A Review of ‘The King’s Torah’ by Someone Who Actually Read the Book!
Just as the demonstrations and TV interviews about Rabbi Dov Lior’s arrest were petering out, another suspect, Rabbi Ya’acov Yosef, got arrested and released after questioning.
The feeling on the Left, in the political echelon and in wide parts of the mainstream media is that those recalcitrant rabbis and their unruly supporters have to be subdued.
After all, nobody is above the law. Not even renowned rabbis who think they can get away with writing an endorsement for a book like Torat Hamelech (The King’s Torah), which explores such politically irresponsible topics as the Torah’s approach to warfare and the treatment of enemy populations. After all, for this we have the Geneva Convention.
Who needs more? But can it really be dismissed as a fringe phenomenon of the extreme Right? As people who hate non-Jews for racist reasons and seek to bend Jewish law in order to eke out permission to kill them? A closer look reveals that we are not facing a book on hashkafa – outlook or ideology – which is often in the eye of the beholder. Rather, it is an exploration of the vast resources of Jewish law, from the Gemara through the Rambam’s Hilchot Melachim, the Shulhan Aruch and a gamut of other sources.
To give a general overview of the contents: The first chapter, as if in defiance of all those who cry out that the book condones the killing of non-Jews, deals with situations in which it is forbidden to kill a non-Jew. The second chapter examines the role of the Seven Noahide Laws, which pertain to all human beings.
The third chapter relates to whether the obligation to die rather than be forced to kill another person also applies to non-Jews. The fourth chapter deals with situations in which there is a conflict between saving the life of a Jew versus saving the life of a non-Jew. In the fifth chapter, we find explanations of laws pertaining to times of war, and the sixth and last chapter tackles harm to innocent people. It becomes clear that the religious laws examined mostly pertain to extraordinary circumstances of conflict involving danger to life.
The critics who accuse the authors of condoning the killing of non-Jews would be well advised to remember that in every war, situations of life and death arise, of weighing the lives of one’s own soldiers and civilians against those of the enemy’s fighters and civilians.