The Bible Says What? ‘It was wrong to let the women live’
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

The Bible Says What? ‘It was wrong to let the women live’

 Rabbi Fabian Sborovsky takes a controversial topic from the Torah and looks at a Progressive perspective

The Torah has its fair share of war and violence, including moments where it might seem things have gone too far for modern tastes. The war with the Midianites at the end of the book of Bamidbar is a severe example.

A plague had occurred among the Israelites, reportedly because an Israelite man brought a Midianite woman into the camp. It only ended when both were killed and Moses is commanded – as his final act as leader before his death – to take revenge.

The Torah reports how the Israelites killed every man, including the five kings of Midian, without suffering a single casualty. 

Moses, however, is angry. Not because of all the death, but the lack of it – why did they not also kill the women? In his mind, it was a woman who brought the plague to the people previously, so all the adult women should also be killed. This instruction is carried out, with the younger girls taken as slaves.

This is all very unpleasant. It is certainly a horribly twisted version of egalitarianism. What it can teach us is a warning about the nature of violence. What may start out as a seemingly justified act of violence can spiral so quickly. Once we have a taste for it, we lose control and don’t know where to stop. 

The initial action was a command from God, perhaps seen as a justified retaliation, but it is Moses personally who pushes for more. And if Moses, after all he has learnt being such a great leader, can fall into this trap, how much more of
a warning it is to us. 

How much more careful we should be to resist the urge towards violence, because who knows where it may take us?

Rabbi Fabian Sborovsky serves Menorah Synagogue, Cheshire Reform Congregation

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments