Fighting the pure and righteous fight, with no compromise

  • ParshaVayeitzeiRabbi
As Yaakov leaves Be’er Sheva, our Sages comment that a tzadik, a righteous person, is the beauty, splendour and majesty of the city. When we reflect upon what it was that made Yaakov such a special person, we recall the words of his father Yitzchak before the blessing: “The voice is the voice of Yaakov and the hands are the hands of Eisav.”
by Rabbi Sam Thurgood, Beit Midrash Morasha | Dec 08, 2016

On this, Gemora Gittin 57b explains that every successful tefillah in the word has in it descendants of Yaakov, every victorious army has in it descendants of Yaakov. With this in mind, we gain a deeper understanding of the Al HaNissim prayer that we say over Chanukah, when we make mention of the miraculous way in which Hashem brought about our military victory:

You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the arrogant into the hands of those who were engaged in the study of Your Torah.

Rabbi Baruch HaLeivi Epstein asks: We appreciate that the miraculous and the unexpected - the fact that the small, (comparatively) weak army of Chashmonaim was able to consistently defeat the mighty forces of the Selucid Greek empire - is indeed a startling display of the greatness of Hashem; but the three other points mentioned “the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the arrogant…” do not seem to be aligned with this theme. In fact, can we not take it for granted that, all things being equal, victory would go to the pure of heart?

The answer, he says, refers back to the voice of Yaakov. The Jewish people are not a nation that is naturally warlike; nor one that desires to be. It is easy to have the impression that one needs to be ruthless in order to bring real results in the world.

We are intimately and tragically familiar in our Holy Land today with the dichotomy of fighting a cruel and terrible enemy while struggling to maintain our own innocence and purity; trying to create a generation of young people who are versed in Torah and Derech Eretz, people who are wise and sensitive, and yet also able to defend our country and people physically from harm - a commitment that requires the willingness to take life as part of defending it.

We know the extent to which our reticence to harm the innocent prevents us from striking decisive blows against our enemies, and now we are ready to understand fully the miracle of Chanukah. It wasn’t only that the Jewish people won despite being an inferior military force, it was that they did so while remaining pure and righteous - not compromising on their holiness despite the martial handcuffs that such behaviour inevitably entails. We are blessed to see the same behaviour reflected in our IDF, and may it always be so.


1 Comment

  1. 1 Choni 17 Dec
    Rabbi Shumuel, Glad to see how your views on defending the Land of Israel have changed from the days of your 'youth' in Durban. I recall when you still had some empathy for Arab murdererrs.
    Choni Davidowitz.


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