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    Peace loving, but not pacifist – Ki Tetzei

    The portion takes it for granted that war is sometimes a regrettable necessity.

    Judaism is peace-loving, but not pacifist. When nothing else works, one has to fight. Unfortunately, war requires the use of force. In the Talmudic phrase, kol d’alim g’var – whoever is more powerful prevails.

    People are going to be hurt. That’s what war is. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that war is noble and cleansing. When lives and limbs are shattered it is an unmitigated tragedy. When weapons are unleashed they are no longer our servants but our masters.

    The ideal is of course to change weapons of war into instruments of peace, to turn warriors into statesmen, to bind up the wounds of the enemy as well as one’s own, to see the other side’s point of view even without endorsing it, to say that everyone has a right to sit quietly under their vine and fig tree with none to make them afraid.

    A homely saying of a former colleague of mine sums it all up. When people asked, “Aren’t you and I related?” he used to say, “My grandmother and your grandmother dried their washing under the same sun”.

    Let me adapt his saying and apply it to the dream of peace: “My grandchildren and your grandchildren ought to be able to run and play in the same sunshine”.

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