A Guest Post by Rafi G.
(cross posted from LII)
About a week ago the story broke that the Chief Rabbi of the IDF had supposedly desecrated the holiday of Pesach (the story actually said he desecrated the shabbos, but alert readers pointed out that the timing means it was really the holiday), and the Haredi press had written about it very critically demanding an explanation and his resignation, as they claimed there was no need for him to be there and therefore no need for him to get in the car.
For some reason, Rabbi Ronsky, the Chief Rabbi of the IDF, felt it necessary to try to clear his name and provide an explanation. Yesterday he sent a letter to various Rabbis of the IDF in which he provided an explanation for his actions.
He wrote, "The IDF rabbi is an an inseparable part from the fighting unit. Just as he puts himself in danger when he goes out with the unit to the front lines, so too if the unit has to be mobilized on Shabbos, the Rabbi must join the unit."
Ronsky compared the IDF Rabbi to the way the Torah describes the Kohein who was appointed to go out with the people to battle. He writes, "The Kohein would meet the soldiers before they went out to battle, and he would lift their spirits. He would then go out with them to the battle.
The main job of the Unit Rabbi is to raise the morale of the soldiers. Strengthening them in this way is an important job in ensuring their success in battle, for, as is known, assault before an enemy is not natural for a person, and definitely not for our young soldiers. Therefore a Rav who is integrated thoroughly with his unit, who participates and is present during their exercises and their operations, can help them overcome their distress and crises that are charachteristic in these situations."
"The soldier is comparable to a choleh she'yesh bo sakana - a sick man whose life is in danger. Such a person we even bring his family to his bed, because it can help his situation. We find that even Torah decrees would eb waived to bring his family in this situation. How much more so, in this situation, to strengthen the morale of the sodliers - something that will directly affect the success of the operation, that is of invaluable importance."
I guess his classification of the Rabbis role would be a point of debate, but at least he has a reasonable explanation (as I wrote before, that I did not doubt from the start). Even if others do not agree with his opinion, it is not necessarily their place to instruct him how to behave, when he is fully qualified to make such decisions.