By: HaRav Menashe Sasson
In last week’s Parashah, we discussed, among other things, the twelve spies [מרגלים], whom the Torah refers to as “great men” [אנשים]. These great men [אנשים] had studied Torah at the foot of Moshe Rabbeinu and were Rabbis, leaders of their respective tribes. After having reconnoitered Eretz Yisra’el in preparation for the military invasion that was to follow, ten of these great Rabbis issued a joint psak Halakha [פסק הלכה] (ruling on Jewish law) which held that because a military invasion of Eretz Yisra’el would likely result in the loss of life, the doctrine of pikuah nefesh [פקוח נפש], a doctrine that permits (and, in some situations requires,) one to violate a Torah commandment (misva [מצוה]) in order to save life, allowed the Jewish people to decline to perform the misva [מצוה] of Yishuv Eretz Yisra’el [ישוב ארץ ישראל] (the Torah commandment to settle the Land of Eretz Yisra’el).
This psak Halakha [פסק הלכה] of the spies, the anashim [אנשים] who reconnoitered Eretz Yisra’el, was erroneous for at least two reasons. First, prosecuting a war to Yishuv Eretz Yisra’el [ישוב ארץ ישראל] is a milchemet misva [מלחמת מצווה], a war mandated by the Torah. The doctrine of pikuah nefesh [פקוח נפש], which allows a person to violate a Torah commandment in order to save life, cannot be applied in a manner which would have the effect of completely excusing compliance with a Torah commandment, such as the obligation to make war, which, by its very nature, involves danger to human life.
Second, there are three situations in which the doctrine of pikuah nefesh [פקוח נפש] may not be applied to permit violation of a Torah commandment. One of those situations is idolatry.
The Talmud states:
T.B. Masechet Ketuvot, 110b, quoting Vayyiqra 25:38.
Because the purpose of the Exodus was to give the Jewish people Eretz Yisra’el and because “anyone who resides outside of Eretz Yisra’el is considered as one who does not have a G-d,” it follows that a refusal to Yishuv Eretz Yisra’el [ישוב ארץ ישראל] by who one has the opportunity to do so, is a rejection of the Torah, a rejection of G-d himself, and, thus, constitutes a form of idolatry. Therefore, because idolatry is one of the sins that a person may not commit to save a life, if follows that the doctrine of pikuah nefesh [פקוח נפש] may not be applied to excuse a failure to Yishuv Eretz Yisra’el [ישוב ארץ ישראל].
Thus, we see that the psak Halackha [פסק הלכה] of the spies, the anashim [אנשים] who reconnoitered Eretz Yisra’el, was erroneous.
In Parashat Qorah, we find three additional Halakhic disputes: First, Qorah, a very accomplished and learned man, alleged that he, not Aharon, should have been appointed Kohen Gadol. Qorah reasoned that because leadership of the nation had gone to Moshe, as the son of Levi’s firstborn, Amram, he, Qorah, as the son of Levi’s second-born, Yitzhar, should have been appointed Kohen Gadol.
Second, the first-born of all the tribes collectively challenged the tribe of Levi, alleging that they, not the Levites, should have the privilege of serving in the Mishkan.
Third, the tribe of Reuven, as represented by Datan, Aviram, and On, claimed that the privilege of royalty should be belong to them, as offspring of Ya’akov’s firstborn, and not to the tribe of Yehudah.
As with the spies, the claims of Qorah, the first-born, and the tribe of Reuven, all lacked merit.
Because prophecy existed during the time of Moshe, the spies, Qorah, and the tribes, it is not too difficult for us to determine what HaShem wanted from the Jewish people.
Today, things are different. There are still many factions within the Jewish people and many disagree with others on matters of Halakha. The question, then, is: What criteria should a person use when selecting a Rabbi who will rule on Halakhic issues?
There can, of course, be no “one size fits all” answer to this question. However, a few guidelines might be helpful.
Common-sense. Don’t “check your common-sense” at the door of the Beit Midrash. In other words, don’t accept anything that doesn’t make sense. It’s true that a particular pasuk, Halakha, or piece of Gemara may not make sense when first studied. When this occurs, study more; ask your rabbi to teach you. When you choose someone to be “your rabbi,” make sure this person can – and will – take the time, not only to help you learn, but also to help you understand, Torah.
