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YU Rosh Yeshiva: Israel´s Torah Jews Must Vote on Disengagement
Arutz-7 Editor Arutz-7 News: Thursday, April 21, 2005
rav-shechter Yeshiva University's RIETS Kollel program head Rabbi Hershel Schachter, in a Talmudic lecture on the Disengagement plan last week, refuted the notion that it's merely a matter of government law.

The notion that the disengagement is a question for the Israeli government to decide, and that "the law of the land is supreme" in this case, was presented by two leading YU rabbis in a recent conference. Rabbi Schachter strongly disagrees.

Citing Talmudic and rabbinic sources in abundance, Rabbi Schachter noted that Gaza is clearly within the borders of the Land of Israel. He noted that G-d told Isaac not to leave the Land of Israel, but rather to live in Gerar (present-day Gaza) - thus proving that Gaza is in the Promised Land. (The rabbi also noted and resolved an apparent difficulty in Rashi's commentary on this point.)

Rabbi Schachter acknowledged that Gaza does not have the same Halakhic [Jewish legal] sanctity as other parts of the Land, thus exempting it from certain Land-oriented commandments. However, he emphasized, some rabbinic opinions hold that this does not detract from the commandment or importance of living there.

Independent of the above point, Rabbi Schachter said that there is a separate commandment to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. This commandment certainly applies to the entire area of the Land of Israel, he said, and not just to those areas that are Halakhically sanctified.

Furthermore, another commandment exists that is key to the entire issue: that of waging defensive war. Where and when it applies is an intricate question, the rabbi taught, but it certainly applies when there is pressure to surrender sovereignty over some of the areas of the Land of Israel to a foreign sovereignty.

War, by definition, means the loss of life, such that this commandment cannot be pushed aside because of the fear that lives will be lost. Just as doctors must sometimes amputate a limb in order to save one's entire body, so too individual lives are put at risk - and worse - in order to save the People as a whole, or Klal Yisrael. This Klal is found only in the Land of Israel [based on the Minchat Chinuch's explanation to Megillah 14a].

The question that remains, Rabbi Schachter explained, is whether the lives to be put at risk will help us win - or, as some feel, this is just a losing battle, with more and more lives being lost with no gain in sight. This, he said, is a very strong question - and can be decided only by the endangered entity itself. That is to say, just like a person in danger can "choose his risk" [based on rabbinic interpretations of the story of the four lepers in Kings II, 7], so too the Klal in Israel - not the government, but the people themselves - can and must decide for themselves whether retaining all parts of the Land means winning the war, or losing it.

Rabbi Schachter further said that the concept of the "supremacy of the law of the land" does not apply in this situation. That concept applies only in areas of monetary and civil law, but certainly not in issues of religious prohibitions and obligations such as Sabbath or marriage and divorce. "The issue of the Land of Israel belonging to the Jews is not just a monetary matter of real estate," the rabbi taught, "but rather belongs in the [other] realm of 'issur v'heter.'"

Since the Land belongs to the Jewish People not as real estate, but rather as a legacy given by G-d to the Jewish people, it can be given away only if retaining it would exact a price so high that the Klal does not feel it's worth it - and this can be ascertained only by polling all those Jews in Israel who subscribe to the Thirteen Principles of Faith.

The entire lecture can be heard at "www.yutorah.org".

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