save lives, but also whether the current situation is one of war, and if so, whether it is one which the Jews are capable of winning, before arriving at a decision.” One more question for you: I’m sure you’ve learned the story of the siege of Jerusalem in Maseches Gittin. Do you believe the Baryonim were correct, and Rav Yochanan Ben Zakai was wrong?

  6. Shragie says:

    Nati,

    People confuse the first commonwealth with the second. While Gaza was never recaptured it certainly is a part of the land of Israel.

    Furthermore, this is not the first case of appeasment in Jewish history. In melachim 2 (Kings 2) the Jews tried it before – unsuccesfully.

  7. Netanel Livni says:

    To Akiva,

    That is absolutely wrong. Of course Aza was and is part of the land of Israel. Every rishon includes it within the halachic borders of the land. Your confusion probably comes from 2 sources. The first is that Aza is in an area that is not obligated in the mitzvot of the land. This is only because of the technical reason that the Jews were not able to settle it when they returned from the Babylonian exile. It has Nothing to do with whether or not Aza is within the borders that the Jews are commanded to conquer. The second is an historical one. We were never able to militarily get a good foothold on Aza and quickly lost it to the Plishtim. There were however from the time of the Tannaim to through the middle ages and even in the first half of this century Jewish settlement and sometimes even Jewish centers in that part of the land. Kfar Darom is mentioned in the Gemara many times. This historical fact is irrelevant though since our claim to the land is not historical but religious.

  8. Akiva says:

    > obligatory war such as one to settle the land of Israel

    But Gaza is not, and never was, part of the “Land of Israel”

  9. Netanel Livni says:

    Dear Orthodox conservative,

    If you agree or are ambivalent about the expulsion of Jews from their land then you can still be a Torah-true Jew if you defend that position with halachic sources. Politics is not something that is outside of the realm of Torah. The Torah encompasses all of life, public and individual, and thus must instruct a individuals political opinions. As far as pikuach nefesh is concerned, I already quoted the minchat chinuch above that in an obligatory war such as one to settle the land of Israel, we do not take into consideration the pikuach nefesh of individuals since in a war, people always die. If you want to take this into consideration, then you uproot the whole institution of the obligatory war. We are not prophets and we can not predict the future, neither can generals and professional politicians, we only know what the Torah demands of us and if we fulfill that, then we have faith that Hashem will fulfill His promise to us to finally see our redemption and our final victory over our enemies.

  10. Orthodox conservative says:

    Netanael,

    So if you agree, or are even ambivalent, about disengagement, you are no longer a Torah-true Jew? What if you believe that disengaging is pikuach nefesh, or what if you are not sure about it but are willing to give Ariel Sharon, a national hero and brilliant military strategist, the benefit of the doubt on that question? I don’t think that mixing politics with Yahadus is very useful, and it seems to be a way of avoiding a debate on the merits of disengagement itself. (I myself am somewhat skeptical at the notion that disengagement will serve Israel’s long term interests, although I am no expert on the subject.)

  11. Netanel Livni says:

    Dear Joel,

    Of course the sanhedrin has a role in matters of state. Is it not a clear halacha that a king must get their permission before starting a milchemet reshut? Of course they do not micromanage the war but the law is clear that a king must protect the borders and that it is a matter of pikuach nefesh to retreat from such borders.

    Of course we have a mesorah regarding all of these laws. The rishonim discuss this, the rambam paskens as halacha the OBLIGATION (not permission) to break Shabbat in order to go defend the borders of Jewish communities. This is discussed by the minchat chinuch, the shulchann aruch haatid, and many other achronim. In our generation these basic halachot were paskened lemaaseh by Rav Tzvi Yehuda Zt”l, the Lubavitcher Rebbe Zt”l, Rav Mordechai Elyahu Shlit”a and Rav Avraham Shapiro Shlit”a. The burden of proof is upon those who want to break with our mesorah and claim that a king can choose whether or not to fight an obligatory war thereby uprooting the very institution of such a war.

    As far as the existence of such an example in the nach. Since when is the nach’s omission information been a proof for a particular halacha?

    BTW, I am not talking past you. I am dealing directly with your points and would appreciate it if you answer my points as well.

