People, Not Territory, of Vital Importance

April 24, 2014

The wisdom of our precious Torah sages always bears repeating.

With reference to the safety and welfare of the State of Israel and its inhabitants, the apparent choice is between the hawkish territorialism and revanchist one-state, pro-settler agenda of Marc Caroff and the Zionist Organization of America (Your Say, April 11) and the courageous and nuanced “land for peace” optic of the great Joseph B. Soloveitchik, of blessed memory, the illustrious Rav.

For rabbinic Judaism, people come before territory or, for that matter, property. Halachah speaks of pikuach nefesh, “saving a life,” and knows nothing of pikuach cheftza or “saving property.”

In sobering comments all the more remarkable for having been made during the period of euphoria after the triumphant 1967 war, the Rav made it clear that when it comes to the matter of land, it is the people of Israel that are holy, not the land. The people of Israel – their welfare and well-being, safety and security – take precedence. In the Rav’s own words: “Our Judaism is not a religion of shrines. … As dear as the Western Wall is, the two million lives of Jews is more important.”

Issachar Friedmann
Baltimore

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