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Prisoner Exchanges

When paying an exorbitant price for prisoners, it endangers the entire public * This is what happened to us following the reckless deal for Gilad Shalit * If the families of the captives and their supporters had refrained from demonstrations and any media expression, the IDF would have already been more successful in breaking the enemy’s spirit * Despite great sensitivity towards the families of the captives, during war, we must gird ourselves with courage, until victory

How right our Sages were in prohibiting the redemption of captives for more than their value, even though redeeming captives is a great mitzvah that takes precedence over other forms of charity because the captive suffers from hunger, thirst and lack of clothing, and in addition, his life is in danger (Bava Batra 8b). However, when paying an exorbitant price for them, it endangers the entire public, as stated in the Mishnah:

We do not redeem captives for more than their value, for the betterment of the world” (Gittin 45a).

For once the kidnappers see that we are willing to pay almost any price for them, they will strive harder to capture more of our captives (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah 252:4). And if this applies to ordinary kidnappers, how much more so when dealing with a bitter enemy, waging a war of destruction against Israel.

And this is what happened to us following the reckless deal for the release of Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1,027 terrorists. The terrorists released then initiated the murderous attack on Simchat Torah, in which more than a thousand Jews were murdered, and more than 300 were abducted.

Regrettably, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not express regret over that deal, and there is concern that he is about to make another deal as serious as that one, or perhaps, more so. About 16 years ago (2008), the Shamgar Commission was established, which set rules and red lines for reckless deals, but with criminal negligence, the governments of Israel did not publish or adopt its conclusions.

Caution of Supporting the Enemy

Victory in battle depends on the courage of our soldiers, as well as the courage of the entire public. By God’s kindness, our soldiers defeat our enemies, while risking their lives. Even on Simchat Torah when the enemy surprised and attacked civilians, and the IDF’s senior command was in a terrible state of disarray, thanks to the courage of thousands of reserve soldiers who threw themselves into battle without order or planning – we overcame the enemy. At the end of the day of battle, we had 1,145 dead and about 253 captives, mostly civilians, and our soldiers killed about 1,500 terrorists in Israel, and about 200 of them were captured.

However, to be victorious also requires a spirit of courage, and as long as the enemy believes that it is succeeding in breaking our spirit, as it hears from the demonstrations and the media, it will continue fighting and harming us. It appears that if the families of the captives and their supporters had refrained from demonstrations and any media expression, the IDF would have already succeeded in breaking the enemy’s spirit. Many more would have surrendered, and many more captives would have been released. Thus, unintentionally, the demonstrators and media figures echoing the demand to release all captives at any cost, are providing support for the enemy, endangering the lives of our soldiers, and causing many more civilians and soldiers to be killed and abducted in the future.

Crying in Private

The families of the captives and the demonstrators on their behalf, should consider the families of the heroes who fell in battle defending the people and the land. These families sacrificed what was most precious to them. Public pressure by families of the captives and demonstrators on their behalf, harms the war, for which their sons sacrificed their lives.

It is difficult to express the magnitude of the sorrow caused by many broadcasters in the media, to the many families of soldiers killed in sanctification of God’s Name in their war against Hamas, and to the families of soldiers now facing further combat. When they pressure the leaders of the state to accept Hamas’ demands, even if motivated by the positive goal of releasing the captives, they ignore the terrible sacrifice of hundreds of soldiers who fell in the war, and of the tens of thousands of soldiers fighting to defend the people and the land, and their families.

Of course, the grief of the families of the captives is terrible and tormenting. Nevertheless, the crying should be done in private, as in the lamentation of King David after the fall of Saul and Yonatan in battle against the Philistines:

Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph” (2 Samuel 1:20).

Despite the great sensitivity that must be shown towards the families of the captives, they must also be told that outwardly, during wartime, they must gird themselves with courage, until victory.

The Soldiers of Religious Zionism

In these days, when many members of the Religious Zionists are risking their lives to defend the people and the land, the wish sometimes arises that the entire public will recognize their full contribution, and respect their religious-national positions. Indeed, the traditional and national public recognizes this. However, if the hope is that the secular and leftist public which still controls the media and many power centers will cease relating to the National-Religious public and its positions with hostility, it is probably a vain hope.

Regardless of the war, and regardless of the sacrifices of heroism, we must strive for more mutual understanding, which will somewhat heal the wounds of controversy, and benefit Israeli society in progressing together. However, the recognition of the value of the sanctity and self-sacrifice of our soldiers must be drawn from within ourselves, from the deep belief that every soldier who risks his life in defense of the people and the land, rises to the highest level of the sanctity of Clal Yisrael (all Israel), and the fulfillment of the Torah and commandments. There is no greater recognition than this, and any attempt to seek further recognition only detracts from the sanctity and courage of the soldiers.

