One More Critical Idea Regarding Israel, by Rabbi Asher Lopatin

Yesterday I posted my underlying political views re. Israel.  I wanted to add one major point.  And it is so important that it is the one time, that I can recall, that I have talked what can be viewed as politics – Israel politics – from the bima, from the pulpit.  It is regarding the rule of law in Israel, and, specifically, following the law when it comes to the IDF.  I believe that in the case of Israel, not only is the rule of law critical to the moral, ethical and national fiber of the state, but it is crucial for the very survival of the Jewish State.  Therefore, it becomes a religious issue of “pikuach nefesh” making sure that the best defense of the Jewish People – the State of Israel – can operate safely as a state of laws.  That applies to soldiers in the IDF, even if their rabbis tell them otherwise, and to those building communities all over the land.  I would push hard to allow the greatest freedom of expression the law will allow – free speech is important – and for the greatest latitude in letting Jews live everywhere in Eretz Yisrael, the land that God gave us, but we need to follow the laws of Israel.

Our rabbis had an ambivalent – to say the least – attitude towards the Hashmonaim who did not always stick to Jewish law.  They are still heroes, but their state did not last. I hope, and pray and plan to work  hard to make sure the the Jewish state that we have in our days lasts a lot longer, and one of the key ways of doing so is by making sure that all those who live in her holy boundaries, heroes or not, obey the law.

Shabbat shalom, Chodesh Tov and Chanuka same’ach,

Rabbi Asher Lopatin

4 Responses to One More Critical Idea Regarding Israel, by Rabbi Asher Lopatin

  1. > but we need to follow the laws of Israel.

    The following is quoted from an article I wrote, “Why I Won’t Serve in the IDF: Being Jailed For IDF Conscientious Objection” (h_ttp://w_ww.jewcy.c_om/post/why_i_wont_serve_idf, remove the underscores in http, www, and com). I believe it will be very obvious that, based on the principles of American liberal democracy, I am extremely opposed to your suggestion that we must slavishly follow the laws of Israel:

    One may well ask, “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: There are just and there are unjust laws. … A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. … So I can urge men to disobey segregation ordinances because they are morally wrong. … We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was illegal to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during hat time I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. — Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter From the Birmingham Jail”

    Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. … Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice. … He who gives himself entirely [including his conscience] to his fellow men appears to them useless and selfish; but he who gives himself partially [only his body and obedience, minus his conscience] to them is pronounced a benefactor and philanthropist. — Henry David Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience”]

    We are superstitious, and esteem the statute somewhat: so much life as it has in the character of living men, is its force. The statute stands there to say, yesterday we agreed so and so, but how feel ye this article today? Our statute is a currency, which we stamp with our own portrait: it soon becomes unrecognizable, and in process of time will return to the mint. … But our institutions, though in coincidence with the spirit of the age, have not any exemption from the practical defects which have discredited other forms. Every actual State is corrupt. Good men must not obey the laws too well. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Politics”

  2. moshe says:

    This is an extremely dangerous situation which the author fails to grasp. It is absolutely critical that every soldier or even citizen of a specific state be given the latitude to declare “the act that I am being commanded by law to do violates my moral principles and therefore I will not do it”.
    We have seen in the previous century the danger inherent in people (soldiers and citizens)saying “I will follow the rule of law no matter what”.
    Even left-wing doyens have reversed their support of Gush Katif style evictions and have begun to comprehend the vicious immorality of banishing people from their homes. For armchair Zionists to sit in their comfortable living rooms in the US and blithely pontificate about how my son (who currently serves in the Israeli army)should not refuse to evict his family from the home his parents (and he) toiled and worked for, learned to walk in, hung up his good tests on its walls, played with his neighbors, fought for, and fulfilled a 2 thousand year old dream, is nauseating. Realize that much of what is being done by politicians and NGO’s is for fit their own personal/political agenda and not for the betterment of the Jewish state. It is unprecedented for a country to banish its own citizens from their homes, destroy their communities, wreck their livelihood, raze their houses of worship, flatten their schools and playgrounds, even after these towns were legally established.

    Furthermore, the author may or may not realize that a proposed law preventing the destruction until suitable alternative arrangements could be made, was voted down. Today these law abiding former citizens who legally resided in Gush Katif (some had been living in communities established before 1948), lives are in shambles. All because our soldiers followed the “rule of law” and did not question the morality of the act. Not to mention the questionable (at best) “Democratic” way in which the orders were conceived and executed.

    Oh, and by the way the expulsion (a word that has just been deemed illegal to be used on purportedly democratic Israel TV when referring to the Gush Katif events of 2005) was unilateral, meaning this was not for “peace”. No treaty was signed nor did our enemies even for a moment consider implementing a cease fire. This wasn’t a political disagreement it was a wanton, immoral decree.

    Would you be a CO if the US army drafted you and ordered you to destroy the Los Angeles Jewish community and put the expelled Jews in caravans? For their own good, of course. Would your Rabbi be wrong to tell you to refuse the order? Or are you more committed to the “rule of law”?

    The importance of “rule of law” is paramount in any society, much less a Jewish one where Law is a central component in the Jew’s life. At the same time immoral and dangerous laws need to be repudiated and disobeyed.

  3. Am Ha'aretz says:

    How can Rabbi Lopatin expect a Jewish majority in Greater Israel when demographic projections demonstrate just the opposite

    • Asher Lopatin says:

      We need to bring more Jews to Israel by accepting all Jews – from Africa, Asia, South America and elsewhere- who self identify as Jews and commit to being loyal to the Jewish people. Let’s try this new way of implementing the Jewish Law of Return – without a bureaucracy determining “Who is a Jew?” – and see what happens. I think tens or hundreds of thousands from all over the world will be lining up to enter Israel. This will solve the demographic issue along with educating Arab women, which has also been shown to lower birth rates significantly. Israel needs a Jewish majority to demonstrate to the Arab world that we are in Israel to stay! But cutting out parts of the Holy Land because no one can figure out what to do about demographics would be tragic. Let’s try this solution and see how it works.

      Rabbi Asher Lopatin

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