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    Book of the Wars – Chukkat

    There is a puzzling reference in this sidra to the “Book of the Wars of the Lord” (Num. 21:14).

    Who wrote this book, what it contains, and what has happened to it, we have no idea. Nowhere else in Scripture is the book mentioned.

    Ibn Ezra thinks it was a record of Israel’s battles with other ancient tribes. It could date back to the times of Abraham. But over the centuries the book was lost and no copy survives.

    Nonetheless we wonder why a book of this type could ever have existed when Judaism is a religion of peace and places no value on violence.

    Being realistic, however, we have to recognise that these are not messianic times, and until the Mashi’ach comes we will still have to stand up for ourselves and take up arms against what Shakespeare calls “a sea of troubles”. Not only in terms of conventional war, but when the ethical tenets of the Lord need to be defended.

    When people twist words so that we cannot tell what is really the truth, we need to stand up for a Divine principle. When people behave without dignity and decency and prefer to be vulgar and grob, we need to champion the cause of modesty and cleanliness.

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