Jeffrey Levine
CFO | Seeking a just world I Author

Brother shall not lift sword against brother

Brother shall not lift sword against brother.

In this blog, I reflect on the darkness and trauma in the world, particularly in light of the continued recent deaths of more beautiful young men. I share a personal experience of trying to find normalcy, only to be devastated by the news of tragic deaths. I contemplate the conflicts and civil wars happening in the world, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and question the hidden reasons behind the war. I also reflect on the weekly Torah portion, the lack of understanding, the irrationality of wars and life, and the concept of death.

Seeking Normalcy Amidst War

I wonder if I am living in the same world as everyone else. There is so much darkness, yet I try to live a normal life. My situation is good compared to parents of soldiers, families of hostages, the displaced in both the north and the south and the wounded.

Let me start with a story about my attempt to find normalcy. I am a cricket fan, and sports are a great distraction from the world’s troubles. My team, South Africa, my country of birth, had made it to the final of the T20 cricket World Cup. They were playing India, and everyone gave them no chance. After Shabbat, I checked the score, and they only needed 30 runs in 30 balls, which made it seem like there was no chance they would not lose. But they did lose. They blew it. I was devastated.

A few minutes later, the news trickled in on my phone that two soldiers had been killed over Shabbat. One was from Ra’anana, my old hometown, and the other was from an Olim family. Suddenly, the importance of sports seemed superficial. We were affected by the loss of pure life.

We had planned a trip to Tel Aviv, but it did not materialise. Instead, I watched the funeral online. I was struck by the beautiful soul of a young man, Yakir Teitelbaum, eulogised so powerfully by his mother, father, sisters, friends, and teachers/rabbis. It was very touching.

Fast forward to the Friday in a terrible week when 14 beautiful young soldiers gave their lives for a better Israel and a better world. I decided to pay a Shiva visit to the Teitelbaum family in Ma’ale Adumim.

Division within is the greatest threat.

On my drive, I listened to a podcast by Rabbi Pinny Dunner about the American Civil War, which occurred only 160 years ago.

He said, “The American Civil War is often called the ‘War of Brothers.’ This evocative phrase captures what was undoubtedly the most devastating aspect of this horrific conflict: that the war pitted family members and close friends against each other. It was truly a ‘Milchemet Achim’ – the Hebrew phrase for civil war. The emotional and psychological toll was immense, leaving scars that would last for generations. The Civil War’s legacy of bitterness and animosity lingered long after the last shot was fired, evidence of the profound damage caused by internecine strife. Unlike other conflicts that are fought against foreign adversaries, this war was fought within the national family, making the violence and suffering all the more personal and tragic. The American Civil War may have been triggered by disagreements on states’ rights and slavery, but it was the tearing apart of a nation not yet a century old that left the deepest scars. The memory of the blood-soaked fields of Gettysburg and Antietam acts as grim reminders of what happens when a society turns against itself. But beyond the battlefield, it underscores a critical point: countries and societies are much more vulnerable to collapse because of internal strife than they are from external enemies.”

The theme of internal division resonates profoundly in the Torah portion of Korach and the current disputes in Israel. Rabbi Dunner explores the devastating impact of internal divisions, drawing parallels between the American Civil War and the biblical story of Korach’s rebellion. Highlighting the term “War of Brothers,” he reflects on how the Civil War pitted family members against each other, leaving deep emotional scars. “

Rabbi Dunner emphasises the importance of unity, warning that internal discord poses a more significant threat than external enemies.

We must be careful to avoid civil war. Sitting at the Shiva, I had a few moments, and an article popped up on my WhatsApp.


“Medinat Israel- The National State of Israel is an extraordinary place. The return of B’nai Israel-The Children of Israel, to their ancestral homeland is an extraordinary historical event that is unfolding before our eyes. The process of the modern rebuilding of Israel has been and continues to be full of exceptional challenges and accomplishments. The past few years have been very conflicted politically and societally. We must acknowledge that the Children of Israel are currently strongly divided and conflicted about the foundational structure of Medinat Israel State of Israel. It is now 112 years since he wrote these words.

The nation of Israel is divided into differing political and religious camps that share a deep care for the well-being of Israel while they are in a pitched battle over the core legal and legislative structure of their State.

