The Wisdom of Hillel

Sirens wailing. Children running. Babies screaming. Pregnant women in trauma going into early labor. Homes destroyed. Playgrounds destroyed. Lives upset. Hope fading.  Life in the south of Israel today.

Within the last 24 hours, Hamas has sent 200 projectiles into communities in proximity of the Gaza Strip. The IDF responds and strikes 19 targets. What targets? Were they cafes where Hamas followers gather to sip their Turkish coffee? Were they the homes of the Hamas leadership? Were they roads and highways in and out of Gaza’s cities?

Sderot suffers. Gaza remains in tact.  Hamas mulls over an Egyptian proposed five year cease-fire but while mulling they continue their killing.

Thousands of dunams of fields and forest lands have been burnt to the ground by the incendiary fires of kites which fly over the border causing millions of shekels in damage to Israel but thankfully not to Jewish lives.

One of our greatest scholars, a man who devoted his life to compiling parts of the Mishna and Talmud, was born in 110 BCE and died in the year 10 of the common era.

Hillel HaZaken (the elder) was renowned for his immense knowledge and wisdom. Most Jews remember the story of the little boy who came to the scholar Shammai with a request to learn the entire Torah while standing on one foot.  Shammai, in anger and without patience, drove the boy away.

He proceeded in quest of Torah knowledge and came to Hillel with the same request. “Teach me your Torah while I stand on one foot”.  Hillel, understanding that the boy had come to mock him, replied: “Love thy neighbor as thyself. That is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary. Now go home and learn”.

Hillel is further remembered by another of his famous axioms. “V’im lo achshav, ai matai?”  And if not now, when?”

That axiom could and should be applied to our war with Hamas in Gaza. And we must stop dreaming.  It is not simply a conflict.  It is an all-out but not yet declared war !

The IDF strikes against 19 targets will not end that war nor will it reduce the retribution. Simply put, the Gaza Strip must be destroyed… lands, homes, buildings, bridges, roads, tunnels… everything that stands.

When the bombs are falling, Gazans will flee from their places to seek shelter and safety wherever they can.

The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki put an end to years of terrible suffering.  Let us put an end to the suffering caused by our neighbors on the southern border.

“V’im lo achshav, ai matai?” And if not now, when?

The world will denounce us if we strike one home in Gaza.  What will they say if we strike one hundred homes?

Israel has never wanted war. All of our past wars were forced upon us by enemies seeking our destruction. But with our faith in Almighty God and our trust in our courageous military forces, we have always been victorious. The cost in lives, the wounded and disabled, will pain us deeply forever.

I am not a military savant. I do not understand the ways of warfare. But common sense tells me that the enemy can be destroyed by using more stronger weapons that will bring about that end.

I cannot weep for the slain and fallen in Gaza. The election of Hamas rule was their free choice. And for that, they must bear responsibility for the tragedies which will fall upon them.

It must be our “Mother of all wars”, causing our enemies to fall, never to rise again.

Children in Sderot and settlements in the south can once again play freely and will never have to experience further trauma of running into shelters.  We owe them that security !  We owe it to our people !

And as the very wise Hillel might have said to our defense and military leaders and advisers:

“V’im lo achshav, aimatai?”  And if not now, when?

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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