Rabbi Eliezer Melamed
Rabbi Eliezer MelamedCourtesy

Recently I visited a community, and held a discussion with the young people, and one of the girls asked:: Is it permissible to be angry at God for not helping us on Simchat Torah, and allowing our enemies to murder us? Afterwards, it became clear that the questioner was the daughter of one of the great heroes who endangered themselves to save the Gaza perimeter communities.

This is how I responded: In the context of a person’s relationship with their Creator,

We find that the great Sages of Israel asked piercing questions, and even made accusations towards Heaven. When it all stems from faith and honesty, then through the crisis and difficult prayer, one gains strength to continue walking in the ways of God on a higher level.

As King David said: “For your sake, we are killed all day long, we are counted as sheep for the slaughter. Awake, why do you sleep, O Lord, arouse, do not reject forever” (Psalms 44:23-24). And he argued with God, that after promising to help the Davidic monarchy – “But you have rejected, and despised… you have profaned his crown to the ground… You have broken through all its barriers… all who pass along the way plunder it, it has become a disgrace to its neighbors” (Psalms 89:39-47). And it is also written: “Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me’” (Isaiah 49:14), and God replied that He did not forget, and her salvation is near.

Therefore, the families of the kedoshim, the holy martyrs who sacrificed their lives, can argue with God about why their righteous father, who was not guilty of all the failures, and endangered himself to save the people of Israel, was killed sanctifying God’s name, and how God did not protect him, and left them orphans.

And if they plead out of sincere faith and honesty of heart, and merit to pray to God, God will help, and bring them comfort, blessing and salvation.

Regarding the events themselves, there is no place for anger

The nation of Israel as a whole cannot complain regarding what happened on Simchat Torah,. For God gave us free choice, and the people of Israel chose to try to appease its enemies through concessions, while ignoring their desire to destroy the State of Israel.

About thirty years ago, in the framework of the Oslo Accords, the government agreed to bring the PLO terrorist organization back into the country, arm it, and allow it to establish a Palestinian Authority, while ignoring its continued education for war against Israel. Afterwards, in the year 2000, the government ordered the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, betraying the SLA (South Lebanon Army). The withdrawal was seen as a humiliating defeat, boosted Hezbollah’s stature as the first organization to repel the IDF thus becoming the dominant force in Lebanon, and since then, it has continued amassing arms to become a severe threat to all of the State of Israel.

The withdrawal also encouraged our enemies in Judea and Samaria to launch the Second Intifada. Afterwards, in 2005, the government destroyed all the communities of Gush Katif, and as a result, Hamas took over Gaza. After that, despite recognizable signs of Hamas’ intention to attack Israel, the security establishment dismissed its capabilities. Even when Hamas attacked Israel, they sufficed with limited operations, after which, it continued strengthening its military capabilities.

In disgraceful agreements, the State of Israel released many terrorists in exchange for a few of our captives. The worst deal of all was in October 2011, when 1,027 terrorists were released in exchange for Gilad Shalit. Aside from the fact that releasing terrorists incentivizes them to keep fighting us, the freed terrorists returned to terrorism, and they organized the Hamas attack on Simchat Torah that led to the death of nearly fifteen hundred Jewish martyrs.

Even when grave warnings reached the security establishment of Hamas’ intentions to attack Jewish communities, they ignored them based on a distorted worldview that does not understand our enemy’s mindset and objectives.

Despite the security establishment’s frequent threats that the IDF can destroy Lebanon and Gaza, in actuality, there was insufficient ammunition in army warehouses to conduct a prolonged war. (We had to rely on the United States,ed.)

It is hard to grasp the enormity of the negligence The defense budget is about seventy billion shekels annually, the cost of ammunition is a tiny fraction of that, yet the annual rearmament plans did not provide enough ammunition to be able to defeat our enemies, those who constantly threaten us.

In the past year, following the intense dispute about reforming the justice system, when pilots announced their intention to refuse to fight the enemy, instead of understanding the gravity of the damage to Israel’s deterrence and dismissing them that very day, the security establishment amplified their claims while publicly threatening the government that the IDF’s capabilities are impaired, thus encouraging the enemy to attack.

They also ignored the warnings on the night before the attack, did not wake the Prime Minister, and did not prepare the forces assigned to defend the communities, nor make sure the soldiers near the border were awake to prepare for the early morning attack.

