Ben-Tzion Spitz
Former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay

Vayechi: Unjustified means

Usually, terrible things that are done with the excuse that progress requires them are not really progress at all, but just terrible things.
-Russell Baker

Jacob, the Patriarch of the nascent nation of Israel lies on his deathbed. He convenes his twelve sons, the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. He addresses them as a unit and individually. His language is flowery, poetic, prophetic.

He chastises his first three sons, Reuven, Shimon and Levi. The remaining sons receive positive pronouncements and predictions.

Rabbi Hirsch on Genesis 49:7 analyzes Jacob’s reprimand of Shimon and Levi. Jacob is upset with these two sons for their deception and brutality when they massacred the residents of Shechem. It went against the norms of justice and morality. Rabbi Hirsch attacks the popular belief that all is fair in statecraft. He claims that the concept that the end justifies the means runs counter to the principles of Judaism. What is reprehensible if done by one individual to another for their own personal consideration is equally reprehensible if done in the name of the state. Morality applies in politics and diplomacy. It is not only the purview of private affairs.

Rabbi Hirsch takes this interpretation a step further:

The last will and testament upon which the Jewish people was founded pronounces a curse upon all acts of deception and brutality, even if they are committed for the most legitimate interests of the nation, and it sets down for all time the doctrine that even in public life and in the promotion of the common good not only the ends but also the means used to attain these ends must be clean.”

“However, it is only the anger and outrage of Shimon and Levi that are cursed. The curse is directed neither against Shimon and Levi personally, nor against their aims as such.

Government reactions of anger, outrage and deception, while understandable or even politically justified, are often ineffective or counterproductive as matters of public policy. Once we’ve identified the correct aims, we need to reach them through correct and straightforward means.

May we have a leadership that will take the correct path, see that justice is done to those that promote and insight terror, and is not swayed by the political winds of expediency.

Shabbat Shalom,



In memory of Erez Orbach of Alon Shvut. God will avenge his blood.

About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay. He is the author of six books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. He is the publisher of Torah.Works, a website dedicated to the exploration of classic Jewish texts, as well as TweetYomi, which publishes daily Torah tweets on Parsha, Mishna, Daf, Rambam, Halacha, Tanya and Emuna. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.
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