Refusing a Mad and Evil Order - Part II

Avner ben Ner was punished for various military-state transgressions, but not for pursuing David on the order of Sha'ul.

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
[Part one of this article can be read at]

An explanation of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel's words [in favor of obeying orders to uproot Yamit]:

Matters of the state are complex assessments, they contain many aspects, we do not know everything that occurs behind the scenes, all of the pressures, all of the lurking dangers and all of the available information of the Mossad and the Shabak. The prime minister certainly desires the good of the nation of Israel like we do. Of course, we are one-million percent sure of our path, and we will fight with all power in order for it to be completely accepted. On the other hand, in a situation like this, there is no obligation of refusal by the soldier.

An example similar to this: Avner ben Ner was punished for various military-state transgressions, but not for pursuing David on the order of Sha'ul. An additional horrible example from a different area: The great Torah authorities of Israel did not forbid Jewish soldiers in non-Jewish armies to shoot at the enemy, even though there were Jews on the other side.

Certainly, denying the rights of Jews to dwell throughout all of their Land, expelling Jewish families, liquidating Jewish communities in order to give parts of the Land to the enemy - is a terrible national crime and a crime against humanity, which has absolutely no comparison in all of our history and even in world history.

A somewhat similar, but a lot less grave, example is the Munich Agreement in Elul 5698 (September 1938), when, in an attempt to avoid another World War, Czechoslovakia was required to give the Sudetenland to Germany. Neville Chamberlain, prime minister of England, promised "peace in our time." But Winston Churchill argued with him, "The belief that it is possible to obtain security by throwing a small country to the wolves is fatal delusion." Surely, this concession did not satisfy Hitler, may his name be blotted out, for much time.

Therefore, it is not possible to describe the terrible pain of the soldier who receives an order devoid of ethics to perform a horrible and detestable national crime like this, and certainly it is not his will to perform it; it is similar to a dangerously ill person who is forced to eat pork. How he will suffer the pain of the travails of the Messiah, how he will suffer the pain of the Divine Presence. Certainly, as much as he can, he should request from his commanding officer to release him from this cruel mission.

But here is the grave responsibility of our prime minister who tears to pieces and crushes our army, and with this adds transgression upon transgression, as any honest person of human conscience sees.

First transgression: He is tearing apart the country.

Second transgression: He is acting in a dictatorial fashion and buys with favors opportunistic politicians who cling to their seats.

Third transgression: He is causing - unintentionally - separation and fracturing of the nation and leading to civil war, which can be prevented only in the merit of the maturity of the soul and the highest national sensitivity of the affected citizens.

Fourth transgression: He is using the army of the nation, which is designated to wage war against the enemy, for his political needs.

Fifth transgression: He is tearing apart the souls of soldiers, and by this he is weakening the power of the IDF. In order to serve properly, a soldier needs to possess a good spirit, be happy, be full of strength and exaltedness, not bitterness, sorrow and frustration.

And now we arrive at the aspect of the kingdom. A soldier is obligated to follow orders, but his commanding officer would not send him to shoot at an enemy without equipping him with a weapon. There is, however, a factor more important than a weapon: motivation. Morale, said Napoleon in his time, is worth three times a weapon. There have been many times in history in which the soldiers were physically exhausted, but they did not refuse orders, they simply ceased serving. And there were other times in which the soldiers were spiritually exhausted, they lacked motivation to perform an injustice. Even at the time of the Mandate, there were British soldiers who were not capable of following orders to prevent Jews from settling in the Land. With all the differences, now there are directives of our prime minister to uproot Jewish communities, but the implementation is delayed a while in the wake of the strong difficulty in the motivation of senior officers.

In the Soviet Russian army, which was a cruel army, they found a solution: political agents, which means education officers who engaged in constant indoctrination. But, with the distinctions, in our army, the work of raising morale is done in large portion by rabbis. Open your eyes and see the increasing number of religious soldiers with commissioned rank and in elite units, and the increasing number of non-religious soldiers who leave the army under the veil of a low profile. If so, certainly they will not find rabbis who will arouse motivation to uproot Jewish communities from the Land of the Jews. But in our case, there is no difference between religious and non-religious, this mission arouses difficult inner opposition from all in our army.

Surely, an army operates as the power of the arm, but the inner sanctum is the ethical motivation. Tolstoy wrote in his book War and Peace that the French were stronger from a military perspective, but the Russians were victorious because the ethics of justice were on their side.

Our Prime Minister wants to decide internal state issues with the power of the arm. Whoever is stronger wins. But the words of Rabbenu Asher - the Rosh - are known - that power does not create justice, but reveals justice. The one who is right, will fight for his cause with greater sacrifice (beginning of Baba Metzia). Even our great kings, like Asa, Yehoshafat and Chizkiyahu, did not operate their armies without motivation (Peticha to Eichah Rabbah 30). And even in our days, the installation of the "Protective Wall" was delayed until complete motivation arose among the nation.

This is the principle: The soul of the army is its motivation! Therefore, "the man who is fearful and fainthearted, let him go and return to his house." (Devarim 20:8) To what is this referring? To an optional war, but an obligatory war, everyone goes, because then, even a weak person can say, "I am strong." Therefore, before the war, the Cohen approaches and says: "Hear Israel, you are going out today to wage war against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted. Do not be afraid. Do not panic and do not break ranks before them. Because Hashem, your G-d, is going with you to wage war for you against your enemies to save you." (ibid. 29:4. See Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 7:15)

Where is the Cohen who will say now, "You are going out today to wage war against your brothers...."? Our sages already said: "'Hear Israel, you are going out today to wage war against your enemies' - and not against your brothers, not Yehudah against Shimon, and not Shimon against Binyamin." (Mishnah, Sotah 8:1) Certainly, Hashem, your G-d, does not go with you to wage war against your brothers.

One who says to us: Refuse orders - no! Motivation - also no! We are not commanded with respect to motivation!

Dictators, tyrants of the world, have known and will always know this problem, that an army will have difficulty acting against its brothers. Therefore, they employed a kingship guard of hired guns from foreign nations. It seems that even King Yannai acted this way. The foreign legion, devoid of any ethical or national feelings, were often times comprised of the dregs of humanity - like freed inmates and criminals who used their army service as a means to channel their powerful inclinations. But we are a holy nation, a delicate nation, an ethical nation, a nation with a heart of flesh and not of stone - and how will our soldiers and guards be motivated to destroy Jewish settlements and uproot brothers who will make a terrible cry heard?

Refusal of orders - G-d forbid, no! Motivation - also no!

Be strong and be strengthened, until the clouds of vanity and lies, of foolishness and emptiness, of transgression and evil dissipate and the light of truth breaks through. Be strong and be strengthened to direct the path of our nation toward the light.

[Part 2 of 2]

[From Ma'ayanei HaYeshu'a - Parashat Noach 5765. Translated By Rabbi Mordechai Friedfertig.]