Not a Suicide Pact
Imagine—it isn’t hard to do—an entire school that suffers from lack of discipline. Throughout all the classes, from the kids in the lowest to the young adults in the highest, each day is marked by disruptions, insults to the teachers, brawls, eggs and refuse thrown all about, you get the idea. The manager has tried everything (within the bounds of PC rules, of course—otherwise the school would never have gotten into such a state in the first place), but to no avail.
Suddenly, one day, the manager has an idea—a Compact Fluorescent Lamp flashes inside his head. The idea: to pick just one of the many classes, work on it to make it well-behaved, and set it as the example that the students in all the other classes should follow. That shouldn’t be hard, thinks the manager to himself, because working with one class alone brings things to a manageable number. He pats himself on the back for brilliance.
Along the way, there is a pedagogical conference, and that manager, in a friendly talk with one of his colleagues, tells her about the plan. The colleague becomes wide-eyed, and says: “My friend, I commend you for attempting to find out a way to bring order back to the school, but have you not thought this over?” The former asks what she means by that, and she replies: “The best case could be that your model class will simply be ignored by all the others. The more common case will be that the others will take advantage of your model students’ good behavior, which they will call softness, with the result that those students will be the punching-bags of the whole school”.
“You’re right”, he replies. “You’re just right. In my rush to think up a plan, and in my euphoria at having come up with one, I just didn’t think things over. Now that I come to think of it, my plan strikes me as woefully naïve”.
“Woefully naïve”. I think most people would agree. And yet, a lot of people, without even being aware of it, ascribe the same to God, concerning the Jewish people. Some people go further, cynically using it against the Jewish people.
Yes, the Torah is plain about the evil inclination of the human heart, from Adam and Eve, to Cain and Abel, to the Deluge Generation, to the Generation of the Tower of Babel, and so forth. Yes, the Torah says, plainly, that HaShem has chosen the Jewish people to be a nation apart. But touching the last point—for what purpose? If the purpose was that there be one nation setting a good example to follow, then God is in the same position as that school manager in my fictional story—naïve, a fool, perish those thoughts. Yet this is what so many people, even Jews, believe about Jewish chosenness.
There are instructions to good and moral behavior in the Torah—in fact, the Torah is the only legitimate source for such instructions, for all other sources are but the opinions of men like you and me. And if other nations see us when we are good to each other and decide to copy that behavior, then well and good, and may HaShem reward all the righteous of humanity. But that is not the purpose. Being an exemplar for good behavior is not the purpose. The purpose is stated, among other places, in Exodus 19:6:
And ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
There is no question that morality, that good behavior, are required for that purpose. God let the Second Temple be destroyed because, while we were fully observant of the sacrifices there, our behavior toward each other was abysmal. Later, 40,000 disciples of Rabbi Akiva, the greatest of the generation, died in a plague because they did not behave respectfully to each other (Yevamot 62 p. 2). But both the rational mitzvot (“Thou shalt not murder” and the like) and the auditory ones (separation between milk and meat and the like; called, “auditory” because, unlike the rational ones, we would not know God wants them performed if He hadn’t revealed so to us) are for the one and only purpose of holiness—to be a holy people fit for crowning God as King when He comes to descend to a dwelling in the lower parts (that is: this world, this physical world).
The error of those who do not know this is compound: not just in the very idea that the purpose of the Jewish nation is to make an example of good behavior for all other nations to follow, but also in the details of that example. Indeed, were people, especially Progressives, to take a closer look at God’s commands to the Jewish nation in the Torah, they would shun and abhor the idea that the nation of Israel should be an example for all other nations. Look at the following mitzvah, from the coming weekly parashah, in Deuteronomy 20:16–18:
 Howbeit of the cities of these peoples, that the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth,  but thou shalt utterly destroy them: the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee;  that they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods, and so ye sin against the LORD your God.
This is a command to do genocide—there is no point in whitewashing it, and the orthodox rabbinical commentaries interpret it so as well. (Note: I do not advocate genocide of the Muslims; per the Rambam, they are not idol-worshipers, so the mitzvah cannot apply to them; mass expulsion, however, is applicable.) If the Jewish nation is to serve as an example for all other nations by its deeds, then the world is in deep trouble. It is only when viewed from the true purpose of the Jewish nation, holiness, that this mitzvah makes sense: the Land of Israel must be made holy, and that is to be achieved through the one-time act of purging it of all idolatry. It is obvious to me that this explanation still won’t assuage the horror of the Progressives, those advocates of cultural pluralism (even if said pluralism is expressed in not so savory ways), but it should suffice for showing that the concept of, “Jews exhibit good behavior, nations imitate them, voilà! The world becomes a utopia” is a total misconception.
