web analytics
November 25, 2014 / 3 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Commanders, Rabbis, And The Great Divide


We are told that “a soldier must have a commander, and it isn’t a rabbi.” The defense minister of Israel accuses us – this writer and other Hesder rabbis – of “destabilizing the foundations of Israeli democracy, inciting toward insubordination, damaging the spirit of the Israel Defense Forces,” adding, “there is no room for such things in a civilized state.”

This is a libel – against us and against our holy Torah, whose words are good and correct. Such statements lead the public to think the rabbis are endangering the existence of the army and are designed to arouse hate and animosity toward the rabbis and their positions.

After all, who in his right mind would not be worried about those who endanger the existence of an army that is meant to protect us all? The truth, however, is that there is absolutely no contradiction between a military commander and a rabbi on issues of security, for Jewish law obligates one to listen to the commander, whether during military exercises or an actual war.

Our disagreements with the defense minister are over issues that in no way are connected to security operations, but rather with the use of soldiers against their fellow Jews.

To illustrate just how great a libel has been promulgated, I will relate what I experienced during the Second Lebanon War. At that time, a large sector of the public was suffering from the destruction of Gush Katif and the expulsion of Jews from Gaza. The prime minister, Ehud Olmert, made a miserable statement that victory over Hizbullah would enable hitkonsut (“convergence” – or, in everyday language, retreat from territory in Judea and Samaria).

A question arose from a number of reserve-duty soldiers who received a call-up before the ground forces were about to enter Lebanon: Should they go to war?

I made it clear that it was a mitzvah to go to war. Even when the heads of the army are problematic, and there are errors and obstacles in their directives, it is still a mitzvah to serve in the army. When we Jews did not have an army, our situation was far, far worse.

Some called to ask me whether it would better not to serve in the army because if we won in Lebanon we would be ensuring the future loss of land in Judea and Samaria, thus subjecting the nation to even greater danger. Again I replied – as per my obligation to do so according to my understanding of halacha – that it is a mitzvah to serve.

There were some women who pleaded for an exemption 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 therefore the risk to the lives of their husbands would be greater. I answered that while the decision was theirs, if the question is what must be done according to halacha, the answer is that their husbands must serve.

Once the women understood 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 military commanders who for nearly two years had devoted themselves to preparing for the expulsion of Jews from Gaza would not be able to defeat the enemy, because their basic outlook was so distorted. Nevertheless, we were obligated to face the enemy together.

We had 150 students, regular soldiers and reserve, in Lebanon, and with the kindness of God they all returned peacefully, with only one moderately injured. And officers who had been students of Yeshiva Har Bracha killed numerous terrorists and brought all their soldiers home safely.

The IDF is the army of the people, and the boundaries of its use must be clear: to protect against the enemy. When our political and military officials breach this basic rule and use soldiers against their countrymen, as in the expulsion of Jews from their homes in the land of Israel, they are breaching military unity. Not only that, but a Great Divide is erected 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.

The horrible results of such a divide are twofold: First, the distancing of non-religious and even traditional Jews from the holy Torah, which was given to all of Israel. Second, the distancing of God-fearing Jews from the army, for if the military command blatantly declares it is forbidden for a religious soldier to accept the words of halacha from the rabbis, it creates a conflict between guarding the Torah and serving in the army.

Libel against the Torah and its bearers is nothing new; it has been used for decades by non-religious political parties and caused severe damage. Many Jews have been alienated from their heritage because of such arguments, to the point where the future of many families within the framework of the Jewish nation hangs in doubt.

We, the bearers of Torah, also have a share of blame in this. We closed ourselves up with questions related to our small communities while neglecting issues concerning Klal Yisrael and the society around us. Such behavior has made it all that much easier for the public to accept the anti-religious arguments.

About the Author: Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, a leader of Israel’s religious-Zionist community, is dean of Yeshiva Har Bracha and a prolific author on Jewish Law. His books “The Laws of Prayer,” “The Laws of Passover” and “Nation, Land, Army” are being translated into English. He can be contacted at yonaton@yhb.org.il.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Commanders, Rabbis, And The Great Divide”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Posted to Twitter in Ferguson, MO by St. Louis County Police: "Bricks thrown at police, 2 police cars burned, gun seized by police. Tonight was disappointing."  Their motto is, "To protect and serve."
Pro-ISIS Group Says ‘Use Ferguson Flames to Fuel Terror in America’
Latest Indepth Stories
Red Line Obama

“What’s a line between friends?”

West_Bank_&_Gaza_Map_2007_(Settlements)

Unrest in YESHA and J’m helps Abbas and Abdullah defuse anger, gain politically and appear moderates

Thousands of rabbis pose in front of Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters in Brooklyn on Sunday during the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries.

A “Shliach” means to do acts with complete devotion and dedication in order to help bring Moshiach.

Arabs create opening for terrorists to walk the security wall between Ramallah and Jerusalem and Ramallah.

The pogroms in Chevron took place eighty five years ago, in 1929; the Holocaust began seventy-five years ago in 1939; the joint attack of Israel’s neighbors against the Jewish State of Israel happened sixty-six years ago… yet, world history of anti-Semitism did not stop there, but continues until today. Yes, the primitive reality of Jews […]

“We don’t just care for the children; we make sure they have the best quality of life.”

“Why do people get complacent with the things they’re told?”

Arab opposition to a Jewish State of any size was made known by word and deed in the form of terror

Operation Moses: First time in history that non-blacks came to Africa to free blacks from oppression

As Arabs murder and maim Jews, Jordan’s leaders bark the blood libel of “Israeli aggression.”

Perhaps attacking a terrorist’s legacy broadly and publicly would dissuade others from terrorism?

R’ Aryeh yelled “Run, I’ll fight!” Using a chair against terrorists to buy time so others could flee

Riot started when Muslim students wore the Pal. kaffiyeh and Druze students demanded them removed

The “Media” didn’t want us to know what a kind, giving, loving young woman Dalia was.

A “Palestine” could become another Lebanon, with many different factions battling for control.

Maimonides himself walked and prayed in the permissible areas when he visited Eretz Yisrael in 1165

Having a strong community presence at the polls shows our elected officials we care about the issues

More Articles from Rabbi Eliezer Melamed
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya speaking with Arab security officers, before giving a speech on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Islam’s approach to God extends to all interpersonal relationships, which are based on honor.

In recent times we have witnessed increasing support for Israel on the part of evangelical Christians. They view the establishment of the State of Israel as the miraculous fulfillment of the vision of the biblical prophets.

The recent appalling murders in Itamar shocked everyone – not just settlers but every Jew without exception, because it wasn’t the Fogel family alone whom the enemy wished to murder, but rather each and every one of us.

We are told that “a soldier must have a commander, and it isn’t a rabbi.” The defense minister of Israel accuses us – this writer and other Hesder rabbis – of “destabilizing the foundations of Israeli democracy, inciting toward insubordination, damaging the spirit of the Israel Defense Forces,” adding, “there is no room for such things in a civilized state.”

Once again, Israeli leftists, with assistance from the media, are composing songs, lighting candles and organizing dances around a new golden calf. This time it is the demand to do “everything possible” to bring home the captured soldier Gilad Shalit.

In reading Parshat Zachor (Deut. 25:17-19) we fulfill the commandment to remember what the nation of Amalek did to us. The sages instituted its reading just before Purim in order to link this mitzvah to the feast day on which we celebrate the blotting out of Haman, who was of Amalekite genealogy.

Rabbi Avraham Isaac HaCohen Kook (1865-1935) was an extraordinary Torah giant. His genius was astounding – there was no field of Torah study he had not mastered. His recall was astonishing – great scholars related that no matter what Torah subject they discussed with him it would appear as if he had just recently learned the issue in depth.

With the arrival of the new year, we must stop to reflect upon our deeds in order to pave the way for self-improvement. The current crisis here in Israel indicates that there is a serious problem. By drawing the necessary conclusions now, we can emerge from these difficulties into the light of solace and salvation.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/commanders-rabbis-and-the-great-divide/2009/12/23/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: