Good Cop, Bad Cop

This excerpt was taken from Rabbi Eliezer Melamed’s book “Revivim: Nation, Land, Army”
Amona – The Faithful and Rescuing Youth
In the Wake of the Events at Amona
4 Shevat, 5766 (Feb. 2, 2006)

An upsetting, ugly, witless, despicable, cruel and evil mixture has surrounded us. In the place where justice is meant to transpire, lies wickedness. In stead of wisdom, arrogant imperviousness meant to trample and oppress any feelings of faithfulness to the holy land. The dictators, who inherited their control through flattery, boast arrogantly saying: “I will rule’, “I will expel”, “I will destroy”, and “I will find favor in the eyes of the goyim by haughtily stampeding on the gravesites of their forefathers and mothers”. Coarse policemen – instead of seeking justice and morals – wish to hit and injure, to please their bosses. The media is anti-Semitic.

In contrast to all this evil ugliness, our good youth have risen to stand faithfully. How beautiful and delightful they are; full of life and faith, they came to stand-up for the soul of the nation in Amona. In the cold and dark night, they waited anxiously for the light of day to see if it would bring with it good news, or rows of heartless policemen in black.

Even while being hit and wounded, they continued to stand firm, and an awesome sense of bravery began to sprout in their souls. They will save the nation from its enemies. Every blow they absorbed will increase their faith; every bone broken will strengthen their power; every injury will sharpen their scrutiny. The pain will build within them the future.

Similar to the Jewish officers in Egypt who absorbed blows from the Egyptians in order not to oppress the nation and in the end, rose to greatness, so too, they will merit greatness. Like the Maccabees who were chased till death by the Hellenists, but in the end saved Israel, they too will save Israel. And like the members of the Etzel and Lechi who were chased and extradited by their brothers to the British government, but in the end merited to rule, so too, our precious youth, who felt the pain of the Jewish nation down to the bottom of their hearts, will merit to rule. But in contrast to the members of the Etzel and the Lechi who reached control without Torah, and were defeated by struggles against the anti-Zionist courts and media, they will rise from within faith and Torah, and will bring perfection to the world.

The Beaten Officers in Egypt

“The administrators pressured them and said, “You must complete your daily quota, just as before when there was straw” (Exodus 5:13). However, the Sons of Israel could not satisfy the requirements, and the administrators demanded that the Jewish officers beat the nation, thereby urging them to fulfill the requirement of making bricks set by Pharaoh. The Jewish officers, who were sincere, sacrificed themselves for Israel, saying: “Better we get beaten than have the rest of the nation thwarted”, “and they suffered the blows to lessen the load of their fellow Jews. Therefore, they merited ‘ruach ha’kodesh’ (Shmot Rabba 5:5).

“When God said gather me seventy men from the elders of Israel, Moshe said before God: Master of the earth, I do not know who is appropriate and who isn’t. God said to him: The ones who I know are the elderly of the nation and their officers, those same elders and officers who sacrificed themselves to be beaten in their stead in Egypt over the amounts of bricks, they shall come and assume this greatness… and since they sacrificed themselves to be beaten instead of the public, therefore, they will bear with you the burden of the nation, which comes to teach you that God compared them to Moshe. From this we learn that someone who sacrifices himself for Israel merits honor, greatness, and ‘ruach hakodesh’ (Bamidbar Rabba 15:20; Shmot Rabba 5:19).

Evil Policemen and Good Youth

Unlike the Jewish policemen in Egypt, the policemen who beat the youth in Amona will return to their homes and will find that their hearts have also become black. Those who are single will find it difficult to get married. The family lives of those who are married will fall apart, for without a heart there is no love. They will cheat on their wives and their wives will cheat on them, and their children will run exhaustedly between the houses of their divorced parents. Until they repent publicly, requesting forgiveness for the brutal blows they dealt.

In contrast, the precious and dear youth, whose hearts were dedicated to stand-up for their nation in Amona, will merit to build houses filled with love and joy, for one who has a sorrowful heart over the land and seeks “May the barren one be happy and exult with the ingathering of her children” will merit “the  sound of happiness and the sound of joy, the sound of the groom and the sound of the bride, the sound of grooms’ jubilation from their chupah, and of the youths from their feasts of song”. They will merit seeing sons and daughters, grandsons and grand-daughters, great-grandsons and great grand-daughters, engrossed in Torah and mitzvoth, and will be constantly going from weddings to brit milah, to bar mitzvah’s, from bar mitzvah’s to engagement parties, and from engagement parties to visit their grand-daughter who just gave birth.

