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25 Iyar 5760 - May 31, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
The Danger of Secular Control of Eretz Yisroel

by Rabbi Nosson Zeev Grossman

Fifty-two years after the State's establishment, its leaders are still floundering helplessly, attempting to combat antagonistic countries and terrorist groups that refuse to recognize the State's existence. These enemies continue to threaten Israeli lives in their determination to realize their age-old aspiration of "driving the Jews into the ocean." Even the Palestine Authority undoubtedly still has euphoric dreams of a Judenrein Palestine stretching to the Mediterranean, as they constantly preach and teach to their citizens.

Our true problem, however, is not with our outside enemies. It is with those who have gained control of the Jewish Nation in Eretz Yisroel, those who claim to be protecting its citizens from the enemies who seek to destroy them.

We do not pretend to be experts in international affairs or military strategy. We do not have the professional expertise to examine whether withdrawing from Lebanon, especially in such a hasty way, was beneficial, and if the decision to carry out the operation expressed the only, or the most correct, alternative in that specific situation. We also do not presume to examine whether the original decision to create a buffer zone within Lebanon was correct or not.

Doubtless the Katyusha rockets raining down on the north Galilee settlements, and especially the losses of soldiers within Lebanon, created an unbearable situation. There was a clear across-the-board consensus that the soldiers in the area must be protected, and many argued that in this day of easily deployable long-range missiles, there is no strategic advantage to holding Lebanese territory at such high cost.

It is quite possible that the only way to end this unendurable situation was to finally withdraw from Lebanon. The question is only who made the decision and what were the motives prompting it. Were they only motives of sincere concern for the safety of Israeli citizens, or perhaps were there other reasons -- different reasons altogether?

It is thoroughly superfluous to point out that what troubles us about these operations is not the same thing that annoys the Leftists. They are directing most of their spiritual resources into expressing pity for the enemies of the Jewish Nation and warning relentlessly against any "inhumane conduct" towards them. It should not be forgotten that Chazal write "One who has mercy on the cruel will in the end be cruel to the merciful" (Tanchuma [Warsaw ed.] Metzoroh 1).

We have other concerns, our perspective is altogether different: concern for all Jews and fear of taking any initiative that would endanger Jewish lives. This obligation is implanted deep within every observant Jew. He knows the halocho that in a case involving bloodshed all the mitzvos of the Torah are set aside (except for the three cardinal sins). Maranan verabonon shlita ruled according to this halocho that for genuine peace it is permitted to turn territories of Eretz Yisroel over to the Arabs.

It would be an understatement to say that we are skeptical whether those who, in the past and the present, have been in charge of making the decisions in the State of Israel take pikuach nefesh sufficiently into consideration. It is hard to believe that this is at the top of their ladder of priorities when making military decisions. It is general knowledge that some "brilliant military missions" just "happened" to be executed right before elections.

Maran HaRav Elazar Shach shlita, in a shmuess delivered in Ponevezh Yeshiva during the Sholom HaGalil Operation in 5742, after which Israel originally established the buffer zone in Lebanon, spoke painfully about the rashness with which those who have cast off the Torah's yoke make life-threatening decisions. They act irresponsibly in connection to questions of life and death.

"Whether it was right or not, whether they needed to do it or not, is a legitimate question. There are so many casualties, so many wounded because of it.

"In the outside world, the secular world, this is not taken into consideration at all. Lives are not precious to them. What is chiefly important to them is high governmental positions, being in power, staying in power and running the country. Their glory is more precious to them than anything else. For the sake of such a disgusting sin as running after glory and power -- a sin one ought to be ashamed of -- they are ready to send Jews to their death. Where is their conscience? Do they think they were born this way, in power? What will happen to them when they lose their positions? Is it justified, in order to gain this power, to act so wickedly towards so many Jews?

"But what is there to ask about conscience and morality when they are bribed by their lust for glory? They are enwrapped in personal interests and this bribery blinds them. Bribery applies not only to great issues -- even the smallest bribe is included. It is therefore prohibited for a dayan even to borrow a scythe from a litigant; that is already bribery. Even shochad devorim (the most minimal amount of benefit from a litigant) is also forbidden. (Kesuvos 105b). When a person is bribed he is blind and cannot see the truth. Try to talk with a blind person and tell him how bright the sun in shining; he will not understand, since he cannot see. These people are bribed by their high governmental position and they see only that.

"We are living in a time of war. May HaKodosh Boruch Hu help us, that we be saved from our enemies! Yet all the same we must know what the Torah's outlook is and live accordingly. I am not talking about what was done here, but if we consider in depth, will we feel right in calling this a victory? We see that there are those, even gedolei Torah, rabbonim, who consider what happened here a milchemes mitzvah. Is this really a milchemes mitzvah? Was not the decision to start the war determined by a vote in the Knesset? That vote was entirely based upon collusive deals among the MKs: you say this and I will say that, I will support you if you will do so and so, as the gemora writes, `You watch for me and I will watch for you.' This is the way they reached the decision and obtained approval to launch a war. If the connivances had brought the opposite results, then the vote would have been different and another decision would have been reached. Can we rely on such decisions? Can personal considerations like this dictate the path of a whole people and decide life-threatening issues?"

Incidentally, at that time, when the mission in Lebanon seemed to be a "brilliant success," Maran shlita warned against being deluded. He cited what Rabbeinu Nissim Gaon wrote (about the episode of the tanur shel achna'i in Bovo Metzia 49): that "sometimes a person is shown Heavenly `signs' that seem to lead to conclusions opposite to the Torah way and the halocho. This happens in order to test whether a person will remain firm in his opinion despite these `signs.'"

