Monday, June 12, 2006

Tearing Clothes Over the Cities of Judea

R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik said ("Mah Dodekh Mi-Dod" in Divrei Hagus Ve-Ha'arakhah, p. 89) that his uncle's, the Brisker Rav's, reason for being a non-Zionist was that there was no place in his halakhic thought for the concept of a secular Jewish state. I think R. Moshe Feinstein (and others) would disagree with this evaluation presented in the name of the Brisker Rav.

The Gemara (Mo'ed Katan 26a) states that one who sees the cities of Judea (in destruction) tears his clothes like one does for a deceased relative. But does this still apply when these cities have been rebuilt and settled by Jews? The Beis Yosef (Orach Chaim 561) suggests that perhaps since the cities are still in the hands (i.e. control) of non-Jews, we still tear for them. The Bach (ad loc.) makes the point stronger, and the Magen Avraham, Taz and later posekim follow this approach. Thus, a thriving Jewish city that is under the sovereignty of an Arab country would still require tearing.

What about the cities in Judea today? In 1979, R. Moshe Feinstein answer this in a responsum to R. Ephraim Greenblatt (Iggeros Moshe, Orach Chaim 4:70:11). He answered that one should tear for the cities that are under the control of non-Jews. Which cities in Judea are still under non-Jewish sovereignty? Didn't Israel conquer them in the Six Day War?

R. Shlom Goren (Torad Ha-Medinah, pp. 106-108) points out that, technically, Judea and Samaria are not under Jewish sovereignty because Israel never annexed them after conquering those territories. Technically, they are under Jordanian or international law. R. Goren then proceeds to argue that, despite this, since the Israeli army functionally controls the area, it is under Jewish rule and therefore one would not need to tear one's clothes over the cities.

R. Moshe Feinstein, however, rules that one must tear one's clothes. Presumably, then, he holds that because they are technically under non-Jewish sovereignty (not secular Jewish sovereignty but non-Jewish), one must tear clothes over them. If, however, they were part of the state of Israel, then one would not tear one's clothes.

(He could, alternatively, define "under the control" by referring to the majority population. Thus cities in that region with a non-Jewish majority would be "under the control" of non-Jews even if under a Jewish sovereignty. I am not sure how this would work within the Beis Yosef's and Bach's paradigm.)

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More