  12. joel rich says:

    Dear Netanel,
    I feel like we’re talking past each other so there’s little point in continuing. The simple question at hand is that the melech has broad powers which have not been dealt with at great length on a practical basis since there has been unfortunately little need for them over the last 2000 years. We see some parallels in the 7 elders of the city but not a lot. Thus we are faced with a contemporary issue without a very clear mesora on how to deal with it. Of course the melech is bound by Torah law but he is part of Torah law. You state that the question is “So the question is not whether the king has certain powers. The question is: does a king have the power to abandon an obligatory war? If he does not, then the question becomes: Is the current war an obligatory war or not?” Did Sanhedrin send emmissaries to the front to determine the facts on the ground? How did Sanhedrin make that determination in the past? How much did they rely on the melech? What if the melech saw danger 3 years off? Does a Rabbi now without the traditional smicha pull the same weight as sanhedrin? I envy you your certainty and fwiw your assumption as to what I have studied in thinking about this question for my own personal analysis is faulty. BTW why is it that nach itself never mentions the role of sanhedrin in any of these cases?
    KT

  13. Shira Schmidt says:

    26 b Tamuz Jonathan, you asked “Is there any way to meaningfully to express identity with those about to be uprooted from their homes, even if one does not oppose the withdrawal? If so, how?”

    I suggest you go to the rally tonight in Sderot, and write personal letters to leaders of Yesha whom you know and respect. These are two actions that I am taking, even though as I have written, I am in favor of the disengagement.

  14. Netanel Livni says:

    Joel rich wrote:
    I suggest both Netanel and Shragie reread Tanach as a starting point for a better understanding of the powers of a melech Yisrael.

    Where in the Tanach do you see that a king has the right to abrogate Torah law? Of course the king has the right to make your property hefker under certain circumstances but this is by no means a universal power. See for example Eliyau’s rebuke of Achav regarding the Navot’s fields. Could not Achav declare the field hefker and claim it for himself. Why did he resort to murder?

    The king does have tremendous power in Jewish law but not absolute power. When he makes political decisions that are counter to the halacha, the responsibility of everyone is to give tochacha (rebuke) and not participate in the breach of Torah law. David is criticized for waging personal wars before he completed his obligatory wars. Shlomo is criticized for making treaties with other kingdoms at the cost of the law of the king to limit his number of wives. Shaul’s soldiers refused his orders to massacre the city of Nov (Does not the king have the power to kill without the limitations of beit din?) We see that the king’s power is constrained by the parameters of Torah law.

    So the question is not whether the king has certain powers. The question is: does a king have the power to abandon an obligatory war? If he does not, then the question becomes: Is the current war an obligatory war or not?

    I would suggest to Joel that he learn the Gemaras and poskim regarding the issues of obligatory wars and the commandment of settling the land and then discuss whether a Melech has the power to expel Jews from their homes in Aza.

  15. Joel Rich says:

    Joel,

    Dina dmalcusa dina only applies yto monetary laws not issur vheter.
    =============
    Actually not so but that’s the subject for a longer post. Just one point you might find of interest, according to the dvar avraham the power of bet din to make your property not yours devolves from the power of the melech.

    I suggest both Netanel and Shragie reread Tanach as a starting point for a better understanding of the powers of a melech Yisrael. I’d then move onto the Maharatz Chiyut for a better understanding of the two track system that was in place and what the responsibilities of the melech and sanhedrin were. Unfortunately we are so distant from the original ideal we have this vision that Sanhedrin ran the civil/military affairs of the country. We can only pray that Sanhedrin and the malchut be reestablished so that we can move back to the ideal.
    KT

  16. Shragie says:

    Jonathan,

    Whether a gadol sanctioned the expulsion is irrelevant. There are 10,000 of our brothers in experiencing pain and sorrow and we can’t even offer our sympathies. Even if expulsion is the right thing to do there has been absolutely no venue to express our compassion. Ask this gadol if our silence (at best) is kehogen – This cannot be consistent with Halacha.

    Joel,

    Dina dmalcusa dina only applies yto monetary laws not issur vheter. If a government was to mandate that everone work on Shabbos can one entertain the notion that we have to obey? If the commander in chief is negating halacha then one need not follow.

  17. Netanel Livni says:

    Joel rich wrote:
    If you hold that the government has a din of malchut yisrael than we must follow their decision.

    That would only be if the very act of expelling Jews from their homes and giving the land to gentiles was halachically permissible. If it is not, then “ואין צריך לומר אם גזר המלך לבטל מצוה, שאין שומעין לו” (There is no need to say that if a king decrees to nullify a commandment of the Torah, we do not accept his decree) Rambam Hilchot Melachim 3:10. There are several Issurim that the government of Israel is attempting to do. Including Lo-Techonem, Bitul Mitzvat Yeshuv Haaretz, Bitul Milchemet mitzva and many others.

    That we must fight against our enemies and not flee comes from 2 separate definitions of an Obligatory war. The first is Milchemet Kibush HaHaretz, the command to conquer the land of Israel. (See Ramban’s glosses to Rambam’s sefer Hamitzvot, Additional positive commandment 4). Also an obligatory war is one to save Jews from those who come to oppress them. For either one of these categories, the pikuach nefesh of an individual is irrelevant as the Minchat Chinuch writes that it is a given that individual soldiers will die in any war so that if you say that pikuach nefesh cancels the obligatory war, you destroy the whole institution of the obligatory war and you really make all wars permissible wars.

    This is what Rav Zvi Yehuda Kook Zt”l meant when he said that the commandment to settle the land of Israel is Yehareg UBal Yaavor (a commandment one must be willing to give up their life for). Because an individual’s life does not cancel the command to conquer the land.

    May it be G-d’s will that we will merit to see the coming of Mashiach who will lead us in the final war and to that era where we will only be obligated to be Moser Nefesh BeOhala Shel Torah.

  18. joel rich says:

    I do not have an answer to your question but I am amazed how a Gadol( or at least someone you feel is a gadol) can be in favor of the disengagement in light of the fact that the former chief of staff was fired because he believed that what is happening now will only make things worst.
    ==========================
    Without taking a position on disengagement , I’d point out that the fact that one individual officer holds a position doesn’t mean that that is the position that the gadol would follow. R’ YB Soloveitchik held that in these areas the Generals make psak -so we obviously need to determine which generals (hmmm – sounds like deciding which gadol!).

    If you hold that the goverrment has a din of malchut yisrael than we must follow their decision.

    KT

  19. Joshua says:

    I do not have an answer to your question but I am amazed how a Gadol( or at least someone you feel is a gadol) can be in favor of the disengagement in light of the fact that the former chief of staff was fired because he believed that what is happening now will only make things worst. It seems that the general consensus is that this will not improve security.
    I am very curious to know who this Gadol is who says it is ok to uproot the people from Gaza and the Shmoron. I would think that he is a Daas Yachid I haven’t heard of any Gadol to date say that what is happening is permissible l’halachah.Further you write that he is aware of the security issues so he believes we will have more security when the arabs are that much closer to us? Why do you not write who this Gadol is? If this person is truly a gadol then why is a secret who he is? A Gadol has to be strong and is not concerned what people will think even if it may not be popular. I studied under Rav Ahron Soloveichik who was fearless and said whatever he felt had to be said and was not concerned what people would think he was an Ish Halacha and a Ish halacha must hard like steel. We should only hear good news and all our tefillos should be answered and we should merit to see the rebuilding of the temple.

  20. ben meir says:

    Maybe a litle simplistic, but for a chareidi chutznik, wearing an orange band or tying and orange ribbon to your car at least helps identify us as one who empathizes with their plight.

  21. Netanel Livni says:

    There is no greater chutzpa than to support that harm be done to a person and to simultaneously express sympathy for that harm. It is just another form of the famous example of chutzpa where one who murdered his parents, begs for forgiveness on account that he is an orphan.

    One of the many tragedies of the disengagement is that there was a historic opportunity for the whole Torah world to unite for the same cause. I remember the Joy that existed in the Torani public when Rav Ovadia Shlit”a announced his opposition to the expulsion plan. This opposition came from the single greatest authority for allowing the “land-for-peace” formula to fit into some kind of halachic framework. This Joy was only offset by the feelings of betrayal when the Ashkenazi chareidim joined the Sharon government and yet again widened the split that unfortunately exists in the Torah world.

    For some reason the leaders of the Ashkenazi chareidi world felt it would be ok to support the destruction of many non-chareidi Torah institutions so that their own schools would get a little extra cash. The gemara notes that if one sees transgressions and does not rebuke, then he is partially accountable for those same transgressions. All the more so when the person sees transgressions and in their heart supports their implementation.

    I will not get into the many halachic problems with the plan. I will only say that the expulsion of Jews from their land, the destruction of houses of study and synagogues, The uprooting of Jewish cemeteries and the giving over of the life-work of Jews to their murderous enemies is possibly the biggest Chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s name) since the Holocaust. Rashi comments on Yechezkiel 36:20 that the exile of Jews from their land constitutes a tremendous desecration of G-d’s name since it looks like G-d was not “strong enough” to ensure his promise to his people. How much more of a Chillul Hashem is it when Jews themselves, and Torah leaders among them, agree to leaving their promised land and giving it to our enemies.

  22. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Is there any way to meaningfully to express identity with those about to be uprooted from their homes, even if one does not oppose the withdrawal? If so, how?

    Gmilut Chasadim. If any families want to fight against the withdrawal, but would prefer their kids not see the grownups fighting against the IDF, offer to take the kids for a couple of weeks.

    Other than that, there’s very little to do right now. Avot 4:23 says that the right time to console somebody isn’t immediately after a disaster (” רבי שמעון בן אלעזר אומר, אל תרצה את חברך בשעת כעסו, ואל תנחמנו בשעה שמתו מוטל לפניו”). After the withdrawal (if it happens, I have a hard time trusting Sharon’s word), when the ex settlers are looking new houses, new jobs, and new schools, there might be more meaningful Gmilut Chasadim to show identity.