Hamas says it’s OK to kill Jewish babies because they might grow up to be
The authors of Torat Hamelech say it’s OK to kill
Muslim babies if you think they will grow up to be terrorists.
statement qualifies as “incitement,” so does the other.Torat Hamelech
(Laws of the King) is a book by two rabbis from the West Bank settlement of
Yitzhar, Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur, that came out in Hebrew last
The book has been in the news again recently because rabbis
Dov Lior and Yakov Yosef were called in for police questioning due to their
letters of approbation for the book.
The book’s stated purpose is to
provide guidance on how Jewish soldiers should conduct themselves. In Mishnah
, a commentary on and summary of the book, the authors say an
Israeli army should fight according to the rules of the Torah. In a section
entitled “The Impure Concept of Purity of Arms,” they note that they are not
talking about modesty, kashrut
and assimilation (which may also be problematic),
but rather about how the army is called on to expel Jews from their homes in the
settlements, how non-Jews are appointed to leadership roles (e.g., Russians who
are not halachically Jewish, or Druse and Beduin who serve in the IDF), and, (in
their eyes worst of all), Tohar Neshek,
“Purity of Arms,” the IDF’s famous code
They cite as an example the 13 soldiers killed in Jenin in
2002 because the IDF sent them in on foot instead of using heavy artillery to
flatten a Palestinian neighborhood.
The authors feel that heavy artillery
should have been used, with no regard given to what would have been a massacre
of non-combatant Palestinians.
I’M NOT going to address the question of
whether Torat Hamelech
meets the Israeli legal standard of incitement. As a
human rights activist, I support free speech – even speech that is ugly.
However, I also acknowledge that society has a right to put limits on speech.
Whether or not Torat Hamelech
violates Israeli standards of free speech is a
matter for the police and the courts to decide.
However, as a rabbi, I
strenuously condemn this hate-filled book and its distorted view of halacha. I
admit that the authors have no shortage of traditional sources for their
teachings, including: Any citizen in a “kingdom” that is against us and who
supports war against us is a rodef (pursuer) and can be killed. Any non-Jew who
violates one of the Seven Noachide laws (laws considered binding on all human
beings) is subject to the death penalty. Many extremist settlers claim that all
Palestinians are in violation of the Noachide prohibition against theft because
the Palestinians want to steal “our” land.
While the authors bring
traditional sources there are other traditional sources that refute each of
Underlying Torat Hamelech
is a philosophy that demeans the value of
the non-Jew as a human being. Yes, there are sources in the Torah that support
this approach, but they are all referring to idol worshipers. This clearly does
not apply to monotheists such as Christians and Muslims.
commonly cited for treating the non-Jew the same as the Jew is in the Babylonian
Talmud, tractate Gitin
61a: “We support the poor of the heathen along with the
poor of Israel, and visit the sick of the heathen along with the sick of Israel,
and bury the poor of the heathen along with the dead of Israel, for these are
the ways of peace.”
While I support the end result, it is better to focus
on one of the most fundamental teachings in the Torah: that we are all created
b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God.
Rabbi Eliezer ben Nathan (a.k.a. the Ra’aban, an 11th century commentator), clearly states that the commandment “do not murder” includes non-Jews. The Kli Yakar, a 16th century commentator, brings a good explanation for why. He explains that the five commandments that are bein adam l’chavero, between people, correspond to the five commandments that are bein adam l’makom, between God and Man. “Do not murder” then corresponds to “I am the Lord your God.” Kli Yakar says “anyone who spills blood is as if he has reduced the image and likeness of God, as it says [in the Torah] ‘Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God he made man.’ There is no need for this explanation except to tell you that even if someone says ‘please kill me and forgive the murderer,’ nonetheless he may not give forgiveness for the ‘Godly portion’ that is within him [and the murder is still prohibited], and this is also the case if someone wants to kill himself.”.
Clearly, all of us – Jew and gentile, man
and woman – are created in the image of God. How did this teaching come to be
ignored by many rabbis from the Talmudic period down to the present day? Halacha
is always decided in the context of the community and the times. In times when
Jews were persecuted and had no nation-state of their own, it is understandable,
if regrettable, that some rabbis would reciprocate by judging non-Jewish lives
to be of little or no value.
But we live in an age when the vast majority
of non-Jewish nations fully accept Jews as citizens, with Jews rising to the
highest political levels. Now that we have our own state, darchei shalom
ways of peace, are more important than ever, for we have even more to lose then
when we were members of isolated communities in the diaspora. For Israel to
thrive, we must be an accepted member of the community of nations. If Israel
were to adopt a code of conduct like the one suggested in Torat Hamelech
– a code
completely against international law and recognized standards of morality – it
would be a horrible desecration of God’s name. The international
community would judge us immoral, racist and barbaric. Instead of bringing the
nations to praise God and Israel, adopting such a code would bring the world to
denounce us. It could lead to international censure, boycotts, and a crippling
of Israel’s economy. To seriously propose such a code of conduct is not only
immoral, it is irresponsible.
This is not
a clash between halacha and
secular Western values. It is not a clash between the different Jewish
denominations – there are Reform and Conservative rabbis who think “Purity of
Arms” is too strict, and there are Orthodox halachic authorities, like R.
Ovadiah Yosef, who have criticized Torat Hamelech.
This is a clash for the soul
of Judaism. Do we want Judaism equated with the most backward elements of Islam?
Or are we going to celebrate our universal values and have Israel take its place
as a “light unto the nations?” The choice is ours.The writer is a
business executive and rabbi. He serves as Chairman of the Board of
Directors of Rabbis for Human Rights. Opinions expressed here are his own.