Halakha and the Hilltop Youth

Hilltop Youth: Even if their arguments against the establishment are justified, engaging in settling and building rather than attacking and destroying, is called for * Criticism of the establishment – only out of a recognition of the importance of the State of Israel

The Method of Halakha

Q: With all due respect Rabbi, why do you label the hilltop youth and their supporters as “troublemakers”, and further add that some of them even act maliciously? After all, for years they’ve witnessed that new communities have not been built and that construction in the existing communities has been frozen, while on the other hand, the government channels funds to the Palestinian Authority and refrains from destroying houses the Arabs build illegally adjacent to the communities and on the sides of the roads. The youth also recall the expulsion from Gush Katif and the violent terrorist attacks. They hear the murderous Arab incitement against the Jews, while on the other hand, they see the army opening roads for them, and handling them tolerantly. They’re also angry at the settlers who build houses with Arab workers. Against all this, they rebel, break the boundaries, and try to take revenge on the Arabs and deter them as best they can. Why call them “troublemakers”?

A: Most of the arguments are justified. However, this is the reality in which we live; this is our nation, and this is the government they have chosen. Within this reality, we must decide whether to participate in the mitzvah of settling and defending the land, or setting-up tin shanties and tents in vain, and bickering hysterically. This is how the Torah instructs us: questions we are faced with are decided according to the rules of halakha.

For instance, a dangerously ill person whose only hope of survival is to undergo surgery, but the only doctor who can operate on him is a depraved, vulgar surgeon known to be sloppy at times and consequently, some of his patients have died. One could say it would be better if everyone were healthy, and demand the doctor be a decent and professional person. However, the situation requires a decision: if the patient does not undergo surgery, he will likely die; if he is operated on by the problematic surgeon, there is a reasonable chance he will recuperate. A person guided by halakha is obligated to make the decision that in the given situation, the patient must undergo surgery. If his relatives throw stones at the doctor, curse at the nurses and disrupt the treatment, a person guided by halakha is obligated to take action to stop the disturbances, even though there is considerable truth in their claims, and their anger is understandable.

The same goes for the building of the nation and the land. One can choose to see the negative side and complain about the government, the judiciary system, the army and the people, and occupy himself with setting-up tents and tin shanties, demonstrations and altercations. Or, he can choose the good – to build the nation and the land to the extent possible in accordance with Torah guidance, and at the same time, formulate educational and academic frameworks in order to produce worthier leadership for tikun olam, in the word of God.

Criticism of the Establishment

Q: Rabbi, why don’t you write criticism about the establishment? Are the troublemaker youth and their supporters the only problem? Is this not an attempt to curry favor with the leaders in order to please them?

A: In dozens of articles I sharply criticized all government agencies and the establishment: the administration and the army, the police and the courts, the prosecutor’s office and the media, education and culture. Only someone who deliberately wishes to ignore the things I’ve written over the years can make such an accusation. I have even paid a price for it. Moreover, I can now relate that approximately a year ago, a few months after Yeshiva Har Bracha was reinstated in the Hesder program after being expelled, I decided to resign my post as the Rosh Yeshiva, and function solely as the head of Torah studies so I could express myself freely without fear my words would cause damage to the yeshiva students and soldiers. In spite of all this, all my criticism stems from a basic positive attitude, and therefore, is also beneficial.

The Positive Basis

The criticism is beneficial because alongside of it, I stand in amazement in face of the miracle of the State of Israel and all of its’ institutions, a miracle revealed through the devotion of the multitudes of Jews who acted on behalf of the ingathering of the exiles, the establishment of communities, economic development, and risked their lives defending the nation and the land in the IDF and other security forces. And although there have been serious and painful failures, it is impossible not to see the immense goodness. Thus, our teacher and guide, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook ztz”l, repeatedly taught for decades: “Kiddush Hashem is greater than chillul Hashem.” In other words, when there is an aspect of ‘kiddush Hashem‘ and ‘chillul Hashem‘ in a certain issue, the side of ‘kiddush HaShem’ is greater and transcends. Nonetheless, the ‘chillul Hashem’ and the need to correct it, should not be overlooked.

All the more so when in truth, any honest observer must admit that the good side is far greater than that of the bad. On the side of good are all the people who bear the burden of the existence of the State of Israel – the soldiers and commanders, the government officials and police officers, the scientists and businessmen, the educators and lawyers, and others. All of these people, when in Israel, are linked to the Torah, the nation, and the land – far more than our brothers in the Diaspora – and all this, thanks to the State of Israel.

In Chutz l’Aretz, only about ten percent of Jews are observant, the majority of young people are assimilating in mixed-marriages, and over fifty percent of them have almost no connection with Judaism or Israel. Whereas in the State of Israel, the situation is immeasurably better. Approximately thirty percent of the Jews living here are religiously observant, about fifty percent are traditional, and the vast majority of the remaining twenty percent identify with the Jewish nation, and are willing to endanger their lives for the sake of the collective, Clal Yisrael.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting and informative articles by Rabbi Melamed, including his highly popular series of books on Jewish Law and Thought, “Peninei Halakha”, can be found at:


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