By: Donny Fuchs
Author’s Note: The following reflections are a response to Rabbi Daniel Landes’ article “Rachmanut for Gaza” which was recently featured in The Times of Israel. In the above referenced article, Rabbi Landes presents a distorted notion of the concept of mercy which has no commonality with the Torah’s understanding of the term, since it fails to recognize the existence of pervasive evil.Tragically, such distorted beliefs aren’t limited to teachers and educators. They permeate the echelons of Israel’s military and political leadership. The result of such naked ignorance is that Jewish lives are sacrificed on the altar of progressive thought, which informs our national policy relating to such critical issues as Arab terror, Arab demography, and territorial concessions. Without a Torah framework we cannot fight our enemies, as surely as we would be unable to breathe if someone placed a bag over our heads. Such un-Jewish interpretations of “mercy” and “peace” are disturbing enough when expressed by those who reject the divinity of Torah. The phenomenon of religious rabbis expressing such views is even more insidious, since it grants a seal of kashrut to views that are diametrically opposed to Judaism. Ironically, Rabbi Landes expresses a desire to see halacha applied to the situation in Gaza, as a means of articulating Jewish “rachmanut.” Evidently, he is unfamiliar with the laws of Milchemet Mitzvah.
To Rabbi Daniel Landes:
Like all good card carrying liberals, the editors of The Times of Israel believe in free speech, for Jewish liberals, that is; for those who distort Jewish teachings to support progressive ideals. The problem arises when someone tries to articulate or defend a Torah position that veers from the politically correct road. Such individuals don’t fare so well and inevitably they get bounced out of the camp of Those Who Are Permitted To Speak. Consider the case of Diane Weber Bederman who was recently informed by TTOI that her article “We want all of the 6 million Jews and 1 million Arabs to come to Jesus” was removed from their forum. What was her crime? She wrote about the notorious missionary Calev Myers who advocates for “the rights” of ‘Jews for Jesus’ to make aliyah under the neutered “Law of Return.” Who filed the complaint? Calev Myers himself.
I can attest to this pattern of bias from personal experience. Several months back, TTOI banned me for expressing my ideas about Islam. Suddenly, unilaterally, without the courtesy of a conversation, they cancelled my account. Nor would they respond to my inquiries, when I requested an opportunity to defend my position by proving that everything I wrote was premised on historical fact. (Frankly, it was an honor to be banned by those who would silence an honest position.) My point is this: I have my finger on their fluttering Jewish pulse.
Yet in addition to the inherent liberal bias of the The Times of Israel, evidently, the former also give license to those who perpetuate blood libels against the Jewish people. As such, you will be celebrated by many leftists for your obscene piece, “Rachmanut For Gaza,” where you bemoan what you termed “the Palestinian plight” in Gaza. Let me first correct the obvious error, which immediately highlights your bias. There are no Palestinian people, so THEY cannot have a “Palestinian plight.” Palestinians exist in the manner that unicorns exist. Solely in the realm of fantasy and in the imaginations of those who create/deny history. Instead I will refer to the subjects of your article as “the Arabs of Gaza,” since we can at least agree upon one point: they are currently in Gaza (temporarily, I hope.)
What you call a “plight” exposes a perspective devoid of facts. Their plight is of their own making. Who controls Gaza today? As I recall, the government of Israel cruelly expelled all of the Jews from Gush Katif (aka Gaza) several years back, and allowed a hornet’s nest of Arab terror to arise on our southern coast. The innocent Arab civilians, as you would deem them, willingly chose Fatah and then Hamas to represent them, instead of endeavoring to build a normal society (which as a rule does not exist anywhere in the Arab/Islamic world). Hamas created a complex underground infrastructure of terror and placed the south of Israel in a state of perpetual terror. Yet in your mind, even this madness isn’t enough. Somehow, you still deem Israel an “occupying force.” You speak of plight? What about the plight of the most vulnerable Jews of the peripheral western Negev? What about the plight of the entire country who can be immolated with rockets and mortars at any given moment?
You bemoan the use of the collective ‘THEY’ out of a conviction that since there are children in Gaza, they cannot be guilty. Would you feel the same way about the Hitler Youth? The Arabs of Gaza are trained from birth to become shaheeds, and they are cultivated with the genocidal death code of Amalek. This occurs because the entire society is diseased with a spiritual contagion. Forsaking humanity for barbarism, the overall society allows, supports, encourages, and breathes the same infectious beliefs as those running what amounts to an Islamic Third Reich in Gaza.
I pose the following questions:
- Who used (and Heaven help us! uses) the huge supplies of concrete that Israel insanely allowed into Gaza to build a complex system of underground terror tunnels in which to wage war against us, rather than create an infrastructure of schools, hospitals, and homes?
- Who trains their children from the cradle to detonate themselves in a crowd of Jews, to slice open Jewish throats with daggers, and to assemble Kalashnikovs blindfolded while reciting poetry extolling the virtues of martyrdom, rather than teaching the three “R’s”?
- Who assembles in the streets of Gaza City to celebrate the murder and mutilation of kidnapped Jews? Who hands out sweets? Who derives nourishment and pathological euphoria when Arabs slaughter Jews?
You speak of mercy. Mercy is a noble trait, one which defines us as a Jewish nation, yet ONLY WHEN the halacha(which you call upon) demands its expression. This point evades you. When we wage war with evil people, the Torah demands the opposite. One critical aspect of this can be found in the dictum, “Ma Hu nikra rachum, af atah heyeh rachum”,-“Just as Hashem is called merciful, so should you be merciful” (Tractate Shabbos, 133b). G-d alone determines what is merciful. Not some liberal distortion of the trait which ignores the existence of evil in the world, and offers terms of mercy to brutal people during the course of a milchemet mitzvah.
Rabbi Landes, you distort unrelated Jewish texts to justify your notion of “purity of arms.” You have astounding chutzpah to bring up the Rambam and his “Laws of Fasts” which have no relevance, similarity, or application to the current situation in Gaza. The former relates to the Jewish need to introspect and utilize the witnessing of acts of destruction in order to repent. It certainly doesn’t abrogate the halachic requirements of Jewish war against hostile enemies, which by their very definition, demand cruelty towards evil people. The proper section of the MishnahTorah (the Rambam’s halachic work) to gain a Torah perspective on how to combat evil people would be the “Laws of Kings and Their Wars.”
What do the Torah and other classical commentators have to say about combatting enemies during the hell of war?
“When you take the field against your enemies, and see horses and chariots-forces larger than yours-have no fear of them, for the L-rd your G-d, who brought you from the land of Egypt, is with you.”- (Deuteronomy 20:1). What is meant by your enemies? Said the Holy One, Blessed be He: Go against them as enemies, just as they do not have mercy upon you, have no mercy on them.”-(Midrash Tanhuma, Shoftim 15.)
What about interfaith dialogue? Or concern for “the other”?
Parshat Mase’ei. “Vehorashtem”- “You shall dispossess all the inhabitants of the land; you shall destroy all their figured objects; you shall destroy all their molten images, and you shall demolish all their cult places. And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have assigned the land for you to possess. ” (Numbers 33: 52-53)
And then we have the terrible prophecy which warns us of the repercussions of failing to carry out the Divine imperative:
“But if you do not dispossess the inhabitants of the land, those whom you allow to remain shall be stings in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land in which you live; so that I will do to you what I planned to do to them.”(Numbers 33:55-56)
The Ohr HaChaim (Pentateuch commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar) raises a critical point, lest someone pursue a faulty line of reasoning:
“You must drive out”. Although the verse said of the seven nations “you shall not allow any people to remain alive” (Deut. 20:16) Here, the Torah is talking about other nations found there beside the seven. It therefore was careful to say, “all the lands’ inhabitants,” meaning, even those not of the seven. (Numbers 33:52)
Mercy, compassion, pity: wonderful and necessary Jewish traits; but not for our enemies. Not for ISIS and not for the people of Gaza. History has proven time and again that “Whoever shows mercy when cruelty is warranted, will ultimately become cruel when mercy is warranted ” (Koheleth Rabbah 7:16). The truths of Torah are eternal. Nachmanides warned of the dangers of “turning the other cheek”, which many liberal Jews have mistaken for a Jewish tenet:
“Through the mercy of fools, all justice is lost.” (Deut. 7:15-16)
Noach Didn’t Behave This Way
I am sick of those who distort halacha, quote the Rambam, and in an oft mentioned distortion, grant the Arabs the status of Bnai Noach. First things first: The Arabs are not Bnai Noach! No classical rishon would have applied the term to murderous Arabs. The Rambam’s criteria for Bnai Noach by its very definition cannot be applied to Muslims since in addition to abrogation of the primary commandments (i.e. murder, rape, theft, lawlessness, etc.) they reject the Torah of Am Yisroel, they have their own system of festivals, fasts, and rituals, and most importantly, they have a false prophet. To the uninformed, one who studies the Rambam’s section on wars will be introduced to his perspective on Bnai Noach.
And to assign them the category of “ger toshav” (resident stranger)? Without getting into the very complicated issue of the former halachic category which can in no way be applied to them, let us first address the fact that since they are not Bnai Noach they cannot be “resident strangers.” They are as far from being “resident strangers” under even the most liberal rendering of the halacha, as you and I are from being Muslim. Cite your sources, Rabbi Landes. Who would maintain such a position? Certainly not the same Rambam you chose to cite. Not the Ra’avad, not the Sifrei, or Radak. Who then? Michael Lerner of Tikkun Magazine?
Yet even worse than your distortion of Halacha is your accusation that Israel is cruel, when the ugly truth is that Israel’s leaders have consistently applied the grotesque doctrine of tohar haneshek (purity of the rifle) when fighting these fiends. If Israel’s leaders are cruel, then they are cruel to Jews who were set aside as Rabin’s “sacrifices for peace.” The finest of our people, both young and old, soldier and civilian, were murdered for the idolatry of pseudo-morality. Israel’s leaders created a virtue out of warning the most evil of people on earth (again and again, and not just prior to the first military strike) that we will be bombing them, lest the same civilians who celebrate our deaths, suffer the consequences of a war they started. And when they refuse to vacate the area, Israel in turn refuses our soldiers the necessary fire-cover during combat lest these same “civilians” be killed. Thanks to the ideology of misguided mercy, Israel is incapable of destroying our enemies once and for all.
War is harsh, to be certain. The Torah understood this, and created rules for the application of war. Yet the Torah understands that you must obliterate evil to protect the innocent innocent. The Arabs of Gaza have no one to blame but themselves. And they certainly don’t warrant our mercy. The world is full of gentiles whose plight deserve our sympathy. Look elsewhere. Slavery is alive and well in Sudan and Mauritania, thanks to Muslims. The Muslims of ISIS are crucifying people in 2015 in numbers that stagger the mind. Yet in a sea of suffering you choose to pity the ghouls of Gaza who deserve the same mercy that the allies visited upon Dresden. The notion of tearing kriyah for the people of Gaza is akin to sympathizing with those “civilians” who lived under Hitler and swooned for him in the streets of Berlin.
Shame on you, Rabbi Landes. Shame on your blood libel, inspired by the pornographic lies of B’tzelem who would see us all killed to satisfy their quest for “Palestinian justice.” Shame on you for distorting halacha, for quoting the Rambam out of context, and applying the concept of mercy to those who would slaughter us. Shame on you for humanizing the inhumane, and endangering Jewish lives on a pagan altar of false morality. Shame on you, and shame on The Timesof Israel. Don’t we have enough enemies?
Gaza is a demented tapestry of the worst expressions of Arab barbarism. Far from being cruel to them as thehalacha demands, Israel has shown the most evil people on earth a humanity they do not deserve, since they have shed their connection to anything decent on earth. At such times, the Halacha demands we engage in cruelty lest the innocent bleed. And we will continue to die, since the spiritual disease that ravages your conscience, is the same one shared by our leaders.
In our continuous war with the Arabs, I save my rachmanut solely for the Jewish dead, and the tragedy of martyred Jews whose lives were ripped from them. And why did they lose their lives? For the first time in history it wasn’t because we lacked an army to defend ourselves as was the situation for two thousand years, but rather because we spit at the Divine miracle of a powerful Jewish army whose hands remain shackled.
Rabbinical Ordination: Not A Get Out Of Jail For Free Card
In our confused age, the term “religious Rabbi” can mean different things: In recent years, a host of pulpit rabbis, prominent poskim, and more than a few pop culture-rabbis and personalities have illustrated that obtaining rabbinical ordination doesn’t preclude one from defiling the Torah, either from personal sins and frailties that become public, or adopting positions that are contrary to Torah. (This is by no means an attack on the vast majority of our holy Torah scholars who sanctify the name of Hashem and spread Torah wisdom across the world.) Yet the examples are there for those who open their eyes and use their intellect to draw obvious conclusions. During Oslo’s tragic birth, there were more than a few learned orthodox Rabbis pushing “Peace Now’s” agenda. Many of them expressed the same kinds of sentiments you saw fit to share.
A Torah committed Jew sheds no tears for the wicked. A G-d fearing person shows no rachmanut for our enemies, either in Gaza or elsewhere. Rabbi Landes, Purim is approaching. May I suggest that you read Parshat Zachor and internalize the eternal lesson of Amalek. Draw the logical conclusions. In Judaism we celebrate the destruction of the wicked. If this displeases you, find another religion. Evidently, your ideology has more in common with Gandhi’s perverse pacifism.
* All Tanach translations were taken from the JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh, 2003
About the Author: Donny Fuchs made aliyah in 2006 from Long Island to the Negev, where he resides with his family. He has a keen passion for the flora and fauna of Israel and enjoys hiking the Negev desert. His religious perspective is deeply grounded in the Rambam’s rational approach to Judaism.