Rabbi Daniel Myers



Question: Rav Soloveitchik zt”l maintained that regarding territorial compromise, the people, rabbis included, must defer to the judgment of the authorities. Why then do many laymen and rabbis alike, who consider themselves Talmidim of the Rav, reject and protest the disengagement plan?  Mr.Yaakov Gross 


Rabbi Daniel Myers: The Halachic Sugya of disengagement is quite a complicated one. It includes, but is not limited to, the Machloket Rambam-Ramban regarding Kivush Haaretz, (see Ramban’s list of Mitzvot Asai in his Pairush on the Rambam’s Saifer Hamitzvot) an analysis and application of the Minchat Chinuch’s commentary on the Mitzvah of destroying the seven nations, (Parshat V’etchanan Mitzvah 425) and a thorough investigation into the military and political ramifications of territorial exchange. Such a study is beyond the scope of this essay. However, we will rephrase and address the specific question raised here: Can one who follows the psak Halacha of the Rav protest against the disengagement, or must he humbly submit to the greater authority of the government?  (Editor’s note: this will be addressed at a later time. For now, we will reprint the Rav’s words)



Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik on Territorial Compromise

[Translation of a five-minute segment of the Rav’s 1967 Teshuva drasha (although the drasha was summarized in “Al Hateshuva”, this portion never appeared. From Arnold Lustiger)


“I don’t intend here to engage in politics, but this is a matter that has weighed heavily upon me since last June. I am very unqualified to assess the extent of the deliverance that the Ribono Shel Olam accomplished on behalf of Klal Yisrael and the Jewish victory over those who hate Israel. But in my opinion, the greatest deliverance, and the greatest miracle, is simply that He saved the population of Israel from total annihilation. Don’t forget that the Arabs were Hitler’s students, Amalek, and in regard to the Arabs there is a Mitzvah of utterly blotting out Amalek’s memory. Today, they are Hitler, they want to uproot the Jewish people, and it is possible that Russia is together with them in this regard, so the status of Amalek falls upon Russia as well. The blood congeals when one considers what would have happened to the Yishuv, to the hundreds of thousands of religious Jews, of gedolei Yisrael, or to all the Jews in Israel for that matter--”there is no difference”-- all Jews are Jews. This is the greatest salvation--but also that the State itself was saved. Because even if the population would remain alive, but if God forbid the fate of Israel would fall, there would be a wave of assimilation and apostasy in America as well as in all Western countries. In England I heard that Rothchild said that Israel’s victory saved Judaism in France. He is 100% correct--this was better articulated by him than many Rabbis in Israel regarding the ultimate significance of the victory. But one thing I want to say. These reasons constitute the primary salvation behind the Six Day War. Indeed, we rejoice in the [capture of] the Western Wall, in the Cave of the Patriarchs, in Rachel’s tomb.  I understand the holiness of the Kotel Hamaarovi. I studied Kodshim since I was a child: Kidsha le’asid lavo , kedushas makom, kedushas  mechitzos, lifnei Hashem--these are concepts with which I grew up in  the cradle. The Kotel Hamaarovi is very dear, and the Har Habayis is very dear to me: I understand the kedusha perhaps much more than many  religious journalists who have written so much about the Kotel  Hamaarovi. But we exaggerate its importance. Our Judaism is not a religion of shrines, and it seems from this that it lies in the interests of the Ministry of Religions to institute a [foreign] concept of holy sites in Judaism--a concept we never had. We indeed have the concept of kedushas mokom, this is the Bais Hamikdash, [but] graves are not mekomos hakedoshim. As important as kivrei tzaddikim are, they are not holy. Perhaps there is a different halacha. To visit kivrei tzaddikim is important, like mekomos hakedoshim.  I will tell you a secret--it doesn’t matter under whose jurisdiction the Kotel Hamaarovi lies--whether it is under the Ministry of Parks or under the Ministry of Religions, either way no Jew will disturb the site of the Kotel Hamaarovi. One is indeed on a great spiritual level if he desires to pray at the Kotel Hamaarovi. But many mistakenly believe that the significance of the victory lies more in regaining the Kotel Hamaarovi than the fact that 2 million Jews were saved, and that the Malkhut Yisrael was saved. Because really, a Jew does not need the Kotel Hamaarovi to be lifnei (in front of) Hashem. Naturally, mikdash has a separate kedusha which is lifnei Hashem. But there is a lifnei Hashem which spreads out over the entire world, wherever a Jew does not sin, wherever a Jew learns Torah, wherever a Jew does mitzvos, “minayen sheshnayim yoshvim ve’oskim beTorah hashechinah imahem”--through the  entire world. I want you to understand, I give praise and thanks to the Ribono Shel Olam for liberating the Kotel Hamaarovi and for liberating and for removing all Eretz Yisrael from the Arabs, so that  it now belongs to us. But I don’t need to rule whether we should give the West Bank back to the Arabs or not to give the West Bank to the Arabs: we Rabbis should not be involved in decisions regarding the safety and security of the population. These are not merely Halakhic rulings: these decisions are a matter of pikuach nefesh for the entire population. And if the government were to rule that the safety of the population requires that specific territories must be returned, whether I issue a halakhic ruling or not, their decision is the deciding factor. If pikuach nefesh supercedes all other mitzvos, it  supercedes all prohibitions of the Torah, especially pikuach nefesh of  the yishuv in Eretz Yisrael. And all the silly statements I read in the newspapers-- one journalist says that we must give all the territory back, another says that we must give only some territory back, another releases edicts, strictures and warnings not to give anything back. These Jews are playing with 2 million lives. I will say that as dear as the Kotel Hamaarovi is, the 2 million lives of Jews are more important.  We have to negotiate with common sense, as the security of the yishuv requires. What specifically these security requirements are, I don’t know, I don’t understand these things. These decisions require a military perspective, which one must research assiduously. The borders that must be established should be based upon that which will provide more security. It is not a topic appropriate for which Rabbis should release statements or for Rabbinical conferences.”


- Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik