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Virtual Talmud

Reflections for Veterans Day

Today many schools and government offices are closed in observance of Veterans Day, a time to honor and thank those who have so bravely served their country. Veterans Day is always a solemn occasion–and never more so than when members of our armed forces are fighting and dying abroad.
At latest count, 3,858 Americans have been killed since the beginning of our invasion, to say nothing of nearly 30,000 more confirmed wounded (to say nothing at all of the estimated 80,000 Iraqi civilians killed since we went in – including the latest instance yesterday of a private security firm opening fire with impunity on an unarmed Iraqi).

It is clear that the Iraq War is a failed policy–not through any shortcoming of our brave men and women in uniform who have valiantly struggled to accomplish the impossible, but because of a massive failure of planning and understanding by those in command. What is most terrifying is that many of the same players who brought us this disastrous and entirely unnecessary war are now rattling their sabers against Iran–seeking to divert attention from the messes they have made in Afghanistan and Iraq by opening a third front.
Judaism is by no means a pacifist religion–the reality and even justice of war is acknowledged under certain circumstances. However, limits are put on the conduct of war to prevent precisely the sorts of tragic mistakes that are so evident right now in Iraq. The rabbinic tradition calls on us to exercise k’vod ha-beriot–treating captives humanely and recognizing that they too are created b’tzelem Elohim, in God’s image. Ignoring this command has led to the atrocities at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Maimonides, following the Book of Deuteronomy, says peace must be offered before an attack is launched. Paying mere lip-service to this idea and circumventing the United Nations brought us into Iraq with mere nominal support from the so-called “coalition of the willing.”
The Torah tells us that soldiers who have misgivings about participating in an elective war should be excused from participating, yet the government mocks State Department employees who are understandably reluctant to serve in what may amount to a death sentence in Iraq.
Ultimately, the tragedy that lies at the heart of this war, and the tragedy that Jewish law tries to circumvent, is the age-old sin of hubris–of human beings thinking they can play God, can ignore morality and ethics, and pull the string just right to achieve the desired outcome. By now, we should have learned the humility to recognize that we as humans do not have that kind of control, and that when we try to use the ends to justify the means, we will reap what we sow. Tragically, in this time of voluntary military service and zero accountability for those in charge, it is mostly our brave military personnel who are doing the reaping.

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posted November 12, 2007 at 10:11 pm

I don’t want to learn Juwish .I want my own religion .If it’s not posible I will chang into another subject

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Al Eastman

posted November 13, 2007 at 11:43 am

It would be better if the “tag line” on The Daily Torah and Jewish Wisdom page did not read “Virtual Talmud: A Jewish Perspective on the Iraq War”. The author of this article no more speaks for ALL Jews than my local rabbi does. Without arguing the merits of the author’s position, suffice it to say where politics are concerned, there is no ONE Jewish voice or position.

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Melba L Turner-Jones

posted November 13, 2007 at 1:33 pm

I am a Born Again Christian. I think of myself as a cousin to the Jewish peoples of America. I also belong to a church where, at any given time, we have 5 to 10 Service Men, or Women, overseas fighting to defend the freedoms of both the Iraqi & American people. While I do believe that we have focused too much time and energy on Iraq when we should have been getting to the root of the problem in Afghanistan, I DO NOT believe that this war is one we should have avoided. As I previously stated, I believe it should have been waged on different soil. If one wants to rid the garden of a weed, one must be sure to get the entire root, then the plant can not regenrate & thus, it can not reproduce. We should have concentrated ALL of our efforts on Bin Laden & his associates. This war in Iraq was nothing more than a President’s retaliation against a man who emabarrassed his Father when he too was President. He just used 9-11 as an excuse to wage it & that should have been apparent to the WHOLE COUNTRY from the beginning. So, war yes. In Iraq, no. In Afghanistan, yes. Do I support our Troops, yes. Am I a Christian who believes there is a time and season for everything, yes. You do not speak for me.

