Thursday, November 12, 2009

Personal Morality and Collective Morale


On the issue of disobeying a military order as a matter of conscience, and the effect it may have on collective morale:

R’ Aharon Lichtenstein, 8/16/05 letter to R’ Avraham Shapira
With respect to values and principles that divide Israeli society, regarding which there is no consensus defining a particular initiative as patently illegal and immoral, selective refusal of orders is impossible. Refusal on the right invites refusal on the left, and vice versa. The result is a divided and disjointed army, part of which dissents and abstains from an initiative in one direction, and the other rejects initiatives in the opposite direction. The damage to the unity and cohesion of the army and to the readiness for mutual dedication and sacrifice is clear. And as a result, the IDF’s ability to carry out its missions and its power of deterrence
are eroded. One need not be a great general or statesman to understand the possible implications.

R’ Avraham Sylvetsky (grandson of Rav Shapira), 8/23/05 response to R’ Aharon Lichtenstein
Even if we disregard the underlying assumption upon which Kevod Torato’s question is grounded, surely in the case at hand the matter is even simpler. For Kevod Torato’s concern regarding an impairment of the strength of the IDF is shrouded in fog and not at all clear. Surely, Kevod Torato, shelita, would agree that it is almost an insult to the intelligence of the IDF soldiers that we should be concerned that they will draw an analogy from refusing orders on religious grounds to refusing orders in other contexts.
Moreover, irrespective of the religious aspect, is it not demeaning to our soldiers to assume that they are incapable of distinguishing between an order given during wartime as part of the defense efforts against the enemy and an order calling for an assault upon the property and lives of their Jewish brothers? Every soldier understands the difference between an order given in the context of the fulfillment of the role and mission of the Israeli army—defending the citizens of Israel against the enemy, regardless of the soldier’s personal political views—and an order that would not normally fall upon the IDF, and had never been included in the purpose for its establishment, and only because of technical difficulties was given over to the IDF, which is serving in this context as a manpower agency. It is exceedingly difficult for me to accept this diminution of the moral and intellectual level of our soldiers, as if they are incapable of making such simple and elementary distinctions.

(Tradition 40:1)

Have a great day,

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