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Mighty But Moral

Moses Breaking the Tables of the Law (1659), by Rembrandt. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. – The Children of Israel were caught, quite literally, “between the devil and the deep blue sea.” Pharaoh and his chariots were in hot pursuit of the newly freed Israelites and caught up to them as they reached the sea. With nowhere to turn, panic and pandemonium broke out.

But Moses told the people to calm down: “Have no fear! Stand fast and see God’s salvation that He will perform for you today! You may be seeing the Egyptians today, but you will never see them again! God will do battle for you and you shall remain silent.”

As Moses raised his staff over the water, the sea split, and in arguably the greatest of all Biblical miracles, the Jewish people crossed the sea on dry land. Then the waters came crashing down on the pursuing Egyptians and they drowned.

A few verses earlier we read: “And the Children of Israel marched out of Egypt triumphantly.” Literally, the words are b’yad ramah: “With hands held high.” Rashi interprets this to mean “with exalted power” or “triumphantly.” Not only with “hands held high,” but with heads held high.

So, our first message from this week’s parsha, Beshalach, is that Jews should always be strong and proud and not feel that we owe anyone any apologies—not the Palestinians, not the United Nations, not even the United States and certainly not The New York Times. Our cause is just; our response to the Oct. 7 massacres and atrocities is legitimate and necessary; and those who don’t understand what genocide means should consult the dictionary before they run to the Hague.

But there is an additional message in our parsha. After their mortal enemies are drowned in the sea, Moses and the Israelites sing “Az Yashir,” the famous Song of the Sea, in thanksgiving and praise to God for His miraculous deliverance. According to the Talmud, when the Jews sang, the angels above joined them in song. But the Almighty Himself intervened and stopped them from singing.

Why? Because “the work of My hands are drowning at sea, and you are singing?”

In other words: It’s one thing for the Jews to sing over the supernatural salvation from their pursuers and captors; but you angels, what do you have to sing about? Rather, show some sensitivity to the fact that the human beings I created are dying.

From this we learn the profundity of the Jewish moral ethos. Even though the Egyptians had tortured their Jewish slaves mercilessly for many decades, when they die there is nothing to celebrate and we may not sing with gay abandon.

We can rejoice over our own deliverance from danger. We may sing about our salvation and tout our triumphs. But Jews do not take delight in the death of even our most vile enemies.

This is, in fact, one of the reasons why we recite only the abridged Hallel on the last days of Passover, which commemorate the Splitting of the Sea. We sing God’s praises, but our praise is somewhat muted because of the deaths of the Egyptians, evil as they might have been.

The origins of our moral compass long precede the Splitting of the Sea. Our patriarch Jacob expressed these values centuries earlier. His twin brother Esau was coming to exact revenge for what he perceived as the injustice of Jacob’s purchase of Esau’s birthright from him, which led to their father Isaac blessing Jacob and not Esau. As they prepared to meet, Esau approached with 400 armed desperadoes. There was no doubt that he had murder on his mind.

“And Jacob was very frightened and pained” over the impending confrontation with Esau. Jacob was afraid with good reason. But he was also “pained” because, as Rashi says, “he may be compelled to kill others in self-defense.”

This holds true today. Despite all the criticism of Israel’s so-called “disproportionate” war in Gaza, the IDF is still the most moral army in the history of the world. Jews may be tough and tenacious in battle, but we remain moral, ethical, sensitive and compassionate human beings. All of human life is sacred to us, including Palestinian lives and, believe it or not, even the lives of those who butchered our children. Yes, it is a challenge to be tough and moral. Most armies fail miserably. The IDF deserves the praise of the world, not treacherous and hypocritical condemnations.

I remember well the screaming headlines in 2002 condemning Israel for the so-called “Jenin Massacre” that never happened. Israel correctly denied it outright as a blood libel. Yet the late then-Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan asked, “Can it be that the whole world is wrong, and Israel is right?” The answer, as so many times in history, was yes. The whole world was wrong and Israel was right. The Palestinians had made up the “massacre” out of whole cloth. It was just another Big Lie in the Middle East’s tapestry of falsehood. It took a few months, but eventually the UN itself issued an official report that admitted that there was no massacre whatsoever. Annan never apologized.

Arab blood is worth infinitely more to Jews than Jewish blood is to Arabs. I’ll go further: Arab blood is more sacred to a Jew than it is to an Arab. As Golda Meir once famously stated, “Peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs will love their own children more than they hate ours.”

We are witnessing a stunning example of this in Gaza today. The IDF does its best to protect the children of Gaza while Hamas keeps putting its own children in the line of fire.

