Torah's Protective Edge

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 |  David Lazarus

The rabbis teach that nothing ever happens in the course of a week that cannot be found in the weekly Torah portion read in Jewish homes and synagogues around the world. This week's portion taken from Numbers chapters 30-32 talks about Israel's war against Midian, revealing important insights about the dramatic events unfolding this week in our dearly beloved Land of Israel.

Moses is angry with the Children of Israel because in the war with Midian they fail to kill the evil women of that nation. In addition, instructions are given on how Israel is to deal with the spoils of the war.

One of the primary and most loved attributes of the God of Israel is that He is long-suffering and patient. He is slow to anger. The God of the Bible does not punish evil-doers in haste. He gives them time to repent, change their ways and do the right thing.

But the phrase "slow to anger" means that at some point, after evil has been suffered long, anger will be justified. There is a boiling point when justice must be meted out and punishment delivered. At that point, our Torah portion teaches, the war must be a total one. All of those who tried to destroy us – the militants as well as their evil supporters – all of them are legitimate targets.

That is the sacred national vow taken by all soldiers in the Israeli Defense Forces today - to defend our citizens from harm.

From start to finish, the State of Israel has been more than patient and forbearing while under attack – perhaps even too tolerant. We have allowed countless acts of murder, terror and relentless bombings against our citizens, and we have given our mortal enemies every opportunity to change their ways and act in a manner that shows even a minimal regard for human life and dignity.

But as we can all now see, with time they have only escalated their deadly hostilities.

At last, only when there was no viable alternative, we acted as any nation should - with force against a cruel and barbaric enemy. And like the actions that were necessary against Midian, Israel's response today must be extensive, broad and complete. Moses rebuked his officers for waging a lukewarm war.

This week's Torah portion also reveals that the Jewish soldiers brought back the spoils of war to Moses and Elazar the Priest. Why did they do this? Because they were honorable and upright, taking nothing for themselves that did not rightfully belong to them. This high moral standard, this "purity-of-arms" still guides the armies of Israel today.

Let there be no doubt. The IDF and her brave soldiers are one of the most moral fighting forces in the world today – perhaps in all of history.

May the All-Compassionate, Almighty and Merciful One look upon these remarkable virtues and grant the armies of Israel success to bring our nation safety and lasting security in our land.

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