Land of Israelmain postsNumbers - Bamidbar

Torah Guidance for Waging War

One of the wondrous Torah giants of Israel was Rabbi Chaim Ben Atar, the holy “Or Hachaim.” We can learn principles of war against the enemies of Israel from his commentary on the Torah.

In the Torah, God says to Moses, “Treat the Midyanites as your enemy and smite them, for they treat you as enemies with their wiles that they beguiled you with the matter of Pe’or and the matter of Kozbi the daughter of the prince of Midyan, their sister, who was slain on the day of the plague on the matter of Pe’or.[1]  There are several commentaries on the words “Treat them as your enemy” and “smite them.” All of them are relevant to us:

  1. “From here the sages said, ‘He who comes to kill you, kill him first.”[2] Because they treat you as enemies, you must initiate the first step and go out to war. The lesson for today is simple and clear: Do not wait for the enemy to come to you. Go out to him and smite him!
  2. In a regular war, the Torah says, “Do not destroy its trees.”[3] But in this war against enemies who attempt to harm you, you must strike their infrastructure, “destroy their trees”[4] as in the words of the prophet regarding a similar war, “And every good tree you shall cut down and all the fountains of water you shall block and all the good plots you shall mar with rocks.”[5] Today as well, we must not hesitate to strike the enemy’s infrastructure to take revenge upon him and to force him to surrender.[6] For example, to disconnect water and electricity to hostile villages that foster terrorists, and the like.[7]
  3. The Or Hachaim explains: Because the Midyanites caused Israel to transgress and engage in debauchery, the first rectification is to hate those who caused them to sin, to emotionally detach from the attractive temptations of debauchery. This is a necessary preface to the war itself. (This is also the reason for destroying the trees, so as not to receive any pleasure from them). On a broader plane, the ethical validity for fighting Israel’s enemies stems from Israel’s holiness and modesty. The more that we strengthen our sexual purity, and the more that we distance ourselves from debauchery and immodesty (so prevalent in Western culture), we will have the boldness and courage to fight Israel’s enemies and triumph, as we were promised: “For God, your God, walks amid your camp to save you and to give your enemy before you, and your camp shall be holy. (The sanctity of the military camp, particularly in distancing from improper sexual conduct) and no unseemly thing should be seen in you and turn away from you.”[8]

Strike the Head

In the war against Midyan the Torah says: “And the kings of Midyan they killed with the rest of their slain, Evi and Rakam and Tzur and Chur and Reva, the five kings of Midyan. And Bil’am the son of Be’or they killed by the sword.[9] The Or Hachaim explains: “The kings of Midyan” is written twice in this verse, to say that they killed them with the knowledge that they were the kings of Midyan, and not by mistake.”

The lesson from this is that we should not suffice with the elimination of terrorists who bear arms and represent a direct threat to our lives. We should not suffice with the intermediary level of terrorists, such as the commanders of the terror cells or those who send them. We must eliminate the heads of the terror organizations – we must assassinate the enemies’ leaders. The snake has to be killed from its head and it is upon us to fulfill the directive, “The best of the snakes (even if he is wearing a suit and speaks English) smash his brain.”[10]

[1] Numbers 25: 17-18.

[2] Bamidbar Rabah 21:4. And in Tanchuma. And see Me’iri on Sanhedrin 72a: “And the Torah said ‘He who comes to kill you, kill him first.’ And where did it say? They explained it in Midrash Tanchuma from ‘Treat the Midianites as enemies for they treat you as enemies.” “Treat as enemies” means that they continuously attempt to harm you. And from now on, harm them for they intend to harm you.”

[3] Deuteronomy 20:19.

[4] Bamidbar Rabbah 21:6.

[5] Kings II, 3:19.

[6] And see the book “Amud Heyemini” 16 that we should associate the war against Midyan with our days. “There is room for retaliation against the enemies of Israel. And there is no reason to refrain from retaliatory action for fear of harming ‘innocent bystanders’ for we did not initiate this situation, but rather, they did and we are unsullied.”

[7] Regarding cutting down fruit trees, a halachic posek must be consulted.

[8] Deuteronomy 23:15.

[9] Numbers 31:8.

[10] Mechilta on the verse “And he took six hundred” (Exodus 14:7). Yerushalmi, the end of Kiddushin

Related posts

Q&A: Family? Career?

Gal Einai

Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk: Fine Tuning for a Tzaddik

Gal Einai

Q&A: Impossible Teenager

Gal Einai
Verified by MonsterInsights