Tuesday, August 21, 2007

DVAR TORAH S2: Shoftim (The one with the violent rules of justice)

Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof "Justice Justice Shalt Thou Pursue", probably the most famous line of this Torah Portion, introduces a series of laws that could best be described as tough justice. For the next few weeks we will hear of laws that are so reprehensible, the rabbis decreed they could never be carried out, such as the Wayward and Rebellious Son (Ben Sorer U'Moreh). They are also laws that offend our modern sensibilities. How do we, as Jews, defend the law of proscription, especially in a post-Holocaust age? The truth of the matter there is that the nation of Amalek at which this is especially directed attacked us from behind, preying on the women, children, elderly, and weak of Israel. The other nations, if Moabites and Amorites can serve as an example, even with peace offers and requests to merely walk through the land they sought to destroy us. It says in the talmud "if your enemy awakens early in the morning to kill you, you must wake up earlier than him to kill him first". This is based on self-defense. There can be no real comparison to the genocides of the 20th century here.

Lest we think there is only vigilante justice, let us examine briefly the other Attribute of God that is commanded onto us: mercy. There really are morals here to protect both the individual and the army. Those with things left to do that will otherwise distract them from the war are excused from duty. For the sake of themselves and others whom they might lead to stray from their tasks in the holy wars of which they are commanded, they must go home, though they will have a part in the booty. The standing army must remain strong.

Pretty good for a couple days late and currently completely distracted...

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