The Libel against the Torah and Rabbi’s
Claims have been made against us that “a soldier must have a commander, and it isn’t a rabbi.” The Minister of Defense accuses us of “destabilizing the foundations of Israeli democracy, inciting towards insubordination, damaging the sprit of the I.D.F., and there is no room for such things in a civilized state.”
There are deep controversies within Israeli society, however, now we are talking about a libel, against us and our holy Torah, whose words are good and correct. They are inciting the public to think that the rabbi’s are endangering the existence of the army, in order to arouse hate and confrontation towards the rabbi’s and their positions. Who would not be worried about those who endanger the existence of the army that is meant to protect us all? However, the truth is that there is absolutely no contradiction between the commander and the rabbi on issues of security, for Jewish law obligates one to listen to the commander, whether it is during military exercises, or in war. This is similar to the fact that there is no contradiction between Jewish law and doctors, for ‘pikuach nefesh’ (life-threatening situations) overrides even the Sabbath.
All the disagreements with the Minister of Defense are over issues that are in no way connected to security operations, but deal with the use of soldiers against their fellow Jews. Or, when a commander doesn’t allow soldiers to pray or wear ‘tzitzit’, without any connection whatsoever to security or operational issues. For this purpose, many commands of the General Staff were instituted in order to prevent a situation where arbitrary orders which contradict Jewish law, the collective conscience of all of us, would be imposed.
Second Lebanon War
In order to illustrate just how correct this is, and how much of a libel we are talking about, I will relate what I encountered during the Second Lebanon War. At that time, a large sector of the public was suffering the destruction of Gush Katif and the expulsion of the Jews from it. The Prime Minister at the time, Mr. Olmert, made a miserable statement that victory over the Hizbullah would enable the ‘hitkonsut’ (convergence) in Judea and Samaria. Some very upset people termed it “the War of Peace and Convergence.” A question arose from reserve-duty soldiers who received a call-up before the ground-forces were about to enter Lebanon: should they go to war?
I wrote in my column ‘Revivim’ that it was a mitzvah to go to war, for even when the heads of the army are problematic, and there are errors and obstacles in their commands, it is still a mitzvah to serve in the army. For when we did not have an army, our situation was far worse. Some women called, asking me: perhaps it’s better not to serve in the army, claiming that if we win in Lebanon, we will be causing a future loss in Judea and Samaria, and the danger will be even greater. I answered what I was obligated to answer according to my understanding of the halacha – that it is a mitzvah to be recruited. There were some women who pleaded to get a ‘heter’ (permission) for their husbands, fearing that perhaps because the army took part in the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif, it hadn’t prepared properly for war, and the danger to the lives of their husbands would be increased. I answered that, of course, the decision was theirs, but if the question is what must be done according to the halacha, the answer is their husbands must be recruited. Since the women understood that it was a mitzvah, they calmed down a little, and were able to sleep at night. I, however, could not sleep.
I was sure that such a military command, who, for nearly two years dealt with the preparations for, and the expulsion of Jews, would not be able to defeat the enemy, because its basic outlook was distorted. Nevertheless, we are obligated to face the enemy together.
Therefore, on the one hand I wrote in ‘Revivim’ that it was preferable not to send in ground-forces for they wouldn’t know what to do once they were in. On the other hand I wrote that if it was decided to go to war – all those recruited were obligated. I prayed that everyone would return peacefully (all of these articles appear in my book ‘Revivim’ – ‘Nation, Land, Army’ pgs. 340-370). We had 150 students, regular soldiers, and reserve soldiers in Lebanon, and with the kindness of God, they all returned peacefully, with only one soldier moderately injured. And not only that, officers from the students of Yeshiva Har Bracha succeeded in killing numerous terrorists, and returned all their soldiers home peacefully.
The Defense Minister is Endangering Military Unity
The I.D.F. is the army of the people, and the boundaries of its use must be clear: to protect against the enemy. When the heads of the security system breach this basic rule, and use soldiers against their fellow countrymen, in the expulsion of Jews from their homes in the land of Israel – they are breaching the military unity. And here, indeed, contradiction is also created, between the halacha and the military command, for according to the decisions of the great Torah scholars of the previous generation – it is forbidden to expel Jews.
Instead of the Defense Minister distancing the army from any public dispute, and all the more so, not to impose orders which contradict Jewish law, he incites the public at large against the rabbi’s who supposedly are endangering military discipline.
The horrible results are double: first, the distancing of traditional and non-religious Jews from the holy Torah which was given to all of Israel. Secondly, the distancing of God-fearing Jews from the army, for they will say to themselves, if the heads of the army blatantly declare that it is forbidden for a religious soldier to accept the words of halacha from the rabbi’s, in other words, there is a conflict between guarding the Torah and serving in the army. Afterwards, the head of the Human Resources Division will complain that there aren’t enough soldiers, and why don’t the yeshiva students enlist.
The Paths of the Torah
This severe libel against the Torah and its bearers, as if there is a conflict between the existence of the state and following the ways of Torah, helped the non-religious parties rule the country, therefore, it’s not by accident that Minister Barak once again uses these arguments. However, the damage caused by it is severe. Many Jews were distanced from their heritage because of such arguments, to the point where the future of their families within the framework of the Jewish nation hangs in doubt. We, the bearers of Torah, also have a share in this. We closed ourselves up with individual questions dealing with the kitchen and our small communities, and neglected issues concerning ‘klal Yisrael’ and the society, and therefore the public at large is enticed to accept such arguments. The truth, though, is that the more we cleave to the Torah and draw from its treasures, the more blessing we will merit, both in our national and individual lives.