Lives should not be endangered for the return of a fallen soldier’s body * A person’s essence is his soul and not his body, and the souls of fallen IDF soldiers are certainly among the righteous * Refusing to release terrorists in exchange for soldiers’ bodies continues their heroism, and thus, elevates their souls * Actions to return the bodies should be directed against Hamas, and not convey Israel’s weakness * Expressions of weakness strengthen terror; in contrast, construction should be increased to make clear we are not budging from our land * As long as they are not buried, Hadar Goldin and Oren Shaul H’YD are in a similar category to that of Moshe Rabbeinu, whose last resting place is unknown
The Bodies of the Fallen Soldiers
Following the agreement with Turkey which apparently benefits the Hamas terrorist organization who control the Gaza Strip, the just claim for the return of the bodies of our holy soldiers Lt. Hadar Goldin, and Sergeant Oren Shaul, for burial in Israel, has emerged once more.
However once again, there are those who apparently prefer to turn the whole issue upside down, ignore the rest of the important ideals, and unwittingly be used as a tool in the hands of the wicked terrorists who take advantage of their naivety in order to damage Israel’s honor, security, and values.
Therefore, it is essential to remember that while it is a mitzvah to bury the dead in a Jewish grave, it is forbidden to harm the security of even one Jew to accomplish this. As we have learned, it is forbidden to desecrate Shabbat to bury a dead person, whereas for the doubtful saving of a human life it is a mitzvah to violate the Shabbat; kal v’ chomer (all the more so) is it forbidden to cause risk for even one person in order to fulfill the mitzvah of burial, and therefore it is forbidden to release any terrorists for the soldiers’ bodies. Similarly, we have learned that according to strict halakha, it is forbidden to remove casualties from the battlefield on Shabbat; nevertheless, because Rabbi Goren ztz”l saw that the leaving of the bodies damaged the morale of the soldiers in the battle, and consequently their success, he ordered the desecration of Shabbat for the evacuation of casualties from the battlefield.
The Soul and the Body
It is important to be precise: To our great dismay the soldiers have died, and thus, the issue is the return of their bodies, and not living soldiers. Moreover, saying that a dead body is the person himself is extremely hurtful to the dignity of the dead, because the essence of a person is his soul and life, while his body is only a utensil within which he lives. After death, the soul remains alive to the extent one clung to eternal values, while the body decays and returns to dust.
The Holy Soldiers
Our Sages revealed to us that people who are killed ‘al Kiddush Hashem’ (in sanctification of God) on behalf of all of Israel, merit a high level in Gan Eden (heaven), to the point where “no creature can attain to their place in heaven'” (Bava Batra 10b). The meaning is that all ordinary people, who are termed ‘creatures’, are unable to stand among them, because they have merited to be on the level of the tzaddikim (the righteous). And without a doubt, the soldiers who with their very bodies defended the people and the country, are also included in this level.
Souls in the Eternal World
The essence of a person is his soul, and not his body. It is explained in the Talmud that after the death of a person, he is judged in the heavenly court. The tzaddikim ascend to Gan Eden, the beinonim (intermediate people) are punished in Gehinom (hell) to the extent of their tikun (correction) and then rise to Gan Eden. The wicked are condemned to twelve months in Gehinom, and then “their bodies are consumed, their souls are burnt, and the wind scatters them under the soles of the feet of the tzaddikim” (Rosh Hashana 16b; 17a). We see that, come what may, even the wicked enter Gan Eden, on the basis of the feet of the tzaddikim with whom they had a positive connection in their lives. It is explained that after the completion of tikun olam (correction of the world), even these wicked people are resurrected in Techiyat HaMeytim (Resurrection of the Dead) thanks to those tzaddikim (see, ‘Takanat HaShavim’ 15, 76; 106). And as we have already learned, the soldiers who gave their lives are also considered on the level of the tzaddikim, and therefore, evil people who had a positive connection to them, after the completion of the tikun, will warrant Techiyat HaMeytim in their merit. The extremely evil people are punished for a longer period of time, to the extent of the effect of their wickedness in this world, and after their evil influence is over, they are lost forever.
How Can One Help Elevate a Soul?
As is known, it is a mitzvah to recite Kaddish (the mourner’s prayer), give charity, and increase one’s Torah study on the anniversary of the deceased, because on that same day, he is judged once again in heaven for his actions. Seemingly one could ask: The person has died and was judged for his actions, so why is he judged every year anew?
However, since there are people in the world who still remember him, he is judged according to the extent of influence he had on his children and acquaintances. If it becomes clear that due to the effect he had on them in his lifetime they continued to do good deeds, his virtue is even greater than that of when he died. But if the opposite is true, God forbid, it turns out that his negative influence continues to bear bitter fruits, and caused his children and friends to be negligent in Torah, mitzvot and good deeds; in retrospect, it becomes clear that his sins and failings were graver, and must be punished for this in Gehinom – or at the very least, his place in Gan Eden must be lowered. Therefore, when his children and friends say Kaddish, give charity, perform mitzvot and study Torah in his memory, they greatly assist in the elevation of his soul (iluy neshama), because all the good deeds are being done in his merit.
