Jan 29, 2007
Twin distortions mark public understanding of the Jewish attitude toward war: that it rejects war entirely or that it knows no limits on war. The most recent issue of Tradition, for which Marc D. Stern, assistant Executive Director and General Counsel of the American Jewish Congress, served as special editor, explores these polar propositions, the clarification of which is made urgent by the existence of the State of Israel.
Four authors explore different aspects of the Jewish tradition towards war. Although they come to various conclusions, each paints a far more nuanced and complex picture than those which dominate public discussion.
• Rabbi J. David Bleich
explores the problem of torture against a ticking (suicide) bomber, and concludes—contrary to the conclusion of international law—that halacha mandates doing whatever is necessary to avoid mass death, including torture.
• Shalom Carmy
, editor of Tradition, considers the commandments of wiping out Amalek and the seven Canaanite nations. Acknowledging the moral problems these commandments pose, Rabbi Carmy concludes that we are challenged to cast a balance between “the commandments of harshness and the lure of loving kindness,” a “frightening but unavoidable task.”
• Dr. Judith Bleich describes the attitude of Jews in the diaspora and their religious leaders toward military service. She concludes that, with the exception of World War II, by and large Jews have historically regarded military service with a jaundiced eye.
• Rabbi Yitzchak Blau
challenges the unchallenged glorification of the military so prevalent in certain religious circles in Israel, arguing that there is an almost pacifist thread running through several Biblical narratives.
In commenting on the significance of this issue of Tradition in light of current developments and debates surrounding the waging of war, Rabbi Basil Herring, Executive Vice President of the RCA, said "These articles will not silence debate about war and the Jewish tradition; on the contrary, it is our hope that they will spur informed debate on the often vexing issues occasioned by the fog of war, both historically and in the contemporary setting."
More generally, Tradition can now be accessed on line, by going to www.traditiononline.org
. The full text of each issue, as well as a variety of supplementary features related to the content of the journal, can be accessed by current subscribers to the journal. Subscription information is available on the same site, as well as by contacting the RCA office.