Compliance with the law - A Supreme Value- But At What Price?

Questions For The Rabbi

5/4/2015
By Chabad Of Israel

Healthy Jewish society expects rabbis of Israel set the Jewish conscience and draw the line that direction. An IDF soldier is first and foremost, a Jew obligated to follow the law.

Basic Jewish Values
Throughout the Israeli public, rages a debate that in many is evoking a sense of disgust. Demagogy and dishonesty are crying out to heaven. A person has the right to think differently from others, but its intolerable to exchange views like socks, just to make them compatible with the desired conclusions. It is as if Israel is a satirical comedy program made for the purpose of bringing reasons in recordings and quotes from public figures, analysts and media people who each say the opposite. Each one for the singular selfish purpose of furthering their own goal.

The question of conscientious objection is a matter for serious thought and whether it is voiced by someone from the right or whether it comes from the left- whether it's due to religious reasons or whether it is due to reasons of pacifism, Israel's law is the law and the army is an army. But there comes a time when a person must stand before our conscience and honestly ask ourselves: "What is that limit that I will not be willing to cross, whatever the price?"

Can a person entertain even the possibility of refusal in the event of a collision with conscience? Is this a legitimate position? Can one deny the refusal in any case and under all circumstances due to the value of obedience to the law and the commands of ones commander?

This is a stance that has a certain logic. But may not be related to with the necessary understanding and sympathy for disobedience, to the left, who lash out furiously against rabbis and public figures who dare mention the idea of determining the limits of a soldiers obedience. (Legally there are many options for someone who is a conscientious objector who is not religious to opt-out of the Israeli army. These objectors numbers surpass those of orthodox young men who go to hesder or defer for advanced learning. Ed)

Non-legitimate laws
We said that there is a certain logic to the perception that determines the compliance with the law and commands the highest value, but we were not partners in their formulation and may even consider them a threat. Laws and orders are rules under which a state and its army can exist. However, in no way, can they can not be regarded as a supreme law. For above them stand more important values, which set the limits of obedience to the law and its orders.

We Jews, have a supreme law. A law that stands above all human law - the Torah. If Israel has a law enacted or gives orders that contradict the Torah, clearly one may not obey them. And not just in Israel, but in any country. This is the story of our struggle throughout history, and we've certainly had struggles due to such laws. Laws we stood up to from the time of the Greek ruler Antiochus to the communist regime. These were also state laws that intruded into important details of Jewish life. These foreign governments demanded that Jews should comply, challenging Jews to realize to take a stand for their Jewish adherence to the Torah and its ethics which is above state law.

In fact, not only Jews believe are not ready to accept the law as a the final say. Any person with a conscience and values ‚Äčalso‚Äčthinks so! The Nazi Party came to power in a democratic way, but the whole world sees it as a heinous regime. The Nuremberg Laws were perfectly legal, yet they were criminal. Basic moral values stand above the law, and when a government overrides these values, there is no obligation to obey.

Even in the military, whose orders are determined by the government, that where there is a conflict between orders and personal values, soldiers have a duty to obey an order. Soldiers know, that if given a command "manifestly unlawful" - he can refuse to obey. Moreover, if you will obey and fulfill those orders he was given, claiming he is an ordinary soldier just filling orders - he can expect to stand trial. It is absolutely clear that despite being a soldier, he or she is first of all a person, with obligatory basic core values.

Protect And Not Displace!
Just as civilized human society should encourage intellectuals and morals to set limits in compliance with laws and define the basic human values, so we should expect a healthy Jewish rabbi in Israel to set the Jewish conscience straight and draw the line where it is needed. Especially as there are many details that a person may not realize. That same Torah that commands us to observe the Sabbath, also provides laws that keep Jews safe from danger and guard that we don't put ourselves or others in danger- This same Torah also tells us to settle the Land of Israel.

The rabbis have determined that obeying orders to uproot Jewish settlements in the Land of Israel is a violation of expressing the voice of Jewish conscience. Out of the values of conscience a Jewish soldier joins the Israeli army for what? To defend the Jews. Not to drive Jews off the land, uprooting them from their homes, destroying Jewish communities and synagogues.
What's not clear here?

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