The twin teachings of our weekly parsha are: Be proud and walk tall. Hold your hands and heads high with no apologies. But at the same time, remain moral, ethical and sensitive to the losses of our enemies. This is the Jewish way.

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IDF Announces Major Eyal Shuminov Killed by Anti-Tank Missile in Gaza

Eyal Shuminov. Photo: IDF Spokesperson


i24 NewsDuring a raid on Gaza’s Zeytun neighborhood, Major Eyal Shuminov of the Givati Brigade was tragically killed by an anti-tank missile.

The incident occurred when IDF forces identified a Hamas terrorist on the roof of a building and subsequently eliminated him.

Major Shuminov, a company commander in the Shaked Battalion (424) of the Givati Brigade, hailed from Karmiel and was just 24 years old at the time of his death. The IDF announced that he fell in battle on the 24th of Adar HaSphad (February 24, 2024).

His death marks the loss of 238 IDF soldiers since the start of the ground invasion in Gaza.

Following his death, Major Shuminov was posthumously promoted from the rank of captain to the rank of major. The IDF has extended its condolences to Major Shuminov’s family and pledged to continue supporting them during this difficult time.

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Netanyahu: Cabinet Will Vote on Rafah Operation Next Week

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 28, 2023. Photo: ABIR SULTAN POOL/Pool via REUTERS

i24 NewsPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has revealed plans for a cabinet meeting next week to finalize the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) strategy for an operation in Rafah, including the evacuation of civilians from the area.

The decision comes amid ongoing negotiations with Hamas regarding the release of hostages held by the militant group.

In a statement posted on social media platform X on Saturday, Netanyahu emphasized the importance of reaching a new framework for the release of hostages and the completion of the elimination of Hamas battalions in Rafah. He underscored the necessity of a combination of military pressure and diplomatic negotiations to achieve these objectives.

“We are working to obtain another outline for the release of our hostages, as well as the completion of the elimination of the Hamas battalions in Rafah. That is why I sent a delegation to Paris, and tonight, we will discuss the next steps in the negotiations,” Netanyahu stated in his post.

אנו פועלים להשיג מתווה נוסף לשחרור חטופינו, וכן את השלמת חיסול גדודי החמאס ברפיח.

לכן שלחתי משלחת לפריז ונדון הערב בצעדים הבאים במו״מ,

ולכן בתחילת השבוע אכנס את הקבינט לאישור התוכניות המבצעיות לפעולה ברפיח, כולל פינוי האוכלוסייה האזרחית משם.

רק שילוב של לחץ צבאי ומשא ומתן תקיף…

— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) February 24, 2024

The prime minister’s announcement signals a significant escalation in Israel’s approach to the ongoing conflict, with plans for a potential military operation in Rafah gaining momentum.

Netanyahu concluded his statement by reaffirming the government’s determination to achieve its goals in the war, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive strategy that combines military action with diplomatic efforts.

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IDF Chief of Staff: Fighting is Key for Negotiating Hostages’ Release

IDF Chief of Staff. Photo: IDF Spokesperson

i24 NewsIn a recent assessment of the situation in the northern Gaza Strip, the Chief of Staff, alongside other military commanders, emphasized the crucial role of the ongoing fighting effort in negotiations for the release of abducted individuals.

During the assessment, which took place on Saturday, the Chief of Staff, accompanied by Major General Yaron Finkelman, commander of the Southern Command, and Lieutenant Colonel Itzik Cohen, commander of Division 162, discussed the progress and strategy in the conflict zone.

The Chief of Staff’s remarks shed light on the multifaceted approach being taken to deepen military achievements in the region. He highlighted the importance of returning to areas with improved intelligence to make more significant advancements, both tactically and strategically.

These efforts, he noted, not only target enemy combatants but also aim to dismantle infrastructure and clear territories to enhance operational effectiveness.

Addressing the ongoing negotiations for the release of abductees, the Chief of Staff emphasized the interconnectedness between military achievements and diplomatic endeavors. He underscored the pivotal role of the fighting effort in exerting pressure on Hamas, thereby potentially facilitating the release of kidnapped individuals.

“The fighting effort is the most effective action that helps those who carry and give in all kinds of places for the release of the kidnapped,” stated the Chief of Staff. “This is the lever we are taking down on Hamas, and you are taking it down very well.”

The Chief of Staff’s remarks underscore the complex interplay between military operations and diplomatic negotiations in conflict zones. While the focus remains on achieving military objectives, there is also a recognition of the broader strategic goals, including the safe return of abducted individuals.

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