Settling The Land of Israel

Equal to all of the Mitzvoth

The Sages teach (Sifri, Re’eh 53): “The Mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel is equal to all of the other Mitzvoth in the Torah.” This is due to the fact that, in addition to its own inherent value, the Mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel serves as a foundation for the healthy national existence of the Jewish people. Such an existence allows the Jewish people – a people whose task it is to spread faith in God and the Divine word – to bring about the perfection of the entire world. It is for this reason that the Prophets of Israel prophesized at length regarding the settlement and burgeoning of the Land of Israel; the poets crowned her with a thousand crowns, and all of the great rabbis longed to reach her soil.

This Mitzvah also embodies the principle of unity and love among the Jewish people because it is fulfilled by the people and for the people.

So central is the commandment to settle the Land of Israel, that the Torah instructs us to risk our lives in order to conquer and hold on to the Land (Minchat Chinukh 425). The Torah even permits violating certain aspects of Sabbath in order to hold on to her – even if just to purchase one house (Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 307:5). In extreme cases the Torah even allows for divorce in order to fulfill this commandment (Shulchan Arukh, Even HaEzer 75:4).

Religious Zionism

The commandment to settle the Land of Israel – i.e., that the Land be in our hands, and not left barren – has always served as the foundation and underpinning of religious Zionism’s approach to Aliya (Jewish immigration to Israel), settlement, defense, and state. It lies behind our viewing today’s events as the “first flowering of our redemption” as foreseen by the Prophets. True to this philosophy, all religious-Zionist educational institutions educate toward love of the nation, the land, and the state; they advocate sharing the burden of military service, economic and social responsibility, and participation in all aspects of Jewish life, and in the entire Jewish world. In the words of Rabbi Moshe Sofer, the “Chatam Sofer” (on Sukkah 36): Any action or enterprise that serves to advance Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel is included in this Mitzvah.

Joining Forces with Irreligious

With the appearance of modern Zionism, an intense dispute arose between Rabbis. The debate centered on the question: Is it permissible to join forces with irreligious elements of the Zionist movement? Because of the great importance of the Mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel, and despite the great difficulties involved, our prestigious and eminent Rabbis concluded that such cooperation was indeed necessary; this was the path that must be taken in order to settle the Land and harbor the Redemption of Israel. This was the position taken by renowned Torah authorities such as Rabbi Kook, Rabbi Reines, Rabbi Hertzog, Rabbi Amiel, Rabbi Uziel, Rabbi Adaya, Rabbi Ratah, Rabbi Charlap, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, and others.

Prohibition against Uprooting

It is clear, then, that participating in any sort of action that aims at violating this great Mitzvah – a Mitzvah that guides our every step and for which we are willing to sacrifice so much – is forbidden. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook and Rabbi Shlomo Goren, of blessed memory, thus ruled that it is forbidden to hand over portions of the Land of Israel to non-Jews, not to mention uprooting a Jewish settlement for this purpose.

When, in time, the question arose as to what ought to be done in a situation where a ruling of the Israeli government clashes with the essential commandment to settle the Land of Israel, it was declared that there is clear and unquestionable preference for the law of the Torah. Eternal, never-changing Torah commandments take precedence over any type of government decision, which, by its very nature, is given to change.

This principle holds true not only regarding the commandment to settle the Land of Israel; it is the case concerning all of the Mitzvoth of the Torah. It is forbidden to follow the law of a king or government that negates the word of the Torah. Then Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Defense Forces, Rabbi Shlomo Goren zt”l, publicized this ruling and, despite the rebuke of the Chief of Staff, refused to reverse it. (The precedent for this ruling can be found in Sanhedrin 49a and in Yad, Hilkhot Melakhim 3:9).

Clearly, it is preferable to do everything possible via the Knesset, the Government, and the public, in order to prevent the emergence of a ruling which negates such an important Mitzvah. Yet, if this is not successful, it becomes necessary to stand in adamant, passive opposition to the Government ruling – a ruling which, in the words of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, is “null and void in comparison to the eternal law of the Torah.”

