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November 14, 2013 - Image 48

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-11-14

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spirituality >> Torah portion

Does Might
Make ight?


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November 14 • 2013

f f

Parshat Vayishlach: Genesis 32:4-
36:43; Obadiah 1:1-1:21.


srael's military operation "Pillar of
Defense" was greatly successful in
ending the rocket attacks on the
residents in the south whose lives were
constantly being threatened
by rocket fire from Hamas,
the same Hamas which is
now threatening another
That war gained a great
deal of moral support from
the neutral bloc of nations
because we have engaged
exclusively in aerial strikes,
directed with pincer-like
precision, against specific
terrorist killer-leaders as
well as the major Hamas buildings of
operation, media and banking.
A ground invasion would have
brought in its wake Israeli losses
as well as more Palestinian civilian
casualties. This would have removed
Israel from the moral high ground and
might very well have caused us to lose
the support we now enjoy from our
Many Israelis would have preferred
a much more forceful ground attack,
which would have destroyed Hamas'
ability to attack Israel while bring-
ing about a significant number of
Palestinian civilian casualties. Would
such an attack have been morally and
religiously justified?
This week's portion contains a
precedent in the form of the military
operation by Jacob's sons, Shimon and
Levi, against the civilian population of
Jacob has left Labanland and
returns, together with his "tribe to
his ancestral homeland, Canaan. He
purchases a piece of land in the city
of Shekhem from Hamor, the prince
of the city, and erects an altar to God.
Shekhem, the son of Hamor, rapes
Jacob's daughter Dinah, leaving Jacob
and his sons outraged.
Shekhem and his father come to
meet the Hebrew clan. Prince Hamor
announces that his son desperately
wishes to marry Dinah and that they
are willing to give an exorbitant dowry
payment for Dinah. Jacob's sons
answer "with subterfuge" that only if
every male resident will circumcise

himself can Shekhem marry Dinah
and the two large clans join together.
To the surprise of Jacob's sons,
Hamor accepted the condition of cir-
cumcision. Simon and Levi
took their swords on the
third day after the mass cir-
cumcision; they slew every
male in the city, including
Shekhem and Hamor. They
then rescued Dinah.
Father Jacob chides
Simon and Levy: "You have
sullied me, causing me to
stink among the inhabitants
of the land ... I am few in
number, and should they
band together and attack me, I will be
annihilated — I and my household!'
It is especially important to note
that Jacob does not charge his two
sons with moral opprobrium; his con-
demnation is on political rather than
ethical grounds.
Maimonides has a most compel-
ling argument — especially in light of
recent history. Shekhem would never
have permitted himself to rape Dinah
had she not been a Hebrew maiden,
a stranger who was isolated from the
rest of the city. Once you are deal-
ing with people who believe that it is
power that gives one the right to domi-
nate, then you must use even more
power if you hope to survive.
Germany and Japan became very
different nation-states after the Second
World War, but only after they were
convinced that they could not beat
the Allies militarily. And remember, it
was the residents of Gaza who brought
Hamas into power.
Allow my position to be made very
clear: I'm very proud of Israel for
doing everything possible to avoid
civilian casualties, often even at the
risk to the lives of our own soldiers.
This is what makes us so different
from our enemies.
But we cannot allow this sensitiv-
ity to be the means by which we hand
victory to our enemies. As long as the
enemy is a Jihadist, that would be the
ultimate immorality.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin is chancellor of Ohr

Torah Stone in Efrat,

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