Sharona Margolin Halickman

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

In Parshat Shoftim, Devarim 20:1-4 we read: “When you go to war against your enemy, and you see horse and chariot, people who outnumber you; do not be afraid of them, for God is with you, He who brought you up from the land of Egypt. Now, as you near the battle the Kohen shall approach and speak to the people. He will say to them, “Shma (Hear) Yisrael! You are setting out today to battle against your enemies. Do not be faint hearted; or intimidated and do not panic, do not be crushed before them; Because HaShem your God marches with you to do battle for you with your enemies to save you.”

The first Mishna in Sotah, Chapter 8 explains that the Kohen must address the nation in Hebrew.

Devarim 20:3 specifically states “You are setting out today to battle against your enemies” to differentiate between a war against other nations and a war against your brothers (civil war). When you fight against your enemies they will have no mercy on you so you need not show mercy for them. When you are fighting against your brothers, they will be compassionate even when they are your opponents.

When you are fighting against your mortal enemies, if you fall into their hands, they will show you no mercy.

The soldiers must be fully focused on fighting the war.

The warriors are commanded to not be afraid, but rather to trust in God.

Ramban (Devarim 20:4) states that Israel must put their faith in God, not in the strength and skill of their arms.

We see this clearly in the story of David and Goliath. Goliath was fully armed and David wasn’t yet David was able to kill Goliath with just a sling shot.

We learn from this Mishna that it is extremely important to speak in Hebrew. Even soldiers who recently made aliya pick the Hebrew language up quickly when they join the army since they are forced to as that is the language which is spoken.

We have to remember that we can’t have mercy on those who do not value our lives or their own lives. If they are sending rockets into our cities then there will be consequences. If they are in a rush to kidnap and kill our soldiers then we have to take the necessary precautions to protect ourselves.

The Israeli soldiers that went into Gaza were fully focused on destroying the tunnels and defeating our enemies.

Israelis who would not necessarily consider themselves religious including newscasters repeated over and over throughout the war that the entire nation needs to pray for peace.

We see from here that we are still encountering the same issues during wartime that we encountered during the time of the Torah, Mishna and Talmud.

The message is still the same and is included at the end of the prayer for the welfare of the members of the Israel Defense Force- “Ki HaShem Elokechem haholech imchem lehilachem lachem im oyveychem lehoshiya etchem”, “Because HaShem your God marches with you to do battle for you with your enemies to save you.”


About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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