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Home » Events in the News, Israel

Can Israel Survive Alone?

Submitted by on March 30, 2024 – 10:11 pmNo Comment | 99 views

Shemini: Can Israel Survive Alone?

In 1972, Yitzchak Rabin served as Israeli Ambassador to the United States. He had an audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who asked him if he felt he was alone among the 120 states represented in Washington. The Rebbe explained that “am levadad Yishkon”—our nation dwells alone (Numbers 23:9).

Whether by choice, outside rejection, or both, we Jews are at our best when we are alone.  It helps us affirm our creed, identity, and commitment to G-d’s Torah and Mitzvah. To be alone is the natural state of the Jewish people. We were always a part of history, but we also pursued our own narrative in history. We always dwelt alone. If, at times, we were accepted by nations, we found ourselves alone again in short order. The goodwill of nations was and always will be, fickle.[1] This was the Rebbe’s message to Rabin.

On The March from Egypt
This Shabbat, we will read the Torah portion that describes our final evening in Egypt. There was excitement in the air; we were about to be liberated. The world must have looked on with a measure of sympathy for the nation of slaves about to be freed. As we marched out of Egypt, we might have expected a delegation of nations to welcome and cheer us on. At least the enemies of Egypt should have rejoiced.

Yet, no one appeared. We left Egypt with a bang but proceeded silently into a lonely desert. It did not take long for nations to find us in the desert. Not to celebrate with us but to tangle with us. The first was Amalek, who came only six weeks after the Exodus. They were followed by the Canaanites and others. Yes, from the cradle of history, we have lived alone. We could not depend on the friendship of nations.

Eroding World Support
Once again, we find ourselves alone in the world with few friends. As Israel fights to eradicate Hamas and liberate its hostages in Gaza, it is vilified by the nations. The warnings are coming fast and furious. Agree to a permanent ceasefire or risk the ire of the nations. Give your enemies a State in reward for massacring your people, or you will become a world pariah. Comes the question, can we survive alone?

The answer depends very much on what we mean by alone. If “alone” means without G-d, the answer is a resounding no. Let us remember the words of King David, “If G-d does not guard the city, the guardian guards in vain” (Psalms 127:1). If “alone” means without the nations, but with G-d, the answer is a resounding yes. It has been this way throughout history. We have experienced our finest moments when we were alone. When we weren’t trying (or dying) to appease the nations.

Let’s unpack this a little: There is no question that Israel benefits profoundly from the support of the United States and other nations in the West. Squandering this support needlessly is foolish. At the same time, as Jews, we must always remember that our strength does not come from international alliances (Hosea 14:4) or even our military. It comes from G-d. G-d protects us and vanquishes our enemies.

There is a catch, however. G-d wants us to help ourselves, and only then does He step in to save us. Remember King David’s words. “If G-d does not guard the city, the guardian guards in vain.” Indeed, G-d wants us to hire a guardian, but He wants us to remember that without G-d, the guardian is powerless to keep us safe. G-d keeps us safe through the guardian. If we place our stock in the guardian and forget G-d, the guardian guards in vain.

In our context, the guardian is the United Nations and the nations on the Security Council that have supported us in the past. It makes no sense to squander their support, but it makes even less sense to act as if their support is our sole source of strength. First and foremost, G-d is our strength. G-d can give us strength through the US, through the UN, or without them. G-d can choose His own path.

The Schumer Doctrine
Several weeks ago, Senator Charles Schumer from New York spoke from the rostrum of the United States Senate. He proclaimed that Israel could only survive by committing to the Two State Solution. He reasoned that if Israel resists, it risks losing the support of the world. This, he proclaimed, would be a death sentence for Israel.

He spoke with passion and heart. his love for Israel was evident, however, a critical piece was lacking in his argument. The support of the nations is important, but only insomuch as they are the guardian that G-d wants us to hire. Since our primary guard is G-d, we must place our primary faith in G-d and consult G-d first. Of course, G-d doesn’t communicate with prophets today, but He does talk to us through the Torah.

So, what does G-d tell us to do?

Army On the Border
A halachic ruling in the code of Jewish law (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 329:6) states: “Should an enemy besiege Jewish cities: if they come for money, we do not desecrate Shabbat to protect ourselves, but if they came to kill or come with no presented reason, we must go out with weapons even during Shabbat. In a city near the border, even if they just come for straw or hay, we desecrate Shabbat. Even if they haven’t crossed the border yet but just want to cross.”

This applies even if the enemy does not state its intention to kill. They merely demand our land. In theory, under such circumstances, we can stand aside, surrender our land, and survive. In theory, our lives are not at risk and there should be no cause to desecrate Shabbat. Yet, the Torah rules—G-d tells us this is a pipe dream. An enemy that invades for straw, hay, or land does not refrain from taking lives. Even one life at risk justifies mobilizing the entire army and even to the point of desecrating Shabbat.

Hamas has vowed not only to take the entire country “from the river to the sea” but to kill every Jew. They showed their murderous hand on October 7 and have since declared their intention to do it again.

Sophisticated thinkers might say it is worth losing a Jewish life or ten to gain the goodwill of the nations. The Torah disagrees. By G-d’s count, every life is a sacred universe. Just as we would not risk the entire universe for the goodwill of nations, we do not risk a single life. The price we are asked to pay is too high.[2] The nations who demand it are not our friends. Their demands are akin to those of Haman.

Moreover, if we consent to a permanent cease-fire while leaving Hamas intact, we will be in violation of G-d’s will as enunciated in the code of Jewish law. We might gain favor with the nations, but we will have turned our back on G-d. Of what value is the guardianship of nations if G-d does not guard us?

What Then?
What, then, shall we do? We can’t curry favor with the nations without turning on G-d, and we can’t gain favor with G-d without turning on the nations. We need the guardian and G-d, and we can’t seem to navigate both.

The answer is as obvious as the question is foolish. If one instructs you to live and another to die, whom do you obey? Moreover, If humans instruct us to do A and G-d instructs us to do B, whom must we follow? In the words of the Talmud (Kidushin 42b), “The orders of the master and the orders of the servant; whose orders do we follow?”

The answer, of course, is the master. Pray to G-d, do as He instructs, not as the nations instruct, and He will keep you safe despite the ire of the nations.[3]

[1] Living Torah, disc 131, program 522. Chabad.org/2684113.

[2] What of the lives of the Palestinian civilians? See On The Question of Human Shields.

[3] This essay is based on Toras Menachem 5725:3  (43), pp. 36–40.

Can Israel Survive Alone?
United Nations Security Council meets after Russia recognized two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent entities, in New York City, U.S. February 21, 2022. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
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