the controversial book Torat Hamelech
“One law and one ordinance shall be both for you, and for the stranger who sojourneth with you” (Numbers 15:16)
“Therefore, humans were created singly, to teach you that whoever destroys a single soul, Scripture accounts it as if he had destroyed a whole world; and whoever saves one soul, Scripture accounts it as if he/she had saved a whole world.” (Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5)
Rabbi Nava Hefetz has written a theological and political article about the roots of the ideas in the book “Torat Hamelech” and the crime that the rioters committed in the military base of the Efraim brigade.
A few days ago there was in the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus a discussion over the controversial book “Torat Hamelech” (the torah of the king). This conference was initiated by Beit Hillel and the Department of Jewish Thought and irritated both, the opponents and the supporters of the book. The participants of the discussion were: Prof. Abraham Roznak, Prof. Rachel Elior, PhD. Eli Hadad, PhD Mustafa Abu Suweid from Al Quds
The book “Torat Hamelech” which deals with the laws of war and with the attitude to the “other”, the non Jew, and permits murder of innocent people, including children and babies, who, as the writers of the book claim, have the potential to become terrorists. The concept on which this book is based is the concept that the Jews are the chosen people, meaning that people are divided into good and bad, a division of black and white. The Jews are better because, according to the conceptual world of the writers, Jewish existence is closer to God’s image than that of the other peoples, therefore, fighting Jews means fighting God’s image.
From the Crusades to the Scroll of Independence
The book is based on Rambam’s laws of kings. Prof. Rachel Elior maintains that these laws have to be tested in the framework of Rambam’s time – the time of the Crusades, forced conversion from Judaism and expulsions of Jews by non Jews – and it does not take into account the historical changes that occurred since these laws were written. The “laws of kings” is a halachic discussion that some people want to put into practice, and actually its conclusions are not realistic. This conception that the book brings is that the saying: ”Beloved is man who was created in the divine image. ” means that Jews are more beloved than non Jews. Prof. Rachel Elior sees in this book the rotten fruit of the occupation and brings a different Jewish conception based on knowledge, truth and peace.
PhD Eli Hadad claims that this book is very problematic from the halachic point of view. It does not refer to the establishment of the State of Israel and to the fact that the greatest adjudicators of recent times never held by the concept that is brought in this book. In order to invalidate the conceptions of the book, he brings examples from four rabbis: Rabbi Herzog, Rabbi Amital, Rabbi Hameiri and Rabbi Unterman. Rabbi Herzog thought the establishment of the State of Israel was made possible because of the support of the international community according to which there would be complete equality between all its residents; Rabbi Amital thought that the publication of the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel constitutes a halachic commitment, like every international treaty the State of Israel has signed. Rabbi Hameiri ruled that all the halachot that discriminate between Jews and non Jews, are not valid in his time (the 13th century), and Rabbi Unterman developed the principle of “for the sake of peace” – not only at the level of practice but also at the level of principle. It is derived from the believe that the Torah: “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”. All these principles are not included in the book “Torat Hamelech”. He thinks that this book expresses the halacha of Karaite Judaism. PhD Mustafa Abu Sweid presented the primary Islamic ethic that commands the believers not to kill children, women and old people and not to damage trees.
Created in the image of God
When there is a devaluing of human life as created in the image of God, when a group of people believe that they are the chosen, exalted, better people than the others, when one groups thinks that it has all the truth, we should not be surprised that today we are discussing the abomination called “Torat Hamelech”, that deals with justification of the killing of non Jews, and tomorrow we might find ourselves discussing a book that permits the killing of Jews who do not believe the same concept. We are in the midst of a battle over the nature of the State of Israel, the Israeli society and the image of Judaism.
On November 12th this incitement took another step for the worst when a group of people broke into a military base and damaged the equipment of those who defend them. Years of the authorities’ turning a blind eye, of impotence in dealing with this group and of insisting on treating them as irregular, wild thorns, have led to the flourishing in our country of wide fields which were well fertilized with hatred, racism and exclusion. When we gave validity to violence towards non Jews, we did as the “abomination of Egypt”, the same Egypt that discriminated and abused us thousands of years ago.
In his speech against racism Rabbi Heschel said:
“It is not the society that granted every man his rights
The equality of all human beings does not derive from their innocence or their virtues.
The equality among men derives from the love of God and His responsibility for all the people.
The image of God is either in every man or in no man.”