War in the Land: PARSHAT EKEV


by Yehuda HaKohen


Moshe instructs Israel saying, "You will devour all the peoples that HaShem, your G-D, will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them, you shall not worship their gods, for it is a snare for you." (DEVARIM 7:16)


On this verse, the holy Ohr HaChaim makes reference to a statement by King Shlomo that "Showing compassion to the wicked is cruelty" (KOHELET 12:10).


He comments further that contrary to the prevalent opinion that displaying mercy is at all times a positive virtue, the Torah teaches that there are times when compassion can be a negative trait.


When facing the enemies of Israel, who are by definition the enemies of G-D, we must understand the importance of behaving in a manner that might appear to some as frighteningly brutal.


We must ultimately recognize the necessity of sometimes hardening our hearts and doing what is necessary for the defense of our people and the honor of our G-D.


Even if we were to fully comprehend that Israel's wars are wars for the Name of G-D and Jewish survival, the question remains how we can bring ourselves to do what is necessary for victory if in addition to the military threats of our neighbors, we have the entire international community insisting on our surrender. Would an Israeli victory not invite economic sanctions, diplomatic repercussions and a possible invasion by multinational forces?


Moshe continues by saying: "Perhaps you will say in your heart, `These nations are more numerous than I; how will I be able to drive them out?' Do not fear them! You shall remember what HaShem, your G-D, did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt."(DEVARIM 7:17-18)


Moshe assures Israel that such fearful "logic" is completely illogical when viewing reality through a greater vision.


The Hebrews saw Egypt – the most formidable world empire of its time – crushed by HaShem when He liberated us from bondage. It would be reasonable to assume that G-D would grant the Jewish Nation success over our enemies, especially while engaging in a war that He Himself commands us to wage (such as the mitzvah to free the Land of Israel from foreign rule).


The Ibn Ezra teaches that fear of the nations should be submerged by fear of G-D. If one truly possesses deep faith and genuine awe of HaShem, he will naturally view the nations as insignificant by comparison.


The Rambam explains that "Anyone who begins to feel anxious and worried in the midst of battle to the point where he frightens himself violates a negative commandment, as it is written (DEVARIM 20:3): `Do not be faint-hearted. Do not be afraid. Do not panic and do not break ranks before them.' Furthermore, he is responsible for the blood of the entire Jewish Nation. If he is not valiant, if he does not wage war with all his heart and soul, it is considered as if he shed the blood of the entire people, as (DEVARIM 20:8) states: `Lest he demoralize the hearts of his brethren as his own.'


Similarly, the prophetic tradition explicitly states: `Cursed be he who withholds his sword from blood' (YERMIAHU 48:10).


By contrast, anyone who fights with his entire heart, without fear, with the sole intention of sanctifying G-D's Name, may be assured that he will come to no harm, nor will evil overtake him. He will be granted a well-rooted family in Israel and gather merit for himself and his children forever. He will also merit eternal life in the World to Come, as SHMUEL I 25:28-29 states: `G-D will certainly make my lord a faithful house, for my lord fights the wars of G-D and evil will not be found with you... and my lord's soul will be bound in a bond of life with G-D.'" (Hilchot Melachim 7:15)


If we truly believe HaShem to be more powerful than the leaders of foreign nations, we should fearlessly march forward in fulfilling His Divine Will.




Israeli leaders must inspire courage among the people in order to strengthen the Hebrew Nation for the struggles ahead.


It is commanded by G-D that Israel fight valiantly for our homeland and the security of our people. While embarking on a milchemet mitzvah (obligatory war), our most primary concerns should be protecting Hebrew lives and glorifying the Name of G-D. Only then will our people be free to securely establish His Kingdom in full borders and shine the great light of His Truth to mankind.

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