Copyright © The Israel Foundation. All Rights Reserved.
By: HaRav Menashe Sasson
In the year 5781 (2021), Parashat Shelah was read shortly after a cease-fire agreement was signed, which suspended open hostilities between Gazan-Arabs and Medinat Yisra’el (the State of Israel), in the 5781 (2021) Gaza Battle.
In Parashat Shelah, we learn about the “spies” whom Moshe sent to reconnoiter Eretz Yisra’el, in preparation of Yehoshua leading the Jewish invasion and military conquest the Yarden river and into the Land.
Is there a connection between the Spies of Parashat Shelah and the 5781 (2021) Gaza Battle? To answer this question, a brief review of the situation relating to Gaza is in order.
In response to the wishes of Gazan-Arabs, Medinat Yisra’el “disengaged” from Gaza during the year 5765 (2005), by removing all Jews from Gaza and by withdrawing all direct governmental controls over Gaza. Medinat Yisra’el, however, retained control over the air and maritime space of Gaza and has reserved the legal right to reenter Gaza with its military.
Although Gaza is not a nation-state, and is not recognized by Medinat Yisra’el or the international community as a nation-state, the Gazan-Arabs have established a de facto government in Gaza, which in turn has adopted its own flag and raised its own military.
Today, Gazan-Arabs strongly assert a claim to that section of real estate which is commonly known as Gaza, while Medinat Yisra’el half-heartedly asserts minimal rights over Gaza, mainly for the purpose of defending itself against Gazan-Arab missile and other attacks.
This situation raises many questions, including:
Right of Possession & Sovereignty over Gaza
Rights Created by Biblical Law
In Parashat Lekh-Lekha, “HaShem said to Abram (prior to Abram’s name being changed to “Avraham”), ‘Go for yourself [לך-לך] from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make you a great nation. . . .’” Bereshit 12:1-2.
The commentator Maimonides (the Rambam) wrote:
Sefer HaMitzvot, Mitzvah 4.
Thus, we see that HaShem gave Eretz Yisra’el to the Jewish people as an “inheritance” and that the Jewish people “for all time” and “even during the exile” are commanded to reside in the Land.
Rights Existing under International Law
The Arabs in general, and the Gazan-Arabs in particular, do not readily accept this Halakha (Jewish law).
However, as with many things, there is more than one route to the correct answer. International law also holds, albeit for vastly different reasons, that the Jewish claim to Gaza (as well as the rest of Medinat Yisra’el) is superior to that of the Arabs.
Prior to the 5678 (1918), the year when World War I ended, the geographic area which today is known as Medinat Yisra’el, including Gaza, Judea, and Samaria, was ruled by the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire.
From the year 5678 (1918) through the year 5708 (1948), the geographic area in question was a British “Protectorate.”
Medinat Yisra’el came into existence in the year 5708 (1948). Following the Israeli war of independence, which was started by a coordinated invasion of Medinat Yisra’el immediately after her founding, Egypt occupied Gaza and Gazan-Arabs declared Gaza to be an Arab state. However, no one, except for Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, recognized the so-called new Arab state.
During the 5727 (1967) Six-Day War, Medinat Yisra’el captured Gaza, the Old City (Temple Mount), Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula.
As a result of the Oslo Accords, Medinat Yisra’el, in the year 5765 (2005), “disengaged” from Gaza, but did not relinquish the right to exercise sovereignty over Gaza.
On 28 Iyyar 5781 (May 10, 2021), Gazan-Arab military forces, often concealed among Gazan-Arabs who were, ostensibly “civilians,” began launching rockets at civilian targets in Medinat Yisra’el. When the cease-fire agreement went into effect eleven days later, Gazan-Arabs had fired some 4,360 rockets and mortar shells at the southern and central areas of Medinat Yisra’el, an average of about 400 per day.
Thus, we see that, because Medinat Yisra’el never relinquished its right to exercise sovereignty over Gaza and because Gazan-Arabs have committed acts of war against Medinat Yisra’el, the right of Medinat Yisra’el under international law to exercise sovereignty over Gaza is superior to any right claimed by Gazan-Arabs.
