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October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
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Rabbi Efrati: Dead Druze Soldier, Halachically, Not our ‘Brother’


The funeral for Majdi Halabi in the town of Daliyat al-Karmel.

The funeral for Majdi Halabi in the town of Daliyat al-Karmel.
Photo Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv/Flash90

During the Friday funeral for Druze IDF soldier Majdi Halabi, Rabbi Professor Daniel Hershkowitz called Majdi Halabi “our brother.”

On the popular National-Religious site Serugim, a halachic question was posed to Rabbi Baruch Efrati, Rabbi of the Zayit Raanan shul in the town of Efrat, regarding the use of the term “brother” in reference to a non-Jew.

Rabbi Efrati responded that the Druze and Circassians (both are minority ethnic groups living in Israel) have chosen to share their destiny with the state of Israel. In return, Israel owes them a covenant of blood, which we do not violate it. Israel must be committed to their safety and welfare.

But the question was formulated in halachic terms, as to whether or not Jewish law permitted referring to them specifically as brothers, and according to Rabbi Efrati, the gemorah in tractate Sotah (41:) takes exception to using the word “brother” when referring to a non-Jew. The gemorah brings the case of King Agripas, who shed tears when he read the verse prohibiting making a non-Jew king of Israel. The sages then cried out to him: You are our brother, about which Rabbi Nathan said it was the cause for their annihilation, as flattery was substituted for the law.

So it would seem preferable not to use that term about the late Majdi Halabi.

Rabbi Efrati then expanded on the answer and said that since the Druze and Circassians are monotheists living in Israel and loyal to Israel, they have the halachic status of ‘Ger Toshav,’ a monotheistic resident, which might then allow the use of the “brother” reference, but again he concludes, based on an opinion of the Maharal of Prague, that the use of “Brother” would still be inappropriate.

Rabbi Efrati nevertheless concludes that Majdi Halabi died a ‘Holy Martyr,’ since he was serving in the IDF when he died and can be counted among the ‘Righteous of the Nations,’ and he is included in the “Av Harachamim” prayer in synagogue, and God will surely avenge his death.

But, while we are obligated to treat them with love, peace and friendship, the designation of “Brother” is not halachically prescribed, as he is not a Jew.

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7 Responses to “Rabbi Efrati: Dead Druze Soldier, Halachically, Not our ‘Brother’”

  1. Anonymous says:

    That's a terrible headline. Much as you probably don't like it, many people read only the headlines. And this line, "Dead Druze soldier not our "brother" " is going to bring out all sorts of negative reactions to Rabbis, to Jews, and to Israel. The article explains & makes it clear that the soldier(obm) is held in high esteem, but the headline implies the opposite.

  2. I agree with chavazl as I did just that, but decided to read the article and found it didn't say that at all and in fact honoured this soldier. I think this heading should be removed.

  3. JoAnn Morris says:

    I felt the same way and was upset by the heading. But I do not have a problem with calling all people "brother." G-d did not tell us to view others differently just because their beliefs are different from ours. Shalom my brothers.

  4. Charlie Hall says:

    I also was offended when I read the title…and then I read the article. The title implies that Rabbi Efrati does not appreciate the sacrifices made by non-Jewish citizens of Israel…and after reading the article, I realized that nothing could be further from the truth! The title REALLY needs to be changed.

  5. Toviah Moldwin says:

    There's a reason why Rabbi Natan in that story is a da'at yachid. Sometimes it's necessary (for PR purposes if nothing else) to be a little loose with the technical halacha and halachic terminology when the situation calls for it. The end of the story with Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, with Zecharya ben Avkulos, is a similar situation.

    I'm not saying that Rabbi Efrati did anything wrong, but with journalism being what it is these days, it pays to be very careful what you say in public forums. Unfortunately, some of us (including myself) have had to learn that lesson the hard way…

  6. Yossie Bloch says:

    The Torah scroll was handed to King Agrippa, who read it standing. The sages praised him for this. When he read (Deut. 17:15) “You may not put a foreigner over you as king,” his eyes ran with tears, but they said to him, “Don’t fear, Agrippa, you are our brother, you are our brother! (Mishna, Sota 7:8)

  7. Jeff Eyges says:

    This is the sort of question with which the bearded wonders choose to occupy themselves. A better one would be, "How do we rid our subculture of the sinat chinam that has come to characterize it so pervasively?"

    But that, of course, would require introspection.

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