OF THE HOLYLAND
FOLLOWING ESSAY WAS PUBLISHED IN 1978
(every word is pertinent today!)
on discourses of the Lubavithcer Rebbe, Rabbi Menacherm M. Schneerson
right do we have to the Holy Land?
In the beginning G-d Created Heaven and Earth (1)....Rashi's
commentary on this very first statement of the Torah follows:
"..It was not necessary to begin the Torah (whose main
objective is to teach commandments) with this verse.... And
what is, therefore, the reason that it begins with Genesis?
Because if the nations of the world will say to Israel: 'You
are robbers because you have conquered with force the lands
of the seven nations (of Canaan) they (Israel) can answer: 'He
created it (as described in Genesis) and gave it to whomever
was proper in His eyes. Of His own will He gave it to them (the
non-Jews) and of his own will He took it from them and gave
it to us!'
Actually it is not necessary to use this quotation from Torah
to establish the tenure rights of the people Israel for the
land of Israel. This point is made strongly and continually
elsewhere in the Torah - even to the extent of identifying the
people and the land as one. The accomplishment of Rashi's explanation,
quoted above, is to publicize the fact to all people - and to
emphasize that the giving of the land is nothing less than an
expression of the Divine will.
No one denies that the land of Israel was once in gentile hands.
Indeed, this fact is conceded in Psalms: "The power of
His work He has declared to His people in giving them the heritage
of the nations." (2) By the will of the Al-mighty,
the land was once the heritage of the nations, and by the will
of the Al-mighty it was given to His people.
should be the overall outlook and attitude for the Jewish statesman
or diplomat in representing Israel's case before the members
of any other nation?
The Right Way: The Jew chosen to represent his people must be
aware that although we are still in exile, before the advent
of the Messianic era, nonetheless we must not adopt a servile
attitude before others. On the contrary, our representative's
attitude must imply: "Listen, I am a Jew. I am a representative
of the Jewish people. I am a representative of Yiddishkeit,
and the following are my rightful demands.
" True, we are in exile amongst the nations of the world.
We do not rule over them and consequently we cannot dictate
to them. The Al-mighty has seen to it that in our present Galus
(exile) we do have to approach other nations for our needs.
It is therefore necessary to speak their language and to address
them diplomatically. But the Jewish representative does not
have to ask for the Holy Land; he must declare clearly that
the Land belongs to us by Divine Right.
This uniquely Jewish combination of openness, firmness, and
diplomacy is an ancient heritage of Israel from our forefather
Avraham (Abraham). Avraham asked the Hittites politely to give
him a burying-place for his wife in Hebron. Avraham declared,
"I am a stranger and a sojourner with you." (3) The
Midrash interprets: "If you agree to my request, you can
regard me as a stranger (who is entirely dependent upon your
good will). But if not, I am a sojourner (settler and citizen)
and can take what I desire by right - since G-d has promised
this land to me and my children." (4) Avraham's
diplomacy was to be polite and to imply to the Hittites that
the conditions could be discussed. If money was an issue, he
was ready to pay 400 full shekels of silver. But the actual
granting of the land could not be argued - for his right to
the Holy Land was a Divine Mandate.
The Wrong Way: Instead of declaring firmly that the Holy Land
is ours by Divine fiat, some approach the representatives of
other nations in an entirely different manner. They say that
there was a certain non-Jew, Lord Balfour by name, who lived
in London and who issued a "paper" in 1917, declaring
that the Jews should have the Holy Land as a "national
home". One who presents such a claim based on non-Jewish
sources automatically implies that he has no proof from Jewish
sources! The statesmen from the other nation can retort, "Very
well, one non-Jew indeed issued such a paper, but 140 non-Jews
now say the reverse. That person (Lord Balfour) had no right
to make such a declaration over the Holy Land." The statesman
does not know how right he is. "That person," indeed
had no rights over the Holy Land! For it was the Al-mighty's
desire to give the Holy Land originally as "a heritage
to the nations" and it was His Divine will to take it away
from them and give it to his people Israel.
When we ask other nations for arms it is indeed necessary that
we "pray for the welfare of the city," (5)
and that our request be channeled through their government -
for we are still in Galus. However, the content of our request
dare not be couched in false terms, or based upon claims that
have no spiritual validity, for two reasons - first and foremost,
for this is the opposite of Torah, and secondly, because the
results of such a request will be counter-productive. The above
wrong approach (which, tragically, has been used in presenting
our case for the Holy Land during all these years) has led to
the current situation, in which the whole basis for our claim
to the Holy Land vacillates. This is not all surprising, for
it was built on a shaky foundation, built on a "paper"
issued by a non- Jew who dwelt in London.
