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Rallying for Israel: The Halachic Perspective[1]

This article has been reprinted with permission from torahweb.org.

Hashem runs the world.[2]

The Torah guarantees that whenever we repent and cry out wholeheartedly, He answers our prayers.[3]

These realities and fundamentals of faith notwithstanding, it is a sacred, categorical obligation that (in addition to prayer) we also vigorously defend ourselves by natural means. Specifically, we are obligated to defend ourselves militarily and diplomatically.

This episode (of Ya’akov’s encounter with Esau)… teaches us that he (the patriarch Ya’akov) did not (passively) rely on his righteousness; instead, he exerted himself to the maximum in pursuing all avenues of rescue. What transpired between Ya’akov and Esau foretells what will happen throughout history between us and the descendants of Esau; in its detailed account of Ya’akov’s actions the Torah provides a blueprint for future generations. We ought to emulate our righteous forebearer and prepare ourselves for prayer, diplomacy (literally, sending gifts), and war, to escape and be rescued. Our Sages have already recognized this eternal lesson, as I shall subsequently mention. (Ramban, introduction to Bereishis, 32:4)[4]

Everyone recognizes that the support of the United States in Israel’s defensive, existential war against Hamas is crucial. America provides vital armaments and billions of dollars of financial aid; additionally, it serves as a bulwark against international pressure. Everyone also knows that it is imperative to demonstrate widespread support amongst the electorate for such support. Tuesday’s rally did just that.

We are not more deserving or righteous than Ya’akov; we too must exert ourselves to the maximum in pursuing avenues of rescue. Indubitably, Tuesday’s rally comprised one aspect of that effort.

Without unstinting American support, there is a very real danger that, ר”ל, the IDF will be constrained in a way that presently endangers our soldiers and, in the future, endangers the civilian population in the State of Israel. Rallying to sustain and expand such support was thus unquestionably also a fulfillment of (Vayikra 19:16), “לא תעמד על דם רעך, Do not stand idly while your friend’s blood is spilled.”

At the rally, religious and not yet religious Jews stood side by side. Jews who believe and those who do not yet believe stood shoulder to shoulder. The existential threat in 1967 similarly galvanized Jews from across the spectrum. (In fact, in 1967 all yeshiva students participated in the rally.) Wonderful! If only all Jews already appreciated the gift of Torah and were believers and religious. Tragically, that is not yet the case. In the interim it is wonderful that myriads of Jews, to a degree, embraced their identity and shared destiny and overwhelmingly came to support the Jewish people, their people.

Of course, we can never act or speak in a way that legitimizes or validates inauthentic forms of Yahadus (Judaism), which is why in some other contexts inter-denominational activities are proscribed. Attending the political rally, however, simply expressed unwavering support for our brethren in the State of Israel in their battle for survival and security; it clearly did not affirm or validate anyone else’s beliefs.

Attending the rally condemned Hamas’ savage butchering, massacre, and mutilation of Jews (and some non-Jews) and called for their (Hamas’) eradication; it obviously did not endorse any aspect of the program, the choice of speakers, their respective beliefs or lifestyles.

The prophetic verse (Zechariah 4:6), “לא בחיל ולא בכח כי אם־ברוחי אמר ה’ צבקות, neither with army troops nor with strength rather with My spirit, said Hashem Tzevakos,” narrowly refers to the building of the Second Temple. Even as a figure of speech it is irrelevant and inapplicable in the present context wherein our מסורה (tradition) demands that we exert ourselves to the maximum in pursuing all avenues of rescue.

May Hashem answer our prayer וכל הרשעה כרגע תאבד וכל אויבי עמך מהרה יכרתו, May all evil instantaneously perish and all Your nation’s enemies be speedily excised, and may there be no need for any further rallies.

[1] An edited transcript of remarks delivered to students in Yeshiva University on November 16, 2023. A slightly expanded Hebrew version, קראו עצרה, is also available.

[2]אני מאמין באמונה שלמה שהבורא יתברך שמו הוא בורא ומנהיג לכל הברואים והוא לבדו עשה ועושה ויעשה לכל המעשים

[3] כי מי גוי גדול אשר לו אלקים קרבים אליו כה’ אלקינו בכל קראנו אליו (דברים ד:ז). אבל צבור כל זמן שעושים תשובה וצועקין בלב שלם הם נענין שנאמר כה’ אלקינו בכל קראנו אליו” (רמב”ם הל’ תשובה ב: ו)ו

[4] נכתבה הפרשה הזאת . . . ללמדנו עוד שהוא לא בטח בצדקתו והשתדל בהצלה בכל יכלתו. ויש בה עוד רמז לדורות כי כל אשר אירע לאבינו עם עשו אחיו יארע לנו תמיד עם בני עשו, וראוי לנו לאחז בדרכו של צדיק שנזמין עצמנו לשלשת הדברים שהזמין הוא את עצמו, לתפלה ולדורון ולהצלה בדרך מלחמה, לברוח ולהנצל, וכבר ראו רבותינו הרמז הזה מן הפרשה הזאת כאשר אזכיר

See also ibid. 33:15:

Our sages discerned (in Ya’akov’s response) (normative) counsel. They related that R. Yanai, before traveling to intercede with the (Roman) government, would study this section (of the Torah)… because our Sages had a tradition that this section teaches the modus vivendi in exile. When R. Yanai would travel to the royal court in Rome, he would (first) study this section to follow the counsel of the sagacious elder, because all generations look to him to follow his example.

ורבותינו ראו עוד בזה עצה, אמרו )ב”ר עח טו( רבי ינאי כד הוה סליק למלכותא הוה מסתכל בהדא פרשתא וכו’. מפני שהיתה קבלה בידם שזו פרשת גלות. כשהיה בא ברומה בחצר מלכי אדום על עסקי הצבור היה מסתכל בפרשה זו ללכת אחרי עצת הזקן החכם, כי ממנו יראו הדורות וכן יעשו

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