Wednesday, August 03, 2005


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Everyone wants to know what the Gedolei Yisroel say about the disengagement. I had the occasion this week to discuss the matter once again with my Rebbi, Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, and what he had to say was most enlightening.

Gedolim have a way of looking at things differently than most people. That is why we turn to them when there is a tough decision to make and we are confused by competing arguments and opinions. Even when we think we have everything figured out, they are always able to dig deeper, analyze sharper and offer an entirely fresh and enlightening perspective on the issue at hand.

When I brought up the topic, Rav Shmuel remarked with a pained expression how awful it is for the people living in Gush Katif to be evicted from their homes and that we must all feel their pain. “Bochoh sivkeh balaylah,” he quoted from Megillas Eicha, noting how applicable to the present situation is that poignant passage.

The settlers believed that their moving to Gaza would hasten the arrival of Moshiach. They think that the State of Israel is “reishis tzemichas geuloseinu - the beginning of the dawn of the messianic period.” This awful situation ought to awaken them.

Rav Shmuel went on to say that during the Gezairos Tach v’Tat, the devastating pogroms against the Jews in Poland and Russia that wiped out 100,000 of our people, the Tosfos Yom Tov said that the reason for the terrible persecutions was revealed to him from Shomayim. He said that the Jews of that period did not show proper respect for shuls and botei medrash. He aroused the community to awaken to the Divine message, and wrote a special prayer on behalf of those who would pay heed to the call and restrain themselves from talking during davening.

If shuls and botei medrash are about to be blown up and the Jews who frequent them are being chased from their homes, this wrenching prospect carries a message for us akin to the one the Tosfos Yom Tov divined during the Gezeiros Tach v’Tat.

Nearly thirty years ago, when Anwar Sadat made his dramatic visit to Yerushalayim, the debate over returning the majority of the Sinai desert to the Egyptians was fierce indeed. The memories of the wars with Egypt - of the endless infiltrations by the fedayeen terrorists and of the toll in human lives paid for every inch of that blood-soaked expanse of burning sand - were simply too fresh to allow us to appreciate the historic opportunity before us.

Most people viewed the return of the Sinai with dismay, but Maran Rav Elozar Menachem Shach zt”l led our community in embracing the concept of peace with Egypt. Prominent voices railed against the “withdrawal,” against the so-called capitulation to our fiercest enemy. In our world, voices were raised challenging the da’as Torah of Rav Shach and the gedolei Eretz Yisroel. Arguments raged in many botei medrash. It was not a period of great harmony amongst Jews. But we held fast to the vision of our Torah leaders and put our trust in their judgment.

Today, almost three decades later, we know that the Egyptians no longer attack us. Their murderous fedayeen, who had regularly invaded moshavim and kibbutzim, killing and destroying, have not been heard from. Countless Jewish lives have been saved. Indescribable suffering has been spared.

Are we facing a similar opportunity today? Will the pullout from Gaza ring in a period of tranquility? Can we support the relinquishing of fertile acres of Eretz Yisroel in the same way we took leave of the sand dunes of the Egyptian Sinai desert? It is not likely that the Palestinians will maintain anything close to the “cold peace” Israel has with Egypt. On the Israeli side, there are few who look to Sharon as they did to Begin.

Pundits abound, politicians pontificate, street corners resound with the debate of the masses. What are we to think? What are we to do? It is not really up to us to decide and Ariel Sharon has adopted dictator-esque tactics to ensure that his plan goes through, whether it makes sense or not.

Only a short while ago, in a small corner of the country, in an area abutting the largest concentration of Arabs in Israel, and in Arab-populated portions of the West Bank, Sharon and his followers created what would become known as “facts on the ground.”

His plan was simple. No one ever really believed that the State of Israel would be allowed to keep all the Arab areas conquered in the war of 1967. Some pundits point to the demographic nightmare looming on the horizon. With millions of Arabs living in Israel it is only a matter of time before they start voting in elections. Before long they could be dictating policy and opening the front door to the same enemies who have been trying to get in the back door for more than half a century.

Sharon’s plan was to complicate the eventual givebacks by creating large settler blocs. By urging people to settle in places like Gush Katif, the day of reckoning would be delayed or even avoided entirely. I remember him showing me maps over ten years ago and proudly pointing to places all along Yehuda, Shomron and Azza to ensure that no leftist government would ever be able to return that land to the Arabs.

