Why Didn’t God Give the Torah to Everyone? And What’s Wrong with Religious Coercion?

Each of these two questions relates to the other, according to Francis Nataf. In one talmudic passage, God threatens to drop Mount Sinai on the heads of the Israelites if they do not accept the Torah; in a second passage, God chooses the Jews to receive the Torah because of their stubbornness. Over the centuries, rabbis have tried to synthesize the two:

[The 18th-century rabbi] Yaakov Yehoshua Falk . . . explains that the stubborn (or, better, “determined” or “brazen”) nature of the Jews is actually the reason that it made sense to force them [to accept the Torah]. . . . [I]t was only due to the characteristic determination of the Jews that they would subsequently . . . delve into the Torah they had received by force, and eventually accept it voluntarily (as the talmudic sages say happened subsequently). . . . According to Falk, if coercion can eventually lead to voluntary observance, it would be not only legitimate but absolutely necessary. . . .

But why, then, does God not force the Torah on everyone? Nataf continues:

Perhaps . . . the Jews are made the agent of bringing about an engagement of mankind with God’s will, an engagement that can eventually lead to voluntary acceptance. . . . [T]he coercion of the Jews can get the ball rolling for non-Jews as well; once the Jews are involved with Torah and accept it, the Torah—with its highly unusual people—piques the curiosity of all those who come into contact with it. . . . And the march of Western history has shown that, like it or not, the Gentiles have responded to the call of the “God of the Jews.”

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More about: Religion & Holidays, Shavuot, Sinai, Talmud, Universalism

No, Israel Hasn’t Used Disproportionate Force against Hamas

Aug. 15 2018

Last week, Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza launched nearly 200 rockets and mortars into Israel, in addition to the ongoing makeshift incendiary devices and sporadic sniper fire. Israel responded with an intensive round of airstrikes, which stopped the rockets. Typically, condemnations of the Jewish state’s use of “disproportionate force” followed; and typically, as Peter Lerner, a former IDF spokesman, explains, these were wholly inaccurate:

The IDF conducted, by its own admission, approximately 180 precision strikes. In the aftermath of those strikes the Hamas Ministry of Health announced that three people had been killed. One of the dead was [identified] as a Hamas terrorist. The two others were reported as civilians: Inas Abu Khmash, a twenty-three-year-old pregnant woman, and her eighteen-month daughter, Bayan. While their deaths are tragic, they are not an indication of a disproportionate response to Hamas’s bombardment of Israel’s southern communities. With . . . 28 Israelis who required medical assistance [and] 30 Iron Dome interceptions, I would argue the heart-rending Palestinian deaths indicate the exact opposite.

The precision strikes on Hamas’s assets with so few deaths show how deep and thorough is the planning process the IDF has put in place. . . . Proportionality in warfare, [however], is not a numbers game, as so many of the journalists I’ve worked with maintain. . . . Proportionality weighs the necessity of a military action against the anguish that the action might cause to civilians in the vicinity. . . . In the case of the last few days, it appears that even intended combatant deaths were [deemed] undesirable, due to their potential to increase the chances of war. . . .

The question that should be repeated is why indiscriminate rocket fire against Israeli civilians from behind Gazan civilians is accepted, underreported, and not condemned.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict