Freedom of Torah Study

Nearly two months ago, I wrote an article supporting Rabbi Dov Lior, shlita, and Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, shlita, who were summoned for interrogation as a result of giving an approbation for the book ‘Torat Hamelech’, and when they didn’t appear at the investigation, were arrested by force. I wrote that there were three good reasons for their refusal to be investigated: 1) the reason for the investigation: persecution. For in truth, there was nothing to investigate. The entire book and its approbations are plainly written and obtainable for all who wish to investigate. The only other reason left to investigate is the desire to humiliate and threaten the Rabbi’s. 2) Discrimination. Leftists say much harsher things about the settlers, however, only people from the right are summoned for investigation. A special investigating unit was established within the offices of the State Prosecutor solely for them. It is forbidden to tolerate such a situation. 3) The investigation’s goal was to make clear that secular law is above the Torah. This was the main reason for the rabbi’s arrest, as was stated by representatives of the State Prosecutors Office, and the secular politicians who back them. For that reason, the Rabbi’s and all those faithful to the Torah are compelled to make clear that the commands of the Torah are above the secular law.

I added that, although ‘the high praises of the law are in the throats’ of the secular people who attacked the rabbi’s, in fact, it’s not the law per se that’s dear to them; they fight for the law only because, under the present circumstances, it suits their ideology. A law that runs contrary to their beliefs, however, is no longer so ‘sacred’ in their eyes. Just take a look at what’s become of all the laws concerning Shabbat or abortions. And who brought upon us the cursed Oslo Agreements, if not as a result of the legal system, knowingly and willfully? In other words, their claim is that their value system is preferable to our holy Torah, and therefore, all the powers that be, must show us the might of their outstretched arm, until we submit to their set of values.

In other words, the argument, essentially, is a political and ethical one: how to contend with the Arab threat, when they adopt terrorist methods, using civilian populations as living shields. The book ‘Torat Hamelech’ is part of this important debate. In my article, I added: “I’m not sure I agree with its conclusions, because it has none. It is not a book on ‘halacha’, or Jewish law, but rather a reference book written in a scholarly style.” However, instead of seriously and respectfully debating the Torah opinions raised there, the Left uses the State Prosecutor and the media to falsely accuse the rabbi’s of encouraging the murder of Arabs.


In response, a Torah scholar wrote me: “I have no intention of disagreeing with everything, but rather to address one significant passage you wrote, which strays from the question of Rabbi Lior’s arrest, and deals with the book ‘Torat Hamelech’ itself. You wrote: ‘It is clear that what the mainstream media attributes him [Rabbi Lior] is a complete lie. He didn’t call for murder, or the killing of innocent Arabs. The basic motivation is to clarify the ethical, Torah question in relation to striking civilian surroundings being used as shields for terrorists during times of war.’

“Indeed, a large part of the book deals with this question, of striking civilians while fighting terrorists, and in this issue, certainly, what they wrote is correct. But there is also another part of the book, which justifies targeting innocent civilians of the nation fighting against us, even when they are not being used as cover for the terrorists, and even if they are personally guiltless (like not encouraging the terrorists, etc.), for example, young children…(he quoted a few passages which could be interpreted as such). I assume that you, Rabbi, are very far from these positions which appear in the book. Thus, I see no need to enter into a ‘halachic’ discussion on this topic, showing that the sources brought in connection to this, in my humble opinion, are baseless and misinterpreted by the authors.

“My impression is that the rabbi’s who legitimize the book, and even those who gave approbations, focus only on the first part, which, in truth, is quite justifiable. However, I cannot understand how they ignore the other sections, which are extremely severe.

“I think that the rabbi’s objection to the behavior of the police would heard and accepted more readily if it also included an objection of these sections of the book.”

When Libels Fly, Don’t Condemn

In my opinion, your arguments are similar to those of Rabbi Zechariah ben Avkulos, who, because of various fine points, prevented the possibility of dealing with the complexity which was about to take place with the Roman Empire before the destruction of the Holy Temple. A differentiation must be made between significant, general questions, and smaller, individual questions.

The larger question under discussion amongst Israeli society is whether the book and the rabbi’s are encouraging genocide or the murder of Arabs literally, without connection to self-defense or time of war. This is what is being mentioned in the media day and night. This is also the reason why decent people on the Left are convinced that the rabbi’s should be put on trial.

