Author Topic: Especially for NeverMore: JUDAISM'S ATTITUDE TO REVENGE & COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT  (Read 3511 times)

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Offline davkakach

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(I suggest clicking the link and reading the original webpage, which is
better laid out and uses italics and boldface to accentuate important


Every trait, without exception, has the potential to cause either a sanctification of God's Name or a desecration of God's Name depending upon the circumstances in which, and the motivation with which, it is exercised. So it is with the trait of Revenge. That Revenge can be a holy trait is clear. As the Hebrew Bible declares: "HaShem is a Zealous and Vengeful God; HaShem is Vengeful and full of Wrath; HaShem is Vengeful to His adversaries and reserves Hostility for His enemies. HaShem is slow to Anger, but He has great Power and He will not absolve [Evil]." (Nahum 1:2-3); and: "The righteous man shall rejoice when he sees Vengeance. He shall wash his feet in the blood of the Wicked. And Mankind shall say, 'Truly there is a reward for the Righteous. Truly there is a God Who judges on Earth.'" (Psalms 58:11-12). Furthermore, as is demonstrated with respect to the foreordained Egyptian Exile, although Exodus-era Egypt is merely fulfilling a role assigned to it by the God of Israel (see Gen. 15:13-16), the Creator of Morality purposefully stiffens the resolve of Egypt's evil Pharaoh only so that He may exercise a horrific Vengeance against that nation as punishment for its enslavement of the Jewish people. As the Torah relates: "HaShem said to Moses, 'When you go to return to Egypt, see all the Wonders that I have put in your hand, and perform them before Pharaoh; but I shall strengthen his heart and he will not send out the people. You shall say to Pharaoh, "So said HaShem, 'My first-born Son is Israel. So I say to you: Send out My Son that he may serve Me, but you have refused to send him out; behold! -- I shall kill your first-born son.'"'" (Ex. 4:21-23). Moreover, God commands that Israel take revenge upon its enemies, which, by definition, also constitute God's enemies. As the Torah relates: "HaShem spoke to Moses, saying, 'Take vengeance for the Children of Israel against the Midianites ...'", but: "Moses spoke to the people, saying, '... inflict HaShem's Vengeance against Midian.'" (Num. 31:2-3). In fact, God even demands that the gentile nations praise the Jewish people on account of the Vengeance to which these nations will be subjected during the End of Days. As the Hebrew Bible relates: "O nations: Sing the praises of His People, for He will avenge the blood of His Servants; He will bring retribution upon His adversaries, and He will appease His Land [and] His People." (Deut. 32:43). Finally, prophesying about the End of Days, the Prophet Isaiah, describing the Vengeance that God will wreak upon the nations who have persecuted the Jewish people, declares: "He donned Righteousness like armor and a helmet of Salvation on His Head; and He donned garments of Vengeance as His Attire and clothed Himself in Zealousness like a coat. Just as there were [previous] Retributions [against His enemies], so shall He [now] repay Wrath to His enemies, Retribution to His adversaries; He will pay Retribution [even] to the distant lands. From the West they will fear the Name of HaShem, and from the rising of the sun [they will fear] His Glory; for [their] travail will come like a river; the Spirit of HaShem will gnaw at them." (Isaiah 59:17-19).

That being said, the issue is always one of proper discernment. A Jewish leader must be able distinguish between those situations which require mercy and forgiveness and those which require strict justice and vengeance. This is no easy task as can be seen from the vantage point of one of the most perplexing incidents in the Torah, namely, the massacre at Shechem (see Gen. 34:1-31). On the surface, Scripture -- that is to say, God -- appears to adopt a neutral, or at least ambiguous, attitude towards this incident, with Jacob stridently condemning it, and Shimon and Levi just as stridently defending it, after which the text abruptly goes on to another subject. But a closer examination reveals that such is not actually the case.

