Tag Archive for: Amalek

What is War, and How Are We to Wage It?

There is an entire portion in the Torah that begins “when you go to war” (Ki Teitzei, Deut. 21:10)… not “if”, but “when.” We are given specific rules about what we can and cannot do throughout the Torah, Talmud, and later texts.

But in today’s world, the lines of “war” are not as clear. We’re clearly in the midst of war, but with whom? How should we act? These are not easy questions, and worth looking at as we are beginning our sixth month of war in Israel.

Some things are clear. We are to destroy Amalek completely. If we experience perpetrators on the weak, sick, old, young… we can define that perpetration (both externally as a physical enemy and internally as addiction) as Amalek; and it must not be negotiated with, but utterly destroyed.

Given the events of Oct. 7, it is clear that Hamas is a modern Amalek and must be destroyed.

That example is pretty self-evident.

When at war, we are to be compassionate as well with enemies who are not Amaleks. The Torah teaches how we are to treat people other than Amalek, and the underlying concept is that our goal in war is not victory per se, but lasting peace.

This is one of the reasons that many of us were hesitant to believe that any IDF soldiers fired in civilians last week who were trying to aid from convoy trucks in Gaza. Our suspicions have now been totally confirmed thanks to footage from multiple drones. The IDF never fired at any person heading to the trucks. Footage shows that the only shots fired by Israel were at people who were attacking the soldiers: not heading towards the convoy at all, but violently charging the soldiers. Again, the reports of Hamas were lies, and proven to be so by now released drone footage.

What about Hezbollah? Like Hamas, they have vowed to destroy Israel and obliterate all Jews in the worldwide caliphate they seek to create. They send rockets almost daily into northern Israel, and displaced almost 100,000 Israelis from their homes. But despite their verbal vows, they have not enacted “Amalek-type” behavior as Hamas did on Oct. 7. They attack haphazardly, but not with the conscious intent of specifically targeting children and the weak. Based on the conflict in the north, it is the hope that a miracle can happen, and that a lasting peace can be created without needing their complete destruction. Unlike Hamas, they have not crossed the Rubicon, and it is still the hope and prayer that a lasting peace can be structured with them.

While the news was filled today with the State of the Union speech, there was also a small bit of news that radically affects Israel, and potentially the US/Israel relationship. Although any student of history or geo-politics realizes that a “two state solution” is a philosophical and practical impossibility, the President made it clear in his speech that this is his intention. He even went as far to say that the US will be building a port in Gaza. But to build a port or base in a foreign country without permission is actually considered an act of war. By that accepted definition, Biden declared an intention of a war act against Israel… Gaza is recognized as part of Israel even by the UN, so wouldn’t building a port or base there without Israel’s permission be an act of war? And is it the intention of the U.S. to build and man a port on foreign soil? And for how long? These are questions that many Israelis and international political scientists have been discussing since President Biden made the announcement of his intended port today.

But the greatest war is always our individual war with our own “yetzer hara”…our personal “evil inclination”. We must do what must be done, but we must never take joy in it. We must destroy Hamas, but feel the sadness of having to kill anyone…even the Hamas terrorists who have surrendered their own souls in their quest for a caliphate. And at the same time, we need to remember that the yetzer hara can be manifest just as easily as a desire for mercy when there should be none. Amalek must be destroyed, even though doing that is painful.

We must remember that our greatest ally in any war; both with an external enemy or with our inner yetzer hara, is always God. He brings us to victory over external enemies as well as the ally that allows us to rid ourselves of things like addictions, evil behavior, or any problem in our lives both individually and collectively.

As these wars continue, may we all find within them the opportunity to deepen our relationship with God and each other.

EDITORS NOTE: This Newsrael column by Rabbi Michael Barclay is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

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