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Response to disengagement claims


Rabbi Jonathan Blass

26 Adar I 5765
The following was printed in an articel on the disengagement in a local New Orleanian Conservative Judaism Newsletter and I was hoping to hear a response from the "religious zionist" camp...not necessarily from an ideological aspect but a response to the Torah cited specifically in the article. I would like to know how to respond to those use in this article to support the disengagement based on Judaism. "As Conservative Jews, we need to address the issue of the settlements from a Halakhic perspective. By framing our arguments in the same religious language as that used by the opponents of the Disengagement Plan, we show secular Israelis and people everywhere, that there is another voice that is willing to speak up in the name of Halachah, a more moderate voice that yearns for peace. Just as fundamentalist Muslims often distort the message of Islam, so too do the ultra-Orthodox often misrepresent Jewish Law in an inauthentic and monolithic manner. Some religious Zionists believe in a mythic concept known as Eretz Yisrael Ha-shelaymah, "the whole land of Israel." According to this principle, once Jews gain control over the ancient territory of Israel as defined by its Biblical borders, it is forbidden to cede even an inch of the land to non-Jews. Already 18 years ago, in a well-reasoned Teshuvah, Conservative Rabbi Tuviah Friedman showed that such a position has no legs on which to stand. According to the Bible, there are no well-defined borders for the land of Israel. In Genesis 15:18 God promises to give Abraham the land "from the River of Egypt," but in Numbers 34:5, the Israelites are promised the land from the "Wadi of Egypt." The River of Egypt is the Nile; the Wadi of Egypt is Wadi el Arish, which is 180 miles east of the Nile. Not only are the borders of Eretz Yisrael not clearly defined, but there is also biblical precedent for ceding territory. In the Book of Kings (I Kings 9: 11) we are told that Solomon gave King Hiram of Tyre twenty towns in the region of Galilee in return for the lumber that Hiram contributed to the construction of the Temple. Later, in the rabbinic period, the rabbis also constantly redrew the map of Eretz Yisrael. Certain towns such as Acre and Beit She’an were, at one time, excluded from the territory of the Holy Land. The reason seems to be economic. Those who lived in Israel were obligated to observe tithing laws and the rules of the sabbatical year. When these towns were about to face economic ruin, the rabbis sought to alleviate the burden of internal Jewish taxation by declaring that the towns were no longer part of Eretz Yisrael. Other cities such as Caesarea were sometimes deemed to be inside Israel and sometimes outside of Israel, depending on the Jewish population in the city at any given period. Thus, the boundaries of the Land of Israel were constantly in flux throughout our history, and any precise model of a fixed parcel of Jewish territory is by definition illusory."
1. The differences between the Land promised to Abraham and the borders delineated in BaMidbar reflect the difference between what Israel is commanded to conquer (BaMidbar) and what additions will be given to Israel at the time of the final redemption (Bereishit). There is a difference between a promise and a Mitzva. 2. Solomon's twenty cities given to Hiram were reciprocated by Hiram giving Solomon cities that had been his (Chronicles II 8 2). Ralbag comments that this was because it would have beeen wrong of Solomon to diminish Israel's sovereignty in the Land of Israel.Malbim's explanation is even simpler and reflects the "pshat" of the verse. Solomon payed for the raw materials brought from Tyre for building the Temple by promising Hiram the produce that Hiram could raise by cultivating the land around the twenty cities. When Hiram saw that the cities were agriculturally worthless (the continuation of the story in Kings) he returned them to Solomon (the story in Chronicles). Solomon then settled the area which had been previously considered worthless and paid Hiram with the produce that the Jewish settlers were, surprisingly, able to produce. Acccording to this explanation, at no point was sovereignty offered to Hiram. 3.Beit Shean was not left outside of Jewish sovereignty - it was incorporated into Jewish rule. It was not however sanctified by the obligation to observing Shemitta (the sabbatical seventh year)regarding the produce grown within its bounds.This to ensure that the poor of the country would have enough to eat during the shemitta year.
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