Originally published 3/24/08, 2:17 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.
The following article seems to make the simple point that a soldier must refuse to follow an order when it contradicts Halacha. While that may seem pretty straightforward, the article actually ignores the complexity of such a situation and decision. Here are some questions that illustrate this complexity:
What if there is a machloket in Halacha and the commanding officer follows one opinion and the solider follows another? What if the army as a whole follows one opinion and the soldier another?
What if there are consequences in not following the order thereby initiating a halachic exempiton such as the case of piku'ach nefesh, when one's life is threatened? In the case of positive commandments, an exemption kicks in at a great monetary loss, as another example? What if there is a disagreement over the facts and causal understandings of what is happening?
There is also a reference in this article to the actions of Mordechai as a model for us today. Yet there was great controversy over Mordechai's behaviour in regards to Haman. While Mordechai was vindicated, there are attempts to show the uniqueness of that situation, thus limiting the story as an example for us.
Of course one must be devoted to Torah in the fact of external pressure but this in itself demands further analysis. First of all, the Torah itself defines the devotion necessary. Second, one must define the Torah demand. Third, one must be sensitive to unique situations in any case of this matter.
This is something to think about with a recognition of the complexity.
Rabbi Ben Hecht