Oct 13, 2009

Provoking the Nations

One of the reasons, perhaps the main reason, given for opposing many "settlement" or "settler" activities, such as creating outposts, expanding settlements, and the like, or even activities that are being branded as "settler" or "nationalist, like going up to Har HaBayit, is that we are not supposed to provoke the nations of the world. we are not supposed to be agressors. We are supposed to be meek and timid, and only do what they allow us to do and not take steps that will upset the non-Jewish nations.

"Assur L'hitgarot ba'umot ha'olam" - it is prohibited to provoke the nations of the world. While this might be good advice, or maybe bad advice, depending on your perspective, I am not aware of an actual source for this issur. It probably comes from the periods in history in which Jews were subservient to our non-Jewish, and often hostile, overlords, and it became reasonable to say not to do anything to provoke the goyim.

I was thinking about this because of our reading of Breishis this week. The first Rashi in the parsha, in all of the Torah, is perhaps one of, if not THE, most famous Rashi commentaries in all of the Torah.

Rashi begins by asking why the Torah begins from creation and all th stories, and not just skip right to the first mitzva which comes much later. After all, the Torah is not a history book.

Rashi answers by quoting Rebbi Yitzchak who says that the reason is that if the goyim should claim that we stole the land of Israel from them and they would demand it back, we should know and say that we are not robbers or thieves, but God gave us the land. And even though it was given to others first, because God created, and therefore owns, everything, He can give what He wants to whom He wants, and He can take it away and give it to others. So as long as we have the land, the stories in the Torah from Breishis until the first mitzva give us the justification to settle the land and live in it despite the protestations of the non-Jews.

The recent riots by Arabs on Har HaBayit and in East Jerusalem have prompted the reiteration of such statements like "It is prohibited to provoke the non-Jewish nations" to justify opposing ascending Har Habayit.

I never liked the issur of "not provoking". In my mind, our mere existence is a provocation. Beyond that, any specific incident or issue is simply an excuse for the non-Jews to be upset at our existence. Is it a provocation for us to go up to Har HaBayit? I say no - it is an opportunity for them to riot, though they really could care less about Har HaBayit and are upset about our being anywhere in Israel, and even that we exist at all.

So, as I was reading the Rashi, the first Rashi in the Torah that I quoted above, I realized that, to me at least, it looks like Rashi takes a similar approach to the [non-existent?] issur of "not provoking.

Rashi, quoting Rebbi Yitzchak, says we have a right to settle the land because God gave it to us. We have to know that, and we have to state it unequivocally to the goyim in response to their claims. Rashi does not add that if they make claims against us, despite it being ours, we should be meek and give in to their demands in order to not provoke them.

Just the opposite! Rashi says clearly that this land is our land and God gave it to us and we must settle it and defend our rights to do so in the face of the protests of the goyim. According to Rashi there is no such issur of "not provoking the goyim".

So if your only reason to not go up to Har Habayit, or to not live in the "occupied territories" or to not support the army killing the enemy when necessary, is because we are not supposed to provoke the goyim, that is not true. We are supposed to live in the land God gave to us, and we are meant to do so fully and defend our right to do so!


  1. Please cancel my subscription to chareidi gedolim digest. Seems that they dont even know the first rashi in chumash. They probably dont even know who Rashi is.

  2. Anon,

    Or maybe they have a different interpretation of the Rashi. Or maybe they appreciate that you don't pasken like a Medrash Tanchuma (which Rashi was quoting).

  3. yoni - we may not pasken like a medrash tanchuma, but the issur quoted of assur l'hitgarot is non-existent as far as I can tell.

    They seem to be using something that might have been very advisable in different periods in history and transforming it into an issur.

    I am not interested in provoking the goyim for no reason. But sometimes we need to step up as rashi says and tell the world that this land is our land. Hashem gave it back to us for a reason. It is a cop-out to always say we wont do this or that so as not to provoke anyone.

  4. According to the Goldstone report, it's a provocation to the goyim to even defend ourselves. Our very existence seems to provoke their anger. We can't possibly ever appease them.