The pawns in this chess game, the people who settled formerly barren areas and built up homes and communities, have known terrible suffering. The one and a half million Arabs of Gaza have never stopped trying to attack Gush Katif. Katyushas and other flying bombs have been falling in a steady rain for close to three decades. Good people, people who put their lives at risk in the name of an ideal, have made the ultimate sacrifice. Hashem yinkom damam.

And now, after all they have been through, after their mesiras nefesh has resulted in beautiful communities with shuls and mosdos - with bustling businesses and breathtaking landscapes - the roof has fallen in. They have been betrayed. The very Sharon who stood behind them all these years, and pointed with pride at their towns and cities, now stands poised to oversee their hapless evacuation.

While we love Eretz Yisroel with much passion, we realize that Moshiach has not yet come. Even in Israel we are in golus.

We put Jewish lives ahead of nationalist agendas.

But there is the pain.

It is very hard for us to stand by and witness the despair of our brethren in Gush Katif.

Yes, they bought into a lie and are now paying the price, but they are our brothers and they are heartbroken. And when our brother is down, we are down.

On Yom Kippur, when the Kohain Gadol emerged from the Kodesh HaKodoshim, he said a special prayer. He prayed for Klal Yisroel. He asked Hashem to grant us a year of plenty for all. He asked for good health and happiness.

And at the climax of his prayer, he davened for Anshei HaSharon - the people who inhabited the Sharon plain. “Shelo t’hay botayhem kivrayhem.”

The Kohain Gadol begged Hashem to watch over the people of the Sharon lest their homes become their burial places.

The commentators in Yerushalmi Yomah 5:2 discuss the unique situation in Sharon. It seems that the ground underneath the homes became unstable due to the force of the rains that ran off the mountains and converged on the plains. This required the people to rebuild the foundations of their homes twice within every seven years.

The obvious question is: Why did they continue to live in such a dangerous place?

Chazal did not answer that question for us. And I think I now understand why.

There is a lesson to be learned from the tefilla of the Kohain Gadol. It does not matter if the people of Sharon have chosen to live in a dangerous place. In fact, it may even be that had they asked da’as Torah, they would have been advised to live elsewhere. The only enduring point is that they are our brothers. We care for them. We care about them. And we pray for them.

Avrohom Avinu underwent ten tests of loyalty to Hashem. One of those trials was the command “Lech Lecha, Go forth and relocate.” The Brisker Rov posed the following question: What test was inherent in such a welcome command? After all, at home, Avrohom was busy arguing about the idols in his father’s store. Didn’t he welcome the opportunity to finally get away from that environment?

“The answer,” the Rov declared, “is that to leave one’s home is never simple.”

We are not sure that living in Gush Katif was ever a smart thing to do. We don’t know how wise it was for the people who moved and lived there to endanger themselves, their families and so many soldiers. But now as they stand on the threshold of expulsion, as they hold their heads in agony contemplating the wasted lives sacrificed on the altar of Sharon’s lie, our hearts go out to them.

We pray that Hashem should watch over the people who believed in Sharon.


Blogger ClooJew said...

"They think that the State of Israel is 'reishis tzemichas geuloseinu - the beginning of the dawn of the messianic period.' This awful situation ought to awaken them."

Awaken them to what? That we are not in Messianic times? I'm under the impression, lulei demistafina, that nearly all Gedolim agree we are at the point of ikvisa demeshicha.

Also, I had a hard time--with this sentence and the rest of the essay--distinguishing your commentary from what Rav Shmuel, shlit"a, said.

I would appreciate some clarity. Thanks.

12:55 PM  
Blogger Lvnsm27 said...

""The settlers believed that their moving to Gaza would hasten the arrival of Moshiach....This awful situation ought to awaken them.""

I think he meant that they should be aware now that this was not the way to hasten mashiach.

""but they are our brothers and they are heartbroken. And when our brother is down, we are down.""

Deffinately, we all feel something.

3:15 PM  
Blogger ClooJew said...

SF, Perhaps. But I always understood the term "reishis tzemichas ge'ulaseinu" to mean that the repopulation of the land of Israel was a sign of Mashiach's imminent arrival--not as a charge to go out and settle the land. Gedolim have said the same thing about the Holocaust, the Six-Day War, and the technological revolution of the past two decades. It's a neutral position.

Besides, this is a dangerous game: You must be aware that many Jews today criticize the Gedolim of yesteryear for discouraging the Jews of Europe from emigrating to America. They make the same argument--"This awful situation ought to awaken them."--that the Holocaust proves the Gedolim were wrong.

9:12 PM  

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