Naturally, the more the heroism and sacrifice stem from inner faith, the more the heroes, their families, and friends who honor their memory, will be empowered to reveal the personal talent of each and every one, and will be able to act more for the sake of Clal Yisrael, in a way that leads to the redemption of the People and the Land, and Tikkun Olam. For there is nothing like self-sacrifice for the sake of Heaven, to elevate a person and all of his family and friends.

The Son of Hur

Similarly, we have learned about the self-sacrifice of Hur, which influenced his grandson, Bezalel. Many were involved in the work of the Tabernacle, and all were filled with a divine spirit due to this, as our Sages said:

Whoever was involved in the work of the Tabernacle, God instilled in him wisdom, understanding and knowledge… and none was as renowned as Bezalel, as it is stated: ‘The Lord called Bezalel by name‘” (Shemot Rabbah 48:3).

And in the Midrash, beforehand, our Sages explained by virtue of what he rose to the sublime level of understanding the word of God, with wisdom and craftsmanship, to the point where he reached the level of one capable of erecting a Tabernacle for the Divine Presence. And their words, are moving, and instructive.

Our Sages said:

See, ‘The Lord called Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur.’ Why did it mention Hur here? Rather, at the time when Israel sought to worship idols (the sin of the Golden Calf), Hur risked his life for the sake of the Lord, and did not allow them (to make the calf). They rose up and killed him. The Lord said to him: ‘By your life, I will reward you (give you a great reward for this).’ It is comparable to a king whose legions rebelled against him, and his general stood up and fought against them. He said to them: ‘It is against the king that you are rebelling!’ They rose up and killed him. The king said: ‘If he had given me money, would I not have needed to repay him? How much more so since he gave his life for me! What shall I do for him? Rather, any sons that descend from him, I will appoint as dukes and governors. Similarly, at the time when the Israelites made the Golden Calf, Hur stood up and risked his life for the sake of the Lord, and did not allow them to make it. They rose up and killed him. The Lord said to him: ‘By your life’ (and there is a hint here: you did not die, but live), ‘any sons that descend from you, I will grant them a good name in the world, as it is stated: ‘See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel…and He has filled him with the Divine spirit’” (Shemot Rabbah 48:3).

Is It Proper for the Cantor to Stand on a High Platform?

Q: Since our Sages said it is forbidden to pray in a high place, is it permissible for the cantor to stand on an elevated platform in the middle of the synagogue?

A: Our Sages instructed:

A person should not stand and pray, not on a chair, not on a stool, and not in a high place, for there is no arrogance before the Omnipresent, as it is stated: ‘Out of the depths I called You, O Lord’” (Berachot 10b).

However, when the high place stands independently, such as if it is larger than four cubits by four cubits (about two meters by two meters), it is permissible to pray there, since it is not measured in relation to the other places, but is considered a place unto itself. Even when the platform is smaller than four cubits, if it is surrounded by partitions, it is then a place unto itself, and it is permissible to pray there (according to the Ben Ish Chai, partitions on three sides are required, while according to the Aruch HaShulchan, partitions on two sides suffice).

True, it is told about Rabbi Yonah, who was known as a righteous person whose prayers were answered, that when they came to ask him to pray for rain, he went to a deep and low place, and prayed there, until he was answered, and rain fell (Taanit 23b). For this reason, in some places it became customary to lower the place of the cantor, and therefore the prayer leader is called the “yoreid lifnei ha’tevah” (one who descends before the ark). However, when the synagogue is large, it is initially permissible to build a central platform on which the cantor will stand, so that his voice will be heard by all the worshippers. And even though they do not strictly observe having the cantor descend before the ark, they are strict about the honor of the prayer, that the cantor’s voice should be heard well (see Peninei Halakha: Prayer 3:4).

Those Praying Near the Entrance of the Synagogue or in the Vestibule

Q: There are worshippers who have the practice of praying near the entrance of the synagogue, or in its vestibule. Is this correct according to Jewish law?

A: One should not pray near the entrance, because entering the synagogue expresses the worshipper’s desire to stand before God and draw close to Him, and one who remains near the entrance appears as if the prayer is a burden upon him. This is what our Sages said:

A person should always enter the synagogue to the distance of two entranceways, and then pray” (Berachot 8a, Rashi). However, if his fixed place is near the entrance, it is permissible for him to pray there, for everyone knows that he stands there because that is his place (Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 90:20).

According to this, it is clear that initially, one should not pray in the vestibule before the entrance of the synagogue, for if they said not to pray inside the synagogue near the entrance, it is all the more so that one should not pray in the vestibule before it.This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.

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