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Land for Peace?

Land for Peace?

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Since G‑d gave us a brain, why did He need to give us a Torah?

Torah, after all, is truth. And the brain is a piece of gray meat imbued with the amazing ability to ascertain truths. So why a divinely ordained code of life? Isn't the whole point of having a brain that we now possess the ability to figure it out on our own?

This question can be asked -- and answered -- on many levels. But the most simple explanation is that while reason is a very powerful tool, there is something in the human being that is even more powerful -- desire.

When we want something badly, desperately enough, we grab our brain, twist its arm behind its back, and compel it to manufacture such gobilydoop that anyone looking at us from the distance of a generation or a culture away will exclaim, "What happened to that person? Did his brain leak out of his head?" Of course, our brain is right there inside our head. It's even working overtime. It's just that it's running in reverse. Instead of figuring out the truth, it's figuring out how to build a logical foundation for what we want should be the truth.

That's why G‑d gave us the Torah -- a set of truths that are not the product of our brains, but of the inherent truths upon which He predicated His creation of reality and the universe. The Torah's purpose is not to absolve us of the need to use our brains -- on the contrary, it expects us to work the brain to death comprehending the what, why and how of the truths it embodies. But it does enable us to know when our brain is running backwards. If the end result of our reasoning and logicizing doesn't mesh with the divine truths contained in the Torah, we're doing something wrong.

The people of Israel desperately desire peace. And we desperately desire that our enemies should desire this as much as we do. We are simply not prepared to accept a reality that contradicts this all-consuming desire.

People looking at us from the outside are scratching their heads and saying: What's the matter with these people? Have their brains leaked out of their heads? Don't they see that every time they make concessions to their enemies, or even talk about making concessions -- more people die? More Jews die, and more Arabs die, and the sufferings of both peoples increase. Yet when they hold firm, refuse to give up any land, and fight the killers with intelligence and determination, there are fewer Jewish casualties, fewer Arab deaths, and the lives of both peoples improve. They've been in this back-and-forth cycle for 100 years now, and every time the same thing happens!

But even when we lose the ability to think straight, we still have the Torah. So what does the Torah say about the question of "land for peace"?

There's actually an explicit, unambiguous ruling in the Shulchan Aruch, the Torah's "Code of Law." It's in the Code's first volume, Orach Chayim, section 329. This law does not even speak about the land of Israel -- it applies equally to Jerusalem, to Brooklyn, New York, and to Wellington, New Zealand.

The law describes the following scenario: A hostile army attacks you, or threatens to attack you, and demands a piece of territory. They say, "Give us this piece of land, and we'll leave you alone." The overriding issue is pikuach nefesh, saving lives, which supersedes the entire Torah. Do we go to war to prevent the enemy's occupation of the territory, or do we relinquish the territory in return for a promise of future non-aggression?

The Torah rules: Giving up territory will make you more vulnerable to attack. To give up territory in return for a promise of "peace" is not just a reckless gamble of your and your people's lives -- it's a gamble that you're sure to lose. Do not yield territory that makes you more vulnerable to attack, even if you must go to war to prevent that. It's a matter of pikuach nefesh -- preventing the loss of life. War is a dangerous thing, but one must go to war to save lives.

The holiness of the land is not the issue (though the Torah has a lot to say about that). The fact that the land of Israel is the eternal possession of all Jews of all generations, and no one has the right to give it to anyone else, is not the issue (though the Torah has lots to say on that, too). The issue is pikuach nefesh, saving lives.

Protecting your own life and the lives of your loved ones is generally a matter of common sense. It's also a Torah ideal. Common sense sometimes fails us. That's why we have a Torah.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
Illustration by Chassidic artist Baruch Nachshon.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Anonymous July 27, 2016

The Land of Israel is the L-D's and the people of Israel--do not try to divide it from itself for the illusion of Peace with thy Arab Neighbors {Ishamel} or to appease the gentiles {Easu}
Appeasemt..never works. Reply

Anonymous August 17, 2014

I think perhaps mashiach will only come when more than half of the jewish people in the world realize that giving up Israel land is not going to give us peace. We must not give in to any pressure to concede any land to the arabs. We should not submit to the terror of the Islamic extremists. Reply

Anonymous brooklyn December 13, 2009

Bullying As an american jew seeing gaza given up in 2005 was maddening. What part of they want you guys dead don't you get. You don't run away from a bully or beg for their mercy. You stomp them into the ground until they give in.

