Oct 14, 2009

A factor of war or redeeming a captive?

A friend posed an interesting question to me about the Gilad Shalit situation, and I wanted to ask you out there what your thoughts are on the matter.

He asked me why we relate to Gilad Shalit being held in captivity as an issue related to pidyon Shvuyim - releasing captives - and therefore the debate centers around how many terrorists is considered a fair price for releasing Shalit. Why are we not relating to Shalit's captivity as an issue of hilchos melachim - kings, and how they wage war? Because he was taken as a soldier by the enemy in an ongoing conflict (and an actual military operation/war was the direct result), we should relate to his captivity solely relating to the issue as one of war strategy - do we give up this many or that many and how each option would affect the ongoing war.

Personally, I am not sure there is really any difference between the two perspectives. Either way we are looking at Shalit and the options for bringing him home with the approach of this many terrorists is unreasonable, those types of terrorists are unreasonable, these are acceptable, etc.

What is the actual difference between comparing it to pidyon shvuyim or to halachos of war? I am not sure. Maybe it is just our halachic approach.

To the government, such a debate would hold no interest - there seem to be no ramifications to whether Shalit is looked at as a captive or a pawn in war strategy - either way we are calculating how many terrorists released would still be "relatively safe" and how many would increase our level of danger too much to be worthwhile.

But the halachic classification does hold some interest, as the debate centers around a different aspect of the issue. If he is approached simply as a captive, in a halacha debate (for example, when the religious leaders are asked to support this or that plan to release Shalit) we would solely look at the value of Shalit in relation to the value of releasing x number of terrorists. If we approach Shalit as a factor of war strategy, the halachic debate must center around the perspective toward state and war - will releasing x number of terrorists help us or harm us in the war on our enemy.

I know that all sounds a bit confused, and I am. But I was wondering what your thoughts are on the matter...


  1. , I am not sure there is really any difference between the two perspectives.
    hilchot milchama ,for some strange reason (not), have not been subject to the same rigorous analysis over the generations. imho the major difference is perspective (yachid vs rabbim) e.g. one can't refuse a command even though for the individual it's vadai pikuach nefesh. i've always thought (with no real analysis) that it may flow from the power of the melech.

    Joel Rich

  2. I believe that this is RHS's opinion on these kinds of issues. The big difference is that in war pikuach nefesh does not really play role. In war by definition people are killed and therefore teh regular dinim of pikuach nefesh don't apply.

  3. Unfortunately the government does not consistently think through strategy on these or most matters. Which means they're always following a sort of knee-jerk emotional response.


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