Thursday, July 12, 2007

Interesting Question from friend who needs answers

I received the following email from a friend. I have tried to answer his as best as I can. He has also spoken to numerous Rabbis who have not been able to give him an answer that satisfies him. He asked me to post this to see if anyone out there can help him out.

would like to post the following on your blog:
I was recently reading Sefer Yoshua, the Book of Joshua. In chapter six it explains how the Jews took over Jericho and then killed EVERY SINGLE person in the city. They intentionally murdered not only men but innocent and defenseless women and children.My question is this: Was that not a genocide? And how is that any different from what Muslims do when they kill today? They kill because they say "God commanded us so." How is that any different from what the Jews did? And don't just tell me its because in that case that's what God really commanded. Also, for the sake of argument lets say God really did command this. If God did command such a thing, what kind of a God is that? Why should one worship such a murderous, violent and unjust God?


Rafi G said...

my brother argues this exact point every time he argues about religion. He seems to think that is a large part of the reason he is not religious

E. said...

Don't know if this will completely satisfy the questioner, but here's how I understand it.

First let's dissect the question:

1. Why did Joshua intentionally murder everyone in the city?
2. Why is that different from genocide?
3. Why is that different from what Muslims do today?
4. Why should I worship such a “murderous, violent and unjust God”?

Joshua killed them all because, as you say, he was so commanded. Chazal teach us that all the benei Noach are required to follow the 7 Noachide laws, and that these laws were passed down from Noach’s time on (if not earlier). The laws are not too difficult to follow, but the penalty for disobeying is death. The Torah states and Chazal further amplify, that the Canaanites were gross and flagrant transgressors of many if not all of these laws, and therefore after centuries of God’s patience, the time came for punishment. Why “collective punishment”? We do not know all of God’s ways or thoughts, but it is clear from an objective glance around our world, that God ordains what appears to us as “collective punishment” very often. So your problem is not only with Joshua, but with Katrina, Tsunamis, Floods, Pestilence etc. etc. We believe that there is a purpose and justice to everything and we are unable to view the “big picture” so we can’t begin to comprehend it.

Muslims today who kill “infidels” do so because Mohammad said that anyone who doesn’t accept Allah as God and Mohammad as his messenger should be killed. Some accommodation is made for “dhimmis” who pay a heavy tax and are allowed to exist under Muslim rule. Perhaps you may have noticed that Judaism doesn’t require of all gentiles to convert or die. Judaism is not an expansionist imperialistic religion either. There is the Holy Land, and Everywhere Else. Our rulership (in the time of Jewish kingdom) was essentially only over the Holy Land.

Why should one worship such a God? Because there is no real alternative. Nothing else makes much sense.

Besides if you open your mind to accept Hashem, you will see more and more how good he is to you and to others.

Sara with NO H said...

I wish him luck in his search for answers. We've all been there, haven't we?

DoveBear said...

I too have a similar issue. It doesn't only happen in Joshua, it happens in the Torah itself as well. The response leaves much to be desired, however. The number of sins or the ease of avoidance that we see does not give us the right to commit genocide. What is that line? Didn't the crusaders kill infidels when all they had to do was believe in the J-man? Muslims believe that not following Islam is serious enough a crime. There are no degrees when it comes to religion. Just because it is easy does not give us the right to kill for not following the commandment, just as it doesn't give that right to Muslims. So, we are back at that question of what gives us the right when we claim moral indignance over the same acts being done throughout history?

Collective punishment may be morally acceptable for acts of G-d, but not for human infliction. We cannot claim moral issues with tsunamis because "nobody" caused them to happen. When G-d causes a disaster we can claim to not understand His ways, but when man acts with divine authority, to preform collective punishment we should no longer accept it. Who is to distinguish between divine right and plain wrong in those cases? Christians claimed moral high ground when murdering Jews, Indians, Arabs, and other such "heathens." What is the difference?

Geographical boundries is not a satisfactory answer either. If I drew a line around an area and insisted that everyone who watches television in this area will be executed, would that me morally acceptable? It's easy to follow, I believe (for arguement's sake) that all people who watch TV should die by divine authority, and I bounded it to a geographic region.

I accept that nature is G-d's way of running the world and that this gives the appearance of injustice in the running of the world. However, that is how nature must be run. Even when G-d targets a punishment, it is acceptable because we can accepts our limited view of the world in comparison to G-d. However, man has no such allowance, even in the face of a command for the reasons I have given above. Genocide in the name of religion, even your religion, is still genocide.

Anonymous said...

And don't just tell me its because in that case that's what God really commanded.

Why not? He did. That's why I keep kosher, Shabbos, Family Purity etc. too.

Also, for the sake of argument lets say God really did command this.

Huh? It says so right in the Torah. Check out Deuteronomy, chapter 7, verses 1-6 for example. There it says:

Hashem will bring you into the land and he will drive out the many nations from before you, the Chiti, Girgashi, Emori, Cnani, Prizi, Chivi, and Yevusi .. Hashem will give them before you, smite them, completely destroy them, do not make a covenant with them, do not show them a place in the land. Do not marry them ... destroy their altars ..."

There were 3 options: 1) the nations could leave as Girgashi did 2) they could agree to abide by the 7 noahide laws and pay taxes to the Jews 3) war

Why? Because this land belongs to the Jewish people and Canaan usurped it. The first Rashi in Bereishis says Hashem created the world for "reishis" - for the Jewish people and Eretz Yisrael is for us. If the nations call us robbers for taking it, we are to say: Hashem created the world and He gave this land to us.

Rebbetzin said...

This may be an unsatisfactory answer. I think the only reason could be that the world was different back then.

We have all grown up with the Western abbhorence for any type of violence, even justified or necessary violence.

What would you do if an Israeli terror victim would demand revenge against the arabs? You'd think he was either crazy, primitive or just politically incorrect. After all, we have to understand where they're coming from, answer violence with peace, make negotiations with murderers.

How about Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Dees your stomache get queasy at the thought?

Revenge on your terms is bad. Murder on your terms is evil. But murder on G-d's terms is not. It is just.

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