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PJ Media
PJ Media
2 Dec 2023
Rabbi Michael Barclay

NextImg:A Biblical Teaching for the War in Israel

It has been taught in Judaism that we can look at any of the world’s events through the lens of the weekly Torah reading in order to find guidance. This week is one of the greatest examples of this teaching I have experienced in my life and is incredibly important as the war in Israel is again getting hotter this week.

This week’s reading is from the Book of Genesis 32:4-34:43. Although much of it deals with dreams and angels, there is a story that eerily parallels what is happening in Israel and what was done there in biblical times.

This part of the story focuses on Dina, the daughter of Jacob. She is raped by Shechem, a prince of the Hivites, who lived in Canaan. After raping Dina, Shechem seeks to marry her and integrate the Hebrews and Hitites together, with the hope to ultimately destroy the Jewish identity through intermarriage. He agrees to anything Jacob and his sons desire as a price for Dina, and they ask that all Hitites get circumcised. Following their prince, they do. While they are recovering from the circumcisions, Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi attack and kill all the Hivites, who have supported their prince in his depraved crime. Jacob expresses his concern to his sons that all the world will now turn against the small group of Hebrews, but God reacts by once again promising the land of Israel to Jacob and his sons. When Dina has a child from the rape, the child goes on to be integrated fully into the family, even getting his own share of the land of Israel.

The historical parallels and suggested pathway from this week’s Torah reading are too close to the happenings since October 7 to be ignored.

Like Shechem, Hamas raped young women on October 7, as well as killed children, kidnapped civilians, and more. Like Shechem, Hamas tried to negotiate a way to avoid justice for what they had done. Like Jacob, the nation of Israel is recalcitrant to destroy Hamas for concern of the world’s reactions. But we must remember that after Simeon and Levi utterly destroy the Hivites, two positive things happen. The Hivites live on in the tribe of Israel as active and productive members of the society through the progeny of Shechem and Dina. And the Hebrews are rewarded as God reiterates his covenant that the land of Israel is promised to the Hebrews.

The biblical story in this week’s reading gives us a clear understanding of what must be done, and what the ultimate result is promised to be. But do we have the courage and faith to do it?

Hamas, like Shechem and the Hivites, must be destroyed for the depraved evil they have done. There were probably many Hivites who did not approve of Shechem’s actions, but by keeping him in power they became complicit in the crime after the fact. Any Hivite that did not support Shechem’s rape would certainly have left rather than get circumcised, and if a Hivite soldier was willing to support Shechem even to the extreme of receiving a circumcision rather than leaving, then that Hivite clearly supported Shechem and his actions.  The support may be tacit but it existed.  Not just Shechem, but all of those who did not object to the rape were killed by Simeon and Levi.  

Recent polls show that only 13% of Gazans condemn what Hamas did on October 7. But whatever large or small percentage of Gazans who have not actively condemned Hamas and strived to remove them (or at least leave Gaza) are, like Shechem’s soldiers, complicit after the fact (if not during that tragic day). Like Shechem, Hamas must be fully destroyed.  

Jacob was worried needlessly about what would ultimately happen. Israel too is worried about the world’s opinion. Interestingly, it is also in this week’s Torah reading that Jacob’s name is changed to “Israel” after he wrestles with an angel; and the modern nation of Israel must look at the commitment of Simeon and Levi as its example. Jacob worried, but was rewarded for his sons’ faith that in doing the just thing, God would, and did, take care of the people. Israel must now do the same: be more concerned with doing the right thing of destroying Hamas than concerned for what the world will think.

As a result of Simeon and Levi’s actions, the land is re-committed to Jacob and his sons, and, despite Jacob’s fears, not only do the surrounding tribes not attack him, but the land is gifted again to the Hebrews. The country of Israel needs to remember a basic truth that as long as we do what we should, God will ultimately always recommit to His partnership with our people, and always protect and sustain the land for us.

It has been discussed at great length how Hamas is the modern incarnation of the biblical character of Amalek, and how we have a spiritual responsibility to destroy them. This story of Dina and the death of the Hivites happened centuries before Amalek, but the teaching is the same: there are some evils that are so depraved that the perpetrators, and all those who are complicit with their evil must be destroyed. It must be done without fear of the opinion of others, and, in faith that by acting righteously, God will continue to stand as a partner with us.  We must always choose faith over fear. We need to recognize that out of the killing of the Hivites, Shechem’s descendants ultimately became peacefully coexistent with the Hebrews. It is through this path today of destroying Hamas that Israel will be able in the future to peacefully coexist with the people of Gaza.

Whether we accept the Scripture as the word of God or not, it is beyond coincidental that this week’s reading gives us direction at the exact time that Hamas broke the temporary truce and the war has restarted. The answer provided in this week’s text gives us a path to follow, but will Israel have the courage and faith of Simeon and Levi?  

However Israel chooses to act, may it lead to the destruction of Hamas, and to a future that is filled with a lasting peace and success.