To summarize: Shechem, son of King Chamor and Prince of the City of Shechem (the site of modern-day Nablus), kidnapped and raped Dina, Jacob's daughter. Prince Shechem then fell in love with her and persuaded his father Chamor to negotiate a marriage contract for her with Jacob. Jacob's sons, in an act of revenge, tricked all of the adult males of the City, including King Chamor and Prince Shechem, into circumcising themselves on the pretext that Dina would then become Prince Shechem's wife and the Jewish nation would thereafter freely intermarry with the Shechemites until they became one people. However, on the third day after the mass circumcision, when the Shechemites' pain was the greatest, Shimon and Levi slaughtered all of the adult men of the city and freed Dina from Prince Shechem's house. They then captured the city's women and children, confiscated all of the people's possessions, and departed. At first glance, it appears that Prince Shechem repented of his crime by offering to make Dina his Princess, and that the entire adult male population of Shechem furthered this effort by agreeing to accept circumcision, thereby entitling the city to obtain mercy and forgiveness from Jacob's family. And, at first glance, it appears that Shimon and Levi responded to this repentance by breaking God's Prohibitions against lying, murder and theft.

But a closer examination is in order. The text relates that: "Jacob's sons arrived from the field when they heard; the men were distressed and were fired deeply with indignation, for he [Prince Shechem] had perpetrated an outrage in Israel by lying with a daughter of Jacob - such a thing may not be done!" (Gen. 34:7). Please note the use of the phrase "outrage in Israel" when the text otherwise refers to the name "Jacob". As is known, God had changed Jacob's name to "Israel" after Jacob's confrontation with the angel on the east bank of the Jordan River. As the Torah relates: "He [the angel] said, 'No longer will it be said that your name is Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with the Divine and with Man and have overcome.'" (Gen. 32:29). After the massacre, God reaffirmed this transformation: "Then God said to him, 'Your name is Jacob. Your name shall not always be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.' Thus, He called his name Israel." (Gen. 35:10). Clearly then, Scripture is making a distinction between the individual known as Jacob, father of Dina, and the nation of Israel which is named after, and led by, Jacob. As the text thereby reveals through its employment of the phrase "outrage in Israel", in God's Eyes Prince Shechem's crime was not primarily directed against Dina or even against the Patriarch Jacob, as individuals, but rather against the embryonic Jewish nation and, by extension, against the God of Israel, as Protector of the Jewish nation. This created a situation of national Chillul Hashem (desecration of God's Name) requiring the Jewish nation to take immediate revenge against the City of Shechem in order to blot out the Chillul HaShem and thereby replace it with a Kiddush HaShem (sanctification of God's Name). This is similar to the later Exodus era revenge that God would order the Israelites to take against the nation of Midian, resulting in the killing of the entire population (save for prepubescent women) as punishment for luring Israel into idol worship and thereby creating a national Chillul Hashem (see Num. 25:16-18 and 31:1-20). This latter event explicitly established the principle that Israel's enemies are God's enemies, for: "HaShem spoke to Moses, saying, 'Take vengeance for the Children of Israel against the Midianites ...'", but: "Moses spoke to the people, saying, '... inflict HaShem's Vengeance against Midian.'" (Num. 31:2-3).

Upon learning of the massacre, Jacob stridently rebuked Shimon and Levi.  As the Torah relates: "Jacob said to Shimon and Levi, 'You have gotten me into trouble and caused me to be repulsive to the Canaanites and Perrizites who live in the land. I am few in number, and should they band together and attack me, I will be annihilated -- I and my household.'" (Gen. 34:30). Please note carefully Jacob's exact words; he does not question the morality of his sons' actions, but only its practical consequences, namely, the fact that it might cause the surrounding nations to retaliate against him and his family. The censure of his sons was due to his mistaken belief that the doctrine of Pikuach Nefesh (avoidance of danger to life) excused the nation of Israel from exacting immediate revenge in response to the Chillul Hashem committed by Prince Shechem. But his sons' next words silenced him, and these are the last human words recorded by the Torah on the subject: "And they said, 'Should anyone be permitted to treat our sister like a prostitute? '" (Gen. 34:31). Jacob's silence in the face of his sons' harsh response indicated his acknowledgment that their moral position was, indeed, correct.

