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לימוד תורה

The Iranian nuclear interdiction

The Parasha in our everyday life – Parashat Ki Tetze - 5782

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - Head of the Hesder Yeshiva 'Meir Harel' Modiin

The progress of the Iranian nuclear project, and the news about the US and Europe nuclear agreement negotiations with Iran, are a cause for concern. Their economic interests outweigh the 'commitment' to the security of the State of Israel and the peace of the entire Middle East. Officially, Israel has presented a consistent position over the years: it will not accept the reality of a nuclear Iran that threatens its existence. For even if an agreement is reached, it does not include Israel, and it reserves the right to act freely to neutralize the threat.

Furthermore, the conduct of the world in everything related to the war in the Ukraine, has made the world aware, for those who did not see it clearly before, that in real time, Israel will have no one's help, no one to count on, it will most likely be left alone, and will be forced to defend itself with its own forces, and with Heavenly help.

The coming year will be a 'decisive year' in everything related to the emergence of the Iranian nuclear threat. The State of Israel will not be able to stand by. If the threat arises and Iran already has the capability of a nuclear attack, it will be too late. In such a situation there is no choice but to prepare for a 'Preventive War'. It is not possible to rely only on the ability to defend against the threat, or on a 'Nuclear Terror Balance' (which only exists according to 'foreign publications'...).

The IDF Dictionary (1998) defines: "Preventive War - a war initiated by one of the parties under circumstances convenient to them (before their enemy is prepared for the attack), in order to prevent the outbreak of war under political-strategic conditions, which could put them in a situation of strategic inferiority. Such a war is initiated based on a military conflict where immediate danger is inevitable, and therefore any postponement entails a greater risk than the immediate danger to the vital interests of the state today." This approach was part of Israel's concept of national security, since its inception. The year after the War of Independence, Yigal Allon wrote: "The ability to take the initiative is the guarantee of the IDF's military prowess in all its branches and the most tested means of Israel's defensive capability, and for this the IDF must be organized and prepared on land, at sea and in the air" ('Screen of Sand'). When the State of Israel took this path, it was successful. The Six Day War, in the attack on the Iraqi reactor, in Syria, in the 'Operation Peace for Galilee', the 'Operation Defensive Shield' and more, and recently in the 'Operation Breaking Dawn'.

And there are, on the other hand, the lessons learned from the Yom Kippur war in which we were deterred from launching a 'preemptive attack' and paid a heavy price for it.

For the state captains this is not an easy decision. A 'Preventive War' could ignite a severe, multi-arena, all-out war. But it seems that the alternative could be difficult to manage. Even if there are those who dispute its necessity and its price. In view of the situation, the captains should prepare the public and unite the entire nation.

The Parasha Ki Tetze continues the previous Parasha with the laws of war in the Torah:

כִּֽי־תֵצֵ֥א לַמִּלְחָמָ֖ה עַל־אֹיְבֶ֑יךָ וּנְתָנ֞וֹ ה' אֱלֹקיךָ בְּיָדֶ֖ךָ וְשָׁבִ֥יתָ שִׁבְיֽוֹ׃

"If you go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem your G-d, will deliver him into your hands, and you take his captives" (Devarim 21:10)


Sages explained that this relates to the laws of an "Optional War":

"If you go out to war – it is talking about a Discretionary War" (Sifrei ibid). The phrase 'if you go out to war" indicates that this is a 'war of choice' that depends on our choice and decision, and not a war that was imposed on us: "Already in the opening words 'if you go out to war against your enemy' - this is a war of attack and not a war of defense for the purpose of repelling an invasion. We meet the enemy outside the borders of our land, in contrast to

וְכִֽי־תָבֹ֨אוּ מִלְחָמָ֜ה בְּאַרְצְכֶ֗ם עַל־הַצַּר֙ הַצֹּרֵ֣ר אֶתְכֶ֔ם...

"When you are at war in your land against an aggressor who attacks you…" " (Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch ibid).

Sages defined here what the Discretionary War is: "As for the war between David and Joab son of Zeruiah, which their war was to expand the border of Israel, as it is written: ‘If you go out to war" (Midrash Lekach Tov Devarim 21:10). This kind of war is called Discretionary War because it requires the approval and 'permission' of the highest authority - the Sanhedrin:

וְאֵין מוֹצִיאִין לְמִלְחֶמֶת הָרְשׁוּת, אֶלָּא עַל פִּי בֵית דִּין שֶׁל שִׁבְעִים וְאֶחָד.

And the king may bring the nation out to an optional war, i.e., a war that was not mandated by the Torah and is not a war of defense, only on the basis of a court of seventy-one judges”. (Mishnah Sanhedrin 1:5)

Sages differed in the Gemara on whether a preemptive war is considered a 'Discretionary War' (Optional War) or a ‘Mitzvah War’ (Mandatory War):

כי פליגי למעוטי עובדי כוכבים דלא ליתי עלייהו מר קרי לה מצוה ומר קרי רשות

“When they disagree, it is with regard to preventative wars that are waged to reduce the gentiles so that they will not come and wage war against them. One Sage, Rabbi Yehuda, called this type of war a Mitzvah, and one Sage, the Rabbis, called it an Elective War”. (Sotah 44b)

"דהיינו, פעולת מנע בארץ האויב, לרבנן חייב במצווה אחרת, בעת שעוסק במלחמה זו, ולר' יהודה פטור משום שגם מלחמת מנע מעין זו 'מצוה' היא לצורך זה. אבל לא לענין חיוב יציאתם של כל אלו החוזרים מן התורה מעורכי המלחמה" (הרב גורן זצ"ל: 'מלחמת מצווה ומלחמת רשות' מחניים, גיליון ס"ט).

"In other words, a preventive action in the land of the enemy, the Rabbis said you have to be obliged by another Mitzvah, while fighting this war, and Rabbi Yehuda says you are exempt because a preventive war of this kind is also a 'Mitzvah' in itself. But not for those who have been exempted by the Torah to go out to war- (built a house, planted a vineyard or betrothed a wife)". (Rabbi Goren Zt’zl: ‘Mitzvah and Elective War’)

However, it seems the controversy over a ‘Preventive War’, deals with the denial of future capabilities, and not with the interdiction of an existential threat that is already emerging, which is a Mitzvah War (Mandatory), like any defensive war of וְעֶזְרַת יִשְׂרָאֵל מִיַּד צָר “any war to assuage Israel of a persecutor”. (Mishneh Torah- Kings and Wars 5:1).

Regarding a war on Shabbat, we find this:

עכו"ם שצרו על עיירות ישראל...  באו על עסק נפשות ואפי' סתם יוצאים עליהם בכלי זיין ומחללים עליהם את השבת... הגה ואפילו לא באו עדיין אלא רוצים לבא

"Regarding non-Jews who besiege Jewish cities: … but if they came to kill or come with no present reason, we go out with weapons and desecrate the Shabbat... Rem"a: Even if they haven't come but they want to come (Or Zarua)" (Shulchan Arukh Orach Chayim 329:6)

ר"ל כשהקול יוצא שרוצים לבוא אעפ"י שלא באו עדיין

“When the word is out that they want to come even though they haven't come yet” (Mishnah Berurah 329)


At the end of the first Pasuk of the Parasha, the Torah says:

וּנְתָנ֞וֹ ה' אֱלֹקיךָ בְּיָדֶ֖ךָ – אם עשית את כל האמור בענין, סוף שה' אלקיך נותנה בידך

"and Hashem your G-d delivers them into your power”- "If you do all that has been stated, in the end, Hashem your G-d will deliver it into your hands”. (Sifrei Devarim)

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