Tuesday, April 18, 2006



by David Ashley

Mamlachtiut is a difficult Hebrew word to translate. It can be understood as statism, but that has certain negative connotations that advocates of mamlachtiut certainly do not intend. Perhaps, statesmanship is closer, but that is a word to describe diplomats and national leaders, not the relationship between the citizen and the state. Mamlachtiut is a word current in religious Zionist circles to indicate an approach to the state of Israel that is above sectarian political squabbles, while also implying a certain resolute acceptance of the decisions of the leadership of the state, be they as they are.

The problem with mamlachtiut, as with any noble idea, is that when taken to an extreme, it stifles criticism, it is wielded as a weapon to defeat opposition politics and it is even a tool to place political rivals outside the pale of polite, intellectual discourse.

However, if a religious Zionist is to take the idea of mamlachtiut seriously, then he would have to examine the official positions of that most-mamlachti of institutions: the Chief Rabbinate of the State of Israel.

To that end, I have examined and translated a few official decisions of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, as they appear in the index of Geulat Or HaTzvi by Rabbi Yosef Badichi, Sh'lita.

Excerpt from the Resolution of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate of the State of Israel, 26 Iyar 5739 (May 23, 1979):

The Council of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel in its session today, under the presidency of the Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Shlomo Goren, Sh'lita, concluded, after discussion, the following resolutions:

In light of the decision to hold practical discussions regarding autonomy and the sanctified territories of the Land of Israel, the Chief Rabbinate reiterates its resolution that according to our holy Torah and according to the clearly settled Jewish law, there is a severe prohibition to transfer to non-Jews ownership over territories of the holy Land of Israel promised to us from the mouth of the Almighty at the Covenant of the Pieces; and there is in such an act the prohibition of "do not allow them to settle", which is interpreted according to Jewish law as 'do not allow them to settle territories in the Land of Israel.' And no justification based on the saving of life has the power to nullify this severe prohibition, for the defense and preservation of the sanctified territories of the Land of Israel encompasses the command to save the life of the entire nation.

And because of our self-sacrifice for the sake of the building and the wholeness of the Land of Israel, we will merit the fulfillment of the promise of the Torah "and I made peace in the Land" and the complete redemption of Israel.

Resolution of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel from Av of 5749 (August 1989):

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel is saddened that again there have recently been heard in the rabbinical world sounds of criticism and claims against the settlement of the Land of Israel in all of its borders, sounds that weaken the belief of the people in the value of the Land of Israel and of the State of Israel, and the commitment to its existence as a Torah commandment.

Those voices raise pseudo-legal doubts about those values, relying on three claims:

a) There is no positive commandment of settling the Land of Israel, its conquest and maintenance;

b) There are Three Oaths [mentioned in the Talmud], which include the commitment not to "go up as a wall" nor to "defy the nations"; and

c) That when there is life-threatening danger to Jews one should not struggle, but must rather withdraw from any place in the Land of Israel.

All of the foregoing three points were always the basis for those opposing immigration and settlement in the Land of Israel. In fact, all of them are null and void statements and they have been rejected by those authorized to decide the law for Israel.

We will reiterate what is clear and simple:

1. The commandment to settle the Land of Israel includes, according to the words of the Ramban, aliyah, settlement, the establishment of a state, the conquest of the land and its defense, and not to relinquish it to others. And in accordance with the words of the Ramban, it has been decided in the Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer, that a husband may coerce his wife to make aliyah to the Land of Israel. And it was explained in the book Beit HaLevi, vol. 2, that the Halacha is according to Ramban, that the conquest and settlement of the Land of Israel is a commandment even now, and therefore, the husband can coerce his wife. However, the woman is not obligated in conquest and thus does not coerce her husband. Thus, in the opinion [of the Beit HaLevi], the Shulchan Aruch decided the law as the Ramban, and not as was publicized in the name of Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, Sh'lita, that the Beit HaLevi decided the law differently than the Ramban, while the opposite of that is the case. Likewise, the Rambam [Maimonides] decided the law explicitly that there is a current commandment of settling the Land of Israel, and therefore, the husband can coerce his wife. And thus also did the author of Sha'ar HaChatzer write. There is almost no single legal authority among the early authorities who explicitly differs with the Ramban; and the latest authority in these matters, the Pe'at HaShulchan, wrote that the words of the Ramban are the essence of Halacha.

2. The entire issue of the Three Oaths - aside from the fact that their status as practical obligations is far from clear - has already been written about by the authorities of the previous generation, the Or Sameach and the Avnei Nezer; at this time, certainly according to all opinions, the practical obligation of these oaths has been nullified. All of the authorities of our generation are students of these giants of Israel and there is no one who can presume to differ with them.

3. The decision of the Minchat Chinuch that, as far as the war of conquest, the character of war is a matter of self-sacrifice; therefore, a war for the conquest or holding of the Land of Israel takes priority over the saving of life. And no legal authorities have been found who disagree with him in this.

The three aforementioned arguments were collected and focused before the War of Independence by a group of rabbis, headed by the Rebbe of Satmar, who used the three aforementioned negative arguments to forbid the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel. However, the clear majority of rabbis in the Land of Israel decided with all of their authority that according to Halacha, a Jewish State must be established and defended. The people of Israel rejected those negative opinions and passed them by, and today everyone recognizes the value of the state of Israel to the people of Israel and to its existence.

If at the time of the War of Independence, when thousands of people were in danger, it was so decided, then all the more so today - when there is no such danger, God forbid - certainly nothing obligates withdrawal. Quite the opposite, when all admit that there is a danger in withdrawal from the borders, but there are those who say that such an endangerment is worthwhile - to withdraw from parts of the Land of Israel as well as to endanger lives - such is certainly forbidden according to Halacha.

Anyone who today requires withdrawal for reasons of preservation of life is effectively determining that the very establishment of the state was contrary to Torah, God forbid.

We are saddened at the return at this time of the above criticisms - which are null and void words according to the Halacha - and that important rabbis have been swept up by the opinions of the aforementioned members of Satmar, who to this day object to the right of the state to exist. And it is even more saddening that such arguments are brought before non-Jews, which includes a measure of endangerment to life and which is also contrary to the words of our sages not to discuss internal matters of the people of Israel with non-Jews.

It is imperative to once again be strengthened in faith, as in the words of Calev and Yehoshua bin Nun at the time of the Spies: "God is with us, do not fear them."

From the Resolution of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel from 11 Sivan 5753 (May 31, 1993):

The Council of the Chief Rabbinate confirms the resolutions of its predecessors that the Golan Heights is an indivisible part of the Land of Israel and that the land-based commandments apply to it and that those living there are fulfilling the commandment of settling in the Land of Israel.

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