26 thoughts on “Yahweh, IDF’s God of War – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. From the Talmudic saying “if someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first” (Babylonian Talmud, tractate Sanhedrin 72:a), which became the main principle of the war of self-defense, regarded by many as the only obligatory war today according to Jewish law.
    That’s about all we have to go with.

    Like it or not, for all intents and purposes, there are no ‘Jewish laws of war’. There is very little in the Tanach or the Talmud to tell Jews how or how not to wage war.

    Richard. Your feelings of disgust are yours alone. You will not find much, if anything, in scripture or Jewish history to justify your feelings.

    1. Nope, Mitchell, he is not alone
      …and if Jewish scripture and history condones this atavistic primitivism then the sooner Jews evolve out of these knuckle-dragging hominid savageries towards a semblance of humanity the better for all concerned….not least Israelis.
      Their is no ethical shame in being the recipient of such collective idiocy; only in being part of its lockstepped and gutless perpetration.

    2. @ Mitchell: your claims about Jewish law are as cock-eyed as the pagans in that photo. There are quite detailed laws of war in Deuteronomy which are expounded on in the Talmud. There are also distinctions among wars & laws concerning how to wage war (and how not to). The IDF falls down on every account.

      The Talmudic dictum about rising up to kill someone first has nothing to do with national conflicts. It concerns individials. Second, there is no one rising to kill Israelis first. Israel is the aggressor on all counts. Which means theoretically, according to this dictum Palestinians should be permitted to rise up & kill Israelis first, since that’s clearly what the IDF practice has been.

      Please stop distorting my tradition & learn more about it before you start telling me what it is.

      1. @ Richard

        “Please stop distorting my tradition & learn more about it before you start telling me what it is ”

        “The debate within Judaism regarding the ethics and conduct of war has always been a marginal one. The Jewish people, certainly since the second-century rebellion of Bar Kochba, were victims of war rather than agents of war. Without a state and an army, Jews, with a Diasporamentality, did not have the privilege or the need to create articulatedtheories of ethics of war. Indeed, discussions of this issue throughout thecenturies were almost purely academic, usually introduced as part of rabbinical interpretation of biblical law”
        — “Rise Up and Kill Him First”:On Modern Attempts to Createa Jewish Ethics of War
        Tel Aviv University/The Jewish People Policy Institute
        Jerusalem, Israel

        1. @ Mitchell: More stupidity. The debate concerning the ethics of war has always been “marginal?” One of the more ridiculous claims you’ve made. In case you haven’t realized this you’re a piss-poor Jewish theologian, Talmud scholar and Jewish historian. Why don’t you leave these fields to scholars and serious individuals who’ve really studied them? The claim that Jews have always been victims of war rather than agents of war is nonsense as well. Not to mention that the laws of war were developed at least in part during the wars of conquest in which the Israelites conquered the land of ancient Israel, exterminating several existing tribes in the process, as I’ve written here before. The laws of war weren’t developed during the Crusades, when Jews were genuinely victims of war and atrocity.

          So the laws of war become relevant once again when Israel renews the practices of the ancient Israelites and wages of wars of aggression against neighboring peoples.

          As for your paper, I’ve never heard of the authors, nor the publication where this was published, Nova et Vetera. The JPPI is a thoroughly Zionist, Israel-advocacy type group. Unsurprising that they would sponsor this sort of claim.

          1. @Richard Silverstein

            “While some of the classic works of Jewish law — most notably the Talmud and Maimonides’ (1135-1204) legal works — do include some scattered references and a few brief guidelines about war, having lacked an independent polity for so very long (and coming from a history characterized by their own inability to defend themselves against the violence directed at them by the cultures in which they have lived), it became abundantly clear in the early days of the Zionist victory that Jewish law had never fully developed its own laws of state, with an accompanying code of military ethics.”
            –DEFINING AND DEFENDING BORDERS; JUST AND LEGAL WARS IN JEWISH THOUGHT AND PRACTICE, Mark Goldfeder, Touro Law Review, Vol. 30 [2014], No. 3, Art. 8, page 633.

            Richard. If you wish to proceed with this, than please respond in kind and offer your cites.

          2. @ Mitchell: Hogwash. This is factually and historically nonsense. What he really means is that Jewish law hadn’t developed a sufficient rationale for Israel’s latter day wars of conquest, including those against the Palestinian people. He wants halacha that specifically ratifies such wars of aggression & articulates them as something they’re not.

            The laws of war are clearly outlined in Devarim. They’re there in the Hebrew Bible, for all to see and read. They’re fully developed & explained. Regardless of whatever outlier “scholars” you wish to cite.

            You are done in this thread. Do not comment further here.

    3. ” there are no ‘Jewish laws of war’.”
      v. Maimonides Mishneh Torah near the end ” The laws of kings and war”.
      If you want to say that it is not germane to our times it is a given that the ‘rules’ must be adapted to the present time.
      Concerning someone’s comment on ‘leaving them a way out’ Gaza has no way out except maybe for the Egyptians their brothers. So one cannot logically assume if Hamas is firing rockets at Israel that Israel cannot respond because that is absurd.
      v. Shulchan Aruch-329:6-{laws of the Sabbath} ‘Non Jews that have caused trouble previously to Jewish cities if they came for money only we do not profane the Sabbath on this. However a city or village close to the periphery even if they come for for commercial purposes we profane the Sabbath on this:.
      On waging war on the Sabbath http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/tsava/maamar/al-heter-2.htm{Hebrew} from 1962 when the conditions were quite dire here תקופת הצנע

  2. “The picture was reported so many times as offensive that Facebook removed it”.

    I don’t understand something. Do Kobi Niv’s detractors find the photo to be offensive, or do they find Kobi’s “fucking pagan soldiers” remark offensive?

    1. Besides no magazines, they don’t know how to count the wraps on their arms. Leading me to believe this to be a tasteless hoax!

  3. Jewish men over bar mitzvah age are religiously obligated to pray in a minyan 3 times a day. It’s not at all unusual for observant soldiers to wake up earlier than their secular peers in order to pray, even while on active duty. Tefilin are most often donned during morning services during week but not on the Sabbath or during holidays. In Ashkenazic tradition one only wears a tallit (prayer shawl) after one gets married or if one is leading services or reading from the Torah. Sephardim wear a tallit after Bar Mitzvah. This sort of photo is very common. What would be unusual and possibly offensive would be if they wore their tefilin while fighting which they are clearly not as none of their magazines are loaded. As is, there’s very little that is offensive here except for Kobi Niv’s caption. These guys look like any other group of guys posing for a photo. Your assertion that most diaspora Jews would find this offensive seems like it might be a bit of a stretch.

    1. I had seriously never expected this kind of reply from you! I guess I had figured you out all wrong. I thought you were genuininely religious.

      1. These pictures are very common and there is very little that is offensive here? Maybe if it were a picture like this:

        But as a Christian I would find pictures such as these very offensive:

        This one is from a movie though, but the next one is real, and what this priest is carrying is not a gun for hunting rabbits.

      2. I’m not particularly religious Elizabeth. Never claimed I was. I have posted here on the Sabbath for instance. That’s something someone devout would never do. That having been said, given religious strictures, what would you have active duty religious soldiers do vis a vis their requirement to pray every morning? When on active duty they are in uniform and have to carry their weapons with them at all times. This is simply how soldiers pray in Israel. Kobi Niv is however totally entitled to his opinion. I don’t support those who complained to Facebook and got his account suspended.

        1. When I said genuinely religious, I meant your attitude as in: “Manifest Ahavat Chinam (boundless love) in your life. That’s the most important thing.”
          In your present post though you seem to equate ‘religious’ with ‘observant’.

          If boundless love were the core of your religious beliefs I do not see how you could NOT be offended by that picture.

    2. @ pea: The flow of disingenuousness from you is never-ending. Look at this picture. They are preening and posing for the picture. They are proud of the fact that they’re warriors for God donning the tallit & tefilin as God commanded his Chosen people. Is it common when you pray that you take a selfie of yourself in full regalia? I know when I pray I don’t make a show of it. THese warriors clearly have done so.

      This sort of posed photo is NOT very common, which is in fact why it stood out so much to Kobi Niv and to me. Most Israeli soldiers (though not all) have the good sense not to flaunt such embarrassing poses in photographs.

      I’d say since you’ve abandoned the Jewish Diaspora to make aliyah, that you’re in no position to tell anyone what Diaspora Jews believe concerning this image. Further, since you’re one of our regular Israel apologists here, your claims are further suspect. Not to mention that there already is a huge conflict inside Israel between the native Orthodox monopoly and Diaspora-based non-Orthodox Israeli religious communities. So the conflict between them already exists. PHotos like this & the idolatrous “theological” concepts they reflect make such conflict even worse.

  4. “Just to clear up a few misconceptions I read in Facebook about what these ritual objects are: the tallit is a ritual garment in which a worshipper wraps him or herself during prayer. Tefilin are small boxes worn above the forehead and the arm, and attached to leather straps. They are filled with parchment on which various Biblical verses are written.”

    What I pasted above from your blog seems strange to me. Did you have to look up these simple things in order to clarify their meaning?

    1. @baraq: What’s strange is your stupid comment. On Facebook, comments were posted saying tefilin contained magic amulets written on cow skin & other such oddities making these ritual objects sound primitive, superstitious and even offensive.

      You may think in your own insular fashion that everyone in the world knows what these things are. But they don’t & assuming they do is arrogant. And assuming I don’t is offensive.

      I believe in explaining my religion & its beliefs to people. I don’t know or care what you believe.

  5. My relationship to Judaism is personal but grounded in real principles. The second temple was destroyed because of an act that omitted boundless love – google “Kamsa and Bar Kamsa.” There’s also a saying which resonates with me that states “Derech Eretz Kadma L’Torah” – being a decent person prefaces the Torah (google that too). There’s also  Leviticus 19:18 that states “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” – as Hillel the sage said about this passage – it is the entirety of the Torah. Everything else is commentary. That being said, I don’t begrudge those that find meaning in ritual and observance.

    The boys pictured in the photo are unremarkable. Most 18 year olds in Israel go to the Army, and while serving, the religious ones continue to pray on a daily basis. The ones in combat units have to carry their weapons with them everywhere, all the time – even on the Sabbath (ordinarily one is not allowed to touch a weapon on the Sabbath). So it’s truly not unusual to see a group of soldiers praying with their weapons. The boys in this photo are not “fucking pagans.” They are our sons, our brothers, our fathers etc. Richard wrote “My God doesn’t command that I don His sacred ritual objects in order to kill the enemy.” However, tefilin are certainly not worn while fighting. In fact, the one time you know no one’s going to get killed is when soldiers don their teffilin in the morning in order to pray.

  6. Note that only one of them is wearing a Tait (top left), though all are indeed wearing tefillin (not very surprising since in the Ashkenazi tradition one ony wears a talit after marriage)

    To the comments above about how common this is – it is very common for religious soldiers to pray during their service, and they willof course wear tefilin every morning for morning services (I can testify myself for doing so often). What is uncommon, and even wrong,from both a military and religious persepective is the combination with the guns.
    By religious law, one should do anything possible to avoid holding a weapon while praying (orignaly reffered to swords,but guns qualify). During times of emergency this is permitted, but since they are posing happily this clearly does not qualify. Otherwise weapons are piled in a specific way (“Ma’arom”) next to the praying soldiers until after the prayer.
    Furthermore,when wearing Tefillin one is most definately not supposed to pose for pictures in general. It is considered very disrespectfull (so while a picture of soldiers at prayer would be considered by some to be impressive, the curent picture under discussion here would be offensive to most religious jews,including religious soldiers).

    1. @ Sh: Right, the notion of davening with a weapon or taking a picture of yourself with tefilin & weapons is offensive. These soldiers are either ignorant, boors, or just plain offensive to any reasonable Jewish sensibility.

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