Refusing a Mad and Evil Order - Part I

To our distress, we have already drunken from this cup of bitterness in the past, during the removal of Yamit. Then, HaGaon Rabbi Yaakov Ariel wrote...

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Certainly according to the Torah and according to honest and natural human ethics, it is forbidden for a soldier to perform an evil and insane order. In essence, this is not an order, but rather wickedness and insanity. You do not have any insanity greater than this: instead of activating a strong and experienced army in order to liquidate a wretched and base gang, giving them a strip of Land and expelling loyal citizens from it.

In order to understand this, one does not need to be Chief of Staff, even the elderly Rosh Yeshiva of Volozhin, the Netziv, knew this. "'Hashem will strike you with insanity' - distorting the mind so that one does not observe carefully to protect himself from the nations of the world. 'And with blindness' - a few people who did not suffer from a lack of wisdom, will not see the evil that is coming upon them. 'And with confounding of the heart' - a portion of them will see, and also understand the evil, but the heart will be blocked so that they will be like a stone without the ability to do anything." (Devarim 28:28, Haemek Davar) When the sane person observes all of this stupidity, he himself "becomes insane": "'you will go insane from the sight of your eyes' - how emotion could arise like this, that a few thieves do a lot and your hand does not save you, when in truth it was in your power to stand up to them, but from this the emotion will leave your mind." (ibid. verse 34)

A normal order - certainly, the soldier is obligated to perform. The army is built upon obedience and loyalty, upon an officer who yells, "Follow me!" and they follow after him. Thus, the Netziv wrote regarding the issue of the obligation of a soldier's obedience: "It was a decree of all Israel among the nations in their wars when they were united on the Land, like a strong foundation, to help one another." (Commentary on She'iltot of Rabbi Achai Gaon, 142) The consideration is that there is nothing that weakens the grip of the nation and its existence in its Land like refusing to obey an order of the army, which would bring in its wake schism and weakness.

How improper are the people with all kinds of ideologies and world views who rise up to proclaim regarding refusal, and all the more so those who act this way! How much damage they cause to the army and to the nation! What a disgraceful mode of decadence! How much lack of an ethical and national responsibility! How shocking are the words of our prime minister, who announced in his time: There is room for refusal of orders, and when a soldier feels that he can not perform it for ethical reasons, he should explain this to his commanding officer and he will accept the results!

But for every principle there is an exception. If a soldier receives an order that contains a desecration of Shabbat or a lack of modesty, eating of non-kosher food or engaging in forbidden speech, then he certainly should not obey. Refusal of an order like this does not weaken the army, but on the contrary, strengthens it. Obviously, things like this will not occur in our army.

But when the matter relates to sovereignty over the Land of Israel, there exists here a deep point. This great mitzvah of retaining sovereignty over the Land is incumbent upon the community and not on an individual as an individual. To make aliyah, to live in the Land, to build the Land - this is a mitzvah incumbent upon the individual, and obviously it is fulfilled in every place in the Land. But to conquer the Land, to establish a state and to maintain sovereignty - this is incumbent upon the community. If a lone individual would do this, his actions have no value concerning that mitzvah, but is called a "conquest of an individual".

This basic principle is found mentioned by our great teacher, the Rambam, in relation to a different subject: "The Land of Israel, when mentioned in all places, is the Lands that were conquered by the king of Israel or a prophet with the consent of the majority of Israel and this is called a 'conquest of the community'. But an individual of Israel or a family or a tribe who went and conquered a place for themselves, even from the Land that was given to Avraham, [that Land] is not called the Land of Israel in regards to performing all of the mitzvot there. On account of this, Yehoshua and his Beit Din divided all of the Land of Israel among the tribes, even though it was not conquered, in order that it would not be a conquest of an individual when each of the tribes ascends and conquers his part." (Hilchot Terumot 1:2)

The soldier is an arm of the nation, an agent of the nation. If there is no head, there is no arm; if there is no sender, there is no agent; if there is no nation, the role of the soldier is emptied of content. The soldier only operates in the category of a part of the community and not as an individual for himself. If there is no community, there is no individual.

Truly, this is a deep issue, and also new-old. During two thousand years, we lived as individuals in exile, a nation scattered and separated. Even aliyah to the Land of Israel and the settlement of the Land was done by individuals. Now, we have merited to return to the category of a nation - in the framework of communal life. All matters of the nation returned and were reawakened.

Therefore, in a question of this type, not only regarding our specific question, do not be surprised if it seems to you that a true and loyal student is saying things that appear unidentifiable with the words of his teacher. Certainly, one who argues with his teacher is like one who argues with the Divine Presence, but if a student, at rare, extremely infrequent and exceptional times, at first glance does not seem exactly like his teacher, he does not cease to be a true and loyal student of his teacher on account of this. Furthermore, also in rare instances in which he expresses himself with great caution and does not seem exactly like his teacher, the truth of the matter is that he does this in the name of his teacher himself, and he stills follows after him, even though it seems as though he criticizes him.

But in our case, none of this is required, since we received instruction from the great teacher of the laws of the State of Israel, our rabbi, Rabbi Zvi Yehudah HaCohen Kook, who stood at the forefront of the struggle over retention of our Land. As is known, our rabbi had no dread or fear, no fear of man, he spoke the words of the true Torah like a true leader, he wrote tens of broadsheets (fliers) and he called upon us to follow him to struggle. His language was clear and precise, he painstakingly chose his words, and he never utilized the concept of refusal of an order, rather he wrote in a general fashion: "The obligation of every Jew and on all Torah scholars of Israel is to prevent and obstruct this [giving our Land to non-Jews, G-d forbid] with supreme effort and strength; from the Heavens we will be aided." ("Lo Taguru", from the book LeHilchot Tzibur #11)

Certainly, it is a mitzvah upon every individual to prevent this destruction, for a civilian just as for a soldier, but as was stated above, this abomination is not of the soldier, but of the government.

To our distress, we have already drunken from this cup of bitterness in the past, during the removal of Yamit. Then, HaGaon Rabbi Yaakov Ariel wrote:

"Soldiers who are not at peace with the governmental decision to destroy the area of Yamit and to expel its Jewish residents are obligated to fulfill the command. And this is because although, according to their opinion, the government was greatly mistaken in its judgment, nevertheless, it did not intend to violate a transgression, rather its reasoned that with this [act] it would bring benefit to the nation of Israel and the Land of Israel. It is also that they did not know among them the borders of the Land according to the Torah, and believes, in its innocence, that it is permissible to uproot Jewish settlements from the area of Yamit for the sake of a peace agreement. The government did not, however, consider, to our distress, its steps from the considerations of Torah, but the fact is that rabbis permitted this act. This definition of the governmental position, I heard from the mouth of our teacher and our rabbi, HaGaon Rabbi Avraham A. Shapira, shlita, who today is the Chief Rabbi of Israel, in his visit to Yamit during the siege, even though his personal opinion was that giving Sinai to Egypt is a transgression of the Torah." (Techumin, vol. 4, 178)

[Part 1 of 2]