Written by Raanan Isseroff
Last night a major Hakel event rocked Crown Heights. Not in terms of great numbers of people, but in terms of spirit. A very spirited group turned up at Mrs. Feldman’s house for a parlor meeting with Rabbi Sholom Ber Kalmanson about the situation in Eretz Yisroel. With so many people recently stabbed, killed and wounded by terrorists, as last week’s parsha stated: The land was filled with Hamas.
Certainly, our tayva (Ark), are the Rebbe’s lifesaving words of Torah on how to deal with this terrible situation. Mayim Rabim, we have aplenty! What to do about it – learning the Rebbe’s shita on the safety of Jews in Eretz Yisroel, lifts us above the raging waters to keep us and them safe. The Baal Shem Said on this: Bah el HaTayva, come into the Ark, you and your family. And what Jew is not our family?
It could hardly be called a “lecture”. On the other hand it wasn’t exactly a round-table discussion either. Rabbi Kalmanson listened patiently as participants (for lack of a better word) each voiced deep feelings of concern for Jews living in Eretz Yisroel.
Rebbitzin Frieda Shapiro began by passing out a letter the Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote to someone on this very subject. The letter is in a third volume of letters in English that the Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote at various times to various people.
The book was originally organized by Rebbitzin Shapiro’s late father the famous Rabbi Nissan Mindel. Rabbi Mindel, as secretary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, had set up a number of books which he never saw published. Instead the work was finished by his talented daughter Frieda, including: Volume 3 of The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Memoirs and 3 books of Letters in English called: “Letter & Spirit – Personal and Public Correspondence of the Lubavitcher Rebbe”.
In the particular letter Mrs. Shapiro brought to the Hakel event, the Rebbe wrote that people are upset about his demanding safety for Jews in the land of Israel calling his efforts: “political”. He writes there that it makes no difference if Jews are being threatened (and terrorized) in Russia, the United States or Israel. The fact remains that their safety must be ensured. This is something demanded from Shulchan Oruch and something any Jew must make an effort to ensure.
The Rebbe went on to describe his efforts and that there are two opinions in Israel about how to deal with terror. One is to ignore it, which just makes it worse. The other is to aggressively find the Arabs responsible and punish them quickly. This, the Rebbe writes, is the one way that works in this region to deal effectively with terror.
The other way of showing fear and letting the attackers go free to murder again, loses respect for the government and increases the boldness of the Arab enemy.
There were over 30 people calling in from all over the country on a teleconference organized by Mrs. Tamar Adelstein of Crown Heights Women For A Safe Israel.
Rabbi Kalmanson began by listening patiently to all the opinions and then launched into a history of Chabad and mivzoyim and how the Rebbe’s non-stop campaigning for more Israeli government concern about the safety of Jews fits neatly into the picture.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s campaign to guard the land is undisputed in every corner of Chabad. It has many aspects both spiritual and physical. From ensuring “Mi Yehudi” (the theme was started by Ben Gurion) that Jews coming into Israel are converted according to Halacha (Jewish law) or born from a Jewish mother. To a non-stop campaign to stop Israel’s officials from giving away pieces of the land as they could get away with it.
In 1956, Israel won Sinai and Suez Canal. A few days later, Mr. Ben Gurion gave it back.
For eleven years after this, Israel suffered by being forced to pay exorbitant “Jew-prices” to use Suez Canal. Israelis suffered non-stop terror from squads sneaking in via Sinai from Egypt, which had taken in hundreds of ex-Nazi brass and was training the terrorists in German warfare techniques. Finally in 1967, Israel was attacked and again in a series of the most miraculous events, Israel was caught with her pants down and despite suffering terrible losses again gained the Suez Canal, Sinai, Jerusalem and Golan Heights.
After the dust cleared, Israel made a truce giving away the canal once again (and part of Golan), but keeping the other areas. Unfortunately, they left a clause in the agreements that would later come back to haunt them about Israel needing Arabs to recognize their country’s right to exist.
If the Arab countries would recognize Israel’s right to exist, Israel suggested, they would then consider negotiating to return land. In their wildest dreams the Israeli negotiators never thought that anyone would take them up on this silly clause which Israel never needed and which they were certain the Arabs would never agree to. Well, they were wrong. Later Arafat began a campaign to do just that, but not in writing. Only as lip service to gain advantageous concessions. For this little bit of non-committal lip service, Israel began giving land in a series of secret agreements that continue up until today.
Then, in June of 1967, the Rebbe said (and made it clear through messengers to Israel’s leaders whom he was close with, including the head of Mossad) that Israel didn’t need to make any conditions. The other side would be happy to make peace without them.
It’s clear from recently declassified White House discussions (which can be found on line) that the American opinion in May 1967, was that Israel was in the driver’s seat and would demand concessions. They never imagined Israel would volunteer concessions and write in trap-clauses, so common in the two tongued world of international diplomacy.
Rabbi Kalmanson discussed how the Lubavitcher Rebbe bases his opinion on the Halacha in Laws of Shabbos Chapter 329. There, it states that a Jewish town or city in a non-Jewish country, that is situated on the border of that non-Jewish country, which finds itself attacked on Shabbos (Sabbath), must pick up arms and go out to fight. Why? Because if their town falls, the whole interior of the country will more easily fall. On this, the Lubavitcher Rebbe adds: Here, we are discussing the case of a Jewish town in a non-Jewish country. How much more so if we apply this to the Land of Israel which is only 30 miles wide and where giving any land constitutes a case: “That you make the interior of the country more vulnerable to attack”.
Now, whether we go out to fight depends on the intent of the attacking force. For example, if you know they are coming for money owed them by a certain person, you let them come take it. However, if there is any doubt what-so-ever? Go out to fight. The Chofetz Chaim states this point in even stronger terms being written 150 years after the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Oruch. He writes that since it has become so popular (the style!) to attack Jews for no reason, then the slightest bit of doubt of intent by the attackers is enough to warrant picking up arms on Shabbos.
A person might wonder: “What does this have to do with the Peace Process? Here, they are coming in peace and suing for peace. Here, it doesn’t apply.”
The Rebbe answers this in his famous sicha “ba lehargecha” in 1974 calling the Arab Peacemakers: “Hitler and his professors”. No doubt he was referring to the Nazi top brass Nasser brought to Egypt and who were invited to other Arab countries as well to train their armies. How does one make peace with a Nazi? Could there be any greater proof of intent than such a history? The Rebbe says: “They say that now, it’s a different time. Let bygones be bygones.” Obviously, the Rebbe didn’t buy the Israeli story that we know their bloody history, but “today things are different”.
The event provoked much discussion. The event was a true Hakel gathering despite the vociferous opinions presented. But in the end, was felt a feeling of true feeling of unity in gathering for the defense of Jews in the Land of Israel. Truly a matter which is life and death and not political.