Morals of War


Moshe Ben-Chaim


Reader: I am a college student and I was wondering if you could offer me any advice about a question a Christian friend of mine at school posed to me.


With the Palestinian/Israeli conflict receiving so much publicity we got into a discussion about whether a religion has a right to kill for what they believe in. We mentioned Jihad & the Crusades. I mentioned that Judaism doesnít have anything like that...and he asked me about the fact that we are allowed to kill idol worshipers etc....and that in the bible we killed the people living in Canaan if they didnít convert. So I was wondering, how are we different?  Aside from proving that our religion is true and if we have the right, is there any difference?


Thanks, David



Mesora: The right to kill - and all morality - can only be decided based on one source: He who gave life and rights to man. Once one proves who gave life and rights, then he may consult with that 'Giver' to determine when life must be spared, when it must be sacrificed, and when to kill others. As the Torah alone stands as the only proven word of G-d, it alone determines when killing is necessary, and all other moral truths. Conversely, if one creates a religion or any code, there is no "absolute truth" in such man-made system. So the question of whether a man-made religion possesses rights is inherently flawed.

To answer you, Judaism does have parameters as to when it is justified by G-d to kill another person or people. This knowledge will be gained by studying the cases in G-dís Torah; when He killed, or instructed Jews to kill. But in no case do we find the murder of innocent people condoned. For example, the prophet Samuel beheaded Agag for his evils. Many other murderers were killed for obvious reasons. But the good are to be protected from harm as displayed by Abrahamís courageous rescue of lot, and certainly from death. It is a good to prevent the death of the righteous and the innocent. It is also a good to wipe out those who would destroy others, as seen in the Flood, in Sodom and at the Red Sea. But as all laws stem from G-d's wisdom, great study is required to fully understand and adhere to all His parameters. We must strive to learn who must be defended, who must be killed, and who must be offered a chance for repentance and perfection. It is not a simple matter, and when left to manís subjective morality, catastrophe ensues.


Society must be secure from evil for it to function properly - as a haven for Torah study and practice. This applies to both Jew and Gentile, as there is but one Torah system for both - although various laws apply to just the Gentile, just the servant, just the woman, just the Levite and just the Israelite.