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    The Jewish ethic of war – Ki Tetzei

    The Torah reading gives us the basic information about the Jewish ethic of war. It begins by saying “When you go out to war”… implying that there are two types of conflicts – those that are marked by going in and those that are marked by going out.

    Going in is civil war in which a nation is divided within itself. Going in requires an agreement to recognise that both factions share an identity and ought to be able to live together despite their differences.

    Going out is a war in which we confront and take up weapons against another nation or battle another worldview. It is not merely a fight which you take the initiative to start off or respond to, so that a group of weapons are at war with one another.

    The going out war must be avoided at all costs. There must be a serious initial overture of peace in which the other side is offered (Deut. 20:10-12) the opportunity of working out a modus vivendi. Only if the peace overture is rejected is it possible (and permitted) to take up arms.

    Whichever type of war we are thinking of, the fundamental ethic is Isaiah 2:4, “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”.

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