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NILI spying for the British & activism in halachic thought


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Would NILI be looked at in halachic thought as an acceptable organization? They put Jewish lives in danger in Ottoman Palestine by spying, and even if their spying helped the British take Palestine more easily, is that really an excuse? Was it right for ANY Jew to take sides (that includes Chaim Weizmann in Britain and the Jews who came from around the world to join British units to take Palestine)? If you can, provide sources. Thank you
The basics of Judaism is, as is obvious to any nation who wills to survive (and how much more so regarding the Chosen People who has also bitterly learned from our long history, that we cannot rely on other nations), that we (!) must do what is good for Am Yisrael. With all due respect to our universal responsibility to be a "Light unto the Nations", and precisely because (!) of that vital role, Judaism clearly commands us to do whatever is necessary to live (even eating on Yom Kippur (Shulchan Aruch Or.Ch. 618) & breaking the Shabbat (ibid, 329)) even to save an individual, and how much more so, for the nation, for "the dead cannot praise God" (Tehilim 115, 17). Nili was part of the large Zionist movement to revive our national Land & economy, our Hebrew language, our army, which includes yes, an intelligence system to spy when necessary (like the spies of Joshua ii), to aid the ally who will help us. Joshua's mistake making a treaty with the Givonim (ch. 9) was only in that they misled him into thinking they weren't Canaanites, but there's nothing wrong with making coalitions with allies from other nations. That also was King Solomon's reason for marrying foreign kings' daughters, see M'lachim I, 3, and see Rambam, M'lachim 6). Rationally, it was logical to help the more civilized countries who were our allies, overcome the more backward and anti-Semitic Moslem countries who treated us as 2nd class citizens, even in our own Land. In hindsight, this vision proved to be absolutely correct & contributed to enabling the game-changing Balfour Declaration. Despite the tendency of many Jews to be almost neurotic in their apologetics to justify our survival, we do not "work for the U.N.", and have, like everyone else, not only the right but the obligation to analyze the political map in every generation, and decide what's "good for the Jews". When we had prophets and miracles, Yishayahu castigates King Chizkiyahu for making the wrong coalition and not relying on God's super-natural miracles (Kings ii, 18). But for the past 2,500 years, already since Megillat Esther, Judaism doesn't allow us to rely on miracles any longer, but rather to analyze and then act with the Free Will that God gave us, to use our best judgement and choose which is the direction of activism that we should take, "for who knows" how (!) the Jews will be redeemed (Esther 4, 14)? Yoav plans a detailed military strategy where to place each battalion, and adds (Shmuel ii, 10): "Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our People , and for the cities of our God, and the Lord will do that which seems good in His eyes". True, during 2,000 years of exile, the Jew usually "fought" with his passport, and it requires guts to take an activistic stand like Nili, but that's clearly the way of Judaism, not to rely on miracles, for God helps those who help themselves (see Dvarim 28, 8; Mishlei 12, 11 & 24; 13, 4; 21, 31 and much more). With Love of Israel, Rav Ari Shvat
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