What kind of an overlord was he over the Jews? What kind of
authority did he have over "the land upon which the eyes
of G-d your G-d, gaze from the beginning of the year till year's
end"? (6) Our representatives pursuing this false
approach inquire of other non-Jews: "Where are the borders
of our Holy Land? Up to which geographical boundary does the
inheritance of the Jews extend? What are the inner allusions
of the "paper" issued by the non-Jew in London?"
Why follow such a weak path? We have an ironclad claim: "The
power of His work he has declared to His people in giving them
the heritage of the nations." (2) Why rely on diplomatic
counseling? Why make compromises, plots, conspiracies? Why "Wheel
and Deal" and make business transactions as regards what
belongs to other nations and what belongs to Israel? The Al-
mighty in His Torah has clearly indicated the borders of the
Land of Israel,......This is the land etc...to its borders (7)
This is the one single approach which has until now not even
been tried. All other versions of diplomacy and statesmanship
have been tried and have failed. We have tried behind the scenes
diplomacy and financial transactions; we have sought the confidence
of influential leaders etc. etc., and today we see to what state
of affairs this has led. The only approach which the non-Jews
deep down really understand is one based upon our Holy Torah
which they also regard with reverence as "the Bible."
When a Jewish representative abandons this approach, he abandons
his own wealth; he abandons the source of his strength, he abandons
his true claim.
would a sincere, strong stand accomplish?
One example of what a strong stand could accomplish can be seen
from the events of the recent past, when the Premier of Egypt,
Mr. Sadat , suddenly suggested a proposal of peace and came
on a mission of peace to visit Israel. What was it that motivated
him to suggest a peaceful approach? It was his observation that
the Jews were beginning to speak with strength, and were not
displaying any fear of the nations. He observed that the name
of G-d was being invoked with ever-increasing frequency and
intensity in statements issuing from the Holy Land. There were
those in Israel who were beginning to adopt the ancient cry,
"We encamp in the name of our G-d."(8) This
had a profound effect upon Sadat. (Though his physical intelligence
might not have perceived the importance of this renewal of attachment
to G-dly values, his soul perceived it.) Sadat was aware, furthermore,
that Jewish soldiers stood on the borders and had the capacity
to destroy his armies. He saw that they had chariots and horses
and all the implements of war. He was instilled with fear; an
honest analysis of the situation told him that it would not
pay for him to start a war with these Jews. This is the reason
he came with a peace proposal.
From this episode - and many others - it is evident that only
when we take a strong, fearless, and uncompromising stand that
we can have any beneficial effect upon our relations with other
is it that instills fear into the hearts of our nation's compromisers?
We are told by the Torah that there might come a time in our
bitter exile when some of our people will be possessed by an
illogical fear, a "faintness of heart". They will
flee - imagining that they are under pursuit by an enemy - when
in reality they are fleeing from the sound of a leaf driven
by the wind.(9) Today we see the unfortunate fulfillment
of this prophecy. There are some of us who allow themselves
to be frightened by threats issued by other nations: they stand
in fear and trembling. But who is it that they fear - a torn
leaf driven by the wind! For when a member of another nation
attempts to rob a Jew of something connected with Torah and
Mitzvos, something which is his rightful property, the person
is violatining one of the basic seven Noahide laws for all humanity.(10)
By this violation he severs the inner G-dly source of his own
vitality. He is no longer a leaf connected to a tree, but a
leaf torn from a tree, driven here and there by the wind. Yet
these faint-hearted individuals are so terrified of the "torn
leaf" that they attempt to instill their brother Jews with
a similar fear.
qualifies as an "expert" to decide policies for defense
of the Holy Land?
The answer to this question is crystal clear. According to the
law of the Torah if a person is sick and must take advice regarding
his therapy (for example whether or not he should undergo an
operation) he can take into account neither the opinion of "good
friends", nor of neighbors, relatives, plumbers, electricians,
nor even of learned professors of philosophy, history, mathematics,
etc. etc. The one and only individual qualified to give an opinion
on this matter is an expert in the field - a doctor. In exactly
the same way, the only person whose opinion is to be considered
as regards retaining or returning parts of the Holy Land is
a military expert, a general in the field. The opinion of all
the politicians, diplomats and statesmen in the world carries
no weight whatsoever in this question according to the Torah
. At stake in the doctor's decision is the life of one individual;
at stake in the expert's decision are the lives of hundreds
and thousands of our people! In the three wars that have been
fought in the Middle East we have seen time and again that the
military experts, the generals in the field, declared unequivocally
that if such-and-such an area were given back to the enemy it
would bring about loss of life. Along came the politicians and
said that "because of political considerations we dare
not anger other nations; we must listen to them and return this
territory." Later, this dastardly action cost tens and
hundreds of Jewish fatalities. This distorted attitude reached
a nadir of debasement in the Yom Kippur war, when our representatives,
knowing of the impending invasion by their enemies, informed
Washington (knowing that this information would immediately
become known all over the world) that they would not start a
war! Even more, they gave assurances that they would not even
make an effective mobilization before being attacked. They did
not deceive Washington either; they indeed kept their word.
