Kahane on the Parsha
Rabbi Binyamin Kahane- Parshat Mishpatim
NORMAL PEOPLE THINK AHEAD
On the verse, "If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt on his account" (Exodus 22:1). Rashi cites a passage in the Talmud that is certain to shock liberal Jews:
"If one comes to slay you, rise and slay him first. And this thief indeed came to kill you since he knows that a person will not stand by quietly and watch his possessions being stolen. Hence, he is prepared to kill you if you confront him."
Absolutely amazing! In other words, the Rabbis are telling us that the rule of "If one comes to slay you, rise and slay him first" does not exclusively address someone with a knife being held to his throat. The rule is much more expansive. The Rabbis teach us that a person is obligated to think a few steps ahead and anticipate. If he thinks there is a real threat that someone may kill him, he is required to "rise and slay him first."
In this Talmudic passage, the Rabbis enter the psyche of the thief. They reason that the thief, knowing the likelihood of resistance, has prepared himself to kill the owner if necessary. Therefore, the owner may kill him immediately upon confronting him without waiting to see how the thief will react to being caught.
How we have distorted the concept of "If one comes to slay you, rise and slay him first"! The average Moderdox Jew thinks that one can only rise and slay the Arab who is throwing a Molotov cocktail or yelling "Allah Akhbar" as he chases his victim with a hatchet. He believes that if the danger is not "this very instant" - but rather will reveal itself in one hour or one week - the law does not apply. What was obvious to the Rabbis - that one MUST think a few steps ahead and that a person does not "not stand by quietly and watch his possessions being stolen" - is not obvious in today's society where "humanism" and distorted concepts of morality run rampant.
In Israel, Jews continue to passively accept being beaten and humiliated by our enemy, lacking the healthy and normal survival instinct to "rise and slay him first." This self-restraint is justified with the argument that the situation is not life-threatening. And so, soldiers and settlers shoot warning shots in the air after being attacked since the danger, as they see it, is not imminent. According to IDF guidelines, soldiers, upon seeing a terrorist, must shout a warning, shoot in the air, and, if the situation gets really hot, shoot at the terrorist's legs. Only a Jew who is already dead can shoot to kill since anyone who does so before that point will find himself facing murder charges. [Before the terror attacks today, this used to be the law for soldiers bg]
In short, we have learned two important lessons. First, the rule "If one comes to slay you, rise and slay him first" is not limited to a situation where someone is pointing a gun to your head; one is permitted to anticipate potential danger to life. Second, only a nation devoid of any self-respect doesn't rise up and fight back. After all, the Talmudic passage we quoted at the beginning of this article concerns fighting for one's property. Shouldn't its logic apply all the more so concerning fighting for one's life?
We must cease to interpret and define Halacha in accordance with our Western mentality and mindset. We must rise up, just like one rises early for Vatikin (shacharit/morning services), and think a few steps ahead so that we can kill the murderous trespassers before it is too late.
Darka Shel Torah, 1992
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