Halakhic Guidance for Soldiers: The Emergence of a New Corpus
Warfare was noticeably marginalized in the vast library of premodern texts that transmit Orthodox Judaism. One consequence was that even when Jews began to perform military service in significant numbers (a phenomenon that commenced in the eighteenth century and became prevalent in the Allied armies of World War II), they continued to suffer from a dearth of halakhic guidance with respect to the ritual and moral challenges posed by battlefield conditions. That is no longer the case. Since the early 1950s, conscription in Israel has generated the production of an increasing number of handbooks expressly designed to serve as works of reference for the growing numbers of religiously observant men and women now serving in the Israel Defense Forces. This paper reviews that corpus, analyzing its authorship, the stages in its development, and the changes in its content.
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Ehud Luz, “The Moral Price of Sovereignty: The Dispute About the Use of Military Power Within Zionism,” Modern Judaism 7 (1987): 53.
She’elot u-Teshuvot Chatam Sofer, VI, Likutim no. 29, cited in Judith Bleich,“Military Service: Ambivalence and Contradiction,” in War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition, ed. L. Schiffman and J. B. Wolowelsky (New York: Yeshiva University Press, 2007), 421.
Salow W. Baron, “Review of History,” in Violence and Defense in the Jewish Experience, ed. S. W. Baron and G. S. Wise (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1977), 3–14.
Derek Penslar, Jews and the Military (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013).
Respectively: Christopher Tozzi, “Jews, Soldiering, and Citizenship in Revolutionary and Napoleonic France,” The Journal of Modern Histor, 86/2 (June 2014): 233–57; Deborah Dash Moore, GI Jews: How World War II Changed a Generation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004); Yitzchak Arad, Betzel ha-Degel ha-Adom [in Hebrew; “In the shadow of the red flag: Jews of the USSR in the fight against Nazi Germany”] (Tel-Aviv: Ministry of Defense Publications, 2008); Martin Sugarman, Fighting Back: British Jewry’s Military Contribution in the Second World War (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 2010).
The following paragraph draws on Chayim C. Nahari, “The Development of Halakhic Literature for Soldiers, 1975–1980” [in Hebrew] (unpub. MA dissertation, Bar-Ilan University, 2003).
On evidence for a supplementary hand in some parts of the work (especially the original introduc- tion) and on the need for caution with respect to the censor, see Binyamin Brown, “The Ba’al Bayit: R. Yisrael Meir ha-Cohen, the ‘Chafetz Chayim,’” [in Hebrew] in Ha-‘Gedolim’: Ishim she-Itzvu et Pnei ha-Yahadit ha-Haredi be-Yisrael, ed. B. Braun and Nissim Leon (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2017), 139–40.
For example, Kook to Falk, 5 Teveth (20 Dec.) 1917, in Igrot Haraiyah [“Letters”] (Jerusalem: Mosad Harav Kook, 1961), no. 859, 136–38. On Kook and the Jewish Legion, see Yehuda Mirsky, Rav Kook: Mystic in a Time of Revolution (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014), 145. On Falk, see Shlomit Keren,“Chaplain with a Star of David: Reverend Leib Isaac Falk and the Jewish Legions,” Israel Affairs 14 (2008): 184–201.
For example, David Z. Hoffman (Germany, 1843–1921), Melamed le-Hoil [in Hebrew] (Berlin: Responsa, 1926; reprint Jerusalem: privately pub- lished by D. Z. Hoffman, 2010), vol. 1, no. 42. In gen- eral: Y. Kahanah, “Military Service in the Responsa Literature” [in Hebrew], Sinai 23 (1948): 129–61.
See, e.g., Rev. Michael Adler,“Experiences of a Jewish Chaplain on the Western Front, 1915–1918,”in British Jewry: Book of Honour ed. M. Adler (London: Caxton, 1922), 33–58; Peter C. Applebaum, Loyalty Betrayed: Jewish Chaplains in the German Army during the First World War (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 2014); Albert I. Slomovitz, The Fighting Rabbis: Jewish Military Chaplains and American History (New York: New York University Press, 1999); Efraim E. Urbach, Reshimot bimei milkhamah [in Hebrew: “Notes During Wartime: Diary of a Palestinian Jewish Rabbi in the British Army, 1942–1944”] (Tel-Aviv: Ministry of Defense Publications, 2008).
Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly 8 (1941– 1944): 34–35.
These materials are preserved in the Records of the National Jewish Welfare Board Military Chaplaincy, housed at the American Jewish Historical Society in New York. See, especially, “Series V: Religious Services and Practices,” box 17, folders 130–133, “Responsa 1942–1944.” On Freehof’s contribution, see Joan Friedman, “Guidance not Governance”: Rabbi Solomon B. Freehof and Reform Responsa (Cincinnati, OH: Hebrew Union College Press, 2013).
Joseph H. Hertz, A Book of Jewish Thoughts (London: Oxford University Press, 1920).
These developments are traced in Stuart Cohen, “Israel,” in Religion in the Military Worldwide, ed. Ron Hassner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 121–22.
