Doesn't Orach Chaim 329:6 permit a defense force?

Feb. 7 2008

On the subject of halachah l'maase and defense forces, here is what the
Shulchan Aurch, Orach Chayim 329:6 rules:

"If gentiles attack Jews, even on the Sabbath, it is a Mitzvah to
organize a defense force and mount a counter-attack. This principle applies
in the diaspora, as well as in Eretz Yisrael." The Ramah adds that "EVEN IF
THE ENEMY HAS NOT MOUNTED HIS ATTACK, BUT IT IS WELL KNOWN THAT HE DESIRES
TO ATTACK JEWS, WAR SHOULD BE WAGED AGAINST HIM/THEM."

Now, I am not sure what a "defense force" might mean other than an army.
For the sake of keeping us in golus, you prefer that a "defense force" not
be defined as an army but as just a band of armed non-uniformed fighters?
Fine and good. Whatever you choose to call them, call them. The main point
is that retaliation, and even pre-emptive strikes against them is a mitzvah.
And I've heard it said that the Shulchan Aruch never ruled on something that
was not nogeia bizman hazeh.

Dear Mr. Berson,

Don't be too medayek in the words "defense force" because the actual text is "yotzin aleihem biklei zayin" we go out against them with weapons. You don't have to prove to me that this law applies even bizman hazeh because the Gemara in Eiruvin 45a brings Amoraim who explain how this law applies to Nehardaa in Bavel.

The fundamental difference between this and the Zionist wars is that the Zionist wars are for the purpose of maintaining statehood in Eretz Yisroel if they didn't have statehood, or if they were to agree to give up statehood, then the Arabs' pretext for war would be gone. Since statehood is a violation of the oaths, it follows that the wars are also a violation of the oaths. If they gave up their statehood and, let's say, Hamas took over the land, and then some armed bands of Arabs not affiliated with the Hamas government came to kill Jews, the Jews would then be permitted to take weapons and go out and fight them.

Furthermore, the Rema in Orach Chaim 329:6 says that "even if the gentiles didn't attack yet but are planning to attack" but he doesn't say explicitly that we should mount a pre-emptive attack. And the Mishnah Berurah says that he doesn't mean that; he only means that we may prepare ourselves for their attack by carrying weapons on Shabbos, and we may make noise in the city to scare them off.

You may claim that the Shulchan Aruch makes no distinctions as to who the enemy is gentiles from outside or the government in power. But the general impression left by the Shulchan Aruch and the Mishnah Berurah is that we are talking about Jews participating in an effort to defend their host country against an outside attacker. The Mishnah Berurah in s'if koton 17 says that nowadays we must go out and fight on Shabbos even for money, because our government will be angry if Jews sit and do nothing to stop the attackers.

In the case of bandits or gangs invading Jewish towns, the Jews would fight back because their host country presumably also wanted to control crime, only it does not have sufficient police and army forces to be everywhere at once. The Jews are fighting not as Jews, but as Russian police. Here in Brooklyn we have the Shomrim patrol who fight crime not as Jews but as assistants to the New York Police Department.

Besides, I think it was unnecessary for the Shulchan Aruch to talk about the law in a case when a gentile government attacks its own Jews, because that almost never happened in history. In the Russian pogroms, although the police often did nothing to stop them, they at least did not participate. The Nazi regime did kill its own Jews in Germany, but when they invaded Poland and Russia and killed the Jews there they were (in most cases) not the government but an outside attacker, and Jews would have had the right to join the Polish or Russian resistance and fight against them, not as Jews but as Poles or Russians.

The Gemara that talks about going out and fighting
even when it is only over an attack over money, and even on Shabbos, is
referring to a city on the border in Eretz Yisrael. And the case is one
that involved David (who was not even a fully accepted king at the time, as
he was fleeing from king Saul...in other words, he really didn't have a lot
of support behind him yet) who initiated an attack on Shabbos and over the
issue of the gentile demand of tribute. The reason why God told him to do
this is because the city that was attacked, Ke'ila, was a border town, and
should the gentiles begin to gain success by conquering a border town (not
by killing Jews there, but by gaining a form of sovereignty by forcing the
Jews to pay them taxes), that COULD give them a strategical edge in gaining
more and more sovereignty over the rest of the country. In other words,
the idea is the concept of retaining Jewish sovereignty, even when there is
not necessarily a risk to Jewish lives, is greater than the concept of
Shabbos observance. Wonder why that might be? It could have something to
do with the fact that the gentile nations recognize or don't recognize God's
attribute of omnipotence vis a vis the Jewish people holding power (i.e.
sovereignty) over the land of Israel. Could be that is what the Rambam
means when he refers to our dwelling in the land as the manifestation of
Hashem. Because really, it isn't merely living there, but controling the
land that is the manifestation of God's power in the eyes of the gentile
nations, as we have disccused the Ezekiel on this many times.
The source for this is the Gemara in Eruvin (just going by memory as I
haven't reviewed that source recently).

As for the nations wanting us to go out and protect ourselves, and as
for your conception of why the nations are so angry at us, here is the
bitter truth for you in the words of the Metzudat David to Isaiah 53:2:
"Their failure to find Israel "a magestic appearance such that they should
delight in him" meant THEIR NOT FINDING IN HIM EITHER BRAVERY OR VALOR.
THAT IS WHY THEY DESPISED HIM (I.E. THAT IS WHY THE NATIONS DESPISED
ISRAEL). In other words, it's the opposite of what you are holding by;
the wimpy fear of the nations attitude, the one that contains neither
bravery or valor, is what the nations despise; they see it as the weakness
of the Jewish religion (i.e. the God of Israel), the "proof" that it must be
false. In the eyes of the gentile nations, strength and victory = good and
true, and wimpishness and defeat and retreat and fear of man = falsehood.

You wrote: "The reason why God told him to do
this is because the city that was attacked, Ke'ila, was a border town, and
should the gentiles begin to gain success by conquering a border town (not
by killing Jews there, but by gaining a form of sovereignty by forcing the
Jews to pay them taxes), that COULD give them a strategical edge in gaining
more and more sovereignty over the rest of the country. In other words,
the idea is the concept of retaining Jewish sovereignty, even when there is
not necessarily a risk to Jewish lives, is greater than the concept of
Shabbos observance."

If that is so, then why does the Gemora say that this halacha also applies during the exile in Bavel, where there was no Jewish sovereignty, only a large area of all-Jewish towns under the Sassanid Persian empire? If another empire such as Rome conquered it, it would be a large area of all-Jewish towns under the Roman empire. How does being a Jewish province of Persia show the greatness and omnipotence of G-d any more than being a Jewish province of Rome? So you must admit that the issue here is just that if they get an edge in conquering the whole land, Jewish lives will be at stake.