Joe Ben Malin
Joe Ben MalinCourtesy

Reflecting on last week's parsha, Parshat Noah, where we read each year about the Seven Laws of Noah, I was struck about what this Torah portion can teach us today about how we should look at the war against Hamas and Gaza. And it is no coincidence that this is the parsha we read in the midst of the war against Hamas. ThesNoahide Laws are the basis for civilization and they are put forth by G-d as a basic blueprint for life itself for both Jews and for gentiles. Failure to observe any of these laws are met with capital punishment.

The laws are as follows: acknowledge G-d’s Oneness, do not curse G-d, do not murder, do not eat from a living animal, do not steal, do not have immoral relations, and the moral imperative to set up a system of justice.

Sadly today, most of these laws are not enforced worldwide, and because they are not enforced the world is an immoral and dark place. Only one of these laws on its own can condemn an entire nation, and that is not setting up courts of justice. Failure by a nation to try those accountable for atrocities in a court of law renders an entire nation liable for the death penalty.

We see an example of an entire nation being punished for not observing this law in Parshat Vayishlach. In that parsha the Shimon and Levi, two of the sons of Yaakov (Jacob), go forth and lay waste to the city of Shechem for the kidnap and rape of their sister.

We can imagine that every liberal at the time was infuriated at this massacre, and so was Yaakov. Yaakov in his anger chastised his two sons for what they have done and explained to them that his entire family is now vulnerable to an attack by the other nations. And his two sons proudly responded “should he treat our sister like a harlot?” And there was no response. Yaakov had no retort.

The question remains why didn’t Yaakov excoriate them for murdering innocent civilians? Why didn’t Yaakov execute them on the spot for violating one of the Seven Laws of Noah which were listed before?

Yaakov’s grandfather, Avraham, was willing to sacrifice (kill) his own son, his only inheritor, so obviously Yaakov should have been willing to do the same and execute his sons.

The answer is illuminated by the ancient 13th century commentary by the Ramban, Nachmanides. Ramban explains that the actions of Shimon and Levi were correct. Shimon and Levi had every right (and duty) to wipe out all of the city of Shechem and kill all its males, because the civilians of the city refused to adhere to basic laws amd morality by prosecuting their leader for committing an act of kidnap and rape.

If follows that if the entire city of Shechem were liable for capital punishment for allowing their leader to kidnap and rape, than all the more so is every “innocent” Gazan, because they did not protest and allowed Hamas to lay waste to entire Jewish communities on Shemini Atzeret 5784.

Hamas didn’t just murder, they didn’t just rape, they also kidnapped, not just one but dozens and dozens of innocent Jewish men women and children. If the entire city of Shechem was liable for only one case of kidnap and rape, Gazans are liable for the hand of G-d to come down upon them.

I am no extremist. I am no crazed young man looking for blood: I am a Jew who believes in the Torah and G-d's commandments. I am a Jew who believes King Solomon (Shlomo HaMelech) when he said “there is a time for war and a time for peace.” For it cannot be a coincidence that we read these words of Shlomo HaMelech from Ecclesiastes (Kohelet) on Shemini Atzeret 5784 just as this war began. Please note that Shlomo HaMelech utters the word "war" before the word "peace." Now is the time for war. Now is the time for authentic justice.
Joe Ben Malin is a teenage American yeshiva student currently learning in Jerusalem. He has begun the IDF enlistment process.