Excerpt from a letter by The Lubavitcher Rebbe Chanukah 1980
“I am completely and unequivocally opposed to the surrender of any of the liberated areas currently under negotiation, such as Yehudah and Shomrom, the Golan, etc., for the simple reason, and only reason, that surrendering any part of them would contravene a clear Psak-Din (ruling) in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim, section 329, par. 6,7). I have repeatedly emphasized that this Psak-Din has nothing to do with the sanctity of Eretz Yisra’el, or the “days of Mashiach”, the Geulah, and similar considerations, but solely with the rule of Pikuach-Nefesh (danger to life). This is further emphasized by the fact that this Psak-Din has its source in the Talmud (Eruvin 45a), where the Gemora cites as an illustration of a border town under the terms of this Psak-Din – the city of Neharde’a in Babylon (present day Iraq) – clearly not in Eretz Yisra’el. I have emphasized time and time again that it is a question of, and should be judged purely on the basis of, Pikuach-Nefesh, not geography.
The said Psak-Din deals with a situation where gentiles (the term is גוים , not enemies) besiege a Jewish border-town, ostensibly to obtain “straw and hay,” and then leave. But because of the possible danger, not only to the Jews of the town, but also to other cities, the Shulchan Aruch rules that upon receiving news of the gentiles (even only preparations), the Jews must mobilize immediately and take up arms even on Shabbos – in accordance with the rule that “Pikuach-Nefesh supersedes Shabbos.”
Should there be a question whether the risk does in fact create a situation of Pikuach-Nefesh, then – as in the case of illness, where a medical authority is consulted – the authority to make a judgment is vested in the military experts. If military experts decide that there is a danger of Pikuach-Nefesh, there could be no other overriding considerations, since Pikuach-Nefesh overrides everything else. Should the military experts declare that while there is such a risk, yet it should be taken for some other reason, such as political considerations (good will of the gentiles) this would clearly be contrary to the Psak-Din, for the Psak-Din requires that Pikuach-Nefesh, not political expediency, should be the decisive factor.
Now in regard to the liberated areas, all military experts, Jewish and non-Jewish, agree that in the present situation giving up any part of them would create serious security dangers. No one says that giving up any part of them would enhance the defensibility of the borders. But some military experts are prepared to take a chance in order not to antagonize Washington and/or to improve the “international image,” etc. To follow this line would not only go against the clear Psak-Din, but would also ignore costly lessons of the past. One glaring case in point is “the Yom-Kippur War.” Days and hours before the attack, there were urgent sessions of the government discussing the situation with the military. Military intelligence pointed to unmistakable evidence that an Egyptian attack was imminent, and the military experts advised a preemptive strike that would save many lives and prevent an invasion. However, the politicians, with the acquiescence of some military experts, rejected this action on the ground that such a step, or even a general mobilization, before the Egyptians actually crossed the border, would mean being branded as the aggressor, and would jeopardize relations with the USA. This decision was contrary to the said Psak-Din of the Shulchan Aruch, as pointed out above. The tragic results of that decision bore out the validity of the Shulchan Aruch’s position (as if it were necessary), for many lives were needlessly sacrificed, and the situation came close to total disaster, but for G-d’s mercies. Suffice it to mention that the then Prime Minister later admitted that all her life she would be haunted by that tragic decision.
I know, of course, that there are Rabbis who are of the opinion that in the present situation, as they see it, it would be permissible from the viewpoint of the Shulchan Aruch to return areas from Eretz Yisra’el. But it is also known on what information they based this view. The argument is that the present situation is not identical with the hypothetical case of a state of “being besieged by gentiles.” A second argument is that the present surrendering of some areas would not endanger lives.
That these arguments are based on misinformation is patently clear. The Arab neighbors are prepared militarily; what is more, they do demand that these areas are theirs to keep, and openly declare that if not surrendered voluntarily, they will take them by force, and eventually everything else. A Rabbi who says that the said Psak-Din of the Shulchan Aruch does not apply in the present situation is completely misinformed on what the situation actually is…
I was taken to task for placing so much emphasis on the security of Eretz Yisra’el, the arguments being that what has protected the Jewish people during the long Galus has been the study of Torah and the practice of Mitzvos; hence Torah-observant Jews should not make the inviolability of Eretz Yisra’el as the overriding cause. I countered that they missed the point, for my position has nothing to do with Eretz Yisra’el as such, but with the Pikuach-Nefesh of the Jews living there – which would apply to any part of the world.
It is said that my pronouncements on the issues are more political than Rabbinic. Inasmuch as the matter has to do with Pikuach-Nefesh, it is surely the duty of every Jew, be he Rabbi or layman, to do all permitted by the Shulchan Aruch to help forestall – or, at any rate, minimize – the danger. In a case of Pikuach-Nefesh, every possible effort must be made, even if there is ספק (doubt) and many doubts whether the effort will succeed.