6/26/2014

Shabbat Hukat/Rosh Hodesh Tamuz

Candles Friday 27th 8:11pm
Havdalah 28th 9:06pm

We jump almost 40 years to the start of the invasion of Canaan. As the Children of Israel approach they first encounter Edom (descendents of Esav). They send ambassadors asking for permission to pass through. They stress their family ties and expect some reciprocity or at least no opposition. They offer to compensate them for anything they use on the way. Edom refuses and marches out to block them. Israel is disappointed but it does not go to war. The decision is to go round instead.

The Amalekites, kings Og of Bashan and Sihon of the Emorites all assume this is a sign of weakness and so try to attack Israel. They are destroyed and their lands are confiscated. Some modern liberals argue that the Israelites were barbaric in destroying these tribes. But in many ways they represent the sort of implacable hostility, the jihadi hatred we encounter nowadays in the same area.

The moral is clear. One has to choose ones battles. Sometimes one decides that for various reasons one would prefer to avoid conflict. Sometimes ones offers to negotiate and compromise. Caution is not necessarily a sign of weakness and if our enemies mistake it for that they are going to suffer. The message is clear. One does not treat every enemy in the same way. But when there is no alternative one either stands ones ground and one defeats the opposition or one is lost.

In the Middle East if you are not brutal and fanatical you are presumed to be weak. If you try to be humane you are perceived as soft. It is easy for people living in peace with secure boundaries and abstract ideals to attack Israel. And it is true we should not descend to the level of brutality the others use. But our strength and ability to defend ourselves is what the Torah instructs us to do and is what in the end ensures we survive.