They did not make the necessary military preparations - an act
which cost our nation hundredsof fatalities!
a Torah perspective, what is the central issue today in regards
to the defense of the Holy Land?
The Issue: The issue is Pikuach Nefesh, danger to life. Make
no mistake about it. From a Torah perspective nothing else is
the real issue here: the interpretation, significance or wording
of UN Resolution No. 242 is not the issue. The central issue
is Pikuach Nefesh, the endangering of the lives of all the inhabitants
of the Holy Land posed by the proposed return of certain areas
Torah Law Speaks: The following is the definitive verdict of
our Divine Torah law, as expressed in the Shulchan Aruch.(11)
If a band of idolators have surrounded a Jewish City (on the
Shabbos), if their intention is only to rob, we may not desecrate
the shabbos to defend our property. If their intention is to
kill - or even if their intention is unknown, but there is reason
to suspect that it might be to kill - then, even if they have
not yet arrived, but are only preparing their attack, we are
to go forth against them with weapons and we may desecrate the
Shabbos for this purpose. However, if the city in question is
close to the coast, then even where their intention is only
to rob 'straw and stubble', we desecrate the Shabbos to defend
the city against them, for if we will not do so, they might
capture this (strategic) city - and from there it might be easy
for them to conquer the land.
The ruling is clear, and the current circumstances in the Middle
East are far more severe than those portrayed in the above passage,
for the following reasons: First, every point on the map of
the Holy Land, every settlement, can be considered as "a
city close to the coast (or border)" due to the extremely
vulnerable nature of Israel's geography. An enemy could obviously
conquer the hinterland far more easily once it has captured
any strong point near the border. Second, there is no question
of the invading enemies having their eyes only on despoiling
"straw and stubble"; they announce their murderous
goals very openly! A question could be posed about this Torah
ruling. The desire is to rescue the Jews from the hands of their
enemies. Since we are the "smallest of all the nations",
we need the Al-mighty's help in our battle. If so, why should
we take weapons and desecrate the Shabbos? Should we not better
recite Tehillim (Psalms) for our deliverance, or engage in Torah
Study etc.? The unequivocal ruling of the Shulchan Aruch is
resoundingly clear. The Al-mighty desires that, in this case,
we should go forth against them well armed, and, if necessary,
we are to desecrate the Shabbos for this purpose. The course
of action mandated by the Torah is one manner of serving G-d.
Just as one must study Torah and fulfill the Mitzvos so must
he perform his bounden duty with regard to the prevention of
danger to life.
much of the territory of the Holy Land can we give back?
Not one step!
The situation currently in the Holy Land is strange; it
is exceedingly worrying; it is completely incomprehensible.
Everyone knows that to return areas on the West bank of the
Jordan River to the Arabs is a danger to life. We do not need
to hear this from the greatest expert. All we have to do is
look at the map and see how close the west bank of the Jordan
is to the sea, and to note who is present on the eastern side
of the Jordan and who is to be found on ships in the Mediterranean
... It then becomes immediately obvious that this is a situation
of real imminent danger to life. (When Jewish representatives
unrolled a map in the Oval Office of the president of the United
States and pointed out to him the distance of the territories
in question to the sea, and the ease with which an enemy could
cut through those areas, the President agreed that return of
those areas to the enemy constituted PIKUACH NEFESH.
endangering the lives of the inhabitants of the Holy Land.)
Yet, in spite of the clarity and obviousness of the danger,
on which issues do we hear discussion today? The discussion
centers around such irrelevant issues as the U.N. Resolution
242 (which was unfortunately signed by those of our people who
were "fearful and faint-hearted"). What difference
does the interpretation of this piece of paper make? The issue
here is DANGER TO LIFE. The issue is PIKUACH NEFESH.
There is not a single expert who disagrees with the analysis
that return of the territories under discussion involves danger
to life. In such a circumstance, when the lives of three million
Jews are in danger, what possible difference does the "meaning"
or "interpretation" of the resolution make? The simplest
person understands that if his wife and family are in circumstances
where their very lives are endangered, such a situation overrules
and overrides ALL other considerations.
Some claim that a "promise" was secretly made to return
some areas. This claim is totally without meaning - for no-one
can promise to give away something which does not belong to
him! The Holy Land - all of it - belongs to the Al-mighty. The
Al-mighty has given it to every individual Jew and to all of
us together as a nation, but He has given it to us "in
trust", in a manner that it must remain OUR eternal inheritance.
How could anyone have "promised" to give any of it
away? It was not his to give.
should be done now to protect Israel?
To establish defensive Jewish settlements along the entire
First Duty: Our very first duty is to prevent enemy infiltration
of our borders, and there is no other effective way to do this
than to close and protect those borders. The situation has deteriorated
so badly, that for lack of a proper response to this demand
of Torah, the authorities have come up with the following ridiculous
explanation: Since the ultimate intention is to eventually build
cities in the west bank area (the area of Judea (Yehuda) and
Samaria (Shomron)) such construction and planning will take
a long time; we cannot rush into it; it must be done slowly
and deliberately, and eventually, at some unspecified time,
these cities will be built.
This is a total evasion of the issue; "cities" or
"villages" are not the issue. In fact, the nature
of any building per se is not under discussion. What is at issue
here is the DEFENSE of all the people who dwell in the Holy
Land for which purpose we do not need cities, we need lines
of defense! We must post a sentry, arm him , and give him all
the encouragement and support necessary to show him that he
is doing the greatest Mitzva - that of protecting our sons and
our daughters. CLOUDING THE ISSUE: Let not anyone confuse and
cloud the issue with talk of what "was promised" or
what was "not promised" All this is irrelevant discussion.
The Land of Israel is an eternal inheritance given to the eternal
people by the Eternal G-d Who is the supreme King of Kings of
all countries of the world (subconsciously, members of all the
other nations realize this too). Let us immediately settle the
entire land of Israel to its borders without a storm of publicity
or news. Quietly and resolutely let it be done, and then we
will be on the road to true peace, for through this action we
will frustrate and annul all the pressure being brought to bear
upon us. The nations of the world will see that an action has
been taken, a concrete action, and "the actions of a Bais
Din (Court of Torah law ) are final; nothing can be done to
change them post facto." (12)
whom could Israel sign a valid peace treaty now?
With no one!
There are some who are foolish enough to declare that if we
will return areas of Judea and samaria (on the west bank of
the Jordan river) we will attain peace. Those who cry for "peace"
and "peace now" center the discussion whether it is
worthwhile to take such-and-such a step "for peace"
or not. Is it worthwhile to "trade territory for peace"
etc. and other such meaningless discussions - meaningless because
the supposed "peace discussions" are to take place
with one, upon whom (everyone knows) peace does NOT depend on
at all. Is he then supposed to persuade Saudi Arabia to make
peace? He has no say WHATSOEVER in their opinions. Is he supposed
to conclude a peace agreement on behalf of Iraq or Jordan or
the P.L.O.? What nonsense! They despise him! Yet in order to
attain this illusory and non-existent possibility of "peace",
some are ready to bow and prostrate themselves before Egypt's
Premier in order to "find favor in his eyes." They
are ready to persuade him that he should take back everything
which can be returned to him in the Sinai, in Judea and Samaria
etc. They are ready to make CONCESSIONS WHICH WILL PLACE THE
LIVES OF MILLIONS OF JEWS IN MORTAL DANGER!
They say, "Why are you not ready to give back territory
for peace?" We must reply that NO ONE CAN OFFER A VALID
PEACE TREATY. IT IS SIMPLY NOT WITHIN THEIR POWER. IT IS NOT
WITHIN THE POWER OF WASHINGTON, IT IS NOT WITHIN THE POWER OF
EGYPT - IT IS NOT EVEN WITHIN THE POWER OF ARAFAT YEMACH SH'MO
(MAY HIS NAME BE ERASED). FOR EVEN HE HAS SEVERE PROBLEMS FROM
THOSE TO THE RIGHT AND TO THE LEFT WITHIN HIS ORGANIZATION.
It is worth emphasizing that point again and again: Currently
no one is able to offer a real peace. All they can offer is
the willingness to sign a piece of paper; they say quite openly
that the significance of the signature on this piece of paper
is that if and when .... If everyone concerned will be in the
proper mood... if.... if... then we will begin to speak about
peace, and we will begin to ask all the various enemies of the
Jews what their conditions are. And we all know very well what
their conditions are - may heaven protect us against them!
Based on excerpts form unedited transcripts of discourses delivered
on 11 Nissan 5736 (1976), 24 Teves 5738(1978), Mevorchinm Adar
I 5738 (1978), Mevorchim Nissan 5738 (1978), and others. (1)
Genessis 1:1; (2) Psalms 111:6; (3) Genesis 23:4; (4) Viz. Rashi
ibid.; (5) Jeremiah 29:7; (6) Deuteronomy 11:12; (7) Numbers
34:2; (8) Psalms 20:6; (9) Leviticus 26:36; (10) Viz. Maimonides
Hilchos Melachim Chap. 9:9; (11) Shulchan Aruch Admur, Orach
Chayim 239:6; (12)Viz. Baba Metzia 17a