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How Can We Prove Jewish People Value Life and Peace?

Dear Jew in the City,

Too much of the world believes that Jews are bloodthirsty baby killers. What Jewish sources are there to show that we value life, peace, and righteousness?

Sincerely,
Shira

 

Dear Shira,
Thanks for your question. There’s only one such source, and it’s called the Torah. As Pirkei Avos says regarding the Torah, “Turn it over and turn it over because everything is in it” (5:22).

Where does it say we value life? One such place is Deuteronomy 30:19, which explicitly exhorts us, “choose life.” 

Where does it say we value peace? I refer you to the ultimate Divine blessing in Numbers 6:26: “May Hashem turn His (metaphorical) face towards you and give you peace.”

Where does it say we value righteousness? That’s easy; Deuteronomy 16:20 tells us, “Righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue.”

You didn’t ask, but we also value truth; Exodus 23:7 commands, “Distance yourself from a false matter.”

Of course, I could give you more on these. For example, the Jerusalem Talmud informs us that saving another person’s life is equivalent to saving an entire world (Sanhedrin 4:9). The very last Mishna in Shas says that no vessel is sufficient to contain God’s blessing other than peace (Uktzin 3:12). The Talmud in Baba Metzia (49a) interprets a verse about having “righteous” (i.e., accurate) measures to prohibit stating something that doesn’t reflect how we truly feel. The importance of life, peace and righteousness is all over the place.

Here’s where I get cynical. Knowing this might make you feel better, but you already know that we’re not baby killers. The people who are calling us baby killers don’t care what it says in the Torah or the Talmud any more than they care that Israel tells civilians to evacuate buildings being targeted, but Hamas tells those same civilians to ignore Israeli “propaganda” and stay put. They know; they don’t care.

If you try to approach antisemitic detractors with Biblical verses or Talmudic dicta about life, peace, etc., they are likely to reply with verses about Jews being obligated to destroy Amalek and the seven Canaanite nations. Of course, they are either unaware or they willfully ignore the details of Jewish warfare, including such rules as extending an offer of peace before a siege, leaving an escape route, and not attacking noncombatants. (And yes, the offer of peace even applies to Amalek; see Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim u’Milchamos chapter 6.) You could tell them, but again, they won’t care.

But that makes no difference. We value life, so Israel will continue fighting wars in a manner intended to minimize civilian casualties. We value peace, so Israel will continue to try to free Gaza from the grasp of Hamas terrorists. We value righteousness, so Israel will continue to do the right thing no matter how haters will spin things. Finally, as I mentioned, we value truth, so we will continue to tell it like it is, even though we know that many just don’t care. These are the values in which we believe, so we simply can’t do otherwise.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Educational Correspondent
Follow Ask Rabbi Jack on YouTube

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