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the Warsaw Ghetto uprising/defending ourselves (in Galus)

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#1 ohevyisroel



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Posted 12 March 2012 - 07:27 PM

Hi! this is the first time im posting anything on this site but i think this might be the right place for me to ask, discuss, and get an answer. really, this question is my friend's but we've been having a whole discussion/debate about it and its getting me curious too. Basically, the way my friend put it is this (the original question): why does the frum/yeshivish world not agree with the warsaw ghetto uprisers? why can't we defend ourselves? why do we have to just there and let it happen to us? why weren't frum people involved in the uprising? and look at chanukah - they stood up and fought against the enemy?
so basically what i've said so far is this: that there is a difference in defending ourselves nowadays, in galus, than when we had the bais hamikdash and we were in eretz yisroel - a very big difference (& i expounded on this obviously)
& in specific i said about the warsaw uprising that the uprising ended up causing more (arguably) but for sure quicker death + the gedolim of the time said not to do it so jsut going against them was not the right thing to do - but there are different opinions/sides to that - even for myself i know some people say that they were going to be killed anyways - all of them - & here they killed some germans & let more people live - but my Churban Europe book - as well as most of what i've read & been taught is that no, they could've had a few more months of survival. they all had provisions for a few more months and everything was 'relatively' peaceful and this uprising just caused the germans to crack down now and harder than they might've before hand.
i also added that they weren't just sitting there letting it happen as if they were totally ok with what was happening - they thought about it, they realized that this wasnt the right thing to do & w/ pride and dignity they were moser nefesh their lives - & tht was the biggest kiddush hashem (but she still wants to know why wasn't it the right thing to do)
But my friend is still not satisfied and im getting curious now too - & its a two sided question: did they do the right thing? (and either way - how to support the answer) i know its not really up to us to judge but according to the torah approach was it the right thing to do? and also - do we look at them as heroes? why or why not?
thank you so much

#2 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 08:24 PM

It is wrong to die when you can live.

Our lives are not ours to give away.

You obviously can't judge people when they're in such a position, but that doesn't make it right. it just means you can't judge them for not doing what's right. But it's still not right.

There is no pride in dying like that. There is pride in dying righteous, and shame in dying wicked. if you attack someone else as opposed to them attacking you, there is no pride in that. Neither בחרבך תחיה nor בחרבך תמות is reason to be proud.

Jews have what to be proud of, and it has nothing to do with dying in battle. Rav Shach writes that in Europe, Anti-semites randomly used to force Jews to dance a certain degrading dance for them while they laughed and mocked them. The Jew, while he was dancing the degrading dance and being mocked, was proud, he writes.

He was proud that he was nothing like that Goy.

That is Jewish pride. Jews have a lot to be proud of. We are, and always were, a very proud people. But we are proud not that we can beat someone else in a fight, but rather that we are good people.

In fact, the idea that dying while killing the enemy is considered dying with "pride and dignity" is a result of a lack of Jewish pride and a low Jewish self-image.

Consider: Had those not been Nazis in Germany but animals in the jungle - tigers and wolves - that were going to kill Jews holed up in a makeshift shelter, do you think they would have run out and given their lives to kill the animals so they can "die with dignity and pride"? Of course not. Nobody feels shame by being the victim of a wild animal. Shame comes from being humiliated by your opponent. It comes from the feeling that you are considered nothing by someone else.

But that only applies if that someone else is like you. A competitor, and opponent. You may feel slighted if a peer raises his voice at you, but nobody is insulted when a dog barks.

To think that giving your life to die in an uprising is dying with "pride and dignity" is being unaware that you and the murderer and not of the same species. he is an animal. You are above him,. he is nothing. A snake, a wolf, a wild inhuman predator. You are a Tzelem Elokim. You should view them as you would any other animal. And you should be proud, very proud, that you are not like him.

That's number one. There is no pride in dying in order to rise up against a wild animal and no shame in living an extra breath of life.

Number two: You are correct that Chanukah is different because Chanukah was not during Golus. But there is a much more fundamental difference here.

On Chanukah the Jews did not rise up against people who wanted to kill them. The Yevanim did not want to kill the Jews - they wanted them to not be frum. Not a single Jew was in danger on Chanukah. All they had to do was not keep Torah and nobody would have bothered them. They rose up because the Torah was being attacked. They rose up not for themselves but to defend the Mitzvos.

On Purim, on the other hand, even though the Jews could have vanquished their enemies, they did not rise up to fight but rather to pray and do Teshuva, because Haman did not attack the Mitzvos - he wanted to kill the Jews. (Only after Haman was gone and we had the full blessing of the Persian government did the Jews then kill their enemies.)

To fight for Hashem's Torah, we would rise up and be willing to die. But it makes no sense to fight a losing battle to save your life.

#3 ohevyisroel



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Posted 10 April 2012 - 11:54 PM

thank you so much for responding - i will foward this all to my friend but one quick follow up question: is it ok to sacrafice your life to save others? is it ok to try to do something to save others? b/c in the wild animal situation wouldn't some people go out of the building to try to kill the animals to save the group as a whole s' lives?

#4 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 07:54 AM

Sacrificing one's life to save many others is complicated sugya and the answer depends on a myriad of factors and circumstances - see the Rambam Yesodei HaTorah 5:5 and the Meforshim there.

But that has nothing to do with your question. The idea that if you kill one Nazi that will save at least one Jew, somewhere sometime in the future, is speculation at best. There was no shortage of Nazis ימ"ש, to do the job, and there is no reasonable assurance that if you killed some random Nazis you for sure saved any - and certainly not many - Jews. On the contrary, for all we know the uprising could have just made the Nazis more careful to kill future potential up-risers before they have a chance to fight back. There is no way to say whether anyone was actually saved because of the uprising to begin with, or if it even made things worse and in a case of such hopeful speculation, you may not purposely give your life.

And not only that - because of the uprising, not only were the up-risers killed, but also many Jews in the ghetto who had no interest in fighting, including children who could not kill anyone even if they tried. All these deaths were directly caused because of the uprising. And there was no question that the uprising was going to result in the collateral deaths of these Jews who had nothing to do with the uprising.

In a case such as this, where innocent Jews will be definitely and immediately slaughtered because of your suicidal actions, and you have no idea whether you will save anyone at all - or perhaps even make it worse for Jews everywhere - the question does not begin.

That having been said, once again, far be it from me to judge the people who did this. There is no clearer application of אל תדין את חבירו על שתיגיע למקומו. But that just means they had a very big Nisayon. It does not make it any less wrong.

One thing is for sure though - it is wrong to glorify the episode. There is nothing glorious in giving your lives, causing others to be killed, for some ideal of "dying with dignity." That is not a Jewish concept, and by glorifying this incident you are teaching the values of בחרבך תחיה - or בחרבך תמות. That was not our forefather's blessing; it was Esav's.

The Warsaw ghetto uprising is glorified specifically with an agenda - to make Jews think it is heroic and honorable for a sheep to wage war in Golus against the 70 wolves that persecute it, even if it will die doing so, instead of living the way Chazal tell us to live in Golus. These are the same people who glorify the evil people who died on Masada (they were mass murderers of Jews and, for the record, cowards who did not kill a single Roman soldier while on Masada.) by killing themselves. They want us to reject the lifestyle that has saved us from becoming extinct in 2,000 years of Golus, reject the Torah that tells us how to live in Golus, reject what they call the "Golus mentality" and join them in their deviant quest to change the Jewish nation from a people of ויתן לך ה מטל השמים to a people of בחרבך תחיה.

These people have been pushing this agenda of militarizing Klall Yisroel and denigrating our Mesorah regarding how to survive in Golus for over a century. See what the Chofetz Chaim wrote about these people and their ideology, even before the Warsaw ghetto uprising, here. Below is a translation of the last paragraph. After he describes how the Torah tells us to survive in Golus specifically by not rising up against the Goyim:

And behold, whenever we followed this established method [of not fighting], Hashem saved us from their hands, but we have already strayed from this path, and newfangled ways have recently arisen, new customs. These people have abandoned the weapons of our father [Yaakov] and instead are using the weapons of our enemies. We have gotten progressively worse, and it has resulted in terrible evils and harships. Hashem should have mercy on us and restore the leaders that we used to follow.

#5 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 12:55 AM

From Rav Avigdor Miller ZTL on this topic:

The Jews didn't have any tanks, they didn't have any soldiers; what do you expect of them? What could they do? If the Jews would have fought back not one would have remained. Who remained of the Warsaw ghetto? Nobody! Who said it was such a smart thing? It's only foolish people, sensationalists, who talk about the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto. It's as silly as could be. If they hadn't made the uprising a lot of Jews would have remained.

Jews remained all over the world. Wherever Hitler went, Jews remained. Of course not enough. But the fact that they fought back meant it was a death sentence. The chachmei hatorah didn't say fight back. Because after all, the Germans were not that thorough, a lot of Jews escaped. But when they started fighting back then the Germans brought all their tanks and all their flame throwers and they wiped out all the Jews. So going like sheep is not a foolish tactic. When you have no alternative the best thing is not to fight. It's a silly thing that's used by American people. Now I don't wish it on American Jews, but if they were in the same situation they wouldn't have been a bit better.

Our forefathers understood this; they didn't fight against the nations. They sought to placate the nations. And by the way, it was one of the biggest mistakes, before World War Two when they made a boycott against Germany and they enraged the Germans. Had they followed the council of our sages at that time, they would have bribed Hitler’s lieutenant. You know, Hitler’s lieutenants were mercenary people, you could buy them. You could send things to them - secretly. They would have pocketed a lot of money, but they would let a lot of Jews out. The story would have been different.

And so, this bravado, this false heroism of fighting back and being killed like a hero, is not the way chosen by Jews. We believe it's better to live not like a hero, than to die like a hero.