The particular mitzvah I chose also illustrates how selective a lot of people are in their view of Jewish morality. This distorted view is captured best by a quote by the true skeptic Eric Hoffer (HaShem bless his rest), from May 1968:
Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world. Other nations when they are defeated survive and recover but should Israel be defeated it would be destroyed. Had Nasser triumphed last June he would have wiped Israel off the map, and no one would have lifted a finger to save the Jews.
Given that the Christians themselves are required to turn the other cheek only as individuals, while Christian states have the mandate of going to war for defense, I would say Jews are not expected to be Christians; they are expected to be good Hindus and Buddhists, they are expected to be the only real observers of the practice of ahimsa.
I am not being fair to the Hindus or Buddhists with that remark: one has only to look at, for example, the writings of the Hindutva movement to see that the Hindus are having second thoughts about the Gandhian doctrine of, “ahimsa at any cost”. In their cause, they marshal particular Hindu scriptures that mention warriors, fighting kings, a heroic ethic and a mentality of uncompromising self-defense. They realize all too well that blind devotion to ahimsa, in the face of such a merciless and unscrupulous enemy as Islam, is suicide. And the Buddhists too are thinking, in the view of what is going on in Southern Thailand, that it might not be such a great sin to help Muslims reach the next station on the Wheel of Reincarnation. Even in the religion or philosophy where pacifism and non-violence are most entrenched, the Islamic threat puts the adherent before a clear, sharp and stark dilemma: resist or be subjugated. Reminiscent of a quote from Dune: “After all, one’s own profits come first. The Great Convention be damned! You can’t let someone pauperise you!” Welcome to the real world, a world of survivalist choices. Or, to use another quote from the same book: “Arrakis is real. The Harkonnens are real”.
So if Christians can lay off turning the other cheek in case of a threat, and even Hindus and Buddhists can overcome the hurdle of the doctrine of ahimsa when the situation demands it, then why are we Jews still stuck in the idea that we should walk as sheep to slaughter? We, whose religion is the religion of Joshua and of the Hashmoneans? We, whose Torah and its orthodox interpretations declare without reservation, “Rise up early to kill him who rises up to kill you”?
I know why. Rabbi Meir Kahane (HaShem avenge his blood) explained it so clearly in his article Regretting the Exile: 2,000 years of living stateless and defenseless in exile have imprinted onto us the exilic mentality of accepting pogroms as a matter of fact. You will not find laws pertaining to a Torah-based state, army and rules of warfare in the authoritative codex of Jewish law from the 17th century, the Shulchan Aruch; for that, you will have to go four centuries earlier, to the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah. That is because those laws have been irrelevant to Jews up to this age, therefore not subject to the halachic development (responsa etc.) that went into the writing of the Shulchan Aruch. The Rambam expanded on those laws out of the belief that they would come again into use one day. This, this Zionism, is a basic Jewish belief, but by the time Secular Zionism emerged in the late 19th century, most of the Jews had come to regard the return to Zion as a far-flung future, wrought totally by a divine, miraculous hand. Hence, by the 19th century, Judaism was pictured in the eyes of many as a culture, a repository of gastronomic peculiarities, a plethora of Yiddish jokes, and, not least, the misconception that the Jew’s purpose in the world was to be a guter mentsh, a good human being, in fact to be the best mentsh in the world, even if that entailed turning the other cheek and adhering to ahimsa.
But that isn’t what Judaism is about. People gloss it over, in accordance to the Politically Correct fashion of our day, but Judaism talks of a righteous God, of His wrath as well as mercy, and of His appointment of His people to be His priests, not just to be the nicest mentshen in the world. In order to fulfill their role as a nation of priests, the Jews have to—sounds so obvious to say that, but apparently it isn’t—survive. In the Diaspora, where we couldn’t do much to defend ourselves, we had to do it diplomatically; but now that we have our state and army, and furthermore when we see how our diplomatic efforts are progressing (with every Kassam rocket on Sderot an indication), we need to transition to a new, but very old, mode of survival.
No milquetoast is our God, nor has He given us the duty of being milquetoasts ourselves. The psalms of King David sing equally of moral behavior and merciless crushing of Israel’s enemies. Judaism is about being God’s nation of priests. It is not a suicide pact. And if you can’t do without the idea that the Jews play an exemplary role for the world by their behavior, then here’s a thought: maybe, just maybe, when we finally get our act together and repulse the Islamic invader through warfare as expounded by the Torah, then the rest of the world will find it good, follow our example and remove this threat everywhere. How about that as a vision for making the world a better place?