This is the only question presently placed before the ‘jury’ – in our case, Israeli society. And this is the only question which must be answered. The answer is clear: The motivation to write the book is the desire to contend with an enemy who hides himself behind a supportive population; in no way is the motivation to kill non-Jews or genocide. Reality must be understood: when the flames of a ‘blood libel’ are fanned, dealing with the short-comings of the book or the words of the rabbi’s is very dangerous, because the legal and political system takes the public into consideration, and when they hear that even the religious sector ‘agrees slightly’ – there’s no need to hear the rest. As far as they are concerned, the fact that even rabbi’s admit that there is a certain amount of truth in the claims, proves that that they are correct. And in any case – they know how to deal with the rebellious rabbi’s much better. Therefore, anyone who wants to protect the honor of the Torah, the religious public, and the freedom of study, should refrain from criticizing when ‘blood libels’ are being uttered. Criticize a week before, or a month afterwards, without any connection to the present persecution of the rabbi’s.

This reminds me of the incident of the stupid, or miscreant, professor from Bar Ilan University, who agreed that, in truth, the Jews did not actually use the blood of the Christians to bake matzah, however, he could understand the anti-Semites who falsely accused them of doing such, because he found some ‘halachic’ discussions dealing with the question of whether or not it is permissible to use the blood of animals for medicine! When ‘blood libels’ are hovering above, it is forbidden to say such a thing. Similar to this, when the anti-Semites claim that all the Jews are thieves, it’s forbidden to respond candidly that, indeed, there is a certain problem amongst the Jews, but one shouldn’t say that all of them are thieves. Rather, the ‘blood libel’ must be rebuffed completely. Anyone who agrees even slightly to the false accusation becomes a partner in it.

The Freedom to Study

Indeed, the book ‘Torat Hamelech’ has no final conclusions. It raises intermediate theories, but intentionally avoids dealing with a number of key questions, such as the degree of commitment to fulfill the law of the state, and international agreements. In other words, the discussion in the book is theoretical, dealing with a situation where there is no state, no army, and no international agreements. And when these considerations are entered to the discussion, the conclusions, of course, are liable to change drastically. Indeed, in my opinion, this is a big short-coming of the book, and although the authors are aware of this, they didn’t emphasize it adequately. The result is that intermediate theories are stated that are inappropriate for presently accepted ethical norms, and this is also a significant deficiency. Nevertheless, the main thrust of the book, far and away, is compatible to the Geneva Convention for times of war, and the norms of Western counties.

In spite of the books’ short-comings, there is great importance to the freedom of study and the discussion itself, and it is forbidden to disqualify the publishing of the book. For in every true clarification now and then, incorrect opinions are raised – sometimes by mistake, and other times as an extreme position or with the desire to clarify the issue till the end. And there is great benefit in this, for only in such a manner is it possible to properly determine the issue in all its aspects. If it’s permissible to raise theories from only one direction and not the other, we will never be able to arrive at a balanced, Torah conclusion. At the very most, we’ll be able attach footnotes of religious sources to the prevailing secular position of the West, as usually happens. Therefore, it is so important to protect the freedom of Torah study.

Western Academia: Confusion

By the way, it should be noted that the Western academic world is in great confusion concerning these topics, because its ethical principles prevent it from discussing, in general terms, “the Muslims” – about their characteristics, their goals, and a population that encourages terrorism. Thus, academic world finds it difficult todiscovereffective ways to deal with Muslim terror, which, in all likelihood, will continue to increase. Only after the restrictions on the crucial discussion are removed


will they be able to find the correct formula to deal effectively with Islamic terror.

The Nature of Religious Jews

Frankly speaking, the religious public, including the settlers, are not as militant as the Leftist media attempts to portray them. All in all, in comparison to Israeli society, they are accustomed to act with kindness and compassion towards the Arabs. When in uniform, they have no lust to kill the enemy; if they must fight, they do so, but in the sense of ‘tell me what I’m required to do, and I’ll do it’, with much less urge to kill than the norm amongst soldiers. The Hassidic melodies and various liturgical poems do not nurture the compulsory cruelty for the character traits of the classic soldier. The qualities of moderation and restraint in religion prevent the development of soldierly characteristics of militancy and brutality. Anyone who observes the behavior of religious soldiers, the sons of the settlements, recognizes this. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but all in all, an Arab is better-off encountering a religious soldier at a check-point. The picture portrayed in the media – as if the settlers want to kill and harass the Arabs – is very far from the truth.

Indeed, it is true. The religious, right-wing public has a clear position that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish nation, and also a realistic understanding of the situation, that as long as the Arabs don’t recognize that fact, for lack of any other option, we will be forced to fight them. And no compromise will help.

The Benefit

In retrospect, something good might have developed from the Left’s attempt to portray the settlers as being cruel. This helps to deter our enemy.

Strengthening the Periphery

A short note: From the division of the Land of Israel into tribes, we can learn about the basic goal of strengthening and settling all regions of the land equally, for each tribe was busy reinforcing his own inheritance, and established for itself a regional, capital city. Let’s hope that the rise in prices for apartments in the center of the country will serve as a stimulus to strengthen settlement in all regions of the country.

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