Shortly thereafter we learn that: "They [Jacob and his family] set out, and there fell a Godly terror on the surrounding cities, so that they [the inhabitants of the surrounding cities] did not pursue Jacob's sons." (Gen. 35:5). By extending His Divine Protection to Jacob's sons, God Himself had the last Word -- the brothers' attack on the Shechemites was thereby justified and sanctified (notwithstanding the fact that -- as will be later demonstrated -- the brothers' motivation was impure). But this is not the only evidence of Divine Ratification of the brothers' actions; for, generations later, the tribe of Shimon proudly displayed a picture of the city of Shechem on its tribal flag (see Num. 2:2; Bamidbar Rabbah 2:7), something that God would never have permitted if the incident was a badge of shame rather than a badge of honor, and the tribe of Levi became, inter alia, the tribe which produced Moses, the tribe which was appointed as protector of the Ark of the Covenant and the tribe which became the source, through Aaron, of the priestly line.

All of this, however, does not explain why the entire City of Shechem -- rather than only Prince Shechem and perhaps his father, King Chamor -- was deserving of death. Rambam (Maimonides), in viewing the City of Shechem as a collection of individual citizens with individual responsibilities, opines that: "All the residents of [the City of] Shechem incurred a death sentence because [Prince] Shechem stole, and they saw and knew, yet did not put him on trial" (Hilchot Melachim 9:14), while Ramban (Nachmanides), in viewing the city as a single social unit with a collective responsibility, opines that: "They [Shimon and Levi] killed the king and all the people of his city because the latter were his slaves and under his charge." (Ramban on Gen. 34:13). Both views represent the Torah concept of collective punishment -- that is, the idea that ordinary people justly suffer the Divine Consequences of their leadership's conduct.

This concept of collective punishment will again be demonstrated in the Torah when God imposes upon pharaonic Egypt ten awful plagues, including the final one which strikes down all of the first-born of Egypt "...from the first-born of Pharaoh sitting on his throne to the first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon..." (Ex. 12:29). Why were the imprisoned of Egypt, of all people, morally culpable for the crimes of their jailer, Pharaoh, against the Jewish people? They were a group with negligible influence upon Egyptian society, in general, and upon Pharaoh, in particular; and they were certainly not a group that was itself responsible for the enslavement of the Hebrews. However, like the Shechemites before them, all of Egypt (both law abiders and prisoners) were part and parcel of a society whose leader committed great Evil against the people of Israel and, therefore, against the God of Israel. Instead of protesting or leaving (while they were still able to do so), these citizens elected to stay and enjoy the fruits of that society while supplying its leadership with the taxes, military conscripts, civilian workforce, agricultural produce, and moral support which facilitated the perpetuation of the latter's evil conduct towards the Jewish people. For this, and this alone, God decreed that all such individuals were subject to collective punishment, despite their wildly varying degrees of complicity (whether direct or indirect) in the sins of their leadership.

However, doesn't the earlier confrontation that Jacob's grandfather, Abraham, had initiated with God over the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah prove just the opposite, namely, that collective punishment is immoral? Abraham admonishes God: "'Will You also stamp out the righteous along with the wicked? What if there should be fifty righteous people in the midst of the city? Would You still stamp it out rather than spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people within it? It would be sacrilege to You to do such a thing, to bring death upon the righteous along with the wicked; so the righteous will be like the wicked. It would be sacrilege to You! Shall the Judge of all the earth not do justice?'" (Gen. 18:23-25). Abraham argues before God that collective punishment is immoral because it has the effect of treating the Righteous as if they are Wicked, thereby causing the gentile nations to perceive that God, Master of Justice, is indifferent to the plight of the Righteous. And, remarkably, God appears to immediately concede the validity of Abraham's point, by responding: "'If I find in Sodom fifty righteous people in the midst of the city, then I would spare the entire place on their account.'" (Gen. 18:26). But, again, a closer look is in order. Although God eventually agrees that, even for the sake of a mere ten righteous citizens interspersed among the wicked population of these cities, He will spare the two cities, this major concession does not have any effect whatsoever upon God's original intentions -- the cities are still utterly destroyed. How can this be? Could not even ten righteous residents be found within all of Sodom and Gomorrah? The answer is in the negative -- and for the same reason that the "Righteous" among the Egyptians and Shechemites were not spared their respective collectively punishments. If there were some truly righteous people among the population of these doomed cities, they would have rebelled against, or at least fled from, their evil societies. By continuing to reside within -- and participate in the daily life of -- these societies, these "righteous" people passively ratified the Evil perpetrated by their leaderships and could not thereafter be considered by God to be Righteous -- that is why God's great concession to Abraham is no concession at all. Although Abraham is, indeed, questioning the morality of collective punishment, God, the Great Educator, is teaching to him and to us -- his descendants -- a profound lesson, namely, that collective punishment, when warranted, is, in fact, the embodiment of Divine Justice. To argue otherwise is to succumb to the false morality of the nations and to thereby rebel, in our arrogance, against God's Morality. As the Prophet Isaiah, speaking in God's Name, declares concerning God's Morality: "For, My Thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My Ways -- the Word of HaShem. As high as the Heavens are above the Earth, so are My Ways high above your ways, and My Thoughts [high] above your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9).

God's exemption of Lot, a resident of Sodom, from punishment is the exception that proves the rule. Lot is saved only in the merit of Abraham, because he is the latter's nephew and ward (-- "And so it was when God destroyed the cities of the plain that God remembered Abraham; so He sent Lot from amidst the upheaval when He overturned the cities in which Lot had lived." (Gen. 19:29) --), and in the merit of the future Messiah, because he will be an ancestor, via Ruth of Moab, to King David, progenitor of the Messiah (-- "Thus, Lot's two daughters conceived from their father. The older bore a son and she called his name Moab; he is the ancestor of Moab until this day." (Gen. 19:36-37); and: "And so, Boaz took Ruth ... and she bore a son. ... They named him Obed; he was the father of Jesse, the father of David." (Ruth 4:13-17) --).

Notwithstanding the foregoing, none of this discussion is intended to either minimize the fact that Dina was the direct victim of Prince Shechem's crimes or to suggest that a Chillul HaShem results only when an Evildoer harms a Jew for nationalistic reasons. On the contrary, every time that an Evildoer harms an innocent person -- whatever the motivation or lack thereof -- a Chillul HaShem is created; for, ordinary Evil and nationalistic Evil both result in a desecration of God's Name. However, if Dina had not been a representative of the nascent Jewish people, then an ordinary -- rather than a national -- Chillul HaShem would have resulted, for which atonement could have been obtained by punishing only the perpetrator. Yet, even in such circumstances, if such ordinary Evil were to be so tolerated as to become endemic to Society, as was the case with ancient Sodom, then even the ordinary Chillul HaShem which is created cannot be undone by punishing only the perpetrator -- for, in such a case, all of the members of Society constitute co-perpetrators.

Our biblical ancestors certainly acknowledged the reality, and feared the consequences, of Divine collective punishment. For, when they mistakenly believed that the leadership of those of their number who had been granted lands on the east side of the Jordan River (namely, the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad, and half of the tribe of Menasseh ) had erected an idolatrous altar, they were determined to wage war against their kinsmen in order to avoid God's Wrath against all of the people of Israel. Accordingly, as a prelude to the military confrontation, a diplomatic delegation representing the leadership of the remainder of the tribes confronted their brethren. As the Hebrew Bible relates: "They came to the Children of Reuben, the Children of Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh, to the land of Gilead, and they spoke with them, saying, 'Thus said the entire assembly of HaShem: "What is this treachery that you have committed against the God of Israel -- to turn away from HaShem this Day, by building for yourselves an altar for your rebellion this Day against HaShem? Is the sin of Peor not enough for us -- from which we have not become cleansed until this Day, and which resulted in the plague in the assembly of HaShem? Yet, Today, you would turn away from Hashem? If you rebel against HaShem Today, [then] Tomorrow He will be angry with the entire assembly of Israel!"'" (Joshua 22:15-18).

But, now returning to the massacre at Shechem, what should we make of Jacob's famous deathbed blessing of his sons, wherein he says of Shimon and Levi: "'Shimon and Levi are brothers. Instruments of crime are their wares ... for they have killed men with anger, maimed bulls with will. Cursed be their anger for its is fierce, and their fury for it is cruel.'" (Gen. 49:5-7). Isn't this a condemnation of the attack on Shechem? Again, Jacob's words must be analyzed carefully. Neither the brothers nor their attack on Shechem are being cursed here; the subject of the curse is the brothers' uncontrollable anger which had almost resulted in the death of their younger brother Joseph, and had caused Jacob so many years of anguish on account thereof. As reiterated in Bamidbar Rabbah 99:6: "He [Jacob] cursed only their rage."

Unfortunately, the very same anger that had led Shimon and Levi to attack Shechem -- a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God's Name) -- had later led them to plan the murder of Joseph -- a Chillul Hashem (desecration of God's Name). Joseph was the recipient of special affection from Jacob and had prophetic dreams of kingship over Israel which he tactlessly shared with his family, all of which caused him to be hated by his brothers. (Gen. 37:3-11). As stated in Scripture: "They [the brothers] saw him [Joseph] from afar; and when he had not yet approached them they conspired against him to kill him. And they said to one another, 'Look! That dreamer is coming! So now come and let us kill him'..." (Gen. 37:18-19). (According to Lekach Tov on Gen. 49:23 and Tanchuma Yashan, VaYeshev 13, these conspirators were none other than Shimon and Levi). Shimon's and Levi's hatred of Joseph was induced by personal anger and jealousy that knew no bounds. The Sages condemn personal anger as a form of avodah zara (idolatry and other deviant worship), as it is said: "Whoever becomes angry falls prey to all sorts of hellish forces ... Even the Divine Presence becomes unimportant to him." (Nedarim 22a-22b). The brothers' attack on Shechem, while justified (because the City of Shechem was deserving of collective punishment), nevertheless stemmed from the brothers' personal anger and their desire for personal revenge. However, precisely because they acted out of personal motives rather than purely for the sake of Heaven, they were later wholly unable to control their Yetzer HaRah (Evil Inclination), expressed as anger and jealousy, when it came to their brother Joseph, who was certainly entitled to mercy and forgiveness (unlike the evil Shechemites).

Although most people cannot help but exhibit personal anger from time to time, when a leader of the Jewish people falls prey to this primal instinct in his dealings with the Jewish people he creates a Chillul HaShem. This can be discerned, inter alia, from a comparison between the responses of two Jewish leaders -- Moses and Phineas -- to two separate incidences of idolatry among the Jewish people, the first caused by Moses' absence from the Jewish people and the second caused by the sexual allure of Midian's women.

When God informed Moses -- then atop Mount Sinai to receive the Tablets of the Ten Commandments -- that, in his absence, the Jewish people had created, out of molten gold, a calf to worship, thereby incurring a Decree of Annihilation, Moses successfully assuaged God's Anger. As the Torah then relates: "HaShem relented regarding the Evil that He declared He would do to His People." (Ex. 32:14). However, despite the fact that "the Tablets were God's Handiwork, and the script was God's Script engraved upon the Tablets" (Ex. 32:16), and despite the fact that God -- even in the face of the Jewish people's grievous sin -- had nonetheless decided that Moses should still present to the people these holy Tablets, when Moses actually saw the calf and the revelry in the Jewish camp, then "... Moses' anger flared up ..." (Ex. 32:19), and he smashed God's Tablets. This was clearly personal anger rather than anger solely for God's Sake. What is the basis for this harsh opinion? Firstly, through Moses' intervention, God had already abated His own Anger. Secondly, God had already determined to give His Tablets -- which Moses, instead, saw fit to destroy -- to the Jewish people despite their sin. Thirdly, after Moses smashed the Tablets: "HaShem said to Moses, 'Carve for yourself two stone Tablets like the first ones, and I shall inscribe on the Tablets the words that were on the first Tablets, which you shattered" (Ex. 34:1), thereby demonstrating that God had neither authorized nor ratified Moses' prior act of destruction (see Ex. 32:7-20; and 34:1-4).

