People Before Land: The Halakhic Case For Disengagement

As part of my recent exploration of the West Bank with Dorot, we paid a visit to Yeshivat Har Etzion, the famed hesder yeshiva located at the Alon Shvut settlement within the Etzion bloc outside Jerusalem.
During our visit, we spent a little over an hour with Rabbi Moshe Lichtenstein, the son of the Gush yeshiva’s esteemed rosh yeshiva, R’ Aharon Lichtenstein, and grandson of the arguable father of modern orthodoxy, Rav Yosef Soloveitchik. In that time, Rabbi Lichtenstein presented a shiur on the subject of disengagement from Gaza, and offered a halakhically sound argument in favor of the withdrawal. He also made it known to us that, if his West Bank residency stood in the way of peace with Palestine, it would be with a heavy heart, but he would in fact move.
I’ll write about this at further length in my next post on OA, but after his talk I went over and thanked him: “You have personally eradicated my belief that all religious settlers are maniacs.” He replied, “Well, keep in mind — I don’t speak for all of them.”
Click here to download the one hour and nine minute shiur in MP3 format. It’s about 50mb and the quality’s not so hot, but… Whaddaya want for free?

24 thoughts on “People Before Land: The Halakhic Case For Disengagement

  1. Finally, something on this site I can agree with. Human lives of any race or religeon are more important than any dirt or rock building. More important than some desert. More important than some nice land in the west bank. Even more important than the remains of some ancient temple in Jerusalem.
    The people who are killing people are the people who are wrong, no matter who they are, why they are killing or who they are killing. And the people who purposefully provoke others into violence are not helping either. If only it weren’t just a dream that the peaceful people on both sides could team up and shove out the violent people on both sides.
    Maybe I’ll see it in my lifetime.

  2. “if his West Bank residency stood in the way of peace with Palestine, it would be with a heavy heart, but he would in fact move.” This seems like a pretty big IF.
    This is all that stands in the way of peace? Iran, Syria, Jihad Islami, Hamas, and many other forces do as well.
    What do they say at the Yeshiva regarding those who will NEVER accept your existence, irrespective of any borders?
    The US has already written off Abbas; our desire for his success is understandable and palpable, but probably unrealistic.
    You can check the Palestinian Authority’s official website (link from their site, actually), identifying even Haifa as a historically Arab city:
    Do we also need to give them Haifa? Where does this stop, if they don’t want to stop at even the 1948 borders?
    I am not trying to pick a fight with the Yeshiva, but rather a framework for saying, “We stop here, and will defend ourselves beyond XYZ point,” trying to find that point, whatever it is. And understanding that the world will not stop at whatever this XYZ point is.
    If Jews believed that it were just the “remains of some ancient temple,” then it would have been over a long time ago. This is our lifeblood, our existence, the source. Jerusalem is mentioned in the Tanakh over 650 times, and not once in the Koran.

  3. Uh, Haifa *is* a historically Arab city.
    At the same time, Abbas and everyone else knows the basic parameters of the two-state solution, and it doesn’t include Haifa. You don’t need to look very far for a “framework” that says where the demands of both sides stop.

  4. emotinally charged..all of yeh!
    Mobius, I do agree many settlers are crazy, on the real many (even within ortholand) feel it’s crazy to live there. How many crazies did it take to settle Israel (from Yehoshua to the Hagana- either time)- many. Yet we remember them as few. Why? Because how many of us ideological modern millinium democracy toking radical liberals, make a true stand during the day- that will last way past the night? A few peeps crazy enough to live life with a meaning might just save us, just like then.
    Mobius- thank G-d your crazy b/c you and I n I will make it right. Glad your inspired.

  5. stood in the way of peace with Palestine
    The main problem you might also admit is that this retreat plan, and face it, a return to the 49 armistice lines and the segregation of Jews into little Israel AND the justification of Jew-free land in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza – will not bring peace.
    Most ‘crazy’ settlers like me, I suppose, would compromise A LOT for real peace, but it has nothing to do with making the land of Israel Jew-free.
    Even Sharon hasn NEVER bothered to say that this retreat plan is a step towards peace.

  6. Å¡…
    Thunderpants: (nice name, btw!)
    Why don’t you ask those guys in that new “Sanhedrin”?

  7. Many rabbis say many things. I personally will stick to what the Lubavitcher Rebbe said. I thinkhe was a pretty dependable rabbi. (During Gulf War I he was contatcted by thousands who asked wherther or not to go to Israel he said go every time click on Peace upon the land http://www.chabad.org/multimedia/media.asp?AID=132864)
    The Rebbe said many times from what I read that giving away any land puts Jewish lives at risk. He was right then, I think he is right now.

  8. stick to what the lubavitcher rebbe said? you mean the guy who helped bankroll the settler movement in hebron? not after what i saw there last week, thanks muchly.

  9. I’m interested here in the border between “religion” and “politics.” It seems so obvious that rabbis who attempt to give halachic rulings on questions of current politics, especially the pullout, have to put their political perspective before their Torah knowledge. Whether its R. Lichtenstein or R. Yosef, they all seem to say that “if” withdrawal would lead to peace, they would support it. But the question of whether withdrawal would lead to peace depends entirely on one’s political perspective: one’s experiences, what one reads, who one knows, etc.
    Any comments?

  10. It’s true that Sharon hasn’t called this a step towards peace. He mostly discusses it relative to the demographic argument.

  11. Sam, I’ll take your question up.
    There are two issues 1. If it will lead to peace 2. If the country will remain Jewish and we can live as Jews on the land.
    You are absolutely correct. What many of these Rabbis say is based on these “political” questions as you call them.
    The only thing is that those two issues are not “new issues.” These issues have been around since the Torah with given to us by Moses! They are also discussed in the Talmud.
    These sources backup all the histiory and logic that I have been talking about in these posts.
    In the Torah moses taught us that we must drive out the idol-worshipping inhabitants of the land because they WILL cause us to stray after idols and we will not live as Jews. We are warned about this dozens of times. We didn’t listen and we did serve idols…
    In the tallmud it says that if Non-Jews came to a town in Israel to steal things but not for lives (to attack), then you can’t take up weapons and fight with them on the Sabbath-but if the town is a border town than even if they just want straw you take weapons and go out to them even to violate the sabbath because it is a border town and there is a danget that the borders of Israel might be made smaller.
    So the short answer is that it does depend on those factors – but those factors are are part of what we are commanded and warned about because the answer to those questions are obvious to those who can see.

  12. Sam:
    Replace Rabbis with Israeli supreme court judges and you can talk endlessly about this issue as well. Yesterday, Almagor (victims of Arab Terror) tried to prevent the release of 500 Palestinian terrorists with various legal claims, but Judge Mishael Hashin blatantly said something like that it’s a political move that he believes will lead to peace and then he threw out the case, rather than deal with it.
    Current Israeli consensus is that ‘the law’ is secondary to political decisions. Even the president of Israel says that to protect democracy, you sometimes need to use undemocratic means. What have we come to?
    and Mob, sorry, I can’t do 50megs.

  13. Oh,
    while we’re (okay just me for now) are talking about ‘the law’ and it’s importance, we come along a fresh story about a new ‘agent provocatuer’ who’s responsible for a lot of supposed ‘extreme-right’ violence and incitement. I’m waiting for this guy to be outed for framing the entire settler population with his antics.
    Maariv: Police informant behind inciting sticker and other juicy things…
    The above article makes it seem like he’s a loose cannon, but we also know that the Israeli Police have used provocateurs in the past to build incitement in order to entrap right-wingers. (Hello Avishay Raviv)
    Read #1 in “Stages of the Expulsion outlined”

  14. hey i dont have any sound so would any one mind summarising the halachic points?
    ” Finally, something on this site I can agree with. Human lives of any race or religeon are more important than any dirt or rock building. More important than some desert. More important than some nice land in the west bank. Even more important than the remains of some ancient temple in Jerusalem. ”
    – so youre saying every war israel faught was for nothing? cause we did lose lives for that alot actually but i guesse its only a piece of land then…

  15. Mobius,
    I’m sure your a pretty shtark guy who knows how to shteig, but you should be aware that HaRav HaGaon Aharon Lichtenstein is Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik’s SON IN LAW. And Yeshivat Har Etzion is not famed for its hesder program like Sderot or Maale Adumim. Rather, it’s where rich American post high-schoolers learn to love Gamara and eschew Carlebach. This is just FYI so you don’t embarass yourself the next time you’re in Washington Heights.

  16. Jess,
    Life is NOT the be all and end all.
    We are the chosen people. We love our G-d who took us out of Egypt and gave us the land. We will honor and glorify him.
    If someone asked you to spit at your mother or father and to toss in the garbage a gift they gave you would you do that?
    That is exactly what we are doing with Israel!
    There is pride and loyalty to our father in heaven! That is even more important to us than life itself.

  17. yosi: if rav. soloveitchik is a. lichtenstein’s father-in-law, that makes soloveitchik’s daughter a. lichtenstein’s wife, and thus m. lichtenstein’s mother, which in turn makes m. licthenstein the GRANDSON of rav. soloveitchik. which is precisely what i said. moshe lichtenstein is the son of the rosh yeshiva at gush etzion and the grandson of rav soloveitchik. not my fault you can’t read.
    also, in the circles i move in, gush etzion is famed for its hesder program. so… whatevs to you sir.

  18. joe schmo,
    Im guessing you didnt detect my sarcastic tone. I do agree with you, what i was trying to say (maybe not clearly) is that Israel is not just a piece of land or the kotel and temple mount isnt just “some ancient temple in Jerusalem”
    as ck put it…

  19. “stick to what the lubavitcher rebbe said? you mean the guy who helped bankroll the settler movement in hebron? not after what i saw there last week, thanks muchly.” – Mobius1ski
    The settler movement you mention predates the Lubavitcher Rabbi and the Palestinian people. Lubavitch setteled there in the 1700’s (Maybe early 1800’s). In fact one of the early Lubavitch Rabbi’s daughters is buried there. You may recall an unfortunate episode called the Hebron Massacre in whiche hundreds of Jews were butchered. That led to the near extinction of Jews from Hebron.
    Mobius1ski get you facts straight: Consider yourself enlightened

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.