An article published in The Jerusalem Post titled “The Murder Midrash” describes the content of the book:
The book deals with questions, such as the fate of a non-Jew who, in time of war, does not violate what are known as the seven principles of the sons of Noah, considered the basic commandments of all humanity, and the fate of a non-Jew who does violate these principles, and under what circumstances is it permitted to kill children and strangers living in the land. One of its six chapters deals with the prohibition for a Jew to give up his life in order to avoid killing a non-Jew, while another chapter deals with the question of when it is necessary and permissible to kill innocents.
"The prohibition (in the Ten Commandments) ‘Thou shalt not murder’," the authors write, "applies only to a Jew who kills a Jew." Since "non-Jews are uncompassionate by nature," they should be killed in order to "curb their evil inclinations," they write.
"There is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults."
The article describes the reaction of Rabbi Ya'akov Meidan, head of the Gush Etzion Yeshiva in Alon Shvut, a settlement south of Bethlehem, while lecturing to his students:
He held up a copy of "Torat Hamelekh" ("The King's Torah"), a book with a marblepatterned cover and embossed gilt letters, to his students.
"This is a challenging book, written by learned men," he said to the assembly of students.
After a short silence, he added, calmly and deliberately, "We should burn this book and never allow its authors to teach halakha ever again."
Read the article in its entirety here.
The controversy among religious leaders in Israel is whether rabbis are free to express their religious opinions or whether the banning of the book goes against the principles of freedom of religion and freedom of expression. Another issue raised by this controversy is whether the banning of the book could be considered “the persecution of the Torah by the institutions of the State.”
I am not familiar with Israeli secular and religious laws, thus, I am unable to invoke Israeli laws to answer the issues involved in this controversy. However, I can speak as an outsider and give my personal opinion about the content of the book.
I have not read the book, thus, my views are based solely on the citations that appear in the article published in The Jerusalem Post. First, I believe that the prohibition in the Torah, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13), applies to every person, Jews and non-Jews, because all human beings are created in the image of God: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6).
Second, it is false that “non-Jews are uncompassionate by nature.” I could cite several examples from the Hebrew Bible showing the compassion of non-Jews, but this statement is so false that it does not deserve to be addressed.
Finally, by treating non-Jews according to the principles developed by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Rabbi Yosef Elizur, Jews repudiate their mission in the world, as God gave it to Abraham and to his descendants. When God called Abraham, God told him: “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:13).
That all the families of the earth shall be blessed through Abraham is repeated in Genesis 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; and 28:14. The call of Abraham means that Israel was never to live in a vacuum. God’s words to Abraham summarize Israel’s mission in the world. God desires to give life to all people, Jews and non-Jews, and as Walter Brueggemann wrote: “God freely gives it and none must ‘qualify.’”
I agree with the statement of Rabbi Ya'akov Meidan: “We should burn this book and never allow its authors to teach halakha ever again.”
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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Tags: Torah Hamelekh, King’s Torah, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, Rabbi Yosef Elizur, Rabbi Ya’akov Meidan