Menachem Mendel

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Whose Jewish War Ethic?

I just read in Haaretz an article reporting some of R. Israel Rosen’s statements regarding the problem of rockets from Gaza. One can read the article for details or the column itself here in Hebrew (it’s at the end). In addition the article said that “Earlier in the week, the settlers’ rabbinical council expressed support for a return to the “Jewish ethic” of killing someone before he kills you.” I am no expert in military-strategic planning, although I think that the types of a “Jewish” response are far from monolithic. I think that this midrash which discusses the story of the expulsion of Ishmael shouldn’t be left out of the discussion.

“Where he is” (Gen. 21:17): R. Simon said, “The angelic hosts jumped to accuse him and said before him, “Ruler of all the worlds, a person who in the future will kill your son through thirst you are raising for him a well?” He said to them, “Now what is he?”. They said to him, “A righteous person”. He said to them, “I don’t judge people except as they are standing before me.” “Lift up the child” (Gen. 21:18)
(Gen. Rabbah 53:18, Theodor-Albeck ed. pp. 572-573)

I am all for punishing the guilty, yet let us not forget Jacob’s words on his death bed,

5 Simeon and Levi are brethren; weapons of violence their kinship. 6 Let my soul not come into their council; unto their assembly let my glory not be united; for in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they houghed oxen. 7 Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce, and their wrath, for it was cruel; I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” (Gen. 49)

One Response to “Whose Jewish War Ethic?”

  1. 1
    Menachem Mendel:

    i heard r’ yuval cherlow speak on the subject yesterday at the ou conference in j-town. he listed that value of ‘ba le-horgecha’ as 1 of 6 that should govern jewish war ethics.
    adderabbi | Homepage | 11.24.06 – 6:07 am | #

    I would agree that it is one of a number of Jewish texts which should inform our attitude towards warfare, I just get angry when people quote one and say “This is the Jewish ethic”. There are conflicting sources which pull us in different directions, something which hopefully prevents excesses in both directions.
    Menachem Mendel | Homepage | 11.24.06 – 8:44 am | #

    that was the gist of R’ Cherlow’s point.
    He also emphasized that it’s a set of internalized values, not of ‘halakhic considerations’. he was on an independent ethics council charged with making decisions about whether a threat noticed by unmanned droned was immediate enough to warrant immediate action. he said there was often less than 20 seconds to make decisions pertaining to life and death.
    adderabbi | Homepage | 11.26.06 – 4:07 am | #

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