Maran shlita afterwards mentioned several points that arouse doubts about the "gains" of long-range war. We must remember that Maran spoke when the entire Israeli public applauded and praised the operation. Maran shlita, on the other hand, showed his deep concern about the future. Unfortunately, that is what materialized, and today with hindsight we see this as an example of how "a wise person is better than a prophet."

"As for the entire business, success is not at all sure. It does not at all guarantee our existence. If today [the terrorists] are defeated, what will be in another year, in another five years? We have no guarantee for the future, and the present situation does not show complete success, either. Today it is like this and tomorrow they are liable to, chas vesholom, become even stronger . . .."

These words echo all the louder now that Israel has withdrawn from its buffer zone in Lebanon, but the future remains every bit as cloudy as it was then.

If we wish to grasp the significance of the present period, as well as the true causes for lack of tranquility in the Holy Land in the preceding decades, the answer appears in parshas Acharei: "You shall therefore keep My statues and My ordinances, and shall not do any of those abominations . . . that the land not vomit you out when you defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you" (Vayikro 18:26-27). Rashi writes that this can be understood through a "parable of a prince who was given something repulsive to eat. It does not remain in his stomach and he vomits it out. In the same way Eretz Yisroel does not allow sinners to continue living there."

The singular status of Eretz Yisroel makes it unable to bear sinners. It is like a fastidious prince who cannot digest anything repulsive. The conclusion is clear: the attempt to create a culture desecrating Torah in Eretz Yisroel, in the king's courtyard, is a continuing threat to the security of the Jewish People who live in the Holy Land. This is what we indeed see in daily life. Ever since the Zionist Movement began to build a national-secular entity in Eretz Yisroel, the old yishuv was more and more threatened by enemies who design to destroy it, Rachmono litzlan.

The reaction of the Divine Attribute of strict judgment to desecration of the Torah in the Holy Land is so severe that even Torah-observers may, chas vesholom, be punished in the general punishment when the land vomits them out, unless they protest vigorously against those who attempt to destroy Judaism.

We learn the same thing from the Or HaChaim in parshas Kedoshim: "`You shall therefore keep all My statues, and all My ordinances and do them, that the land where I bring you to dwell therein may not vomit you out' (Vayikra 20:22). The reason that the Torah needed to write this posuk, even though it is already written in parshas Acharei Mos, is to teach us that we must see to it that the mitzvos are not annulled -- by ourselves or by others -- so the land will not vomit us out. In addition, we infer that if the mitzvos are not observed then the land will vomit out even those who observe the Torah, since they did not protest against those who did not observe it."

In the beginning of parshas Re'ei the Or HaChaim adds that the enemy's attitude to Jews living in Eretz Yisroel is dependent upon the spiritual behavior of the Jews living there. He explains that the posuk, "Behold, I set before you this day a brocho and a keloloh" (Devorim 11:26), refers to receiving Eretz Yisroel. "This receiving [of Eretz Yisroel] has in it a brocho and a keloloh. If `they will hearken unto the mitzvos of Hashem' it will be a brocho, but if not it will be a keloloh through which the nations will envy you and will remove you from [the Land] with great vengefulness." When Torah is desecrated on the Holy Land the brocho is liable to become a keloloh, chas vesholom, "through which the nations will envy you."

The gedolei Torah who realize the lofty stature of the Holy Land have always lived in the tangible faith that desecrating the Torah is liable to cause the land to vomit them out. In the introduction to Or Yahel, the following story about HaRav Yehuda Leib Chasman zt'l, the mashgiach in Yeshivas Chevron, is cited: "At that time Eretz Yisroel trembled four hundred parsa'os, when it became known that one kibbutz raised rabbits with which they were metamei themselves. A boy who was well acquainted with R' Leib Chasman entered his house and found him sitting and tapping his finger on his table for a half an hour without speaking a word (he was accustomed to do so when he felt acute sorrow). When the boy asked what he was worried about he did not answer him. However, when the boy pressed him he answered as follows: `The Torah writes, "And the land will not vomit you out" [only if the mitzvos are observed]. If so, in such a situation [our enemies] will chase us from the Holy Land. I will go where I can, but she' -- he pointed to the Rebbetzin lying ill in her bed -- `how will she be able to go?'"

We hope and pray that the northern settlements will indeed be able to live in peace and that HaKodosh Boruch Hu will protect our brethren and all of beis Yisroel, wherever they live, from the enemies who rise up against us to destroy us.

At the same time, though, we must repeat to ourselves constantly that a leadership that threatens the spiritual future of am Yisroel is not authorized to function in any matter, even one connected only to our physical existence. Placing the fate of the Jewish Nation in the hands of such people is a real danger.

Maranan verabonon wrote in their letter about the Oslo Agreements almost seven years ago that a government that includes those who wish to uproot the Torah from the Jewish Nation and turn it into a nation like other nations endangers Jewish existence, and therefore "one should not rely on their decisions." When one contemplates the various motives of those who oppose the political agreements of the present government, which again includes the most prominent uprooters of Torah in its leadership, one must discern clearly between the approach of those loyal to the Torah and that of the rightists. The latter are concerned with "guarding the completeness of the land" and the like, as a supreme value. These ideals have no place in our botei midrash. Our opposition to the current government arises only from the spiritual danger in it.

Our duty is not to safeguard the completeness of Eretz Yisroel or any other nationalistic values, but "that the mitzvos will not be annulled, by ourselves or by others" as the Or HaChaim HaKodosh wrote.

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