Terror vs. Torah

Friday, 17 November, 2023 - 9:29 am

The bodies were still fresh from a terrorist assault in Israel when the condemnation of Israel began from the usual suspects.  In Israel, a united country braces for what lies ahead.  The Jewish people do not seek war.  This was brought upon the people of Israel again and again and again.

As we pray and hope for peace in the Holy Land, many have suggested that Israel’s response to free the hostages and end the terror should be limited to diplomatic efforts and praying.

Is that the Jewish response?


In this week’s Prasha of Toldot, we read about twin brothers Yaakov (Jacob) and Eisav (Esau).  Yaakov is the Torah scholar and Esau the hunter.  Their father, Yitzchak, was concerned about his demise and wished to bless the older son Eisav. Through his mother’s intervention, Yaakov tricked his father, who suffered from poor vision, and stood in Eisav’s stead.  He was able to pull this off by wearing goatskin, which made him feel like his hairy brother.

When Yitzchak wondered who was really standing before him, he felt Yaakov. After touching Yaakov, he remarked, “The voice is the voice of Yaakov, but the hands are the hands of Eisav.” He then blessed Yaakov.

The Talmud, commenting on this passage, explains that when the voice of Yaakov (the Jewish people) is engaged in Torah study and prayer, then the hands of Eisav (warfare of its enemies) are incapable of succeeding against Yaakov.

Many people – correctly – take this comment to mean that the Jewish way is to immerse ourselves in holy affairs. Further, they say, we should advance our cause by being role models and by connecting to G-d; not by trying to be greater warriors.

But does this mean we should not fight?

One of the telling elements of this passage is the fact that Yaakov is the one garbed in Eisav’s clothing.  Yes, Yaakov is primarily a man of the tent (Torah study), but he also knows how to wear – when necessary – the garb of Eisav. It is not his default mode. Unlike his bloodthirsty brother Eisav, Yaakov does not strive for death and destruction.  He shies away from it – until it becomes a moral necessity and holy imperative.

We must surely have boots on the ground fighting the evils of terror. They will not stop firing missiles and torturing Jews simply because we are nice guys. We’ve tried that for too many generations and paid the price in millions of lives. And, it’s simply not the Torah way. Like it or not, the Torah endorses war when necessary. It is a moral obligation.

But how do we ensure that our bombs and tactics will overcome theirs? Especially, in a lopsided war in which they use human shields and exploit their own population. Especially, in a war dominated by media that is not friendly to Israel. Especially in a United Nations that has a built-in majority of dictators and their ilk that is anti-Israel. Especially amidst the growing antisemitism on college campuses and streets across the world, blatantly calling for the elimination of the Jewish homeland.

For this, we must remember that while other nations can rely strictly on their superior firepower, we are different. Our very survival was and is predicated on the fact that we are a people committed to G-d and His Torah.

We need both. A war predicated on might will never work for the tiny Jewish people. And, ignoring our obligation to defend ourselves will not protect us, no matter how much Torah study and goodwill we engage in.


So, what can we do? If you are not on the ground fighting (and even if you are) you can still make a difference.

 Here are some things you can do that will make a real difference:

·        Recite Psalms, especially Chapter 20 daily. Click here for Hebrew/English.

·        Women: light Shabbat candles today at 5:00 PM and every Friday before sunset.

·        Men: set up a time to put on Tefillin with Rabbi Mendel.

·        Set aside a few coins daily to put into a Tzedakah box.

·        Study extra Torah.

·        Put up a kosher mezuzah on your door. If you already have one on your front door, put an additional one on another doorway of your home. Or, get your mezuzot checked to make sure they are kosher. Contact Chabad to get a mezuzah or for help.

·        Encourage your children or someone else to do an extra mitzvah.

May the Almighty protect our brothers and sisters in the land of Israel and may He speedily usher in the era when Yaakov and Eisav will dwell together peacefully with the coming of Moshiach!

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