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
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
"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
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
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
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.