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Texts About War and Peace

1. On the moral ambiguity of violence:

Hebrew text 1

When the Destroyer (mashchit) is given permission to cause havoc, it does not distinguish between the guilty and the innocent.
(Mechilta, Bo) (Brought to my attention by Rabbi Moshe Adler).


2. Rabbi Aaron Samuel Tamaret, who lived in Russia at the time of World War I, wrote that in the last plague, God does not give the Israelites swords to attack the Egyptians. Rather, God so wants to separate the liberation from violence that the Israelites are told to stay indoors, while Divine destruction is brought on the Egyptians. (A fuller version of this comment is included in the CCAR Baskin Haggadah, p. 44)


3.
Hebrew text 3

Rabbi Joshua ben Korha taught, "where there is strict justice, there is no peace, and where there is peace there is no strict justice." Thus a judge is instructed to "act as an arbiter", to rule for compromise, justice tempered with peace.
(JT Sanh. 1:5; BT Sanh. 5b)


4.
Hebrew text 4

In every place with justice, there is peace, and in every place with peace there is justice. (Derech Eretz Zuta, Perek Hashalom).

5. Shalom does not come from a conflict. (Shemot Rabbah 30:12)

6. One must pursue and seek [peace]...and all this is all the more true in the case of wars between peoples and kingdoms, for the greater and more numerous they are, so are the attendant evils and afflictions multiplied...Even as one sets out to drive peoples away from oneself by war, one is obligated to seek peace and pursue it.
(Arama, Akedat Yitzhak, 105a)

7. Hashkiveinu (Shabbat eve)

For our ancestors, the future of Jerusalem was not just about the future of the Jewish people. Jerusalem, in the biblical vision, will become the capital of the whole world. Praying for the peace of Jerusalem is the same as praying for the unity of all humanity and peace throughout the world.
(Rabbi David A. Teutsch, Kol Haneshamah: Shabbat Vehagim, p. 82)

8. The Creation of Peace

The Bible tells us that on the seventh day God finished God's work. Our Teachers concluded from this that there was an act of creation on the seventh day.

What was created on the seventh day? Tranquility, serenity, peace and repose. Rest (menucha) is the same as happiness and stillness, as peace and harmony...It is the state in which there is no strife and no fighting, no fear and no distrust. The essence of good life is menucha...

Six evenings a week we pray: "Guard our going out and our coming in"; on the Sabbath eve, however, we pray: "Spread over us the shelter of Your peace."
(Abraham Joshua Heschel)

Type: Text Compilation

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