Friday, October 14, 2011


Daas Torah and Gilad Shalit

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

noam_galit_with_gilad_picThe good news that Gilad Shalit will be exchanged by Hamas is all over the Internet.  Many are commenting on it  and every few moments I see another position, one way or the other, come up on Twitter.

While this is a terrible situation for the hostage and almost as painful for the family.  Yet it also presents unique ethical + security challenges for Israel as a nation and the Jewish people.

[ Brief background – Gilad Shalit is an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped during a Hamas attack on Israeli territory.  He’s been held in captivity for 5 years, completely cut off from the world. ]

The ethical and security challenges are: Hamas has been demanding a large number of terrorist prisoners in trade for Gilad Shalit.  Judaism includes a strong concept of pidyon shevuim, redeeming of captives.  Yet that concept also recognizes the reality that redeeming of captives can and does lead to an increasing drive of enemies to take additional captives.  Further complicating it is that these captives are all ones who have specifically attacked or attempted to attack Jewish and Israeli civilians (making them murderers, attempted murderers or accomplices to murder – and war criminals by international law).

The issue is not the ethics of giving criminals their freedom, but rather their return to murderous activities.  And even if they don’t personally return to such activities, their return will be celebrated as a success – encouraging a younger generation to take up murderous activities (for the glory and honor).

At the same time Israel as a nation has a duty to it’s soldiers, to do what it can to safely return them from war.  And the Jewish people have a duty to each other, to help them be redeemed when captured.

How does one balance these competing needs?  For a rare change I can offer no opinion.  The competing ethical, security, societal and even family challenges make this an issue of the utmost ethical complexity.

Fortunately for these types of situations we have Torah and Gedolim (the great ones of Torah).  This is exactly the type of situation where we must turn towards what’s become known as Daas Torah – to trust in those who’s lives have been seeped in Torah and have generations of experience in judging and balancing completing ethical, social and family challenges – and to be advised by experts on the security, political and national impacts.

From what I’ve heard, “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received strong backing for the Gilad Schalit deal Tuesday night from Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, shlita”.  Being I haven’t heard anything contrary from other Gedolim, it would seem the Daas Torah on this issue is to redeem the captive even given the implications.

I am not one who holds Daas Torah to be heaven sent judgments that are infallible, and unfortunately multiple incidents of manipulation of elderly gedolim have come out over the past few years.  Yet we would all be foolish to say that this is not an insanely difficult ethical issue with many different ramifications.  And if that’s not the time to turn to our Gedolim, I don’t know what is.

May Hashem grant our political and religious leaders to make the best judgments that all turn out for the good…for the prisoner, for the family, for the State of Israel, and for the Jewish people.


  1. He is not free, there is no proof he is alive either. When he's in Israeli hands then we can talk.

    I do not agree with one who makes the claim if you vote for Shas you will have a place in the world to come. As much as I used to respect his opinions it got thrown out the window with such bizarre statements as that.

    Our compassion for a fellow Jew can be our weakness. We cannot bring back those murdered by some of these soon to be released people. On the otherhand we cannot sacrifice our nations safety for one very unfortunate leftist who's parents are well connected to the Israeli Elite. Also, there is something stinky when this is pushed by political moves lead by the USA.

    Something does not smell right. I hope I am wrong. Nothing in this world comes for free and I hope the price for this is not Judea and Samaria.

  2. You wrote well about this subject in terms of Da'as Torah. The truth of the situation is that Gilad Shalit could have easily been released anytime within these last five years if either Prime Ministers Olmert or Netanyahu would have threatened to kill all of the terrorists in the Israeli prisons. Believe me, Gilad would have been back home long ago, because in the Muslim world, these terrorists are the cream of the crop. However, as this Israeli government is not only a non-Torah government, but an anti-Torah one at that, threatening to kill all of the terrorists would never happen, since this is not "politically correct". So, the fact that this government would never do such a thing is not a license for them to do the opposite. Aside from what the real Torah viewpoint on this is, the only thing that the Muslim terrorist world learned - and this is not the first time - is that kidnapping Israeli soldiers pays.

  3. Pidyun Shivuim is ImportantOctober 15, 2011 10:14 PM

    As if the Arabs care. They'll kidnap either way. I just hope that he'll come back alive, cuz if not I think the Halacha would be different.

  4. The message being sent is a clear one - 1 Jew equals 1,027 Arabs.

    The day after this exchange everyone should expect more rocket attacks. If, Heaven forbid, even one Jew is killed during future attacks, then the precedent has been set by Hamas -- for each Jew killed 1,027 Arab terrorists should die.

  5. This article says: "Being I haven’t heard anything contrary from other Gedolim, it would seem the Daas Torah on this issue is to redeem the captive even given the implications."

    Oh, really? Who says all the relevant Gedolim were consulted at all? If not asked, why would a Gadol step out into the spotlight with a dissenting opinion?

  6. Anon1,

    Huh? Wha?

    The process of consulting gedolim on an issue has NEVER (in the past 1400 years or so) been to consult "all relevant Gedolim". I don't even know what the phrase "all relevant Gedolim" means.

    The process, as it's been working for the past 1,400 years (or so) is...consult a Gadol who's appropriate either for the physical area (he's the gadol of that region/country/whatever) or the (or an) accepted expert Gadol on the topic, who then issues a ruling which, again by 1,400 years of tradition, SHOULD BE a response with an extended supporting halachic explanation.

    Then, if another Gadol disagrees or the issue is brought to him for reinterpretation or interpretation/implementation in his region, he issues his response, adjustment or disagreement with the previous opinion AND an extended supporting counter halachic explanation.

    That's Daas Torah as we clearly see demonstrated by the historical responsia of EVERY Gadol Torah, from the Ramban, Ramban, Rashi, Tosfos, Vilna Gaon, Chofetz Chaim, Chazon Ish, Rabbi Akiva Eiger, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (all zt"l), etc.

    What we have in this generation is Gadol Twitter, where someone, usually with an agenda, marches in to an elderly Gadol Torah and demands an insta-answer - al regel echad (while standing on one leg) - while providing limited information (said favorably, the person with the agenda's view of things, unfavorably only sharing those details pertinent to the type of answer he'd prefer). He then takes the Gadol's one sentence brief thought on the matter, puts on a copy of the Gadol's signature, carries it to 10 other well known rabbaim for counter-signatures, and publishes it as "Daas Torah".

    So in straight answer to your question - all relevant Gedolim where not consultant because we don't have a Sanhedrin or any other way that all relevant Gedolim can be. And a Gadol would give a dissenting opinion because if he disagrees and is asked about it, that's how the current process works if he's considered a Gadol.

  7. Daat Torah, not heaven sent, true.
    Manipulation, so true.
    Difficult issue, when you leave your heart out and use the facts and the Torah of Moshe, very easy decision. True, a minority of the victim and the family will not be happy, but the majority of Jews will remain much safer. Why are we sacrificing ourselves for one very unfortunate young man. Insane.

    Lets see if the parents of Gilad go visit the families of God forbid future victims of terror caused by those who have been released and by those who glorify this type of behavior.

  8. Rav Shternbuch paskened it is Assur. I saw his Teshuva on it this week.


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