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The Gift of the Land and the Fate of the Canaanites in Jewish Thought$
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Katell Berthelot, Joseph E. David, and Marc Hirshman

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199959808

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199959808.001.0001

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R. Moshe Feinstein on Milhemet Mitzvah

R. Moshe Feinstein on Milhemet Mitzvah

Halakhah, Morality, and Exegesis

Chapter:
(p.429) 18 R. Moshe Feinstein on Milhemet Mitzvah
Source:
The Gift of the Land and the Fate of the Canaanites in Jewish Thought
Author(s):

Baruch Alster

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199959808.003.0019

This chapter examines the responsum of Rabbi Feinstein connected with the Israeli-Arab conflict. It shows that this strictly Orthodox rabbinic authority has a very bold interpretation of the rabbinic teaching on “obligatory war” (milhemet mitzvah), such as the war against the seven nations and Amalek. Rabbi Feinstein actually understands halakhah as effectively forbidding any current Jewish government to wage war (except in the case of a defensive war), implying that the prevention of war accomplished by a political agreement is a worthy goal in and of itself. By arguing that the kings of ancient Israel did not initiate a war against the Canaanites or against Amalek, and by requiring that before a declaration of war one must consult not only a High Court, but also a prophet, as well as the Urim and the Tummim, Rabbi Feinstein virtually cancels a biblical (and thus divine) commandment, without formally annulling it. He does so out of a desire, common in rabbinic literature, to see Jewish law as moral.

Keywords:   Rabbi Feinstein, responsum, Israeli-Arab conflict, rabbinic teaching, obligatory war, seven nations, Amalek, Jewish law

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