Israel won those lands back in the wars before I was born. What nation in history gives up its land after a hard won war to reclaim them? Reply

Kohava July 28, 2009

Everything is in the hands of G. Even though we do not understand why things are one way or another, our perception is limited. I believe that we should find ways to live in peace and respect in our own homes, towns, countries and pray for wellness everywhere. Rabbi Akiva believed that the redemption will come walking on the ruins of the Beth HaMikdash. We shall live with the same faith. Reply

Robert Bosch Santa Barbara, USA, Ca July 26, 2009

Land for peace Does not the Torah critize Israel for not reliying on God himself to fight for them if they obey God's words? They need to understand that they cannot trade land for peace because the land does not belong to them to trade. Only God can do that. Lev 25:23. They can only expect punishment from God if they continue. We pray they will wake up and realize, and see the truth. I think you have a very good artticle about land for peoce.. . Reply

Moule Paris, FR via jewishbrevard.com February 27, 2009

Reply to Anon who Posted: Aug 17, 2005 After the recent War in Gaza do you stil hold by that? Reply

carl London, UK May 24, 2008

Why Israelis cannot hear the Torah Unhappily, Israelis individually and Israel as a whole suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Hence they are unable to hear these words of wisdom. They are unable even to listen to each other, not having even a minimal capacity for communication as we who live in peaceful countries know it. There is a great need for psychotherapy and teaching communication skills before Israelis can soak up the wisdom of the Torah. Reply

Leslie Marlboro, NJ December 20, 2006

Land for peace It is been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. “Land for Peace” is a perfect example. If Israeli leaders will not take a lesson from their own history, then maybe they will take a lesson from the sad history of the Native Americans of North America.
Native Amer.’s made many “land for peace” treaties with the U.S!
We got their land- All of it.
They got peace- ¬The peace of the dead.
The Native Amer. survivors were forced onto reservations.
They failed to understand that the U.S. gov't didn't want peace, they wanted the Native. Amer.’s gone.
The Muslims don't want peace either, they want the Jews gone.
Live and learn!

Tony Blair is now in Israel trying to "restart" peace talks. Peretz, Olmert & Peace Now are already talking about giving away more of Israel! Insanity! Reply

Esther Sasson Toronto, Canada July 5, 2006

We want to achieve peace through Torah Thank you for your article.
Our learning group would like to promote learning Torah and keeping of mitzvot, so we could achieve a real peace, to be fulfill the Convenant with G-d.
I know Chabad does a lot, how can we do more? Reply

s. brauward n.y. February 10, 2006

reply to "anonymous" Remind me , who started the war in 1967 (and i don't mean who shot first).......

p.s. another detail of that halachah,
is that if it's a border city than even if its unclear what their intention is, we still have to mobilize our army, even if it's on shabbos.
Thanks for all your wonderful articles,
esspecially y.t. Reply

Anonymous August 17, 2005

I understand what you said... Gaza is a different story, though. The Palestinians, after all, believe that Gaza is THEIR land and that the Jews stole it from them-- however wrong the Palestinians may be... couldn't the Palestinians use the Schulchan Orech in their favor, too, and say the Jews aggressively demanded a piece of their land in 1967, and had it up to this day... wouldn't the Palestinians desire to fight for this? I am by no means defending the Palestinians, and it breaks my heart to see the Jews being kicked out of their homes... I truly believe that this is OUR LAND, and that Gaza deserves to be in our hands... but this situation isn't so black and white, and therefore I belive the the law in the Schulchan Orech is inapplicable in this situation... am I wrong to view this way? Besides, wont we get back Gaza anyway when, G-d Willing, Moshiach comes? What is your view on this subject. Thank you so much... I love this website! Reply

Anonymous Milwaukee, USA March 26, 2004

Huge deep sense of appreciation Thank you!!! Reply

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