Do Not Blemish the Merits of the Holy Soldiers
This is also true concerning the holy soldiers killed in a milchemet mitzvah (defensive war). If their bravery is neglected by overemphasizing their physical bodies that have yet to be buried in Israel, this blemishes their merits. And if as a result of this the government surrenders to our wicked enemies and releases terrorists, it will severely blemish their merits – the exact opposite of all their aims in their self-sacrifice. For after all, what is the sorrow of the holy soldiers who have not yet been buried in Israel compared to the enormous reward for their devotion for the sake of Israel? The more heroism their relatives and friends add in their name and memory, thus the holy soldiers are further elevated. And, ‘l’fum tzara agra’ (according to the effort, is the reward) – as the torment of their not being buried in Israel grows, but nevertheless their relatives and friends stand up to the test, are not depressed, and do not give-in to the enemy, thus the holy soldiers themselves are further elevated in Gan Eden, and even their relatives living among us in this world, are elevated in the merit of their holy merits.
On the other hand, if the propaganda about returning the bodies causes cowardice among the public, and especially among soldiers, this will ruin all they worked for in their lives. They did everything they could to fight the wicked, and as a result, their souls merited supreme status in Gan Eden; but for the sake of their bodies, which are insignificant compared to their souls, the order of things is turned upside-down, and their sacred mission is undermined.
The Correct Message
At this point I must express my great appreciation for the open statements expressed by Prof. Simcha Goldin, in the name of the families of the holy soldiers. For example, I will mention a few things he said (3/18/16): “Steps should be taken against Hamas that will cause them to return the bodies.” “As long as we are active rather than passive, as long as it is clear to everyone that the State of Israel will determine the price that Hamas will pay for not returning the corpses, as long as we continue in this direction – we are doing okay.” “Hamas must pay the price for not returning the body of Hadar.” In other words, Hamas are the ones who have to pay the price, and not the State of Israel. Israel has to be active – on the offense, and not the defense, the ones to punish, and not the ones to be punished.
The public demonstration of the Shaul family against the transfer of “humanitarian aid” from Turkey to Hamas is also correct. They do not demand concessions from the government, but rather, that it not provide assistance to Hamas as long as it continues in its viciously despicable trade of bodies.
The Huge Test
Who knows if we would be able to withstand the challenges faced by the families of the holy soldiers and settlers who gave their lives for the sanctity of God, the nation, and the Land of Israel, who, in spite of the pain, are required to muster-up emotional strength, and take a courageous stand. Concerning this, we pray daily: “Do not cause us to be tested or brought to disgrace.” This test, in all its awesome intensity, now stands at the doorstep of the Goldin and Shaul families. And yet, the truth must be said: to the best of their ability, they should think less about the soldiers’ bodies, and instead, engage as much as possible in the heroism of their lives, their values,and their legacy. This is the befitting stance which honors the memory of the holy soldiers. The more the parents adopt this position, the more they elevate the soul of their son in Gan Eden, because by remembering him thus, they add truth and holiness in this world.
It is worthwhile mentioning Miriam Peretz, who lost two of her sons, the heroic commanders killed in the sanctity of God, the nation, and the Land of Israel. Though her son’s merited burial in Israel, who would not have empathized with her had she sunk into sadness, and raised grievances against God, the government, and army commanders. But she chose the path of publicizing their exemplary bravery, and imparting their legacy to the young.
Disappointment with the Government
It is fitting to identify with the profound disappointment and sense of betrayal that the Shaul and Goldin families feel in view of the agreement with Turkey. They can be trusted when they say that the Prime Minister had made explicit promises, but did not keep his word.
Regrettably, we have felt the powerlessness of the government to punish or exact a heavy toll from our wicked enemies over the last few days, when they brazenly permit themselves to murder a 13 year-old girl and the father of a family, and what’s more, dare to celebrate all over Gaza, Judea and Samaria, and even in the villages that the murderers came from, which are allegedly under blockade.
Had the Prime Minister kept his previous promises, allowing tens of thousands of units to be built in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, this could have brought a bit of consolation. In the long-term, victory, peace, and security depend on this, because the entire war is about the Land of Israel, and victory depends on whether we are able to clarify in the most explicit terms that we intend to continue building and holding on to all parts of our holy land. And the more our enemies try to harm us, the stronger our grip on the country will be, so that all of our enemies understand that indeed, an iron wall stands in front of them, and they will never be able to break our spirit and stop the process of the return of Israel to its land.
The Holy Soldiers and the Merit of Moshe Rabbeinu
Concerning Moshe Rabbeinu, our nation’s greatest figure, it is written: “No man knows the place that he was buried, even to this day” (Deuteronomy 34:6). By means of concealing his burial place, a clear separation was created between his individual, physical body, and his great collective soul, and thus, the illumination of his soul and legacy continues in Israel with greater intensity. While it is true that we must act to bring the bodies of Hadar and Oren for burial in Israel, for now, to a certain degree, they have risen to the distinction of Moshe Rabbeinu, may he rest in peace.
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting and thought-provoking articles can be found at: