Collateral Punishment

The war in Israel continues and although there has been strong support from many governments, including the United States, England and Canada, there has also been an abundance of calls from all sides for restraint, proportionality, and concerns for the citizenry of Gaza. What can we glean from the Torah?

We need to look into none other than this week’s Parsha, Vayera to see what the historic and authentic opinion of the Jewish people is.

After the three angels visit the tent of Sarah and Abraham and share the prophecy that a year from that day Sarah will miraculously give birth to a son, Isaac, Abraham escorts them in the direction of Sodom where their next responsibility will be to destroy the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

G-d informs Abraham of the impending destruction of the evil people in the evil cities. Abraham does the unthinkable and argues with G-d and tries to negotiate a possible change of action. Abraham remarks to G-d:                                                     

                                                                                                                                                    Genesis 18:25

וַיִּגַּ֥שׁ אַבְרָהָ֖ם וַיֹּאמַ֑ר הַאַ֣ף תִּסְפֶּ֔ה צַדִּ֖יק עִם־רָשָֽׁע׃ 

Abraham came forward and said, “Will You consume the innocent along with guilty?

Abraham then strikingly bargains down our G-d of compassion to agree that if ten righteous people can be found in the region, it will be saved from destruction.

                                              Genesis 18:32

וַ֠יֹּ֠אמֶר אַל־נָ֞א יִ֤חַר לַֽאֹנָי֙ וַאֲדַבְּרָ֣ה אַךְ־הַפַּ֔עַם אוּלַ֛י יִמָּצְא֥וּן שָׁ֖ם עֲשָׂרָ֑ה וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לֹ֣א אַשְׁחִ֔ית בַּעֲב֖וּר הָעֲשָׂרָֽה׃ 

And Abraham said, “Let not my Lord be angry if I speak but this last time: What if ten people should be found there?” G-d responds- “I will not destroy, for the sake of the ten.”

Although there were not ten righteous people to be found, our father Abraham laid the groundwork for the Jewish nation for all time the correct and compassionate approach. 

It is beyond the scope of this essay to delve into the moral challenges of what to do when an evil enemy is embedding themselves in the heart of residential neighborhoods, hospitals, schools, and houses of worship and using local citizenry as human shields. However, one thing is undoubtedly clear -  the state of Israel, and the Israeli Defense Forces will continue to follow in the footsteps of our father Abraham to care and protect all innocent people as much as they possibly can.

May we merit sharing good news soon about Operation Iron Swords soon.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Epstein
Community Scholar in Residence