Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Rav Sherlo: Should we tear our clothes?

Rabbi Yuval Sherlo, head of the hesder yeshiva in Petach Tikva and a leading figure in the religious Zionist community, addresses this question in an Internet responsum. Excerpts (my rough translation; ellipses mark sections I've omitted):

Tearing kriah for uprooting settlements

Honorable Rabbi Yuval Sherlo,

The Tur (OC 561) writes, "He who sees cities of Israel in ruins says on the first one he sees, 'Your holy cities have become a desert' and tears [his clothing]." ....

In light of this, I would like to ask the Rabbi what the law is today, as settlements are being uprooted...? Does the uprooting of settlements justify tearing kriah, on the basis of "He who sees cities of Israel in ruins"? ...

Thank you very much,

Aviad Y. Hollander


Peace and Blessings!

I will divide my response into two parts.

From the halachic aspect, I think that one who sees this halacha as connected to the difficult situation we are in is making a decision of great significance. This halacha, which was written about the destruction of cities of Israel by the gentiles, is not at all connected to a situation in which the Jewish entity is carrying out a change in the borders of the state as a result of its own (mistaken and terrible) decision. Paradoxically, we must bless and thank the Lord of the Universe that we even have the ability to make any such decision, and we must certainly not see the expulsion plan as anything similar to that.

In general, some of us make the mistake of using exaggerated language to describe that which is being done to us. Not only is it incorrect, but it creates a situation from which we cannot escape, since if one sees this halacha as the basis for his view he is deciding that the State of Israel is issuing decrees and that we the expelled are like Jews facing a gentile tyrant, and thus he uproots our entire conception regarding Klal Yisrael, the "first flowering of our redemption", and other related matters. It is a serious mistake not only on the pure halachic plane, but on a far broader plane.

From the emotional standpoint, I do not understand how one cannot tear kriah. This tear is an expression of deep mourning for the destruction we are performing with our own hands to Gush Katif and the northern Shomron - places where it is possible only to constantly praise the people who built them.... and all this is going to collapse. It doesn't matter what the reason for this is and what ideology stands behind this decision.... A man cannot remain indifferent to this situation, and there is nothing like tearing the clothes to express the tearing of the heart.

All the best, and may we be spared.

Rabbi Yuval Sherlo


Cosmic X said...

I believe that Rav Sherlo is incorrect with regards to the law here. As far as I remember it all depends upon who is sovereign. For instance, even if a city in Judea contained only Jews but a gentile nation was sovereign there, the city is considered in ruins, and kri'ah would still apply. If the city is all gentile, but the sovereignty is Jewish, kri'ah does not apply. The fact that the cities were given over voluntarily by a Jewish government means nothing.

At this point in time the IDF is still there and kri'ah does not apply. The minute the PA paramilitary police takes over, kriah.

That's my humble opnion.

Ze'ev said...

I also disagree with Rav Cherlow. The Rambam is clear that any (Jewish) king who gives an order that is contrary to Jewish Law must not be obeyed.

While I do beleive that the STate of Israel si the beginning of the redemption fo rhte Jewish People, I do not beleive that our current leaders are part of this process, and in fact, I beleive that they are taking us in reverse.

We have seen with our very eyes, the government of the State of Israel issuing decrees against jewish settlement i nthe Land of Israel, expelling Jews from their homes, giving Land to a hostile enemy nation, relasing murders...

All these things go against Jewish law. As such, I do view what is happening as a great tragedy in the history of the Jewish People, a desecration of G-d's name, and I do not have respect for the currect leadership instituions in this country that I am still proud to call my home.

Zman Biur said...


Let me explain what I think Rav Sherlo is saying.

Yes, whether or not one tears upon seeing a particular city depends on who is sovereign; that's a technical requirement of the halacha. But the essential reason that one tears at all is that one is viewing a city destroyed by the gentiles when the Jews were defeated and exiled from our Land. It is an echo of the churban, one might say. If we see the ruins of a Jewish town which simply fell onto hard times and was abandoned, we would not tear kriah regardless of who is sovereign there. It had to have been destroyed by our enemies.

Whatever one might say about disengagement, it does not constitute our defeat at our enemies' hands. In fact, as R' Sherlo points out, as a deliberate policy choice of the Jewish state, enacted for the sake of promoting Jewish interests, disengagement is itself an expression of Jewish sovereignty.

Thus, one cannot view the halacha regarding seeing the destroyed cities of Judea as a source requiring tearing kriah upon the current destruction of Jewish towns in Gaza.

On the other hand, that's not to say there aren't other legitimate grounds to tear, as R' Sherlo stipulates.

Zman Biur said...


I think you're mixing apples with oranges here. Whether or not the disengagement is against Jewish law - and I could argue that it isn't, but that's beside the point - does not determine whether or not one tears one's clothes upon witnessing it.