Rabbi Eliezer Melamed
Rabbi Eliezer MelamedPR photo

When we go to war against the enemy who attempts to annihilate us, the goal is not only to save Israel and deter other foes who harbor the same nefarious goal, but to also eradicate the wicked and purge wickedness from the world.

Ideally, we long to be charitable to all mankind. We inherited this noble trait from Avraham, our forefather, may he rest in peace, who was a beacon of loving kindness to all of the human race through his outstanding hospitality. With unconditional love, he sought to uplift even lowly idol worshipers, inviting them into his tent and drawing them to believe in the One and only God.

Jews, by nature, are naturally compassionate and benevolent (Yevamot 79A). However, man has been given freedom of choice, and when the leader of a nation opts to act wickedly, seeking to kill us and steal our Holy Land, we are commanded to fight him, in order to punish him and his supporters.

As in the words of King David who sang:

“I have pursued my enemies, and destroyed them; and turned back not again until I had consumed them. And I have consumed them, and crushed them, that they could not arise - they are fallen under my feet. For You have girded me with strength to battle; they that have risen up against me have You subdued under me. You have also made my enemies turn their backs on me, that I might destroy them that hate me. They looked, but there was none to save, to the Lord, but He answered them not. Then did I beat them as small as the dust of the earth, I did stamp them as the mire of the street, and I did tread them down…” (Shmuel 2, 22:38-43).

Indeed, King David applied not only defensive tactics, but also initiated attacks against Israel’s enemies. His army wouldn’t have been called the “Israel Defense Force,” but rather the “Israel Attack Force,” or simply the “Israeli Army.” In fighting enemies who seek to destroy us, there is no place for embarrassment, apologies, or misplaced compassion.

As our Sages have taught, the person who is kind to the cruel, will eventually show cruelty to the kind (Kohelet Rabbah 7:16).

One must know that whoever fights Israel is also fighting God, for Israel is His favored son. The Melchilta states, “Whoever attacks Israel is treated as having attacked God” (Beshalach, Mesechta Deshira, 6). Therefore, King David’s battles against Israel’s enemies are called “the wars of Hashem” (Shmuel 1, 18:17; 28:28).

This is true moral bravery, to erase from the world the haters of God and Israel. For doing so, King David had the merit to establish the kingship in Israel for all generations. But he never forgot that his victories, and his great strength in battle, came from Hashem, as he concludes in his song:

“Therefore I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the nations, and I will sing praises to your Name. He is the tower of salvation for his king, and shows mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed forever” (Shmuel 2, 22:50-51)."

Excerpted from "Peninei Halakha: Ha'Am ve' Ha'Aretz"