In the face of the sin of the golden calf, why did God choose to reward the Jewish people with the Gift of the Tablets of the Ten Commandments? The answer is that this was no reward! Rather, this Gift was an immediate antidote to that very sin. In the absence of Moses -- the flesh-and-blood representative of omnipresent yet incorporeal God -- the Jewish people had sought a tangible representation and a substitute manifestation of God's Presence. This was the golden calf. As the Torah relates: "And Aaron saw and built an altar before it; and Aaron called out and said, 'A festival for HaShem tomorrow!'" (Ex. 32:5). Yet, this misguided attempt to honor God was a violation of the Second Commandment which prohibited the creation of such idolatrous objects (see Ex. 20:4). In order to provide His People with an appropriate manifestation of His Presence, God had created the Tablets of the Ten Commandments. In His Wisdom, God -- by creating the Tablets as the sin was being committed -- had sought to prevent the Jewish people from again falling into the sin of idolatry by removing any future need therefor. Yet, in his personal anger, Moses sought to substitute his judgment for that of His Master. In his rashness, Moses sought to prevent the Jewish people from again falling into the sin of idolatry by denying to them, as a punishment, God's holy Tablets -- this being the very antidote which God Himself had designed to accomplish that very purpose. That is precisely the reason why God commanded Moses to recreate the smashed Tablets in every detail. In this way, God's original Will was effected despite Moses' ill-considered attempt to deviate therefrom.

Much later -- as His Response to the Jewish people's strident complaints to Moses concerning their thirst and, yet again, concerning their distress at being forced to come "... to this wilderness to die there ..." (Num. 20:4) instead of having been permitted to remain in the Land of Egypt -- God instructed Moses: "'Take the staff and gather together the assembly, you and Aaron your brother, and speak to the rock before their eyes that it shall give its waters; and you shall bring forth water from the rock, and give drink to the assembly and to their animals.'" (Num. 20:8). Yet, in a fit of personal anger at the Jewish people's repeated demonstrations of lack of faith in God's Power and Promises, Moses improperly substituted his own response for that of God. As the Torah relates: "Moses took the staff from before HaShem, as He had commanded him. Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation before the face of the rock, and he said to them, 'Listen now, O rebels, shall we bring forth the water for you from this rock?! Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock with his staff twice; and abundant water came forth, and the assembly and their animals drank. HaShem said to Moses and to Aaron, 'Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the Children of Israel; therefore you will not bring this congregation to the Land that I have given to them.'" (Num. 20:9-12). What is meant by God's Declaration that Moses did not "believe" in Him? For, clearly, Moses not only believed in God but actually conversed with Him on a regular basis! The Declaration meant that Moses did not "believe" that certain of God's Decisions were appropriate responses to the Jewish people's serial transgressions, and that, consequently, Moses was not able to subordinate his human emotions to God's measured Determinations. In other words, as in the earlier crisis over the golden calf and the Tablets of the Ten Commandments, Moses -- leader of the Jewish people and, as well, God's Emissary to them -- being unable to control his personal anger, thereby converted that which was supposed to be a Kiddush HaShem into a Chillul HaShem. That is precisely the reason why the Torah then continues: "They are the waters of strife, where the Children of Israel contended with HaShem, and He was sanctified through them." (Num. 20:13). In order to reconvert Chillul HaShem into Kiddush HaShem, God had to publicly punish righteous Moses for his transgressions; and He was, consequently, sanctified through His own Conduct (in punishing His Servant Moses) rather than through Moses' conduct (in improperly substituting his will for God's Will) (see Num. 20:1-13). This is similar to the earlier incident in which God sanctified His Name by publicly taking of the lives of Aaron's two sons -- Nadab and Abihu -- who, in their religious exuberance, had brought before Him their fire pans with an uncommanded alien fire. As the Torah relates: "Moses said to Aaron, 'Of this did HaShem speak, saying, "I will be sanctified through those who are nearest to Me, [thus] I will be honored before the entire people"'; and Aaron was silent." (Lev. 10:3).

