Sunday, April 3, 2005

Chop off their tongues?

Chop off their tongues?
April 3, 2005


I was aghast, reading an article titled "Disengagement and Halacha" by Eitan Kastner. [ – username: dwilder; password: eretz]  Posted a few days ago, this article summarizes a program recently held in New York, concerning the current 'disengagement' and its status in Jewish law (Halacha in Hebrew). Sponsored by the Yeshiva University Israel Club, the program featured three noted and important Rabbis, all holding major positions at Yeshiva University.

For those of you not familiar with this institution, ranks Yeshiva University 46th on its list of national universities, together with Penn. State, the University of Texas and others, a few places above Syracuse, George Washington and Boston U. According to it is " the oldest and largest university under Jewish auspices in the United States… and includes the well-known Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the Talmudic and Israel research institutes, and the graduate school of mathematical studies."

Yeshiva University is a bastion of higher education, combining the best of Jewish educators, together with top notch secular programs. Many graduates of the undergraduate and postgraduate studies are official, ordained rabbis.

Amongst the university's top educational staff are Chancellor Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, Dean Rabbi Zevulun Charlop and Spiritual supervisor Rabbi Yosef Blau.  These men considered to be, literally, 'the cream of the crop," scholars with international reputations, spoke at the above-mentioned program.

This is one of the reasons I am so upset.

In short, these three rabbis all agreed that according to strict Jewish Torah law, the government of Israel can justifiably 'give back territory if they feel that the welfare of the country depends on it.'  The foundation of their opinion is a rabbinic ruling which says, "the law of the land is the law" (dina d'malchuta dina). Simplistically, whatever the government legally decides, is valid.

They also all oppose 'refusal to obey orders' by soldiers and police, forced to carry out Sharon's dirty work.

However, former university president Lamm goes several steps further. Speaking about 'ideology of fundamentalist settlers,' Lamm says, "When you take any mitzvah and you make it a supreme mitzvah above all other things in a way that Chazal (our Rabbis) do not say, then it is a form of idolatry." In other words, we are all idol worshipers. 

He adds, ""Whether the government should do it or should not do it is irrelevant. The government, having done what they did, we have no choice but to support them," and concludes that refusers should be "appropriately punished."

Rabbi Blau had the last word: ""Those who are so adamantly opposed to it [disengagement] should come up with an alternate policy with a long range approach."

It's difficult for me to relate to these men as 'Rabbis' – their opinions border on blasphemy.

True,  'the law of the land is law,' is legitimate but only as long as it does not negate Torah. Rabbi Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Hebron-Kiryat Arba, in answer to a question writes: "During the First Temple Era there were kings who broke Torah law. The prophets were sent to admonish them.  It makes no difference, kings or prime ministers, if they act against Torah, Jewish law prevails and one is not obligated to obey them."

For example, should the government decide that 'the welfare of the State' demands that all Jews work on Shabbat – the Sabbath, or that all Jews must eat, at least once a day, a mixed meat and dairy meal (which is forbidden), how would these same Rabbis rule? In the days when the Greeks and the Romans forbade Torah study, did the great teachers obey?  Rabbi Akiva, perhaps the greatest of our Sages, was tortured and killed by the Romans for teaching Torah to the masses. Should a future government decide, G-d forbid, to abandon Ma'arat HaMachpela and Temple Mount, how would these esteemed Rabbis rule?

Jewish law forbids abortions (excepting cases when the woman's life may be jeopardized by the pregnancy). Would these Rabbis permit abortions because a state assembly has decided that 'it is in the best welfare of the state' to allow them?

There is also a question as to who can define 'what is good for the state.'  Rabbi Lamm says: "If you ask a rabbi how to treat Hutchins disease...don't. If you do, there is something very wrong with you. The rabbanim are experts in halacha. They are not experts in other fields." Who, in our case in Israel, is the expert?  According to Yediot Achronot senior military correspondent Alex Fishman (as reported by, "IDF sources predict that immediately after the disengagement, the ceasefire is expected to end with terrorist attacks in and from Judea and Samaria. Among the threats are mortar and Kassam rockets on Israel's new toll-way Highway 6, as well as other areas in the coastal plain and the Afula area. The "regular" ambush attacks on roads, as well as attacks on army bases and towns in Judea and Samaria, are also expected. The Palestinian terrorists are heavily-armed, Fishman writes: "Despite the successes in discovering arms-smuggling tunnels [between Egypt and Gaza], in the battle between smuggling and thwarting smuggling, the smugglers have won."

According to army estimates, in the eight-month period between July 2004 and February 2005, over 3,000 assault rifles were smuggled into Gaza, as well as 400,000 bullets, 400 pistols, and 600 kilograms of explosives.

In addition, over 180 anti-tank rocket launchers and 5 anti-aircraft rockets are now in the possession of the Palestinian terrorists. In short, Fishman sums up, "stopping the smuggling has become a matter of national existence. It is liable to spell the difference between a diplomatic agreement and a comprehensive war against the Palestinians."

So, who is the expert on what's best for Israel – Sharon, or top military analysts? It is a well known secret that both Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon and Intelligence Chief Avi Dichter were axed by Sharon due to their professional opposition to the abandonment of Gush Katif.

Rabbi Lamm's statement about idolatry is incomprehensible. The very pillars of the Jewish people are founded on Eretz Yisrael. There is no question that the Jewish people came into existence in order to fulfill Torah in the Land of Israel. Without Eretz Yisrael there is no Jewish people. They are intrinsically entwined. So how can a 'learned Rabbi' define 'fundamentalist settlers' as idol worshipers because they desire only to preserve what is rightfully ours, the land that is the basis of our existence?

Eretz Yisrael has been defined as 'the soul of the Jewish people.' Who is best suited to deal with the soul – Rabbis or corrupt politicians?

And last, but certainly not least, I must reply to Rabbi Blau, who demanded " an alternate policy with a long range approach." There is only one plan that I know of, that I have no doubt, would work. And it is not an alternative plan, rather it is the primary plan. That is, of course, that Rabbis Lamm, Charlop and Blau should move themselves, with their entire institution, from New York, to, say, Neve Dekalim, or maybe Hebron, or perhaps Jerusalem, or, as a last resort, Tel Aviv. That is the policy that G-d had in mind some 3,700 years ago when He commanded Abraham to walk from Iraq to Eretz Yisrael. I guess you could also call it a 'long-range approach,' – eternal approaches could be defined as 'long-range.'

One final point: I don't know much about the family history of Rabbis Lamm and Blau. However, Rabbi Zevulan Charlop's grandfather was the renowned Torah scholar, Rabbi Ya'akov Moshe Charlop, the principal student of Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, the first Israeli Chief Rabbi. Rabbi Charlop, a true lover of Eretz Yisrael was a bountiful and sublime writer. But he also knew how to make a blunt point.

When the British suggested a "partition plan", dividing Eretz Yisrael into two entities, Rabbi Charlop wrote: "Behold, the matter is simple and clear – Heaven forbid that the Jewish People relinquish any tiny concession of any iota of land that is sanctified with the holiness of Eretz Yisrael…. There is no doubt that if the matter reaches the point where we will need sign an international agreement that includes any form of surrender of our rights to Eretz Yisrael, it is preferable for those signing to chop off their thumbs, rather than to chop up the garden of Zion." (“Zikof HaKooma, Daniel Sirkus, His Life and Deeds,” by Pincus Sirkus. Pg. 112. Also, Tachumin, Vol. 9, Pg. 270)

What would Rabbi Charlop say today about his grandson and his contemporaries? Maybe he would suggest chopping off their tongues so as not to defile their mouths, agreeing to dismember our Land?

With blessings from Hebron.

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