Some in the international community have, for decades, advanced the idea that Jews, on the one hand, and Israeli-Arabs and Gazan-Arabs, on the other, can live in peace, side-by-side, if each had its own independent, sovereign state.
It is a fact that Israeli-Arabs in general, and the Gazan-Arabs in particular, have never had their own sovereign state. However, Gazan-Arabs have had a de facto sovereign state in Gaza since the year 5765 (2005), complete with their own flag and military.
Furthermore, Ziad Al-Nahala, leader of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, is reported to have said in a “victory” speech following the Gaza Battle of 5781 (2021), that his organization is committed to continuing the fight against what he calls the “Zionist entity” until it [Medinat Yisra’el] is eliminated, regardless of the number of victims.
Thus, we see that the Gaza Battle of 5781 (2021), along with many other Gazan-Arab aggressions over the years, has conclusively demonstrated that a Two-State “Solution” is simply will not work. Accordingly, the idea of a Two-State “Solution” should be abandoned.
The Exercise of Jewish Sovereignty over Gaza
Not only has a Two-State “Solution” been rejected by both Gazan-Arabs and Israeli-Arabs, Fatah Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi has been quoted as saying,
Posting to Facebook page of Tawfiq Tirawi (February 2020).
In other words, not only do Israeli-Arabs and Gazan-Arabs not want to live in peace with Jews, they want to eliminate Medinat Yisra’el and either expel or kill all of the Jews who are physically present in Eretz Yisra’el.
HaShem warned us that this would happen. At Har Sinai, when the Torah was given to the Jewish people, HaShem said,
In Parashat Mas’e, we learn that HaShem spoke to Moshe in the plains of Moab, by the Yarden, , near Yereho, saying, ‘Speak to the Children of Yisra’el and say to them: When you cross the Yarden [river] into Eretz Kena’an [Eretz Yisra’el], you shall drive out all of the inhabitants of the Land before you. . . .” Bamidbar 33:50-52.
Likewise, in Parashat Shofetim, we are told that “But from the cities of these peoples that HaShem, you G-d gives you as an inheritance, you shall not allow any person to live. Rather, you shall utterly destroy them. . . .” Debarim 20:16-17.
The Or HaChaim wrote that:
Or HaChaim, commentary to Bamidbar 33:52.
Likewise, Abarbanel said:
Abarbanel, Commentary on Shemot 34:11-12.
Just as the Torah promised, the Arabs are today a “snare among” the Jewish people because we have “seal[ed] a covenant with” them simply by allowing them to remain in Eretz Yisra’el.
We learn from Maimonides that Jewish law recognizes two types of wars: a milchemet misva [מלחמת מצווה], a war which is commanded by the Torah and for which no authorization from the Sanhedrin is required to wage, and a milchemet harashut [מלחמת רשות], a discretionary war, which may not be waged without first being authorized by the Sanhedrin. The conquest of Eretz Yisra’el is a milchemet misva [מלחמת מצווה]. Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 6:1.
Thus, as we see there is no Biblical, legal, or practical impediment to Medinat Yisra’el reasserting and exercising full sovereignty over Gaza.
Lessons on Gaza from Parashat Shelah
The Torah is not merely a collection of nice stories. The word “Torah” [תורה], literally translated, means “to instruct.” As we learn from the Midrash, “The deeds of the forefathers are signs for the children.” Tanchuma, Lekh-Lekha 9. What the Midrash is teaching is that the purpose of the Torah is to teach us what we should do and what we should not do.
The Hebrew word “shelah” [שלח] means to “send,” or to “send forth” as in “HaShem spoke to Moshe, saying ‘Send forth for yourself men [אנשים], and let them spy out Eretz Kena’an [Eretz Yisra’el], which I give to the Children of Yisra’el. . . .’” Bamidbar 13:1-2.
The commentator Rashi noted that the pasuk says “send forth for yourself” [שלח לך], which means that HaShem did not command the sending forth of spies, but rather, that He allowed the Jewish people, in their discretion, to do so. Moshe understood that, although HaShem had promised the Jewish people victory over the occupants of Eretz Kena’an, one must not rely on miracles. In other words, we must put forth our best-efforts, we must do our own hishtadlut [השתדלות].
