YUTORAH IN PRINT • A PROJECT OF YESHIVA UNIVERSITY’S CENTER FOR THE JEWISH FUTURE
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he book o Bemidbar draws o a close wih an accoun o he ciies o reuge, he six ciies – hree on each side o he Jordan – se apar as places o which people ound innocen o murder, bu guily o manslaugher, were sen.In early socieies, especially non-urban ones ha lacked an exensive police orce, here was always a danger ha people would ake he law ino heir own hands, in paricular when a member o heir amily or ribe had been killed.Tus would begin a cycle o vengeance and realiaion ha had no naural end, one revenge-killing leading o anoher and anoher, unil he communiy had been decimaed, a phenomenon amiliar o us rom lieraure, rom he Monagues and Capules o Romeo and Julie, o he Sharks and Jes o Wes Side Sory, o he Corleones and ataglias o Te Godaher.Te only viable soluion is he eﬀecive and imparial rule o law. Tere is, hough, one persising danger. I Reuben killed Shimon and is deemed innocen o murder by he cour – i was an acciden, here was no malice aorehough, he vicim and perperaor were no enemies
Natural or Supernatural?
Rabbi Lord Jonahan Sacks
Rabbi Yehudah Leib Ginzburg, in his commenary Yalku Yehudah o parshas Shofim, menions he almudic commen regarding he address made o Jewish soldiers beore waging war in he Holy Land. Te kohein begins his address by saying, “Hear Yisroel (Shema Yisroel) you are oday approaching batle agains your enemies” (Devorim 20:3). Rashi, ciing he almud (Soah 42a), wries ha he seemingly superﬂuous words, ‘Shema Yisroel’ - Hear O Yisroel - are an allusion o he prayer o Shema ha is recied wice daily. Te kohein, says he almud, by beginning his address wih hese words, is elling he soldiers ha even i he only meri hey have is ha o he reciaion o he Shema, hey are worhy o having God save heir lives during batle. Why should he Shema be eﬀecive speciﬁcally in regard o he batles ha are described in parshas Shofim? Rabbi Ginzburg explains by reerring o Rashi’s explanaion o he ﬁrs senence o he Shema,”Hear Yisroel, he Lord our God, he Lord is one” (Devorim 6:4).Tis verse expresses our hope ha God, who is a he momen recognized as he One God only by his people Yisroel, will, evenually, be recognized as such by all naions. Beore embarking on a war in which many human beings will likely be killed, we mus know ha our moivaion in doing so is no any orm o hared o humaniy, bu, on he conrary, by our love or humaniy and hope ha hey will join us in our recogniion o God’s uniy. Te naions we are commanded o wage war agains ransgressed he seven Noachide laws, hereby ignoring, he undamenal elemens o moraliy, or, as my eacher Rav Ahron Soloveichik pu i, he naural law ha is embedded in every man’s hear and mind. Beore we wage war agains hem, we oﬀer o make peace wih hem, on condiion ha hey accep observance o he Noachide laws upon hemselves. Alhough here is a dispue among he medieval commenaors as o wheher we send his peace oﬀer even o members o he seven Canaanie naions, Rav Ahron Soloveichik mainained ha all agree ha i hey oﬀer o make peace on heir own, we do accep heir oﬀer. Only i hey insis on remaining in he land and a he same ime persis in violaing he seven laws do we go on o wage war agains hem. o allow he seven naions o remain in he land and coninue wih heir immoral, inhumane pracices would make our goal o bringing all he naions o a recogniion o he One God virually impossible o atain.Te kohein, in addressing he soldiers, alludes o he Shema in order o remind hem o he reason ha hey are abou o wage war. Keeping his message in mind as hey go ou o ﬁgh will help hem wage war wih he proper inenion, and hereby provide hem wih he meri hey need o win he batle. Following our discussion o he placemen o he secion concerning he ciies o reuge close o he secion on driving he naions ou o he land, we can add ha keeping in mind he rue moivaion behind hese wars when ﬁghing hem will preven he creaion o an amosphere in which human lie is no valued, such as he insiuion o he ciies o reuge is mean o deal wih.