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Tuesday, 10 June 2014

How to Achieve World Peace

Rosh Hashanah 33

In Trench Warfare, Tony Ashworth describes the Live and Let Live System that often occurred during World War I. 

In order for soldiers to become killing-machines and indiscriminately fight back against enemy fire, they are trained to dehumanize the ‘other’ and view those on the other side of the battlefield as mere objects.  On rare occasions during the War, however, Ashworth reports that combatants from each side would climb out of their trenches and join together in a rare demonstration of the camaraderie of the brotherhood of mankind. 

Sadly, while such behaviour was prevalent in early 1914, it disappeared as the war wore on and nowadays has all but ceased to exist.  How do we bring back such feelings of the brotherhood of humankind?

Concerning Rosh Hashanah, the Torah says, “It shall be a day of teruah (blowing) for you.”  Onkelos translates the word teruah (blowing) as yevava.  What does yevava mean?

Following the epic battle with the Canaanite armies led by Sisera, Deborah the prophetess sings a song of thanksgiving.  Sisera, having been beheaded by Yael, would not be returning home that day.
“By the window, Sisera’s mother looks out and weeps (yavev) at the portal.  Why does his chariot tarry, why are the hoof sounds delayed?”

Thus, concludes Abaye, the blasts of the shofar should sound like weeping.

The song of Deborah offers us a rare glimpse into the difference between men’s and women’s leadership styles.  Generally, soldiers are trained to view those on the other side of the battlefield as less-than-human.   But when Deborah sings her victory song, she takes a moment to think about Sisera, the fellow human being. 

Yes, it’s true that we had to stop him dead in his tracks so that we wouldn’t be destroyed.  But let’s remember that even Sisera, no doubt, has a family waiting for him back home.  The consequences of his death have an impact way beyond his individual physical space.  War is not pretty.  Sometimes it’s necessary, but, says Deborah, let’s not glorify it.  The casualties of the battle – far and wide – are innumerable. 

It’s easy to dismiss the ‘other’ when we demonize them.  They become mere objects.   Deborah teaches us to view everyone as first and foremost fellow human beings.  That is ultimately the key to resolving conflict and making peace.

Whether we’re thinking about the Palestinians in their conflict with the State of Israel, or interdenominational Jewish conflict, it’s important that we always view one another as fellow human beings or fellow Jews.  We have so much more in common than that which divides us. 

Let’s think about one another as real people and the world will be a better place for all.