Just days before the Jewish people were to enter Eretz Yisra’el, the Jewish “Spies,” the 12 men [אנשים], reconnoitered Eretz Yisra’el and came back with a truthful report:
As mentioned above, the Torah refers to the twelve spies as the twelve “anashim” [אנשים], which in Hebrew means the twelve “people.” Rashi, however, taught that when the Torah refers to men as “anashim” [אנשים], it is referring not to regular men, but to men of distinction, men of importance. Thus, we learn that the twelve spies were not just ordinary men, they were great, learned men, leaders of their respective tribes, rabbis who had learned at the foot of Moshe Rabbeinu.
Could it be that the spies – the anashim [אנשים] – would rebel against HaShem, Heaven forbid, by attempting to dissuade the Jewish people from entering the Land? Hardly. What the anashim [אנשים] did perceive, however, was danger. They saw that a military battle against the inhabitants of Eretz Yisra’el might result in Jewish casualties; that many Jews might lose their lives fighting for Eretz Yisra’el.
But what were the spies – the anashim [אנשים] – to do? In the name of pikuah nefesh [פקוח נפש], saving lives, the anashim [אנשים], the great, learned men – the rabbis – made a Halakhic ruling: The protection of life from the dangers of war, they said, takes precedence over conquering Eretz Yisra’el.
The concept of pikuah nefesh is derived from the pasuk, “You shall observe My decrees and My law, which man shall carry out and by which he shall live – I am HaShem.” Vayyirqa 15:5. The Sages have interpreted the clause “by which he shall live” to mean that almost all Torah commandments may be violated in order to protect or save human life. The Talmud lists three exceptions to this rule. A person may not engage in acts of idolatry, sexual immorality, or murder, regardless of the circumstances. T.B. Masekhet Sanhedrin 74a-b.
Thus, in the name of pikuah nefesh, the people then sought to replace Moshe, appoint a new leader, and return to the land of their enslavement. “Let us appoint a chief and let us return to Misrayim.” Bamidbar 14:4.
Was the people’s intention to assimilate into Misrayim society? Likely not. They probably thought they could build great Jewish communities in Misrayim, complete with Beitai Knesset [בתי כנסת] (synagogues), mikva’ot [מקואות] (ritual baths), and kosher food.
The people wept that night. HaShem responded that because the people had wept, He would establish that night as a time of weeping throughout the generations. That night, according to Rashi, was the night of Tisha B’Av [תשעה באב], the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av, the day on which both Temples were destroyed and on which many other tragedies occurred in Jewish history. Rashi to Tehillim 106:27.
Responding to the people’s plan to replace Moshe as their leader and return to Misrayim, HaShem said to Moshe, “How long will this people provoke Me, and how long will they not have faith in Me, despite all the signs that I have performed in their midst?” Bamidbar 14:11.
As punishment for this great sin, the Jewish people were sent to wander in the desert for forty years.
Thus, we see that the first lesson to be learned from Parashat Shelah is that the Rabbis are not infallible; they, just like everyone else, make mistakes. The anashim [אנשים] that are referred to in Parashat Shelah were, of course, closer to Har Sinai [הר סיני] and, having learned Torah from Moshe Rabbeinu, himself, were, without a doubt, more learned than our contemporary rabbanim [רבנים].
Next, we learn that, not only is it a misva for all time to conquer Eretz Yisra’el, going to war in order to conquer Eretz Yisra’el (when necessary to do so) is a milchemet misva [מלחמת מצווה], a mandatory war which is commanded by the Torah itself.
We also learn that pikuah nefesh [פקוח נפש], the saving of human life, as important as that is, does not take precedence over the command to conquer Eretz Yisra’el. It could not, of course, be otherwise.
One exception to the rule of pikuah nefesh [פקוח נפש] is that one may not engage in public acts of idolatry in order to save his life. Indeed, the Torah itself tells us that one of the purposes of conquering Eretz Yisra’el is to eliminate idolatry in the Land. “Be vigilant lest you seal a covenant with the inhabitant[s] of the land to which you are to come, lest it be a snare among you. Rather, you shall break apart their alters, smash their pillars, and cut down its sacred trees.” Shemot 34:11-13. Therefore, given that there is a Torah obligation to eliminate idolatry in the Land, one may not rely on the rule of pikuah nefesh [פקוח נפש] to avoid fighting a war to conquer the Land.
