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    War & peace – Ki Tetzei

    The Torah reading takes war for granted.

    In a perfect society no-one would ever fight, as we see from Isaiah and Micah who speak of abolishing weapons and people sitting peacefully under the shade of a tree.

    In the interim, until we reach the messianic ideal, there are three categories of war spelled out in Mishnah Sotah 8:7, optional, commanded, and obligatory war.

    Rambam (Hilchot Melachim 8:1) speaks of two categories, a mitzvah-war and a r’shut-war. The mitzvah-war is fought against the seven Canaanite nations, against Amalek, or in general in defence against the attacks of an enemy.

    Rambam rules that before waging war one must make overtures of peace; the Sifrei and those like the Vilna Gaon who follow it say that the overtures of peace are not made to all enemies but in the case of an optional, r’shut-war.

    The peace message is basically, “War is bad for everyone, so let us find a modus vivendi”. The crucial thing is that both sides must be able to trust each other.

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