The Torah on “Unilateral Disengagement”

There could be almost no greater desecration of God’s Name than relinquishing portions of the land of Israel. The entire world would be made aware that God’s children agreed to give away the land which God Himself gave them as an eternal possession.
Click to dedicate this lesson
1. The Commandment To Settle the Land
2. “Do not allow them to reside in your land.
3. No Consideration
4. “No land shall be sold permanently.”
5. Life-Threatening Danger
6. Desecration of God’s Name
7. Levels of Sanctification and Desecration
8. May It Be God’s Will…

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s unilateral disengagement plan runs counter to the Torah in a number of respects. Let us outline them in short:

The Commandment To Settle the Land
The commandment to settle the land of Israel requires that we conquer the land. It is thus written, “Possess the land and settle it, for I have given you the land in order that you take possession of it” (Numbers 33:53), and our sages explain the expression “possess” to imply the conquest and establishment of Israeli sovereignty in the land. Moreover, this commandment remains binding upon us in all generations (Ramban, Hosefot LeMitzvat Aseh 4). Shulchan Arukh concurs with this position (Even HaEzer 75), and Pitchei Teshuva (ad locum, 6) adds that all authorities are in agreement upon this law.

It is true that for many generations we have not merited the privilege of fulfilling this precept because we have lacked the military capacity needed to conquer and defend the land. Yet, as soon as such a capacity is achieved we are obliged to occupy the land. Hence, it goes without saying that it is prohibited to relinquish any part of the land it to another people.

It is clear that the commandment to settle the land overrides the possibility of any life-threatening danger to individual lives, for we are enjoined by the Torah to conquer the land – and war, by its very nature, involves loss of life. It follows that regarding the obligation to settle the land of Israel any posed threat to individual Jewish lives is not considered a deterrent (Minchat Chinnukh, 425).

“Do not allow them to reside in your land
In addition to the more general Torah commandment to take possession of the land of Israel, the Torah warns: “Do not allow them to reside in your land” (Exodus 23:33). The Rambam (Hilkhot Avoda Zara 10:6) explains that when we have the power it is forbidden to allow any non-Jew to reside in our land (with the exception of a “Ger Toshav” – a resident alien who has accepted some of the laws of Judaism).

Torah authorities, though, are divided over the question: To whom does this prohibition apply? Some hold that only a non-Jew who, before a court, professes faith in the God of Israel and takes upon himself to observe the seven commandments of Noah’s descendants, is considered a Ger Toshav who is permitted to live in Israel. Others are of the opinion that even if one does not accept these responsibilities before a court, so long as he does not worship idols and upholds the seven Noahide laws, he is not prohibited from living in Israel.

According to the latter opinion, good and amiable Muslims are permitted to live in Israel, because Islam does not embrace idolatry. Arabs, though, who are hostile towards us clearly do not upkeep the seven Noahide laws, for they fail to recognize the God of Israel Who has given us the land of Israel. In addition, such Arabs support terrorists, thereby violating the Noahide prohibition against murder, and they refrain from establishing courts of law which will try these terrorist, also one of the seven Noahide commandments.

While it is true that some early authorities are of the opinion that the biblical injunction, “Do not allow them to reside in your land” applies exclusively to the “seven nations” (Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizites, Hivites, and Yebusites), the majority take it to apply to any gentile who fails to uphold the seven laws of Noah’s descendants. This being the case, according to the two main opinions brought above it is forbidden for a ruling Jewish government to allow Arabs who refuse to accept Jewish sovereignty to live in Israel, and it goes without saying that it is forbidden to present them with land where they will be able to increase the number of non-Jews who do not uphold the Noahide laws.

No Consideration
The Torah also exhorts: “…do not give them any consideration” (Deuteronomy 7:2), and the sages interpret this to mean that it is forbidden to provide non-Jews with any sort of foothold upon the soil of the land of Israel (Avodah Zara 20a). This prohibition compliments the previously-dealt-with proscription against allowing them “to reside in your land”: it is the obligation of the entire Jewish people to uphold the “residence” prohibition; the “foothold” prohibition, on the other hand, warns each and every individual Jew not to sell a house or lot of land to any non-Jew who is not a Ger Toshav. It follows that it is forbidden to give any portion whatsoever to Arabs who do not uphold the seven Noahide laws. Regarding this interdiction there is consensus among authorities that it applies to all non-Jews and not just to the “seven nations,” and if it is forbidden to sell them a single house, how much more so to give them large portions of the land of Israel.

“No land shall be sold permanently”
The Torah also warns us, “No land shall be sold permanently” (Leviticus 25:23), and the Ramban, basing himself upon the teachings of the sages, learns from here that it is forbidden to sell to a gentile any land which belongs to a Jew. The reason that this is forbidden is that such an act results in the land’s not returning to its original Jewish owner in the Jubilee year (Ramban, Mitzvoth Lo Ta’aseh 227). It follows that it is forbidden for the state of Israel to give portions of our ancestral inheritance to non-Jews.

No ruler or government in the word has the right to displace even a single Jew from his home in the land of Israel. The Almighty God has given this land to the nation of Israel and every Jew has a portion in it. No government in the world wields the authority to steal the lot of even a single Jew, uprooting him from a home which he bought or built in accordance with the law. It follows that any agreement which calls for the eviction of Jews from their homes is prohibited.

Incidentally, it is worth mentioning that according to the Ran (see Nedarim 28a) the rule “Dina D’Malkhuta Dina” (Lit., “the law of the kingdom is the law”; a Halakhic principle which says that Jews must obey the laws of the state in which they live) applies in the lands of the exile alone. The reason for this is that in these countries the land is the property of the kingdom, and one is hence obligated to abide by the laws and ordinances of the country in which he resides. But, says the Ran, in the land of Israel, which belongs to the entire nation of Israel, there is no halakhically-based obligation to comply with the laws of the government. Only under a Jewish state in the land of Israel, because it has the status of a “King of Israel,” is there a requirement to conform to the laws.

Most authorities, however, hold that “Dina D’Malkhuta Dina” applies even in the land of Israel, for public consensus is what gives the government its authority to rule and promulgate laws. This is the opinion of both Rambam and Shulchan Arukh. Nevertheless, all agree with the basic assertion of the Ran, that the land of Israel belongs to the entire nation of Israel, and, hence, that no government possesses the authority to uproot Jews from their ancestral inheritance.

Life-Threatening Danger
According to the sages of the Talmud (Eruvin 45a) and the eventual ruling of the Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 329:6), any concession to an enemy, even a slight one, constitutes an endangerment to life. The sages therefore taught that in a situation where enemies attempt to steal even “straw and stubble from a boarder settlement,” Jews must go out and attack them. The reason for this course of action is that if adversaries are allowed to get away with straw and stubble, our power of deterrence will be weakened, and, in the end, neighboring peoples will undertake to capture settlements and murder people. And even if they come to steal on the Sabbath, the life-threatening danger involved makes it necessary to desecrate the Sabbath and carry out an armed response.
If, then, for mere straw and stubble the sages forbade making concessions because of the eventual life-threatening danger involved, it goes without saying that handing over entire settlements is out of the question. Such behavior will greatly kindle the motivation of the terrorists to murder. Indeed, the aftermath of the infamous Oslo accords have unfortunately already proven the correctness of the logic which underlies this ruling. The Oslo navigators promised peace for a hundred years, and instead caused us more than a thousand deaths and intensified worldwide anti-Semitism.

Desecration of God’s Name
Because the cession of territory which our enemies demand is backed by strong international pressure, submitting to these forces and relinquishing the land which God Himself bequeathed our ancestors and ourselves will render us guilty of desecrating God’s name. We are therefore enjoined to oppose all such anti-religious coercion.

Levels of Sanctification and Desecration
Any commandment which is carried out publicly has the effect of sanctifying God’s Name. Such an act hence possesses great value, for the entire purpose of creation is to reveal God’s majesty in this world. On the other hand, transgressions carried out in public constitute a desecration of God’s name and their severity is therefore much greater than those carried out in private. There exist varying degrees of sanctification and desecration of God’s name. The greater publicity an act receives the greater the amount of sanctification or desecration God’s Name receives.

The most famous Torah commandment in the world is the commandment to settle the land of Israel. The nations have only a vague concept about what is implied by kosher food or Sabbath observation, but they all know that the Almighty has promised the land of Israel to the Jewish people. It is written numerous time in the Bible, and the Bible is the most important and popular book in the world. The entire world knows that God promised the land of Israel to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their offspring. All are aware that God, through His prophets, has declared that the Jews will eventually return to their land. Therefore, when, thanks to God’s abundant kindness, the state of Israel was established, God’s Name was sanctified greatly in the eyes of the nations, for the words of the Prophets were fulfilled. When, again, we merited liberating Jerusalem, as well as Judeah, Samaria, and Gaza, God’s name was once again sanctified; it was as if the entire world heard the blast of the “shofar” (ram’s horn).

There could be almost no greater desecration of God’s Name than our now relinquishing portions of our sacred homeland. All of the news programs would focus in on it. The entire world would be made aware that God’s children agreed to give away portions of the holy soil which God Himself had given them as an eternal possession. Therefore we must exert ourselves to the utmost so that the words of the prophets be fulfilled and this terrible desecration of God’s Name be prevented.

May It Be God’s Will…
May God bless all of the dedicated activists working to protect the settlements in the Gaza strip and in northern Samaria, and may it be God’s will that we all merit seeing the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 65:18-24): “Be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create, for, behold, I create for Jerusalem a rejoicing and for her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in My people and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying…and they shall build houses and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree shall the days of My people be, and the chosen ones shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for confusion, for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.”

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Some of the verses in this article were taken from or based upon either Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s “The Living Torah” (Moznaim) or “The Jerusalem Bible” (Koren)

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