War And Peace

At the end of Oktzin, the end of the Talmud, Rabbi Shimon ben Chalafta says, "G-d found no vessel that holds a blessing for Israel other than peace (Ps. 29:11): 'The L-rd will give strength to His people, the L-rd will bless His people with peace.'" Our sages also said (Bamidbar Rabbah 11:7), "Great is peace, for G-d's name is Peace"; (Vayikra Rabbah 9:9), "Great is peace, for it includes all blessings"; and (Tanchuma, Tzav, 7), "Great is peace, for that is precisely how the priestly blessing concludes."

We also find (Avot 1:18),
"On three things does the world stand: justice, truth and peace." And no less than four tractates (Berachot, Yevamot, Nazir and Keritut) conclude as follows:

�Rabbi Elazar said in the name of Rabbi Chanina, �Torah scholars increase peace throughout the world, for it says (Isaiah 54:13), 'All you children shall be taught by the L-rd, and great shall be the peace of your children.'" (See: the end of Berachot)

Likewise, Hillel said (Avot 1:12),
"Be of Aaron's disciples, loving and pursuing peace."

Peace is so important that
"it was said of Rabbi Yochanon ben Zakkai that he greeted everyone, even the non-Jew in the marketplace, before they would greet him" (Berachot 17a).

Yet if peace is so important, we must ask why Scripture recorded all the wars of righteous judges and kings. And in general, why is there a
mitzvah to go to war, i.e., milchemet mitzvah, the compulsory war? The answer is provided by King Solomon in Eccles. 3:1,8,11: "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven... a time for war and a time for peace... He has made everything beautiful in its time."

Peace is surely a magnificent thing, but only when its time comes. As with any other trait, G-d
"made everything beautiful - in its time." To apply a trait in an inappropriate time or place is a foul deed. It is just so with war and peace. Each has a time, and that time is learned from the laws of war and peace scattered throughout the Torah. Since peace is limited to its own time, it follows that in wartime all traits associated with love, kindness and mercy are redefined. It is then kind and merciful to go to war against the wicked. Our sages teach (Kohelet Rabbah 3:[8]1):

�There is �a time to kill� - during war; �and a time to heal� - during peace. There is �a time to break down� - during war; �and a time to build up� - during peace... There is �a time to seek� - during peace; �and a time to lose� - during war. There is �a time to rend� - during war; �and a time to sew� - during peace... There is �a time to love� - during peace; �and a time to hate� - during war. There is �a time for war� - during war; �and a time for peace� - during peace.�

The word of the Living G-d! And how relevant they are to our day: There is a time for war - during war; and a time for peace - during peace. We might ask why Scripture must tell us that wartime is a time for war. Might anyone think otherwise? Our sages were teaching that, in fact, some might really think so, especially with the insane, alien culture holding portions of our people captive in its sullied hands.

Tanchuma, Shoftim 15:
"�When you go forth to battle against your enemies� (Deut. 20:1)... What is meant by �against your enemies�? G-d said, �Confront them as enemies. Just as they show you no mercy, so should you not show them mercy.��

We have to realize that the non-Jew who goes to war against Israel is our enemy and not our friend. How unaware people are nowadays of this simple yet profound principle! Our sages also said (Sifri, Shoftim 192):

�You are going to war against your enemies and not against your brethren. It is not Judah against Simeon or Simeon against Judah such that if you fall captive they will have mercy on you... It is against your ENEMIES that you are waging war. If you fall into their hands, they will show you no mercy.�

Indeed, a timely war is a
mitzvah, a duty, a kindness and an everlasting act of righteousness. Exodus 34:6, which enumerates G-d's attributes, ends by mentioning "truth": "The L-rd, the L-rd, Omnipotent, merciful and kind, slow to anger, with tremendous resources of love and truth." There cannot be "mercy, kindness and tremendous resources of love," without "truth." We often find the combination of "kindness and truth," to teach us that that same Deity Who is "merciful, kind and loving," is above all else, a G-d of truth.

Likewise, G-d is described as follows (Ex. 15:3):
"The L-rd is the Master of war, 'Hashem' is His name." Despite His name being "Hashem," a name indicating mercy, He is still "Master of war." That same Hashem of mercy is also a Master of war against the wicked. Our sages likewise said (Mechilta, Beshalach, Mesechet Deshira 4):

�When the typical warrior girds himself in zealous might, he thinks nothing of smiting his closest relative, even his father or mother. G-d is not that way, however. �The L-rd is the Master of war, 'Hashem' is His name.� He is �Master of war� - He fought the Egyptians. Yet �Hashem is His name� - He takes pity on His creatures, as it says (Ex. 34:6), �The L-rd, the L-rd, Omnipotent, merciful and kind��"

All this is the plain truth. There is a time for war and cruelty and a time for mercy, kindness and clemency. It all depends on G-d's laws, the laws of war by the Master of war. Our sages said (Mechilta, Ibid.):

"�The L-rd is the Master of war, Hashem is His name�: R. Yehuda says, �Such imagery appears throughout Scripture. G-d appeared to Israel with every weapon. He appeared as a warrior with a sword (Ps. 45:4)... as a horseman (II Kings 2:12)... in armor and helmet (Isaiah 59:17)... with bow and arrow (Ps. 45:4)... with shield and breastplate (Ps. 35:2)... Lest I think G-d needs any of these attributes, it says 'The L-rd is Master of war. Hashem is His name.' He fights with His name and needs none of these. Why then did Scripture have to specify each separately? To underscore that G-d fights wars for Israel when they need it, and to inform the nations of the dreadful news that He Whose word created the Universe shall fight them in the future."

We see that G-d has declared war on the wicked and described Himself as Master of war, and that we must emulate Him in war the way we emulate His mercy and kindness, etc. Let death take those pompous individuals who rebel against G-d and against His attributes and principles, who err and mislead others as if they were more righteous than their Creator, pious fools who hypocritically reject the war against evil and evildoers, bleating about peace when we need war, falsifying and distorting G-d's Torah and the laws of compulsory war against the wicked. Of them it says (Isaiah 48:22),
"The L-rd says to the wicked, 'There is no peace.'"

Who won the "covenant of peace," the everlasting reward of peace, if not Pinchas? Pinchas acted zealously on G-d's behalf, taking G-d's revenge, and becoming the first
mashuach milchamah, or kohen anointed to lead the nation in war (Deut. 20:2-4). Yet G-d said (Num. 25:12), "Tell him that I have given him My covenant of PEACE."

Here we have a reward well-suited to the deed. Precisely he who gives up his peace and tranquility, devoting himself to G-d's battle and to taking G-d's revenge, merits everlasting peace. And precisely he who rebels against G-d, treating His command to fight and root out evil and evildoers with contempt, will never have peace, for there is no peace to the wicked, those who cast off their yoke.

By Rabbi Meir Kahane
The Jewish Idea
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