  5. I'm not sure we can learn out from Rashi on Bereishit practical halachot regarding Aliya to Har Bayit in October 2009.

    The metziut are all new: Jewish (secular, militarized) State including annexed East Jerusalem, Arab quasi-sovereignty on Har Bayit, UN, Jordanian foot-hold, experience with Arik Sharon's visit to Har Bayit and linkage to 2nd Intifada, etc...

    That Rashi's medrashic commentary on Bereishit takes into account these entirely new factors is improbable.

    The debate is whether Rav Elyashiv (who re-stated his position that aliya to Har Bayit is assur, due to ritual and political reasons) has a better grasp of these and other 21st Century factors than do other public figures/rabbonim - or blog-writers, Joe-public - who may hold different opinions on this matter??

    Does the concept of Daas-Torah extend to international politics and practical security strategies?

  6. Anon - That is precisely where daas torah is MOST needed - on the world scale. NOT to tell ploni waht color shirt to wear. Its davka on issues that are shayyich to the world and the Jews at large.

    Of course its not nevuah and they have to have the facts presented to them properly, but halevai RYSE would be listened to with regards to the international flavor of how to run the country.

    And of course the bloggers dont need to listen to the Gedolim - thats part of the idea of blogging, that every tom dick and harry is equal to the biggest talmidei chachamim on any and every issue. Extra points if you can mis-learn a souce and show how the TC doesnt even know what hes talking about on the most basic level

  7. various anons - I am not paskening from Rashi that one should go up to Har HaBayit.

    If there are halachic considerations, one should ask any relevant shailohs to his or her rav. There are halachic issues involved, and I do not deny that many are opposed to going up to Har HaBayit for halachic reasons.

    I was not addressing that at all. I was addressing only the concept of "not provoking the goyim".

    While some people assume that once Rav Elyashiv, or any other gadol, makes a statement, that means everyone automatically has to follow the statement and accept it as final word. Until maybe 10 or 15 years ago that was never the case. People asked their shailohs of their own rav and that was it. Maybe the rav paskened according to the direction of one gadol or another, but never was a simple statement made by a gadol taken and used int he way we dos o nowadays.

    Yes, I asked shailohs of my own rabbonim before I started going up to Har HaBayit and I was told I am allowed to. Do I havwe to listen to the words of Rav Elyashiv printed in the newspaper over the psak of my own rav? Is my rav obligated to always drop his own halachic decisions and only follow whatever rav elyashiv says?

  8. Rafi, great post, you make a great point.

  9. Assuming that this is not a case of severe split personality disorder, can I request that the various anonymous's (or is that 'anonymi'?) please identify themselves - even with a simple numeric system such as Anon1, Anon2?

    That would make for much more coherent reading,

  10. Rafi, to play devil's advocate, the other Shittah has a Keli Yakar in Devarim 2:3 ד"ה רב לכם

  11. On paskening from medrash see binyan tzion 173-short summary-yes we do unless contradicted by halachic gemara
    Joel Rich

  12. It follows that whoever disregards Rashi's view does not follow the Torah! One has a pretty good idea of what he would say about the Three Oaths. The Nazi Germans destroyed any obligation on the part of the Jewish people to maintain them when they excessively oppressed Israel by seeking to destroy it. Its also true about the Jews' present day enemies: they too, have removed every justification for the Jewish people to remain in Exile. Israel's having returned to its Land does not provoke the nations. Even if Israel did not exist in the Land today, the Jews would still be hated.

    Which is the truth.

  13. Nice post, I used your idea in a Dvar Torah I sent to my daughter, who is doing sherut leumi in LA.

    When it comes to political issues, all rabbanim will be influenced by their world outlook. A Haredi non-Zionist rav will certainly have a different opinion about our connection to Har Habayit from a dati-leumi rav, no matter which of them is the bigger "talmid chacham". That's why all this "Daas Torah" stuff is not relevant in world issues IMHO.

  14. B"H

    Glad you posted this.

    Q: Why don't we have a Temple?

    Rav Bar Hayim: No one has rebuilt it yet.

    Food for thought.


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