Yet, even if we accept the fact that not all Knesset members understand the Halakhic prohibition involved here, how can anyone even consider commanding a Jew, for whom the Mitzvah to settle the Land of Israel is so central, to destroy a settlement and to displace its residents? How is it possible to order a Jew to uproot with his own hands the very foundation of his faith? Could their hearts be so hard? Would they even command a person to dislocate his own parents? Are they not ashamed to command a person to assault that which is most dear to him?

Poor Public Image

Many are concerned about the bad image that resistance is liable to cause the settlers of Judea, Samaria. True, the issue of public image must be taken into account; the advice of Rabbis and experts must be sought so that people know in what manner to speak and how to act. On the other hand, it must be remembered that it is not always the short-term effect that needs to be taken into consideration; sometimes the value of the long-range lesson is of greater importance. Sometimes an act which results in severe short-term damage, serves the important role of making a clear statement concerning the importance of settling the Land, and impresses upon all the preference of Divine law over transient political rulings. Even if our efforts to settle the Land do not produce the sort of fruits we would like them to, we, in our determined stand, have at least established the desired goal – and eventually we will reach it. Indeed, Judaism and Torah leaders have followed this path numerous times throughout history.

Fear of a Rift in the Nation

The media’s ranting that resisting settlement evacuation causes a rift in the nation is simply untrue. How can passive resistance to participating in civil action possibly have such extreme repercussions? The religious community is overly sensitive to these sorts of attacks, and the leaders of the Left along with the media take advantage of this sensitivity. The more we allow ourselves to be flustered by such accusations, the more they will be hurled at us. The more that we argue amongst ourselves and make biting allegations against one another, the more accusations will be made against us by the media. We will be labeled inciters, agitators, and criminals. (This is precisely what the media did to Effie Eitan. He made rational and pointed remarks concerning the mass desecration of Sabbath, yet was portrayed as an inciter.)

It is important to note that all of the accusations insinuating that somebody permits using violence against soldiers, police officers, or anyone, are complete lies. Only passive resistance was permitted by Rabbis.

And if the Left should choose to Refuse?

Do we not run the risk that our refusal to follow orders on Halakhic or patriotic grounds will bring in its wake a refusal on the left to take part in protecting the settlers or conquering the Land of Israel?

In this matter, one must make a distinction between truth and falsehood. Our position is genuine, and based upon both Torah and human rationale. Their position, on the other hand, is based upon mistaken human leanings – of the sort which at one time lead men to prostrate before Stalin, the “Sun of the Nations,” or later to kiss and embrace Arafat and his cohorts. We come in the name of moral values that build the nation. Yet, values that call for uprooting settlements and refusing to do battle with the enemy are outright destructive and undermining.

In the same respect, such people could claim that if it is permissible for Jews to sacrifice themselves for Torah and faith, it is permissible for idolaters to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their beliefs. All of the Prophets of Israel cried out against such rationale, for they were able to distinguish between the essential difference. We pray to the living God; they pray to wood and stone. Countless sources could be cited to this effect.

The Present Dispute

During the reign of the Rabin Government, a practical question arose: Does Halakha permit taking part in the dismantling of settlements and army bases? Leading rabbinical authorities, amongst them Rabbi Goren, Rabbi Yisraeli, Rabbi Yosef Kapach, Rabbi Nerya, and Rabbi Shapira ruled that a Jew was obligated to refuse participating in such an action. At present, the question is slightly different: Is the dismantling of outposts considered a definitive act of Torah violation?

There are those who hold that where the intention is to uproot a settlement in order to hand it over to Arabs, then it is clearly a violation of the Mitzvah to settle the Land, and one is obligated to refuse participation in such an act; when, however, an outpost whose site will not be given to Arabs is at issue, and opposition to its existence stems from formalities alone, the government’s order does not contradict the Torah, and it is permissible to carry out such an act. Other Rabbis, among them myself, hold that the intention of the present dismantling violates the Mitzvah to settle the Land of Israel, for it uproots vibrant Jewish settlements, and leaves their locations barren. (The fact that this act is being carried out, as some claim, for political reasons, certainly does not make it any more acceptable).

At any rate, in light of the above dispute, the Committee of the Rabbis of “Yesha” (Judea and Samaria) publicized the following statement: “We call upon all soldiers to approach their commanding officers with the request that they be released, on conscientious and faith-related grounds, from any activity connected to the evacuation of outposts.” In addition they declared that “every outpost in the Land of Israel is seen as a fulfillment of the Mitzvah to settle the Land; accordingly, it is forbidden to evacuate such outposts.”

