Q. I demand an explanation about this:
Sefer Shoftim, Hilkhoth Mamrim (Laws of Rebels), Chap. 3, Halakhoth 1 and 2:
1. Whoever does not believe in the ORAL Torah (Torah SheBe`al Peh) is not a Zaqen Mamre (rebellious elder) spoken of in the Torah. Rather, behold, he is among the heretics (minim), and he may be PUT TO DEATH by the hand of any man. After it has been publicized that he denies the Oral Torah — they take him down, and do not bring him up, just like the rest of the heretics, and Epicureans, and those who say that the Torah is not from Heaven, and those who turn aside, and the apostates (Meshumadim); all of these are no longer members of Klal Yisrael (Israel as a whole), and thus DO NOT NEED WITNESSES, NOR PERMISSION, NOR JUDGES. Rather, WHOEVER who KILLS one of them has performed a GREAT MITZVH and had removed a stumblingblock.
2. The things that have been said APPLY to a man who has denied the ORAL Torah in his THOUGHTS, and in things that that seemed apparent to him, and walked after his simple opinion, and after the rule of his own heart, and denied the Oral Torah first – and the all those who follow after him.”
Is anyone here in Dor Deah contemplating on physically exterminating the Karaites, Samaritans & the Liberals as instructed by the Rambam? If Rambam truly said these horrible things then he’s no different from Muhammad’s Jihadists.
A. First of all, the Rambam did not invent this law. He simply codified the teachings of Haz”al. In other words, acknowledgment of these laws is not unique to Dor Deah. Any Jew who heeds the Biblical injunction to uphold the instructions of the judges (Deut. 17:8-13) would acknowledge the laws you’ve quoted, supposedly all Orthodox Jews; but you have only quoted halakhoth one and two. The very next halakha is not quoted. Reading the very next halakha will help explain why Jews do not have a reputation for killing apostates from Judaism, despite the laws you have quoted. The very next halakha, which you did not quote, states:
“But the children of these errant people and their grandchildren whose parents led them away and they were born in heresy and were raised in accordance with the heresy, they are considered as a children captured by idolatrous non-Israelites and raised according to their [non-Israelite] religion, for he is forced into it [by his circumstance]. Even though he may hear afterwards that he is a Jew and has seen the Jews and the Jewish religion, he is coerced [not to keep Torah], for he was raised immersed in the heretical error. And such is the case with those in the present who hold on to the ways of their forefathers who erred [in heresy]. Therefore, it is proper to inspire them to return to the true faith, and to draw them near in peaceful ways, that they will return to the power of the Torah. A person should not rush to kill them.” (Hilkhoth Mamrim Ch. 3 halakha 3)
This third halakha is why Jews don’t have the reputation of ‘jihadists,’ despite the previous two laws you mentioned. Due to the great spiritual confusion of modern times and the severity of unjust killing, religious Jews assume that most any un-observant Jew falls under the category described in the third halakha, the law that you didn’t quote. The laws you quoted, by the way, only apply to Israelites who abandoned the faith of Israel as a result of their own rebellious straying. That assumes they originally knew and subscribed to Torah-Judaism. The laws you mentioned do not apply to non-Israelites — another distinction between ourselves and the idea of ‘jihadists.’
Now, it is understandable that the first two halakhoth be bothersome to the western mind, even if the third halakha removes fear of immediate jihad at the hands of zealous Jews. However, you must realize that Jewish law (halakha) assumes that the one who learns Jewish law sees the world as under the authority of the Almighty and that he accepts the Torah as true and binding. Halakha also teaches that a Jew who high-handedly violates the Sabbath prohibitions is supposed to be put to death (Ex. 31,15). Why should this bother you any less than halakhoth 1 and 2 of Hilkhoth Mamrim chapter 3? How are those two halakhoth any more troublesome than how when the seven nations rejected peace, the Torah commanded the death of even their women and children (Deut. 20,10-17)? In fact, if it were not for the Oral Law, which the heretic rejects, we could very well think that the Written Torah proscribes death for any individual who strays from the instructions of the judges, that the death penalty is not restricted to a rebellious elder alone. Deuteronomy 17,11-13, the source for this law, states:
“According to the instruction which they shall teach you, and according to the judgment which they shall tell you, thus you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the ruling which they shall declare unto you, to the right hand, nor to the left. And the man that acts presumptuously, not hearkening unto the priest that stands to minister there before the LORD your G-d, or unto the judge, even that man shall die; you shall exterminate the evil from Israel. And all the people shall hear, and fear, and no more act presumptuously.”
If an Israelite who still accepts the Torah is to be killed for high-handed violation of the Sabbath, then why should you expect that Jews who all out reject the Torah or the entire governmental system of the People of Israel (ie: the Oral Law) are to be treated any more kindly, despite that by their declaring the Torah invalid or the legislative and judicial system of Israel un-authoritative, they are undermining the very core of the existence of Israel, essentially inspiring rebellion against the entire framework of the Jewish People — basically declaring war on the religion of Israel and the People of Israel from within. In modern terminology this is called an insurrection and mutiny. You know what the penalty for an insurrection has traditionally been in virtually every country? Death.
The Torah was given for all generations. It’s eternal laws take history into account as a whole; not temporary phenomena. Countries like the U.S. did not typically exist where religions could, at least in theory, coexist in harmony. A group of Jewish apostates would pose a serious and real threat to a religious Jewish government — no less now, were we to have a Torah-based government, than then. The fact is that the bulk of G-d’s commandments in the Torah are not able to be upheld under a government that supposedly acknowledges equal validity of all religions. What you’d have is what we find in the secular ‘Israeli’ State in the present — a pseudo-Jewish government giving Muslims more freedom to practice their religion on a site that is far more significant and integral to Jewish observance of Torah than it is to Islam. No religion of Israel – no Israel. It’s either them or us.
R’ Yosef Eliyah
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