That the power of personal anger could induce Moses to substitute his own judgment for God’s Judgment should not be surprising.  For, the seductive desire to substitute one’s own judgment for God’s Judgment lies at the root of the very first sin.  As the Torah relates: “And HaShem God commanded the Man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the Garden you may freely eat.  But of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, you must not eat from it; for, on the day that you eat from it, you shall surely die.’” (Gen. 2:16-17).  God was warning Adam that human beings were barred from seeking to “‘… be like God, knowing Good and Evil.’” (Gen. 3:5) -- meaning that a human being, including God’s Anointed One, must never believe that he has the Transcendent Ability to declare that which is Good and that which is Evil.  From the Dawn of Creation, that Holy Prerogative has been reserved by God for Himself, and for Himself alone.  To reiterate:  As the Prophet Isaiah, speaking in God's Name, declares concerning God's Morality: "For, My Thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My Ways -- the Word of HaShem. As high as the Heavens are above the Earth, so are My Ways high above your ways, and My Thoughts [high] above your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9). Consequently, a leader of the Jewish people must never seek to substitute his own Judgment for God’s Judgment.  For, on the Day that he does so he shall surely be condemned to suffer the same punishment as God had meted out to Moses for his sins.

Revenge, as a national and holy obligation, must be undertaken by a leader of the Jewish people solely for the Sake of Heaven and must never be motivated by personal anger. This lesson is finally learned by Levi's descendant (and Aaron's grandson), Phineas, who was faced with massive idolatry among the Jewish people induced by the sexual enticements of Midian's women. While the Tablets of the Ten Commandments had sufficed to prevent idolatry among the Jewish people motivated by the incorporeality of God, this antidote did not suffice to prevent idolatry among the Jewish people induced by the allure of forbidden sexual activity. Phineas responded to this crisis by ruthlessly killing Zimri, the Israelite notable, and Cozbi, the Midianite notable, in response to their very public sexual embrace in the sight of the entire congregation of Israel. Thus, Phineas selflessly undertook, on behalf of the entire nation of Israel, God's Revenge against Zimri and Cozbi for their very public Chillul HaShem, thereby stopping a deadly plague (that had already consumed 24,000 Israelites) and earning God's "Covenant of Peace" for himself and God's "Covenant of Eternal Priesthood" for himself and his offspring (see Num. 25:1-15). For, whereas in the case of the violence by Moses against the Tablets of the Ten Commandments, God refrained from describing His righteous Servant's conduct as being for His Sake (-- "... the first Tablets, which you shattered." (Ex. 34:1) --), in the case of the violence by Phineas against his fellow Israelite and the latter's Midianite consort, God explicitly declared that His righteous Servant's conduct was solely for His Sake (-- "HaShem spoke to Moses, saying, 'Phineas, son of Elazar, son of Aaron the Kohen, turned back My Wrath from upon the Children of Israel, when he zealously avenged Me among them; so I did not consume the Children of Israel in My Vengeance. Therefore, say, "Behold -- I give to him My Covenant of Peace." And it shall be for him and his offspring after him a Covenant of Eternal Priesthood, because he took Vengeance for his God, and he atoned for the Children of Israel.'" (Num. 25:10-13) --).

© Mark Rosenblit
Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.   --Thomas Mann

Offline NeverMore

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  • Glory to the Brave!
all of this just for me!
i'm flattered  :D :D :D

Kahane was right!