What, though, does a soldier do if his commanding officer refuses to respect his request? In this regard there are differing opinions among Halakhic authorities, and each individual must follow the decision of his own rabbi.

Questions and Answers

Question: Is it true that you changed your position in the meeting of the heads of the Union of Hesder Yeshiva’s, as was reported in some of the media?

Answer: In general, I did not change my position, however, in one small issue, I did.

Two months ago I wrote that I “recommend not protesting while in the framework of the army,” and now, I join the vast majority of rabbi’s who expressed the position of “opposition to protesting while in the framework of the army.” The reason for this change is due to the fact that, in the meantime, I am still a member of the Union, and it is only fitting that I take into consideration and accept the majority decision, on the condition that the adjustment is not of a fundamental character. For example, if they had decided to criticize the protester’s, I would not have agreed (I will explain this at another opportunity). However, since the change is not fundamental, consideration of the majority opinion is appropriate.

Of course, regarding coercion to transgress prohibitions of the Sabbath, the expulsion of Jews from their homes, or similar issues, I have not changed my opinion, whatsoever. The other rabbi’s also agree fundamentally with this point.

My position not to sign any document under pressure from the authorities has also not changed. At the demand of Minister Barak or the Commander of Human Resources of the I.D.F., I will not agree to voice my opinion. However, I most certainly take into consideration my fellow colleagues and rabbi’s.

As far as meetings with minister’s and I.D.F. officers are concerned, if the meetings are organized in a respectful manner, I am more than happy to meet, as I did with Vice Minister Matan Vilna’i. However, if the meetings are improperly organized, under the heading of ‘summons’ or ‘hearing,’ or with the goal of applying governmental pressure to change a Torah position – I am not willing to meet.

Certainly, I will try my best to continue to fulfill my obligation to publically express my positions with integrity and honesty. This position – that every rabbi is obligated to express his opinions without fear – is also supported by many of the deans of the yeshiva’s. Even so, it must be pointed out that a few of them, including some who serve as directors of the Union, disagreed with certain things I wrote in my column ‘Revivim’. As I see things, it’s fine that there are different opinions and debates, as long as the discussion is businesslike and respectable.

Question: Why didn’t you make your acceptance of the position of the majority of rabbi’s rejecting protests in the army, conditional to having Yeshiva Har Bracha returned to the Hesder agreement?

Answer: On the contrary, I prefer things the way they are, even if the price we have to pay is the discontinuation of the Hesder agreement. It’s not proper to change one’s position in order to receive something from the Minister of Defense; however, it is proper to honor the position of the majority of rabbi’s with whom I share a common framework.

Question: The speaker of the Union of Hesder Yeshiva’s, Rabbi David Stav, said in his statement that it would have been proper for you to have appeared at Minister Barak’s ‘hearing’. Was this part of the decision of the rabbi’s?

Answer: There were those who believed so, however, many rabbi’s supported my position – it seems they were the majority. In any case, there was no decision on this issue, and therefore, the statement of Rabbi Stav was his own words, and not the opinion of the gathering. Either way, even if the majority had decided that I should have gone to the ‘hearing’, I would not have been able to accept their opinion.

Does Money Talk?

Question: Some people are claiming that because of the money your Yeshiva would lose, you submitted to the position of the Union of Hesder rabbi’s, while others say that you feared losing your personal salary.

Answer: The governmental allowance which a Hesder Yeshiva receives is indeed higher than that of a regular Yeshiva, however, the differences are manageable. It is relatively easy to operate a regular, non-Hesder Yeshiva, as can be seen by all the other Yeshivot.

Concerning myself personally, it is totally meaningless, for since its establishment until this day, I have not received a salary from the Yeshiva.

At another opportunity, I will write, b’ezrat Hashem, a few pieces of advice on family budgeting and the importance of giving charity. It seems that one who has a reasonable job and follows the advice of the Sages concerning the giving of charity and living modestly – if he does not encounter unusual troubles – his main problem will be what to do with all his extra money.

Stand Bravely for the Truth of the Torah

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.