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Amy Donnella

posted November 13, 2007 at 3:40 pm

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Eastman. The tag line reads “A Jewish Perspective,” not “The Jewish Perspective.” By identifying principles of Jewish law and anchoring his opinions to those principles, Rabbi Waxman makes this a Jewish perspective on the war. If someone else wants to (and can) marshal other Jewish principles to support a different position, he or she should also be able to identify this as a Jewish perspective on the war. Frankly, I am gratified to see an article grounded in Jewish law rather than the all-too-common assertion (accusation) that anyone who criticizes the war against Iraq or the potential war against Iran is disloyal to Israel.

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Douglas Friedman

posted November 13, 2007 at 4:05 pm

This article should not have been titled “A Jewish Perspective on the Iraq War.” There is nothing new in this that we haven’t heard a thousand times before, with a couple of Jewish quotes sprinkled in.
It is ridiculous that any Jew would give any credence to the UN as if that organization of corrupt, anti-Israel and anti-freedom dictatorships had any moral authority. As far as the UN is concerned, Israel and the US should just surrender to the third world. The US hardly needs the UN’s permission – read Iraq bribee Chirac (at the time), Russian Czar Vladimir Putin and Chinese Communist dictator, murderer and repressor Hu Jintao – to do what it thinks necessary. The writer of this is not giving a Jewish perspective but just the left-wing pap that the US can never act in its own interests, even as every other country (except Israel) does so.
I would ask the blogger, would you prefer that Saddam Hussein were back in power? Offering $25,000 to the family of every Palestinian suicide bomber? Killing 2,500 innocent Iraqis a month? The deaths of the American soldiers are indeed tragedies, but the deaths of the Iraqi civilians cannot be laid at the feet of the US since they were killed by other Iraqis or other Arabs belonging to al Qaeda.
And I’d rather attack Iran now than wait until they have a nuke. Liberals are always and have always been wrong about dictators’ intentions. Therefore, we can safely conclude that if the writer of this piece of foolishness opposes attacking Iran, we should attack now rather than later.

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Sander Bergman

posted November 13, 2007 at 4:57 pm

Friedman understands.

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Tom Paine

posted November 13, 2007 at 6:46 pm

As a glaring example of fear overriding rationalism Mr. Friedman proves that education isn’t the answer to world problems.
It’s foolish, immoral, illegal, and un-American to attack a nation that isn’t an IMMINENT threat to America. That he advocates attacking Iran now, proves that he believes the mouthiness of the Iranian loudmouth in Iran.
The President of Iran is not the commander of their military or their nuclear program, and he doesn’t have widespread popular support. We will be better off letting him go away peacefully.
If and Only If Iran attacks us, should we attack back. It’s the American way, and it’s the right way, and anyone who thinks otherwise, is by definition un-American.
We didn’t attack China when we feared they had the bomb, or the USSR, or France, or India, or Pakistan and we are all just fine.
It almost makes sense for Iran, surrounded by neighbors jealous of their Oil, to have a nuclear capability, especially since history has proven that no nation with an Atomic Bomb has ever been attacked.
Put the Kool-Aid down Mr. Friedman and pray earnestly for the safe ending of one of the worse presidency’s in American history.
For more info on Iran go to and look at past commentaries.

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Marian Neudel

posted November 13, 2007 at 7:59 pm

The tag says “A” Jewish perspective, not “THE” Jewish perspective, guys. You got a problem with that?

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posted November 13, 2007 at 11:18 pm

While I appreciate rabbi Waxman’s concern for the safety of the regime in Iran, I don’t believe he is up to date on the situation in Babylonia. Al-Quada in Iraq is almost finished, the numbers of dead are falling (I read that the likelihood of an American getting killed in Iraq now is less than in inner-city Philadelphia). Abu Ghraib (a prison built by the former Babylonian regime) is closed, and if Rabbi Waxman believes stories of Koran’s being flushed down toilets in Guantanamo (a physical impossiblity) well that shows his understanding.
The State Department employees aren’t soldiers.
BTW I’m sure that more than 80000 Iraqi sivilians have been killed, but rabbi Waxman does not to blame the losing Al-Quada suicide and car bombers who did the killing, in fact he doesn’t mention them.

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Homer Wiggins

posted November 14, 2007 at 12:26 am

any conflict and loss of life is terrible. I don’t know the perfect response to jihad and terrorism. I do know they will only need to succeed only once with a nuclear device to seriously impair our nation. It is true we are in Iraq and looking at Iran , but it is not the choosing of our government but necessity forced upon us by terrorist. They determinedly want to kill us. Our Government is trying to prevent this. They need all the support of all Americans.We had better give up name calling and talk of compromise and join to meet this intensely serious threat. I can promise you that if we do not confront them there we will confront them in our own streets.
G-D bless America.

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Sander Bergman

posted November 15, 2007 at 6:27 am

Before Hitler killed a single Jew he had already well telegraphed his intentions. I’m sure many Jews rationalized what he was saying by believing he was just another loud mouth politician who wasn’t the commander of the military and didn’t have popular support and would just go away peacefully as poster Tom Paine believes will happen in Iran.
It’s interesting that this site is presently running a discussion of how can there be a G-d if he allowed The Holocaust to occur.
Maybe G-d let it happen so we would learn and avoid a bigger holocaust, namely the nuclear destruction of the State of Israel.
We don’t forget and we don’t forgive…it’s G-d’s job to do the latter.
How many relatives did Mr. Paine lose in The Holocaust? Judging from his last name I’d bet, not many.
The day we hit Tehran I’ll be cheering….or better yet I’ll do the Arab chortle for Al-Jazeera tv as the Arabs did after 9/11.

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Tom Paine

posted November 17, 2007 at 1:28 pm

Hitler had overwhelming popular support, control of the military, took Austria, Sudetenland, the Alsace, and declared that he was Germany.
To compare Hitler to the #2-also-ran in power in Iran is just plain silly and proves that Bergman’s kind of fear is exactly what we should fear more.
The greatest threat to America is from within, not from any exterior forces.
En Garde!!!

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Al Eastman

posted November 19, 2007 at 3:14 pm

With apologies to all, perhaps I should have stated my objection to the tag line by saying it might have been more accurate if it read “A Rabbi’s Objection…..etc” or even “One Jew’s Objections…..etc”. What I was trying to say was the tag line, to me at least, implied there was/is a single Jewish perspective. Y’all can say I’m full of borsht, but that WAS my initial reaction.

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Aryeh Sax

posted November 22, 2007 at 1:28 pm

Unlike Tom Paine I would never count out the number 2 man. Surly not the #2 in Iran. Many counted the #2 in Germany out. Stalin was like the 8 man, and still got on top. But lets stick with giving a account of German history. Since it was used in Tom Paine example. In March 1932 when the elections were held Hindenburg got 49.6%, Hitler only 30.1%, Thaelmann 13.2% Duesterberg 6.8%. This caused a runoff election since there was no majority winner. In April 1932 Hindenburg 53% Hitler 36.6% and Thaelmann 10.2%. In July 1932 the party won 203 seats, but still fell short of the 603 member body of the Reichstag. Political deadlocks caused a new election to be held in Nov 1932 and the Nazi lost 34 seats and 2 million votes. Then came the the end, Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor, followed by the planed 1. Reichstag fire, 2. blame the Communist, 3. Hitler persuaded Hindenburg to suspend civil liberties. 4. 2 weeks later Hitler takes temporarily powers to deal with the problems. 5. the end was sealed in August 1934 with the death of Hindenburg. Victory always has mass support when those of the opposition have been eliminated. So that former #2 has had a big hand in our Refections on Veterans Day. I hope Tom Paine is right but I do not count the #2 out yet. We honor and thank all those who have so bravely served this country, yesterday and today. I think they are doing the right job in the right place today.

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