The Maccabees and Fighting Wars on Shabbat

Dec. 29 2016

Nowadays, religiously observant Israeli soldiers fight on the Sabbath when necessary. However, writes Shlomo Brody, Jewish law was not always so clear in this regard:

The book of Maccabees records that in 167 BCE, the Seleucids initially succeeded in defeating Jewish pietists by attacking them on Shabbat and slaughtering them, because of their lack of resistance. . . . [S]imilar incidents had occurred in the 4th century BCE with the conquest of Jerusalem by Ptolemy Lagos and would occur later with Pompey’s conquest of the Temple Mount in 63 BCE.

Scholars have long debated the motivation behind [the] lack of resistance. [According to some interpretations], this attitude reflects the practices of the Sadducees and other similar sects who refused to violate Shabbat even in the case of warfare. Indeed, explicit testimony to this effect is found in the [apocryphal] book of Jubilees and in a few texts attributed to the Dead Sea sects.

According to 1 Maccabees, this outlook was rejected by the Hasmoneans. Mattathias, [the leader of the revolt], declared, “If any man comes against us on the Sabbath day, we shall fight against him and not all die as our brothers did in their hiding places.” This sentiment was not accepted by many Jewish sects, but was certainly endorsed by rabbinic and Pharisaic texts. . . .

Other texts further assert that the rabbis, led by the famous sage Shammai, declared that Jews can even initiate warfare on Shabbat for the sake of protecting or conquering the land of Israel. . . .

This attitude should not be taken for granted. As we see from antiquity, a fundamentalist outlook might assert that Shabbat should be kept at all costs. The Hasmoneans and ancient rabbis taught us, however, that sometimes the Sabbath must be desecrated, alas, so that the Jewish people can observe many more Sabbaths in the future. We should live for Shabbat, but not die for it.

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More about: Halakhah, Judaism, Maccabees, Pharisees, Religion & Holidays, Shabbat, War

While Pursuing a Thaw with Israel, Saudi Arabia Foments Anti-Semitism at Home

July 18 2018

For the better part of this century, Jerusalem and Riyadh have cooperated clandestinely to contain Iran’s growing power. The kingdom has also increasingly aimed its diplomatic and propaganda efforts against Qatar, whose funding of Islamist groups—including Hamas—has damaged both Saudi Arabia and Israel. But, writes Edy Cohen, there’s a dark side to Riyadh’s efforts against the enemies of the Jewish state:

The [Saudi cyberwarfare agency’s] Twitter account tweets daily, mostly against Qatar and Iran. It uses anti-Semitic terminology, referring to Qatar as “Qatariel,” a portmanteau of Qatar and Israel, and claiming the [Qatar-sponsored] Al Jazeera network “belongs to the Israeli Mossad.”

“‘The deal of the century’ is a Qatari scheme to sell Palestine to the Zionist entity,’” one tweet reads, while another alleges that the “Zionist” Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the father of [Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, is scheming to divide the Arab states to fulfill the dreams of the “Zionist entity” and Iran. Yet another tweet alleges that Qatar is “trying to destroy the Arab world to serve the enemies of the Muslim world: Israel and Iran.” These statements penetrate deep into the Arab consciousness and increase existing hatred toward Jews and Israel.

The Saudis, then, are playing a double game. Behind the scenes, they send the Israelis the message that Iran is a common enemy and goad them to fight Iran and Hizballah. At home, however, they say the enemy is first and foremost the state of Israel, followed by Iran. Their formula is clear: covert ties with Israel coupled with overt hostility to the Jewish state to satisfy the people, a majority of whom hate Israel.

The Saudi double game is reminiscent of the Egyptian model under President Gamal Abdel Nasser in that dozens of anti-Semitic articles are published daily, while the Israeli populace is not exposed to the phenomenon and the politicians close their ears. Following the signing of the 1994 Oslo Accords, the Palestinians asked Israel for permission to incite “moderately” against the Jewish state for “domestic needs.” This incitement turned deadly and was used as live ammunition for the boycott, sanctions, and divestment movement (BDS). We must not give in and accept the incitement against us, and that is also true when Saudi Arabia is concerned. Incitement translates into action, and that action comes at a price.

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More about: Iran, Israel & Zionism, Qatar, Saudi Arabia