The Legacy of Rabbi Goren זצ"ל

Many readers have recently heard in the media threats from various army officers and the Minister of Defense to annul the ‘hesder’ agreement (where students combine army service and Torah studies) with Yeshiva Har Bracha. This is a good opportunity to talk about the first head of the Yeshiva from its inception. In the beginning, we wanted to establish on Har Bracha a ‘hesder’ yeshiva, whose students would combine three important mitzvoth: Torah study, army service, and settling the land. Since we were faced with difficulties in establishing the yeshiva, we approached the gaon, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who served as the Chief Rabbi of the I.D.F. for approximately twenty years, as the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, and afterwards as the Chief Rabbi of Israel from the Jewish year 5733 till 5743 (1972-1982). Rabbi Goren received us happily, and agreed to sponsor our yeshiva – acting as the ‘nasi’ (president), under the auspices of his own ‘Yeshiva HaIdra’.

Rabbi Goren, ‘Nasi’ Yeshiva Har Bracha

In order to establish the status of the young State of Israel and its army from a Torah perspective, there was a need for a great ‘talmid chacham’, a genius in all fields of the Torah, sharp and proficient, courageous and decisive, and devoted to ‘clal Yisrael’ with all his heart and soul. This was Rabbi Goren. He established the Chief Rabbinate of the army, and formulated most of the directives of the General Staff which dealt with designing the character of the I.D.F. as a Jewish army. Rabbi Goren was not satisfied with just theoretical discussions; he possessed a great love for the army and its soldiers, participated in various courses, learned to be a gunner in the artillery corps, completed a course in parachuting, studied military strategy in the Officers Training School, and even took part in deliberations of the General Staff. In wartime, he would travel to the battlefront without any fear from enemy fire or shelling, arriving at the frontlines in order to strengthen the soldiers in the just and sanctified war. The soldiers loved Rabbi Goren and received a lot of strength from him.

The foundation of his teachings was absorbed from the learning hall and books of Rabbi Kook זצ”ל and his students, including his father-in-law, Rabbi David Cohen ‘The Nazir” זצ”ל and Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook זצ”ל.

With the Students on Har Bracha

For the duration of two years until his final illness, Rabbi Goren would come every week to Har Bracha to give a class to the students, to strengthen their spirits and teach them Torah. Numerous classes were dedicated to the Torah status of the State of Israel and the army. After the class, the students would gather around him and ask questions about pressing issues, the Rabbinate, notable events which occurred during the establishment of the State and its wars. Rabbi Goren would answer them – at times briefly, and other times, at great length. Although the roads to Har Bracha were a bit dangerous, and the majority of the residents of Judea and Samaria already travelled in cars protected with rock-proof windows, Rabbi Goren and his driver would come to Har Bracha in his own, un-protected car, without worries. He would be meticulous to say at the beginning of the trip the verse: “They began their journey. The terror of God was felt in all the cities around them, and they did not pursue Jacob’s sons” (Genesis 35:5). He said that this was a proven ‘segulah’ (supernatural cure) which helped guard him in all the wars and dangerous places he passed through.

Two semesters of yeshiva students heard classes from Rabbi Goren before their induction into the army. In the first class, he spoke about the value of the mitzvah to serve in the army, and in the second class, about the case of a soldier who receives an order that contradicts a mitzvah – he must refuse to fulfill the order. In the third and fourth class he spoke about the Sabbath in the army.

Rabbi Goren vs. Chief of Staff: Ben Gurion’s Decision

On a number of occasions Rabbi Goren told the story about the time he published an article in the I.D.F. Rabbinate magazine, saying that a soldier must refuse an order involving ‘chilul Shabbat’ (desecration of the Sabbath). Afterwards, the Chief of Staff, Chaim Laskov, became infuriated, claiming that this constituted an undermining of the foundations of army discipline. As a punishment, he ordered the discontinuation of the magazine. However, Rabbi Goren did not compromise, and summoned the Chief of Staff for a clarification before the Minister of Defense and Prime Minister at the time, David Ben Gurion. Rabbi Goren would vividly and colorfully describe how the Chief of Staff Laskov entered the office, giving Ben Gurion an official army salute, befitting an officer instructed in the British army.

At first, Ben Gurion asked to hear what the Chief of Staff had to say. Laskov claimed that violation of discipline would destroy the army, therefore, a religious soldier must obey an order even if it involves ‘chilul Shabbat’, and if he has a objection, he could submit a complaint on ‘motzei Shabbat’ (after Shabbat) to his commander. Rabbi Goren responded that ‘chilul Shabbat’ is similar to murder, and just as a soldier who receives an improper command to murder someone cannot first fulfill it and afterwards submit a complaint, so too, it is impossible to desecrate the Sabbath and afterwards submit a complaint. Ben Gurion, who was familiar with the framework of ‘halacha’, understood what Rabbi Goren meant, and accepted his position. Rabbi Goren continued, claiming that the Chief of Staff had stopped the publication of the I.D.F. Rabbinate magazine. Ben Gurion ordered that the magazine be doubled – instead of 8 pages, it was to be published with 16 pages.

Halachic Decision

During those two years, I merited becoming very close to Rabbi Goren and learned a lot from his positions on national issues. Often, we spoke a number of times daily on the phone, and I occasionally visited him in his house for discussions which lasted hours. As the result of the Oslo agreements, Rabbi Goren זצ”ל wrote a ‘psak halacha’ (halachic decision), that it is forbidden for a soldier to participate in the evacuation of a settlement or army base from the land of Israel, and if he receives such an order, he must refuse. The pain and agony over the Oslo agreements affected his health. He saw these agreements as a serious blow to the purpose of the State of Israel, and was sure that they would weaken the State and expose its citizens to awful terrorist attacks. When the plan to evacuate the Jewish residents of Hevron arose, Rabbi Goren announced that we must fight it with ‘mesirut nefesh’ (total devotion), and added that he, personally, was willing to be killed in order to prevent the evacuation of Hevron. His statement was publicized and made waves. For an entire day, he gave interviews to local and foreign television and radio stations. At the end of the day, he told me on the telephone that it had been an important day, and that with the help of God, he succeeded in making his opinion widely heard, and he hoped that it had the desired effect. Later, when asked if he was not afraid of being disciplined for sedition, he declared that he was willing to be shot, but would never give in to pressure. Rabbi Goren also shared his feelings and opinions with the yeshiva students, saying that he was indeed ready to sacrifice his life for this, wholeheartedly.

A Halachic Answer He Wrote Me

All the answers and letters he chose to write concerning national issues during those times, he would send to me for publication. With the help of God, I succeeded in having them published, first in short, in the weekly newsletter “Rabbi’s of Judea and Samaria,” and afterwards at length in my book “Pninei Halacha – Issues of the Nation and the Land” (pg. 221-295) which has already been printed in over tens of thousands of copies. I feel a personal obligation to fulfill the spiritual last will of this generation’s instructor on issues of army and state.

Rabbi Goren’s independent personality, his genius, courage, bravery, and unending love for the nation, accompany and illuminate our path till this day. This candle of spiritual bravery, which stems from the Torah, is the foundation of the military bravery of the Hasmoneans and of all Israel till our times.

I Will Give You and Your Descendants the Land

What Should God Have Said to Jacob?

One of God’s most significant revelations to man was His revelation to Jacob our forefather upon his arrival to Bet El.  “And he lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it, and said: I am the Lord of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac” (Genesis 28:11-13). At this point we would expect to hear what this important, significant, and essential message God has to say to Jacob is.

If we were to stop for a second and ask various, present-day groups what they think God should say to Jacob, apparently we would get differing answers. The Jews of Lithuanian descent would say: “Study the Talmud in depth until you become a ‘ben Torah’.” The Hassidim would say: “Strengthen yourself in ‘emunah’ (faith) and serving God in happiness.” Members of the Shas party would say: “Learn practical ‘halacha’ according to the technique of Maran (Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef).” Those who grew-up in Bnei Akiva would say: “Love thy neighbor as yourself.” The modern Orthodox would say: “Derech eretz (good manners) precedes Torah.” People from the world of academia would say: “Insist on being a pluralist, and cast doubt on every undisputable position.” The feminists would say: “Empower femininity, and stop oppressing women.”

What God Said to Jacob

However, God said: “I will give to you and your descendants the land upon which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth. You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south.” And consequently, “All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.” This is God’s revelation. Indeed, through this revelation, Jacob our forefather realized the magnitude of the holiness of the land, as he said: “God is truly in this place, but I did not know it. He was frightened. How awe-inspiring this place is! He exclaimed. It must be God’s temple. It is the gate to heaven!” (Genesis 28:13-17).

Perhaps, the members of the various groups would claim that, indeed, in this instance, God did speak about the land of Israel; however there are other revelations and other verses. Well, here’s another example: in God’s revelation to Jacob after his return to Israel, which also was in Bet El, it was said to Jacob: “Be fruitful and increase. A nation and community of nations will come into existence from you. Kings will be born from your loins. I will grant you the land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac. I will also give the land to your descendants who will follow you.” (Genesis 35:11-12). Thus it was with all the revelations to Jacob – God always spoke about the land of Israel – in Haran (Genesis 31:3), and when Jacob was about to go down to Egypt (Genesis 46:2-4).

What Would They Say Today?

What would reporters from the newspapers “Yeted Ne’eman” (Lithuanian/Haredi) and “Yom l’ Yom” (Shas) have to say about this? If it weren’t written explicitly, they would simply report that God said to learn Talmud in depth, or to learn practical ‘halacha’. However, the verses are explicitly written, therefore they say that the most important thing is to listen to the ‘gedolim’ (Torah giants) who say that left is right. For the reporters from the Hassidic newspaper “Hamodia” this does not present a problem: they explain that the word ‘eretz’ (land) in a sense means ‘ratzon’ (desire), and ‘Yisrael’ in a sense means ‘d’vaykut’ (cleaving), and consequently, there’s no need for the land of Israel. Then there are ‘important’ political wheeler-dealers who feel there is a significant hint hidden here, that God gave the land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in order that their ‘holy’ descendants could relinquish and sell it for coalition agreements, receiving in its stead, money for Talmud Torah institutes and mikva’s.

Graduates of B’nei Akiva would be in doubt, thinking that maybe for the sake of unity we should concede to the leftists. The modern Orthodox say that it is impossible to stand against the entire world. The members of academia say that today, it is doubtful whether or not there is a mitzvah to settle the land; there are differing opinions and versions – and in any case, there are seventy faces to the Torah. The feminists would also agree.

However, the honest people – religious, Haredi, and traditional, realize the enormity of the holiness and value of the Land of Israel, and make efforts of total devotion and self-sacrifice to settle it.

Be Fruitful and Multiply

In contradiction to the weakness of the government, who decreed to freeze building in Judea and Samaria, we must draw strength from the true words of the Torah, and pay attention to the profound advice which God said to Jacob: “Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth. You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south.” And it is written (Genesis 35:11): “Be fruitful and increase…I will grant you the land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac. I will also give the land to your descendants who will follow you.” In other words, by having large families, blessed with many sons and daughters, grandsons and grand-daughters, like the dust of the earth, will we inherit the land, spreading out to the west, east, north, and south. This is similar to what is written in the prophecy of Ezekiel to the barren mountains of Israel, which the non-Jews made fun of their destruction and desolateness, by saying that days would come “and I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the waste places rebuilt: and I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will cause you to be inhabited as in your former times…and I will cause men to walk upon you, my people Israel; and they shall possess thee, and you  shall be their inheritance, and you shall no longer bereave them of children” (Ezekiel 36:10-12).

Like the Dust of the Earth

In order to merit the blessing of multiplicity, we must be ready to act humbly – like dust of the earth; to crowd together in order to raise more children, to give up on luxuries, all in order to raise large families. We must be ready to accept new families with open arms. Small apartments should be created within lager houses for the next generation to live in. If we were willing to live in the settlements as crowded together as people live in middle-class cities and neighborhoods, we could house 600,000 people in Judea and Samaria instead of 300,000. If we were willing to crowd together like they do in Mea She’arim, we could house 900,000 people.

The main thing is to be ready to hold tight to the land like dust of the earth, in a way that even if we are trampled upon, we will continue to be fruitful and multiply. Then, those who cruelly trampled on the settlement movement, which was established in the word of God through His servants the prophets, all of them will fall and be ashamed, and we will merit to multiply and spread out to the west, east, north, and south.

Prepare the Next Stage Now

Now is the time to wake-up in repentance and prepare detailed building programs for large and cheap housing, so that every young couple can purchase a house, under reasonable conditions, and raise a large family. Also, so that when, God willing, the building freeze is removed, construction can be started immediately. Thank God, this is how we have acted here on Har Bracha.

Therefore, in spite of the fact that the community is located on the front-line and in the depths of the Shomron, it has grown in eight years from 100 families to over 240 families, and presently, there are another 70 apartments being built.