Furthermore, to say there is a Torah obligation to wage war to conquer and secure Eretz Yisra’el, but to also hold that pikuah nefesh [פקוח נפש], saving human life, is an exception to that Torah obligation, would be to render the obligation to conquer Eretz Yisra’el meaningless. The exception would swallow the rule, as it simply is not possible to wage war without risking human life.
Lastly, and most importantly, we learn, or at least should learn, that we must have full and complete trust in HaShem and in His Torah, regardless of what our intellects or instincts – our evil inclination [יצר הרע] – might tell us.
It is true that the Gazan-Arabs would resist by force the retaking of Gaza by Medinat Yisra’el. It is true that retaking Gaza would endanger Jewish lives. It is true that many in the so-called “international community” would object. It’s also true that many other unpleasant things might occur if Medinat Yisra’el retook Gaza.
But it is also true that HaShem gave Eretz Yisra’el to the Jewish people as an inheritance and commanded the Jewish people to conquer the Land. Lastly, implicit in the command to conquer Eretz Yisra’el is the prohibition of voluntarily relinquishing control over all or any part of Eretz Yisra’el to any other nation or people.
As Jews, we recite the following before laying down at night and after arising in the morning: “Hear, Yisra’el. The Lord is our God; the Lord is One [שמע ישראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה אחד]. Debarim 6:4. May we, the Jewish people, including our religious leaders and the political leaders of Medinat Yisra’el, hear, understand, and follow the Torah, and no longer cause HaShem to ask: “How long will this people provoke Me, and how long will they not have faith in Me, despite all the signs that I have performed in their midst?”
Copyright © The Israel Foundation. All Rights Reserved.
By: HaRav Menashe Sasson
The setting for Parashat Beha’alotekha is “bamidbar” [במדבר], “the desert.” The Jewish people had become a nation when they received the Torah at Mount Sinai [הר סיני], “[Y]ou shall be to Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.” Shemot 19:6, and, in compliance with HaShem’s command, were preparing to invade and conquer the Land of Israel [ארץ ישראל].
Fast-forward some 3,300+ years. After multiple and long exiles, the Jewish people – and the Jewish nation – are back in their Land, with a sovereign government. Some things, however, have not changed. The Jewish people and nation are still plagued by occupants of the Land who claim a right to the Land which is superior to that of the Jewish people and nation.
The resulting questions which arise include:
1. What does the Torah command with respect to responding to claims that certain Gentiles possess a right to the Land which is superior to that of the Jewish people and nation; and
2. Whether the Torah commands a response that contemporary, Western and Hellenist culture considers to be “racist” or “apartheid.”
Israel’s Current Treatment of Israeli-Arabs
During the year 5781 (2021), Parashat Beha’alotekha happened to have been read shortly after a cease-fire was signed in what is referred to as the “Gaza War” of that year.
The term “Gaza War,” however, is misleading. The fact that overt military hostilities were discontinued as the result of a cease-fire agreement is more indicative of the real situation: the Gaza Battle of 5781 (2021), which was concluded when both sides agreed to stop openly shooting at each other – hence the “cease-fire” agreement – the war, however, rages on.
Predictably, those who oppose Medinat Yisra’el (the State of Israel) used the Gaza Battle of 5781, as well as any other opportune event, to reassert charges that Medinat Yisra’el, as evidenced by its conduct toward Arabs who live in Gaza, Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem, and other parts of Medinat Yisra’el, is a racist and apartheid state.
The term “racist” is defined as “prejudice against or antagonistism toward a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group, typically, one that is a minority or marginalized.” Oxford Languages English dictionary (Google).
“Apartheid” means “a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race.” Id. The term “apartheid” is often used to refer to policies in South Africa that discriminated against Black people.
Currently, in Medinat Yisra’el, Arabs (and all other ethnic groups and minorities) enjoy equal political and personal rights. Arabs who are citizens of Medinat Yisra’el can vote and, indeed, some are, or have been, members of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) and Supreme Court. Furthermore, not only do Israeli-Arabs enjoy equality under the law, they are, as a practical matter, often given special, favorable, treatment by the police, prosecutors, and courts, who fail to investigate, prosecute, or punish crimes committed by Arabs against Jews as zealously as they do when a Jew perpetrates a crime against an Arab. Thus, the treatment by Medinat Yisra’el of Israeli-Arabs cannot reasonably be said to be prejudiced or antagonistic based on their membership in a racial or ethnic group.
Regarding Gaza, Medinat Yisra’el “disengaged” from that portion of Medinat Yisra’el in 2005, by removing all Jews from Gaza and by withdrawing all direct governmental controls over Gaza. Medinat Yisra’el, however, maintains control over the air and maritime space of Gaza and has reserved the legal right to reenter Gaza with its military. Gaza is also dependent on Medinat Yisra’el for its water, electricity, telecommunications, and other utilities.
Although Gaza is not a nation-state, and is not recognized as such by Medinat Yisra’el or the international community, the residents of Gaza have established a de facto Arab government in Gaza, which in turn has adopted its own flag and which maintains its own military. Although the Arab residents of Gaza do not enjoy the privileges of Israeli citizenship or residency, that circumstance is the result of Arab choice and was not imposed upon Gazan Arabs by Medinat Yisra’el. Thus, as with the Arabs who reside in other parts of Medinat Yisra’el, the treatment by Medinat Yisra’el of Gazan Arabs cannot reasonably be said to be prejudiced or antagonistic based on their membership in a racial or ethnic group. Any so-called “segregation” of Gazan Arabs from the rest of Israeli society is wholly attributable to Gazan Arabs, who in 2005 decided that they wanted to segregate themselves from the rest of Israeli society.
Thus, we see that the current conduct of Medinat Yisra’el toward its Arab citizens and residents, whether those persons reside in Jerusalem or Gaza, is neither “racist” nor “apartheid.”
Halakhic Treatment of Israeli-Arabs
Medinat Yisra’el, being a self-described Jewish state (the only one in the world), could, however, change course and decide that it instead of its current system of laws, which consist of a mixture of laws adopted from various Gentile nations, it will, instead, do what is fitting for a Jewish State and follow the commands of the Torah and Halakha (Jewish Law).
Both the Torah and Halakha require that all Gentiles who claim a right to Eretz Yisra’el which is superior to that of the Jewish people must be expelled from the Land.
Regarding non-Jews who live in Eretz Yisra’el, the Halakha – Jewish law – recognizes two classes of people: those who claim an ownership or similar interest in Eretz Yisra’el and those who do not claim any such interest. Regarding the former, the Torah is not merely referring to ancient civilizations who just happened to be occupying Eretz Yisra’el prior to the arrival of the Jewish people; rather, the Torah is referring to any people – for all time – who claim a legal right to Eretz Yisra’el.
According to the Or HaChaim:
Or HaChaim, commentary to Bamidbar 33:52.
Likewise, Abarbanel said:
Abarbanel, Commentary on Shemot 34:11-12.
If Medinat Yisra’el were to assert sovereign over the entirety of the Land, including, but not limited to all of Jerusalem (including the Old City), Gaza, Judea and Samaria, etc., and expel all non-Jewish Arabs from these areas, the question which would be raised is whether such laws and actions would be racist or apartheid.
At this point it is important to point out two critical facts. First, “racism” is a form of discrimination, but not all discrimination is racist. For example, when a person decides to wear a blue shirt instead of a red shirt, he is discriminating against the red shirt and discriminating in favor of the blue shirt. This would constitute benign, non-racist discrimination.
Second, there is a two-prong test to determine whether a policy or action is racist. The first prong is whether the policy or action is based on prejudice; the second prong is whether such prejudice is directed against a racial or ethnic group.
“Prejudice” is defined as “an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason” or as “any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable.” https://www.dictionary.com/browse/prejudice. Here, an expulsion of Arabs from Medinat Yisra’el would not be based on any “preconceived opinion” or without “knowledge, thought, or reason.” Rather, such action would be based on warnings from HaShem that such people will “be a snare among” the Jewish people; the Halakha, as articulated by our Sages and Scholars; and our tragic and painful history with the Arabs of Eretz Yisra’el, a history which dates back not just to 1948, but many years prior the establishment of the modern State of Israel.
The reason for the second-prong – the racial or ethnic group prong – is that membership in a racial or ethnic group is immutable, that is, it cannot be changed. A person who is Black may not choose to become White; a person who is Hispanic may not choose to become Asian; and so forth. This is why discrimination based on a (immutable) racial or ethnic characteristic is reprehensible.
We learn in Parashat Beha’alotekha that “Moshe said to Hobab, son of Re’u’el, the Midyanite, Moshe’s father-in-law, we are journeying to the place which which HaShem said, I will give it [to] you; come thou with us. . . .” Bamidbar 10:29. Nachmanides explains that the name “Hobab” was the name Yitro took when he converted to Judaism, stating that “such is the way of all proselytes, ‘for HaShem calls His servants by another name.’” Ramban, Commentary on the Torah, Bamidbar 10:29, citing Yesha’yahu 65:15.
Moshe’s father-in-law, although referred to as “Hobab” in Sefer Bamidbar, is referred to earlier in the Torah, in Sefer Shemot, simply as “the priest of Midyan.” “Now the priest of Midyan had seven daughters. . . .” Shemot 2:16, “and [the priest of Midyan] gave Moshe Zippora, his daughter. And she bore him a son, and he called his name Gershom. . . .” Shemot 2:21-22.
Later in Sefer Shemot, Moshe’s father-in-law is referred to as “Yitro.” “When Yitro, the priest of Midyan, Moshe’s father-in-law. . . .” Shemot 18:1. Prior to converting to Judaism, Moshe’s father-in-law was given the name Yiter [יתר], which means “more,” “excess,” or “addition,” in recognition of his pre-conversion service to the Jewish people. Rashi taught that the Hebrew letter “vav” was added to Moshe’s name when he converted, thus changing his name from Yiter [יתר] to Yitro [יתרו].
Although there is a considerable degree of ambiguity concerning exactly when Moshe’s father-in-law converted to Judaism, the one thing that we do know is that he did convert at some point in time.
Although Yitro may have been one of the first converts to Judaism, many converts have followed in his footsteps. In fact, anyone – including Arabs and Muslims – who legitimately seek to convert can do so. There are rabbis and Jewish courts both in Medinat Yisra’el and throughout the Diaspora who regularly assist people from all races, ethnicities, and religions in converting to Judaism.
Not only do converts to Judaism come from all races, ethnicities, and religions, those who were born Jewish, that is, born to a Jewish mother, likewise come from all races and ethnicities. There are Jews who can trace their lineage to Germanic and European countries (Ashkenazim), Jews who can trace their lineage to Spain, the Middle East, and Africa (Sephardim), as well as Jews who can trace their lineage to every other corner of the earth.
Thus, we see that being “Jewish” is not based on race or ethnicity, and that “Jewishness” is not an immutable characteristic. Accordingly, there simply is no such thing as the “Jewish race” or “Jewish ethnicity.”
Therefore, a policy of expelling all non-Jewish Arabs from Medinat Yisra’el could not, by definition, be “racist,” nor could it constitute an “apartheid” policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race.
Arab-Israeli Plans for Eretz Yisra’el
We return now to where we started, the Gaza Battle of 5781 (2021). Gazan and Israeli-Arabs have decided something that Jewish Israelis, as a group, are either unaware, or which they do not want to admit: The war that is being waged by Gazan and Israeli-Arabs, on the one hand, against Medinat Yisra’el, on the other hand, will continue until one side wholly and completely defeats the other side. Collectively, Gazan and Israeli-Arabs have no interest in living side-by-side, in peace, with Jews, whether as two states or in one state.
How do we know this? We know this because Israeli-Arabs, of which the present-day Gazan Arabs are descended, have repeatedly been presented with the opportunity to have a sovereign Arab state which would have been carved out of land that belongs to Medinat Yisra’el. The Gazan and Israeli-Arabs have rejected such offers each and every time they have been made.
Furthermore, Israeli-Arabs have openly stated that their goal is the complete annihilation of the Jews of Medinat Yisra’el. At a celebration commemorating the 34th anniversary of the outbreak of the First Intifada, a Hamas leader said: “You have no place on our land. Leave it or be killed on it.” Mushir al-Masri, senior Hamas figure. www.israelnationalnews.com/news/318461.
Using violence to take control of the Land of Israel from the Jewish people and nation isn’t this enemy’s only battle plan; they also intended to – and do – use Medinat Yisra’el’s democratic processes and institutions in an attempt to wrest control of the Land from the Jewish people and nation:
Na’ama Saud, a teacher from the Israeli Arab village of Araba; May 28, 1976.
The Jewish people are extremely compassionate, which is a good thing. However, too much of a good thing can be bad.
As we learn from Tanakh, King Sha’ul was commanded by the prophet Shemu’el to “go and smite Amaleq and utterly destroy all that they have and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” I Shemu’el 15:3. Shemu’el’s commandment that King Shau’el smite Amalaq was derived from the Torah commandment to erase the memory of Amalek. Debarim 25:19.
King Shau’el, however, had compassion on Agag, King of Amaleq, and refrained from completely carrying out the command to smite Amaleq. Regarding this failure, the Midrash explains, “Rabbi Elazar said: One who becomes compassionate to the cruel will ultimately become cruel to the compassionate, as it is written, ‘And Shau’el and the nation spared Agag and the best sheep and cattle.’” Midrash Tanhuma, Parashat Mezora,1; Yalkut Shimoni, I Shamu’el, Chapter 121.
May the political and military leaders of Medinat Yisra’el acquire both the wisdom and fortitude to make the Torah the Constitution of Medinat Yisra’el and, to act consistently with the Torah by not being compassionate to those who would be cruel to, that is, those who would annihilate, the Jewish citizens and residents of Medinat Yisra’el.
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By: HaRav Menashe Sasson
The Festival of Shavu’ot [שבועות] is celebrated following the counting for seven weeks (49 days) of the omer, and begins 50 days after the Pesah [פסח] (Passover) seder.
Thus, the Festival of Pesah [פסח], which commemorates the Exodus from Egypt; the Counting of the Omer; and the Festival of Shavu’ot [שבועות], which commemorates the giving of the Torah on Har Sinai [הר סיני]; are properly viewed not as separate events or holidays, but rather, as the beginning of a process, which ultimately culminates many years later, with the Israelites preparing for a war of conquest, followed by an invasion of Eretz Yisra’el (Land of Israel).
The word “Shavu’ot [שבועות]” means “weeks,” as in the seven weeks between the Festival of Pesah [פסח] and Festival of Shavu’ot [שבועות]. In the English language, the holiday of Shavu’ot [שבועות]” is often referred to as the “Festival of Weeks.”
This explanation, however, begs the obvious question: Why is the holiday which commemorates the giving of the Torah named for the period of weeks which immediately preceded the holiday? The answer is because the word “Shavu’ot [שבועות]” also means “oaths.”
While at Har Sinai [הר סיני], HaShem said to the Jewish people that they shall be to HaShem a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation [ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש].” Shemot 19:6. The Jewish people famously responded: “All that HaShem has spoken, we will do [כל אשר-דבר יהוה נעשה].” Shemot 19:8. Thus, we have the “oaths” of the Jewish people to do all that HaShem has commanded.
“Shavu’ot” is also the name of a book in the Mishnah, and is the sixth volume in Masekhet Nezikin (which deals primarily with oaths) in the Talmud.
As an aside, the Christian religion, which was founded during the Second Temple period, in about the year 3760 on the Jewish calendar, celebrates a holiday known as “Pentecost,” which is celebrated 50 days after Christian holiday of Easter. The name “Pentecost,” which is Greek in origin, means “fifty.” The name of the Christian holiday “Easter” is derived from the Greek word “pascha.” Just as Easter is a holiday which is an adaptation of the Jewish holiday of Pesah, so too, Pentecost is a Christian holiday that is derived from an adaptation of Shavu’ot. The meaning and rituals associated with the Christian holidays of Easter and Pentecost are, however, very different from those of the Jewish holidays of Pesah and Shavu’ot.
Returning to Shavu’ot and the giving of the Torah, we learn from the Talmud why the Torah was given on Har Sinai [הר סיני]: