Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Provoking the Nations

A Guest Post by Rafi G

One of the reasons, perhaps the main reason, given for opposing many "settlement" or "settler" activities, such as creating outposts, expanding settlements, and the like, or even activities that are being branded as "settler" or "nationalist, like going up to Har HaBayit, is that we are not supposed to provoke the nations of the world. we are not supposed to be agressors. We are supposed to be meek and timid, and only do what they allow us to do and not take steps that will upset the non-Jewish nations.

"Assur L'hitgarot ba'umot ha'olam" - it is prohibited to provoke the nations of the world. While this might be good advice, or maybe bad advice, depending on your perspective, I am not aware of an actual source for this issur. It probably comes from the periods in history in which Jews were subservient to our non-Jewish, and often hostile, overlords, and it became reasonable to say not to do anything to provoke the goyim.

I was thinking about this because of our reading of Breishis this week. The first Rashi in the parsha, in all of the Torah, is perhaps one of, if not THE, most famous Rashi commentaries in all of the Torah.

Rashi begins by asking why the Torah begins from creation and all th stories, and not just skip right to the first mitzva which comes much later. After all, the Torah is not a history book.

Rashi answers by quoting Rebbi Yitzchak who says that the reason is that if the goyim should claim that we stole the land of Israel from them and they would demand it back, we should know and say that we are not robbers or thieves, but God gave us the land. And even though it was given to others first, because God created, and therefore owns, everything, He can give what He wants to whom He wants, and He can take it away and give it to others. So as long as we have the land, the stories in the Torah from Breishis until the first mitzva give us the justification to settle the land and live in it despite the protestations of the non-Jews.

The recent riots by Arabs on Har HaBayit and in East Jerusalem have prompted the reiteration of such statements like "It is prohibited to provoke the non-Jewish nations" to justify opposing ascending Har Habayit.

I never liked the issur of "not provoking". In my mind, our mere existence is a provocation. Beyond that, any specific incident or issue is simply an excuse for the non-Jews to be upset at our existence. Is it a provocation for us to go up to Har HaBayit? I say no - it is an opportunity for them to riot, though they really could care less about Har HaBayit and are upset about our being anywhere in Israel, and even that we exist at all.

So, as I was reading the Rashi, the first Rashi in the Torah that I quoted above, I realized that, to me at least, it looks like Rashi takes a similar approach to the [non-existent?] issur of "not provoking.

Rashi, quoting Rebbi Yitzchak, says we have a right to settle the land because God gave it to us. We have to know that, and we have to state it unequivocally to the goyim in response to their claims. Rashi does not add that if they make claims against us, despite it being ours, we should be meek and give in to their demands in order to not provoke them.

Just the opposite! Rashi says clearly that this land is our land and God gave it to us and we must settle it and defend our rights to do so in the face of the protests of the goyim. According to Rashi there is no such issur of "not provoking the goyim".

So if your only reason to not go up to Har Habayit, or to not live in the "occupied territories" or to not support the army killing the enemy when necessary, is because we are not supposed to provoke the goyim, that is not true. We are supposed to live in the land God gave to us, and we are meant to do so fully and defend our right to do so!

To be clear, I am not suggesting that we need to find ways to unnecessarily provoke the various governments of the world. We need to create working relationships with them, and provocations can sometimes harm that. I am saying that there are times where we need to stand up for our positions - declaring the land is ours or whatever, and we must do so even if some say it is a provocation.

Search for more information about provoking the nations at 4torah.com.

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