  1. The Orthodox party, which carries the banner of the holy; it pitches stridently, jealously, and bitterly for Torah and commandments, faith, and all that is holy in Israel.
  2. The new Nationalist party, which campaigns for all the aspirations of the nationalist tendency…which desires to renew its national life completely…
  3. The Liberal party, which carries the banner of Enlightenment…It does not fit into the narrow nationalist scheme and seeks the universal human content of the Enlightenment, culture, ethics, and so forth…

We would be very unfortunate if we allowed these three forces to remain scattered, mutually antagonistic, and schismatic. They must necessarily unite to aid and perfect each other. Each will thus check the extremism of the other. The Holy, the Nation, and Humanity – these are the three significant demands of which all life, our own and everyone’s, is composed…

The necessary blending of these three great demands must arise in every group that aspires to a healthy future life. We are called to come to the rescue when we observe our lives and see that these forces are increasingly divided despite their potential for synthesis. The foundations of the schism consist of the negative aspects that each force views in its counterpart…”

How little or how much has changed over the last 100 years? Let’s ponder how the divisions in Israel still need rectification.

The message is obvious: We must respect our differences and find the common good and goals for Israel to succeed.

These societal divisions portray our weakness and lead to another war.

 The Futility of Life

I’m sitting here at 1:30 on Shabbat morning, reflecting. As is my usual practice, I picked up a book from Rabbi Sacks and looked at next week’s reading, Chukkat, which discusses the Red Heifer. It’s a law without explanation called a Chok. The story of the Red Heifer is connected to death, and it seems that death, whether of a soldier or anyone else, does not make sense in life.

Rabbi Sacks quotes Tolstoy: “The fate of man is the fate of cattle. The same fate awaits them both. The death of one is like the death of the other. Their spirits are the same. Man is a shadow, a breath. All emerge from the dust and go back to dust.” It’s a very disappointing outcome.

I recall some thoughts I had sitting at the Shiva, feeling awkward and sad for this humble family dealing with death. I thought about their beautiful son and the other soldiers giving their lives and bodies. They are an inspiration whose impact lives on. These young soldiers did not die in vain. They fought for a genuine cause against evil, a battle on the battlefield, in the UN, and in the media.

The lingering thought is the irrationality of death and war, the media and the hatred of the Jews and the obsession over Israel.

I want to reflect on the obsession with Jerusalem and Temple Mount. Here, let’s touch on some of the origins of the Palestinians, which may explain this.

Brother shall not lift sword against brother.

How true that is as we fight another civil war today. Is our war with the Palestinians a civil war? What are we fighting our “brothers” over? Why couldn’t this be resolved more peacefully? We must reflect on the deaths around us and ask if it is worth the price and loss of life?


 Among those who have researched the topic is Tsvi Misinai, an Israeli businessman who writes and speaks extensively about the connection between the Palestinians and the Jews. He claims that nearly 90 per cent of all Palestinians are descended from Jews who remained in Israel after the destruction of the Second Temple 2,000 years ago but were forced to convert to Islam.

This book is a treasure and should be more widely read. It explains how to resolve this eternal conflict. Reading the facts, numbers, and stories is fascinating, and it holds the key to finding peace. When one reflects on this, one can start to understand why the Palestinians feel so strongly about this land. Essentially, it is the hidden Jewish origins that drive their obsession.

These ideas are worth exploring more and are nicely presented in this blog.

Summing up my thoughts: Just like the American Civil War, the world wars, and the survivors of the Holocaust found the courage to build a better future, we need to find the strength to embrace the trauma of October 7th. We may need to take a step back and recognize our shared history and roots. Both sides must see that we have more in common and focus on what should unite us rather than divide us. This hate and war may be tempered by that knowledge. I believe this is the spirit that the Abraham Accords have tried to bring out—a shared heritage to bring peace and prosperity to the world. So, I’m not using the idea that this is an Israel-Palestinian civil war lightly. It is time to reflect on the complexity and futility of life and the constant struggle between normalcy and conflict.


Cover photo taken myself. Images sourced on social media,

About the Author
Jeffrey is a CFO | Seeking a just world I Author -living in Jerusalem. He is a young grandfather who has five kids and seven grandchildren. Jeffrey is promoting a vision for a better and fairer world through and is the author of Upgrading ESG - How Business can thrive in the age of Sustainability
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