click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Naso
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

The Good War
Mom with a View

The Good War

If you're going to take a stand, you must be prepared to put your money where your mouth is.


Disengagement is in the news. War is in the news. Perhaps war is always in the news, just not as prominently. Depends who's dying. Wherever there is war, there are anti-war demonstrations. And oh-so clever slogans. Like "war is always a mistake." Always? Oh, to have such certainty. (And such a way with words!) Frequently I find the slogans puzzling, often I find them trite. Is there anyone that's really pro-war (other than a few subscribers to Mercenary magazine)? Few rational people think of war as an ideal state. Few rational people want involvement with bloody violence and glory death.

But sometimes it's necessary. The Torah is full of war -- to rescue Lot from the kings who have captured him, to fight off the attacking Amalekites, to conquer and govern the land of Israel -- each with a different though justifiable motive, all with the Almighty's permission, some in response to His commands.

Sometimes war is the only way to fight evil. We may debate the definition of evil but there are instances throughout history where war is the only way to stop it. Nothing else would have brought down Hitler's Germany. To have refused to fight against the Third Reich, to be neutral or pacifist when such a monster rages across the world, is not a noble choice. It is immoral. And damaging.

As the medrash reminds us, "Those who are kind to the cruel will end up being cruel to the kind." If you don't take a stand against evil, you risk blurring all moral distinctions.

But if you're going to take a stand, if you believe in a case, you must, as the saying goes, be willing to put your money where your mouth is.

We recently had a guest from Israel join us for a Shabbos meal. He was arguing vehemently against the disengagement plan. (I'm taking no public stand on the issue and the kids are sworn to secrecy on our private one!) "Okay, we understand your point of view. Now tell me. You have teenage sons. Are you prepared to send them to fight to retain Gaza?"

"Good question," he said. "I never thought about that."

How could you believe in such a cause, defend it tooth and nail, and never consider whether you would risk your own child's life for it?

Thinking about this issue has definitely made me more cautious (perhaps cowardly) in expressing an opinion. If the war in Iraq is a just war, if I "support" it, then I must be prepared to risk my son's life as well. It's a sobering thought. And helps make you honest. I've listened to many people (ad nauseum) argue the virtues of the war versus Iraq -- all of whom would send their sons to Canada or rabbinic school (perhaps an unlooked-for side benefit!) were they to be drafted. This seems to me to be an equally immoral position. It's only okay for other people's children to die?

There are definitely times we have to fight. Most of Joshua's tenure as leader of the Jewish people involved conquering the land of Israel, constantly battling its inhabitants. The Talmud says that King David was not allowed to build the Temple because his hands were too bloody. The wars were justified, but they were not without cost. And he is one of our most revered and soulful of leaders, a shepherd and a singer of Psalms.

Until Mashiach comes, trying to eradicate war is like trying to change basic human nature. We can continue to pray for peace as we simultaneously prepare for war. And we should also pray for courage if our convictions, God forbid, should be put to the test.

July 23, 2005

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 8

(8) Dave Mittman, July 29, 2005 12:00 AM

The Good War-continued

I have served my country during the 70s. Never thought of going to Canada but went very reluctantly. What I got from that service was so positive it can not be measured. From "making you a man" to an enterance to a profession, the Air Force gave it to me. As an Jew in America, this is still my country. I would defend it in a second. If my child wanted to go to Iraq I would not want them to; but if it was something they wanted to do, I would be very proud of them. Because kids do not serve, they rob themselves of the real experience of being an American. Just as the Army is the equaling factor of life in Isreal, the real melting pot where you learn to trust each other, so it is in America.

(7) Yaara, July 26, 2005 12:00 AM

Beautiful America, The Good War and the Disengagement....

Especially in these difficult times it is again essential that people bring up enough EMUNA and courage to make difficult decisions and openly stand for what they believe. Like most of us, I too hate wars of ANY kind, the more when it concerns the kids of my friends and neighbors (we don't have children). But, with all respect due, it seems to me that you rather comfortably sit on the fence than take up sides, as nothing presses you to really do so right now. I have visited the U.S., I know what a beautiful and free country it is and I understand your feelings of happiness for being able to live there perfectly well. But then, precisely because America is such a democratic country I can't understand why you should hide your opinons and have your children "sworn" on secrecy.... Nobody is going to lock you or your children away for openly expessing what you think, right?! Unless, as I said before, you rather sit on the fence, hoping to only end in Israel on a far away day.... In Israel can't afford to take our time sitting on the fence.

(6) Will Winter, July 26, 2005 12:00 AM


This was a very well thought out and presented paper on the complexity of the topic of war vs. peace. Beautiful job.

(5) Sara, July 25, 2005 12:00 AM

Unbiased Opinion

I think that the difference in answers to the questions: "Should we fight a war against Iraq" and "Would you send your son to fight in Iraq" is not because of an immoral stance of the answerer. It is simply because the first question allows the replier to give an unbiased answer, whereas the second question is so personal that it is difficult to answer it in an unbiased fashion. (Same for the disengagement,...) BTW, this is the reason while every political decision in Israel is met with vehement feeling on all sides of the political rainbow. In Israel, inevitably, all political questions are life and death issues. (There are those who say that disengagement will save lives and those that say that it will cause the deaths of many.) In such a situation it is difficult to take an "unbiased" stance.

(4) sparrow, July 25, 2005 12:00 AM

prayer and support for Israel

"We can continue to pray for peace as we simultaneously prepare for war."
Does this seem like a contradiction? It does but it is not. In wisdom, we hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
God bless the nation of Israel. I will continue to pray for the Jewish people as long as I have breath.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment