Spies Like Them II

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In a post earlier this year, I discussed whether Jews may serve as spies if it requires violating prohibitions (link). I have since found an essay by R. Shlomo Goren on the subject (Mishnas Ha-Medinah, pp. 140-151). He addresses two halakhic issues.

1) An Israeli spy will usually have to pretend that he is not Jewish. While a Jew is allowed to act as if he isn’t Jewish in order to save his life, he isn’t allowed to say that he isn’t Jewish (Shulchan Arukh, Yoreh De’ah 257:2).

R. Goren explains that there are three types of prohibitions do not override life-threatening conditions — idolatry, bloodshed and sexual immorality. If one may not pretend to be a non-Jew in order to save one’s life, it must be because it falls under the prohibition of idolatry. Therefore, he suggests, since Muslims are not idolators or polytheists, one is allowed to say that one is a Muslim in order to save lives. There is no issue of idolatry. He does not discuss spies who have to pretend that they are Christians or Hindus.

2) Spies often have to marry spouses from the enemy nation in order to avoid suspicion. This presumably falls under the category of sexual immorality and, therefore, does not override life-threatening considerations.

R. Goren makes two arguments to permit this. First, he deduces from Rishonim that even though marrying a gentile is forbidden, it is not technically classified as sexual immorality (arayos). It is a prohibition of its own. Therefore, it is permitted in life-threatening situations. Furthermore, we see from the case of Yael, who slept with Sisera in order to save the Jewish people (Nazir 23b), that even sexual immorality is permitted in order to save the Jewish people. Both of these reasons, R. Goren states, are sufficient to allow Israeli spies to intermarry.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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