In such a situation, it is difficult to blame God. God gave us wisdom to understand and plan our ways, and gave us economic and military power, and when we make poor choices, the blame is on us. We must do deep soul searching to understand how the security establishment’s leaders, whose love for the state of Israel is in no doubt, failed so badly in understanding the enemy, and in preparing the army for the war required against it.

Emigration of Arabs from Gaza to Other Countries

Unfortunately, the overall soul searching has not yet begun, and it is imperative to do it even during war, because in war, processes can be initiated that will lead to long term achievements. The time has come for government representatives to start raising the solution of emigration for those interested in leaving Gaza. Because, after all, it seems there is no other solution. If they remain in Gaza, it is nearly certain they will return to their ways, and we will need to continue fighting them.

Figurines of Human and Animal Forms

Q: Is it permitted to display small figurines of human forms on shelves in the living room, such as soldiers, clowns, leaders, authors and dancing Hassidim, as well as animal figurines?

A: It is forbidden to make figurines in human form, but it is permitted to keep them in the home for decoration. And it is permitted to make and keep animal figurines in the home.

I will explain the law at length: It is a severe prohibition to make an idol in order to worship it as an idol. Additionally, the Torah prohibited making figurines and forms that depict higher powers, that viewers may mistakenly think have power and influence, and will want to worship them as idols. As the Torah says: “With Me, therefore, you shall not make any gods of silver, nor shall you make for yourselves any gods of gold” (Exodus 20:20).

The prohibition of making figurines for decoration applies to three types: 1) Human form, since man was created in the image of God. 2) Angel form. 3) Heavenly bodies – sun, moon and stars (Avoda Zara 43b). But figurines in the form of other things like animals – are permitted to be made. Additionally, our Sages prohibited keeping a figurine that people commonly worship in the home, lest those who have it be suspected of wanting to worship the figurine in their home. But if there is no concern of such suspicion, since no one considers these figurines to be idols, there is no prohibition to keep them at home.

Therefore, it is forbidden to make human figurines, but if non-Jews made them, as is common today that such figurines are manufactured in factories overseas, it is permitted to buy them, and use them to decorate the home (Chochmat Adam 75:6, and many others). Although there are those poskim who say it is preferable not to decorate the home with a figurine that Jews are forbidden to make.

Making a Figurine of Half a Human

The prohibition to make a figurine in human form is specifically a complete figurine, with its face and entire body. Whether it is a full 3D figurine, or a relief of its front side with the entire face and body. But it is permitted to make a human figurine that has a significant deficiency, such as missing part of the ear or leg. It is also permitted to make a bust, meaning a figurine of a person with an exact face and half their body, like the statues of previous presidents in the Beit Hanasi (President’s House) courtyard. It is also permitted to make a profile relief, since in profile, one only sees one eye, one hand, and one leg (Tosafot Rid, Rosh, Tur and Shulchan Aruch, and Rema 141:7, and many others). Although there are those who are stringent about this (Sefer Mitzvot Gedolot, Maharit), the halakha follows the majority of poskim who permitted it.

Is it Permitted to Play With Children’s Dolls?

Q: Is it permitted to buy a doll for play, or is it considered a human figurine that the Torah prohibited? And if bought, must one remove an ear or nose or eye from the doll so it isn’t complete? And if a doll’s hand fell off, may one reattach the hand?

A: Not only is it permitted to buy dolls and there is no need to remove anything from them, but it is even permitted for Jews to make dolls. For the Torah’s prohibition to make human figurines is specifically regarding a large or small figurine made to stand in a dignified manner. But it is permitted to make a doll for children’s play, since it does not resemble idol figurines at all, is not stood with honor, as sometimes it is placed on the floor and gets dirty. This was written by the Maharit (Yoreh Deah 35). And in recent generations this was ruled by Rav Kapach (Responsa 37), and Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 3:64).

However, some poskim were stringent to consider a doll like a prohibited figurine, and were even stringent not to keep it at home without damaging part of its face (Shevet Halevi 7:134). However, the main halakha is that it is even permitted for a Jew to make dolls for play, and this is the Jewish custom. Therefore, if a doll’s hand fell off, it is permitted to fix it, since the prohibition of making a figurine does not apply to a play doll. All the more so, it is permitted to buy a doll made by non-Jews, since the prohibition of keeping a figurine at home is rabbinic, so that one should not be suspected of wanting to worship the figurine. And when there is no concern of suspicion, there is no prohibition.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated