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Is burning the Israeli flag a chillul Hashem? (See 1:15 in video)

closed as primarily opinion-based by mevaqesh, DonielF, Avrohom Yitzchok, sabbahillel, Shimon bM Mar 7 '17 at 3:21

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    I would think so. But its hard to imagine an objective standard to this kind of question – Double AA May 8 '15 at 21:04
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    AFAIK, the flag has no kedusha (holiness) to it. What, then, would make it a chilul Hashem? – DanF May 10 '15 at 2:19
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    @cham It causes other nations to hate Israel. Other nations have already decided whether to hate Israel o rnot, and many do their own flag burning. Not that I condone Jews that do this, but, in terms of the question, I don't see how a Jew burning the flag CAUSES them to hate Israel. I also don't think it adds or detracts form their hatred that they already have. Their minds and hearts are already made up. – DanF May 10 '15 at 15:57
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    I once heard a joke that a member of neturai karta and a Zionist were speaking and one said to the other we both believe the flag is a mitzvah the only question is הנחה the mitzvah or הדלקה the mitzvah (see Gemara shabbos 23? Discussion wether lighting (הדלקה) the menorah is the mitzvah or lighting it in a set spot the mitzvah (הנחה) – mroll May 22 '15 at 12:53
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    @DanF I mean independently of that answer. Even if the flag had no halakhic status, how would that be evidence that burning it is not a chilul Hashem? – Daniel Feb 29 '16 at 20:22
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It might be a chilul Hashem for all the reasons expressed in the comments above. But it might be more than that. Rav Soloveichik believed the Israeli flag has the Halachik status and Holiness of a murdered Jew’s clothing, and shouldn't be desecrated.

Rav Soloveichik (mentioned in ‘Nefesh Ha’Rav’) says that there is a section in the Shulchan Aruch that relates to the Holiness of the Israeli flag. In Yoreh De’ah 352, it says a person can’t be buried in an expensive shroud. In YD 364 it says, that if a Jew is found murdered, he should be buried in his bloody clothes that he was found in, without the normal shrouds.

Why don’t we bury him in the usual shrouds? The Shach answers that, ”as the Jew was murdered, we bury him as he was found, in order to raise G-d’s anger against the person who killed the Jew”. This means that when G-d sees how the person was buried-in bloody clothes which will arouse G-d’s compassion to take revenge and avenge the spilled Jewish blood.

Rav Soloveichik applies this to the Israeli flag. The Rav said that in 1948 in the War of Independence and subsequently, many heroic fighters have sacrificed their lives in order to raise the Israeli – Jewish flag.

The Rav claimed therefore that the Israeli flag has the Halachik status and Holiness of a murdered Jew’s clothing, as it symbolized spilled Jewish blood. The Rav said when the Israeli flag flies, it arouses G-d’s Divine compassion for Am Yisrael wherever it is seen and that G-d may avenge the spilled Jewish blood.

(found online here and here)

In the words of R Soloveichik (Chamesh Derashot, p. 90; cf. Nefesh ha-Rav, p. 100) from here

The blue and white flag, soaked with the blood of thousands of young Jews who fell in the War of Independence, protecting the Land and settlements (religious and non-religious, for the enemy, yemach shemam, did not distinguish), has a spark of sanctity that flows from devotion and self-sacrifice. We are all enjoined to honor the flag and treat it with respect.

I remember reading that this was more than hyperbole. Shortly before the 1948 armistice, there was an attempt to plant as many Israeli flags as far as possible in ennemy territory as it was known that, after the armistice, all territories where the Israeli flag was flying would remain Israeli. Many soldiers lost their lives planting these flags.

  • I think that R' Soloveitchik's rationale seems tenuous at best. Furthermore, I'm quite sure his cousins in Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak would agree with my perspective, that any attempt to make a halachic argument on an issue which is solely political in nature seems counterproductive. – Noach MiFrankfurt Feb 28 '16 at 20:46
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    FWIW, I would not destroy an Israeli flag (or that of any nature) but I am ambivalent to the whole subject, considering the current state of affairs. – Noach MiFrankfurt Feb 28 '16 at 20:46
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    Just to note Rav Soloveitchik didn't write Nefesh HaRav ,Rav Schacter did – sam Feb 29 '16 at 2:13
  • @sam thanks, you are of course right and I edited to clarify – mbloch Feb 29 '16 at 4:48
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    @NoachmiFrankfurt Regardless, one could still argue that the flag is publicly representative of Jews and Judaism, irrespective of whether one considers the state itself to possess any holiness. Thus, in the minds of the public desecrating the flag is tantamount to an act or statement of aggression against Jews, much like burning the American flag is considered violent (but protected) symbolic speech. In that case, approval of flag burning is tacit approval of hatred toward all Jews, which I'm pretty sure every one other than the Neturei Karta holds is problematic. – Isaac Kotlicky Feb 29 '16 at 15:47
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The State of Israel comprises part of the Jewish mind-space in our era. I.e. regardless of your attitude towards the state, it is part of the Jewish psyche in our times.

Therefore burning the Israeli flag shows contemptuousness for the Jewish people and re-classifies the burner as someone who is not part of that people.

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    I once had someone tell me that Jews were all comedians and "it was part of my Jewish nature to tell jokes" (and no, this is not a joke. Someone actually did tell me that once as I was strolling down the street one Shabbos :P ). Does that mean someone who doesn't like comedy "shows contemptuousness for the Jewish people"? – Salmononius2 Apr 4 '16 at 1:28

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