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2019 Ki Tetze

09/14/2019 04:15:00 PM


Rabbi Glick: The Rules of War

Shabbat shalom.

As many of you know, the Israeli elections are in just a few days.

There was a story in the Israeli media last week—of an Israeli television program, Channel 13, report on the pre-army hesder yeshivot. That featured the recorded comments of a leading Rabbi speaking to his students, speaking about how they fear the wicked secular society, how corrupt their values were, and to even be ready to go against the government.

And it was in the yeshiva founded by Rafi Peretz, the head of the political part Jewish home, a very right wing party affiliated with the nationalist religious and the settler movement that believes in annexing large parts of the West Bank.

The video caught him speaking to youth—seemingly indoctrinating them to hate the secular and left wingers—those whose politics they disagreed with.

The report was saying this is what is going behind closed doors? It fed into the sense of cultural war in Israel.

The other side, ready to use every tool at their disposal to drive home—without nuance and with great hate—their position, looking to gain power to push forward their agenda.

Our parashah this week, Ki Tetze la Milchama, When you go out to war. What it will look like, what happens when you take an enemy captive? When a conflict arises with your fellow or your enemy.

Wars between foreign powers.

Or wars between ourselves…

The report—this is what war looks like—your enemy speaking about you.

But then you read the other part of the story, and the follow-up.

Once the full recordings at the yeshiva emerged...

At the yeshiva, the well known Rabbi was actually attempting to explain how divided Israeli society had become and he was embodying the different positions. This is what you think if you’re secular, or Ultra Orthodox…. He was actually explaining the different positions held by different segments of Israeli society to his students.

He was playing devil’s advocate, pretending to take the position held by extreme elements of the Ultra Orthodox world: I won’t go to the army if I know that going there I will end up opposing the fear of God? Is it better to come out secular than to attend the army? To blaspheme against God and rebel against him? To be wimps? To lose a tradition of 2000 years? To be nothing?

Where do you hear you can bring the wicked closer to Torah? He says, still playing the ultra Orthodox.

Taking another position, rhetorically, he also lambasted the progressive party Meretz, making fun of their pluralism.

But then—this was surprising—the rest of the recording was published.

When you heard his actual views and what he was teaching:

There was also a recording of him saying, quite touchingly, to the students:

"We have here right and left, we have secular and religious, one thing is clear: Everyone believes they are acting for the good of the country. I completely believe that the, former leader of the far left Meretz party, Zahava Galon has the best interests of the country in her heart, just as I do. She just has a different understanding of what is best for the country," he said, “But she loves the country."

In other videos, he speaks clearly against hatred and political violence.

It was Different Than it Appeared

Of course the channel issued an apology.

This is what the journalist who authored the initial report said in a tweet:

“I want to apologize. I watched the lectures from the academy before I published the report. After today’s publication I took some breathes (many) and watched them again and I understood that what was said in the classes was different to what I presented. [Nothing is more important to me than being accurate and that when I sign off on an item, it is solid], Sorry.”

Ki Tetze le Milchama

When we go out to war, especially against ourselves, but also against others, it is very easy to expect the worst of the other.

In the war of ideas, of who has the loudest voice, as we battle for votes, for our future, we also need to be sensitive and not let it get out of hand.

Yes, we are battling for the future of our families.

There is animosity, hurt.

There must also be rules.

The Torah, even to our more primitive ancestors, who thought nothing of taking slaves even as they had been slaves, in a world when peoples and nations waged total war to the annihilation of the other, where brutality and violence were common place, life has little value—even there the Torah lays out rules for war.

If you take a beautiful captive in war, you cannot just take her and then cast her away. [She must have time to mourn her family, and if you do take her, she must become your wife. ] Mercy, compassion, as much Godly values for those who are different but also made in the image of God, deserving of some protection… as much one can muster.

It is not easy but there has to be rules, limits.

Ki Tetze la milcham, when you go out to war.

War is not pleasant…

Especially when we are fighting for so much.

But there also has to be decency.

And to realize that what is happening behind the other side’s closed doors is not always what we expect.

And as bad as it can get, there is room to say,

They are trying to do what they think is best for their families, for their future.

The Jewish Value of : le’shem shamayim –for the Sake of Heaven

I thought reading this report—Teaching that to teenagers, to the next generations, may just prevent this from happening again in the not too distant, or in the distant future, when people will be fighting for what they believe in their hearts of hearts.

How can we teach that while holding on to what we believe? Knowing it is not easy to do that. Especially when the other side is not doing that.

And I smiled at the end of the piece when I saw the academy released a statement, itself defensive, saying while they were having a legitimate discourse, there was clearly a campaign against them from certain elements of the media to delegitimize their academies and the world of Torah.

It is hard to keep the high ground.

But it is how we keep our humanity – ki tetze le milchama – when we go out to war.

It is how we never lose hold of the chance for peace – however fleeting it appears - of the work of Aaron, Moses' brother ohev shalom, rodef shalom ohen ha briot, lover of peace pursuer of peace, lover all human beings.

Even in milchama, especially at war.

When so much is at stake.

We are Made in the Image of God

Do not stand down from what you believe.

But judge to the side of merit.

Shabbat shalom!


Wed, May 18 2022 17 Iyyar 5782