Continued: Clarifying the Laws of War


Jerusalem, Israel
HaRav Yehuda Kroizer SHLIT"A, Rosh Yeshiva

16 Elul, 5766/8-9 September, 2006

CLARIFYING THE LAWS OF WAR (Continued from last week)

Last week we discussed the laws of a noncompulsory war, or "milchemet reshut", something that the Jewish people have not had to deal with for the last few thousand years. For all the wars that affect the Jewish people today in the Land of Israel are compulsory wars, or "milchemet mitzvah".

Who, then, goes out to fight for a compulsory war? The Talmud teaches us: Everything stated about exemptions applies to a noncompulsory war, but in a compulsory war, all must go forth to battle, even the groom from his wedding chamber and the bride from her canopy. The Rambam then brings down this law, quoted in the Talmud, to the Code of Jewish law.

Yes, in times of danger to the Jewish people and its Land, all Jews would head out to battle or give a helping hand at the home front. And so we find in the book of II Samuel: "These are the names of the mighty men who served David. And Benayahu the son of Jehoiada the son of a valiant man, great in deeds." Rashi teaches us that there was no one like him in his Torah knowledge, either during the First Temple period or the Second Temple period. And still. . . when push came to shove, he became the mighty warrior.

The Radak teaches us that even though Benayahu was a Kohen/Priest, and it is forbidden for a Kohen to become spiritually unclean by killing (for they must do the work in the Temple), to fight the enemies of G-d it is a commandment. And there is no difference between a Kohen or an Israel in this matter, as we find with Pinchas, who became unclean when he killed Zimri, and then led the Jewish people to battle against Midyan.

In the ideal army of King David, it was not enough to be a great military officer, but one also had to be a great Torah scholar. In order to advance in David’s army, one had to be tested in Torah knowledge. A sergeant had to know "parshat hashavua" - the portion of the week. A captain was tested in his knowledge of Mishna [i.e. not literally the Mishna - which hadn't been complied yet - but the equivalently deeper sections of Torah - Ivri], and to be a major one had to know all of the Talmud [again, same idea as above - Ivri]. What a far cry from today, when our military men know so little of Torah concepts, and our Torah learners know nothing about killing our enemies!

And when one goes to battle for the Jewish people, the Rambam writes: "Having gone into battle one should lean on the Hope of Israel, who saves in a time of trouble. A person should realize that he is going to war for the sake of G-d's name. He should not think about his wife or children, but should blot out their memory from his heart and turn away from everything else to the war. If he does not strive to be victorious and fight with all his heart and soul, it is as though he sheds everyone's blood! Cursed be he who does the L-rd's work with a slack hand, and cursed be he who keeps back his sword from blood."

Now, dear friend, consider the words of Olmert this past week when he was quoted saying, "We will not limit ourselves against Syria like we did in Lebanon."

According to Olmert: "In a battle against them, we will remove the limitations we have placed on ourselves." This whole matter of limitations certainly is not the way of a Torah Jew going out to war, or even as a smart militant, but rather the way of cowards. As for him, this is what the Rambam wrote: It is as though he sheds everyone's blood! May G-d help us, and may we merit true Jewish warriors, the scholar warriors!

With love of Israel,
Levi Chazen

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