Globes (Hebrew daily, Tel-Aviv), October 13, 2016. https://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?- did=1001156219; and interview with senior officer in IDF Manpower Branch, January 2017.
“B,” “The place of soldiers wearing skullcaps in the ranks of IDF tactical commanders” [in Hebrew], Ma’archot (official IDF journal), no. 432 (August 2010): 50–57.
Robert Eisen, Religious Zionism, Jewish Law, and the Morality of War: How Five Rabbis Confronted one of Modern Judaism’s Greatest Challenges (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).
The following paragraph relies heavily on Aharon Kampinsky, Bifkudat ha-Rabanut [in Hebrew; “The Development of the Military Rabbinate in Israel”] (Jerusalem: Carmel, 2015). See also Goren’s autobi- ography, entitled Be-Oz u-ve-Ta’atzumot (Hebrew; “With Strength and Courage”), published post- humously in 2012 and edited by Avi Rat (Tel-Aviv: Yediot Books). See also, Eisen, Religious Zionism, 193–239.
Kampinsky, Bifkudat ha-Rabanut, 172–82.
Shlomo Goren, Meishiv Milchamah [in Hebrew; “Responding to War”] (Jerusalem: Idra Rabah, 1983).
Avraham Moshe Avidan, Shabat u-Moed be-Tza- hal [in Hebrew; “Sabbath and festival in the IDF”] (Jerusalem: Sha’alvim Academy, 1990).
Yitzkhak Kofman, Tzavah ke-Halakhah [in Hebrew; “The Army in accordance with the halakhah”] (Jerusalem: Kol Mevaser, 1992).
Shlomo Min-Hahar, Dinei Tzava u-Milchamah: Sefer Hakhanah la-Mitgayes le-Tzahal [in Hebrew; “Laws of Army and War: A Guide to Recruits to the IDF”] (Jerusalem: Haskel, 1972).
Zechariah ben-Shlomo, Nohal Achid [in Hebrew; “Uniform Behavior”] (Sha’alvim: Oz, 1986).
Yosef Zvi Rimon, Tzava ke-Halakhah [in Hebrew; “The army in accordance with the halakhah”] (Alon Shevut: Har Etziyon Academy, 1991).
Yosef Zvi Rimon, Halakhah Mimkorah—Tzavah [in Hebrew; “Halakhah from the Sources—the Army”] (Alon Shevut: Har Etziyon Academy, 2010).
On this development, see Oren Z. Steinitz, “Responsa 2.0: Are Q&A Websites Creating a New Type of Halakhic Discourse?” Modern Judaism 31/1 (February 2011): 85-102.
Joshua Hagar-Lau, Pe’ilut Mivtza’it be-Tzahal al pi ha-Halakhah [in Hebrew; “Operational Activity in the IDF according to the Halakhah”] (Beit Yatir: Beit Yatir Aacdemy, 1991).
Nahum Rabinowitz, Melumedie Milchamah [in Hebrew: “Experienced in Warfare”] (Ma’aleh Adumim: Ma’aliyot, 1994).
R. Mordechai Frumer, Darkhei Milchamah [in Hebrew; “Ways of War”] (Ma’a lot: Ma’a lot Academy, 1996).
Avi Rontzki, Ke-Chitzim beyad ha-Gibor, 3 vols. [in Hebrew; “Like Arrows in the Hand of a Warrior”] (Jerusalem: Itamar Academy, 1996–2003).
Mishael Rubin, Ha-Morim ba-Keshet [in Hebrew; “Those Who Draw the Bow”] (Hebron: Institute for Settlement Rabbis, 1998).
Shlomo Aviner, Mi-Chayil el Chayil, 2 vols. [in Hebrew; “From Strength to Strength”] (Jerusalem: Chavah Library, 1999–2000).
Yuval Cherlow, Shut Hitnatkut [in Hebrew;“Responsa Relating to the Disengagement”] (Tel-Aviv: Yediyot, 2007). The “disengagement” refers to disengaging from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
Aharon Friedman, Sharon Just, Omri Kraus, and Moshe Goldstein, eds., Machanekha Kadosh (Yeshivat Kerem Be-Yavneh: Kerem be-Yavneh, 2017).
See, respectively: Eliezer Yehudah Waldenberg, Tzitz Eliezer, vol. 12 (Jerusalem: Salomon, 1972), no. 57; Zvi Pesach Frank, Har Tzevi, “Yoreh De’ah” (Jerusalem: Rabbi Frank Institute, 1976), no. 109; Ovadiah Yosef, Yechaveh Da’at (Jerusalem: Chazon Ovadiyah Institute, 1978), part 2, no. 14; Chayim David Ha-Levi, Asei Lechah Rav, vol. 6 (Tel-Aviv: published by the author, 1981), 176–79; Ya’akov Ariel, Shut be-Ohalah shel Torah, vol. 1 (Kfar Darom: Institute for the Torah and the Land, 1998), 84–90.
Respectively: Yehoshua Ehrenberg, Devar Yehoshua, 2nd ed. (Bnei Barak: privately published, 1998), vol. 2, no. 126 and vol. 5, no. 15; Yaakov Halberstadt, Divrei Yetziv, pt. Orach Chayim, no. 148 (Netanya: Shefa Hayim Institute, 1997); Moshe Feinstein, “The Sabbath boundary (techum) with respect to military equipment” [in Hebrew], Techumin, 5 (1984): 11–12.
Yisrael Weiss, Be-Dam Libi [in Hebrew; “With the Blood of my Heart”] (Tel-Aviv: Yediyot, 2010). The principal foci of this work are counselling families of soldiers who fell in the line of duty, conversions to Judaism in the IDF, the identification of combat fatalities and the determination of their death, and IDF participation in Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
Kampinsky, Bifkudat ha-Rabanut, 169–71.
For background, see Etta Bick, “Rabbis and Rulings: Insubordination in the Military and Israeli Democracy,” Journal of Church & State 49 (2007): 305–27.
Kampinsky, Bifkudat ha-Rabanut, 228–30. See also Elisheva Rosman-Stollman, For God and Country? Religious Student-Soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014), 168–89.
For an introduction to the controversy, see Yitzchak Avi Roness, “Violating the Sabbath when encour- aging troops embarking on battle” [in Hebrew], Techumin 29 (2009): 453–61.
In addition to Eisen, Religious Zionism, see Aryeh Edrei, “Divine Spirit and Physical Power: Rabbi Shlomo Goren and the Military Ethic of the IDF.” Theoretical Inquiries in Law 7 (2006): 255–97.
Notably, the “Appeal to Religious-Zionist Youth – Appropriate Service in the IDF” published in Makor Rishon, a national newspaper much of whose reader- ship is drawn from the National Religious segment of Israeli society, signed by 14 religious leaders (13 male and 1 female), and printed on Friday 17 March 2017.
S. Weinberger and A. Bitner, eds., He-Chazit she-ba- Oref [in Hebrew; “The Front that is in Non-combat Zones”] (Jerusalem: Bet-El, 2007).
Eli Reif, Shalom be-Cheileich [in Hebrew; “Peace in Thy Ramparts”] (Modiyin: privately published, 2017).
On immigrants in the IDF, see Stuart A. Cohen, Israel and Its Army: From Cohesion to Confusion (London: Routledge, 2008), 116–18. On the halakhic issues, see Weiss, Be-dam Libi, and Yehudah Shaviv, “Loved in Life [II Sam. 1:23]—and in death?” [in Hebrew], Tehumin 14 (1994): 319–30.
Eli Blum, ed., Arakhim Be-Mivchan Milkhamah [in Hebrew: Values in the Test of War: War Ethics in the Light of Judaism: Articles in Memory of Ram Mizrachi] (Alon Shvut: Yeshivat Har-Etziyon, 1984).
Examples include R. Abraham Sherman, “Halakhic Principles in War Ethics” [in Hebrew], Techumin 9 (1988): 231–39; R. Yuval Cherlow, “Questions on Combat Ethics,” Tzohar 11 (2002): 97–104; R. Yehudah Zoldan, “The Punishment of Terrorists” in his collection of essays entitled Malkhut Yehudah ve-Yisrael [“The Kingdom of Judah and Israel”] (Or Etzion: Merkaz Shapira, 2002), 284–303; and R. Neriyah Gutel, “Combat in areas densely popu- lated with civilians,” Techumin 23 (2003): 18–42.
Brown,“The Ba’al Bayit,” p. 40 and n. 174.
See Neryah Gutel, “The halakhic weight of the psy- chological dimension in war” [in Hebrew], Sinai 138 (2006): 98–110.
R. Ehud Fiksler, “Spiritual rescue on the Sabbath” [in Hebrew], in Friedman et al., Machanekha Kadosh, 171–87.
Chayim Markovitch, “Cooking by Gentiles in the Army” [in Hebrew], Machaneikhah 1 (2007): 145–54.
“The senior officer is more of a manager and co-ordi- nator than commander. Real operational ‘command’in the sense of leading troops, has devolved downwards, through the battalion and company commanders to the NCO’s. More often than not, it is these men who are confronted with the most difficult operational decisions.” Michael Dewar, The British Army in Northern Ireland (London: Arms & Armor Press, 1985), 177–78.
Cohen, Israel and Its Army, 136–40.
See, respectively, Yehudah H. Hankin, “The killing of a captured terrorist” [in Hebrew], Kesot 1 (1994): 3–5; Yehudah Zoldan, “Exchanging prisoners” [in Hebrew], in Zoldan, Malkhut Yehudah, 335–41; and Eliezer Goldstein, “The ‘Hannibal code’ in halakhah” [in Hebrew], Techumin 31 (2011), 157–65. Also rele- vant is Omri Kraus,“Saving the many at the expense of an individual” [in Hebrew], in Friedman et al., Machanekha Kadosh, 149–56.
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