June 19th, 2014

It is a story that sends a chill down our collective spines.

Three innocent, carefree Jewish teenagers, kidnapped by ruthless terrorists, intent on reminding every Jew, and the world, that notwithstanding any compromise on the part of Israel, or even Palestinians, there will always be those who hate the fact that – against all the odds – the Jews returned to their Promised Land, rebuilt it, and have successfully sustained it as a viable and thriving independent country for more than 66 years, and will continue to do so.

Hatred is not logical, and it is a mistake to think that one has to negotiate with terrorists, as the fact is this: one is simply not able to negotiate with terrorists, or reason with them, because their hatred stands in the way of any rational debate, or reasonable compromise.

Only force, and the fear of greater strength, can successfully prevent terrorism and hatred from blighting our lives.

What is most interesting, and indeed intriguing, is the fact that people who are full of hate, tend – thankfully – to spend most of their energy hating each other.

The situation we are now seeing unfold in Iraq, with the epic war that is just beginning between extremist Sunni Muslims on the one side, and extremist Shia Muslims on the other, is just one manifestation of this phenomenon.

As much as we all loathe war and violent mayhem, of exactly the kind we are now witnessing in Iraq, we can be certain that if these two groups were not so focused on hating each other, and trying to obliterate each other, their focus would almost certainly be focused on Israel and the Jews.

Imagine, God forbid, if the Sunni and Shia Muslims of the world would join forces and aim their fury at the Jewish State?

In any event, both the unreasonableness of hatred, and the fact that haters hate each other more than anything else, occurred to me as I looked through the story of Korach and his band of malcontents in the Torah portion that focuses on his abortive rebellion.

Like many revolutionary leaders, Korach’s manifesto sounds – on paper – logical and persuasive. He and so many others had been excluded from the leadership of the Jewish nation. Why, he asked, could the leadership not be shared more equitably?

But Korach was not motivated by a desire for fair play. The entire revolt had its genesis in his jealousy and hatred of Moses and Aaron. Initially Moses tried to reason with him, but you cannot negotiate with hatred, nor is their any point in trying.

As to his co-conspirators, Korach hated them too. The mishna in Avot (5:17) teaches us as follows:

“Any dispute for the sake of Heaven will endure, and any dispute not for the sake of Heaven will ultimately fail. What is a ‘dispute for the sake of Heaven’? The debate between Hillel and Shammai. What is a ‘dispute not for the sake of Heaven’? The dispute of Korach and his assembly.”

The commentators note that while it is true to say that Shammai and Hillel debated, surely it makes no sense whatsoever to phrase Korach’s dispute as having been between him and his associates? Korach and his assembly didn’t battle against each other – they fought against Moses.

The answer given by the commentators is compelling. The hatred Korach had for Moses was quickly overshadowed by the distrust and mistrust he had for his co-conspirators, and that they had for him.

This is, in fact, the identifying mark of fights not for the sake of Heaven – they descend into internecine squabbles of the kind that are self-defeating and self-destructive. And this is why the Mishnah assures us that such fights never endure long-term.

None of this really helps us deal with the horrific kidnap situation in Israel, but perhaps it helps us have faith in the fact that our true fight, the fight against evil, and against evildoers, is the fight that will ultimately be victorious.

We can hold our heads up high and be proud of our restraint and morality, as opposed to those we oppose and deplore, whose depravity knows no limits, and whose unbridled evil motivates their every act.

Let us pray to God that our boys will soon be found, safe and sound, and returned to their wonderful parents, and to their Torah studies, and that we will continue to fight the good fight and see the contemporary Korachs defeated and obliterated, as was the fate of Korach when he rebelled against Moshe, and as explained to us by the Mishnah in Avot.

A couple of weeks after this article appeared, search teams found the bodies of the three missing teenagers in a field near Hebron. They had apparently been killed very soon after they were abducted.

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