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Killing In Tanach

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#1 AlHal



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Posted 18 May 2012 - 09:27 AM

Secularists criticise Tenach for being genocidal eg. the Mitzva to wipe out all the Canaanites and Saul's failed attempt to wipe out Amalek. The last verse of Tehillim 147 also seems quite bloodthirsty.
I wonder if we can prove from King Amaziah (Divrei Hayamim 2 chapter 25) that the verse in Tehillim is not to be taken literally.
How can it be permissible under any circumstances to murder children?

#2 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 03:39 PM

Youre mistaken. Tehillim 147 ends with ספר תהילים פרק קמז (יט) מַגִּיד דְּבָרָו לְיַעֲקֹב חֻקָּיו וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו לְיִשְׂרָאֵל: (כ) לֹא עָשָׂה כֵן לְכָל גּוֹי וּמִשְׁפָּטִים בַּל יְדָעוּם הַלְלוּיָהּ

I also took the liberty of changing the title of the topic from "Attitude of Tenach to Non-Jews" because it falsely implies that there is some common "attitude" that the Torah has to all people who are not Jewish, which is not indicated anywhere in your question.

This topic was discussed, here.

Now I have a question for you: How could would criticize anyone for killing children? Why would that be different, to them, than killing adults? And why would it be different than killing cows for that matter? After all, humans - adults and children - are nothing but organic accidental effects of the big bang - so why in the world should I not kill someone if I want to? Why is killing a human different than stepping on an annoying ant? (I understand they "feel" there is a difference, but I'd like some rational intellectual explanation, please.)

And, by the way, you biased the question - you asked how it can be permissible to "murder children?" Calling it "murder" as opposed to killing means you have already concluded there is no justification, as the word "murder" connotes just that. Justified killing is not "murder."

#3 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 08:01 AM

Rashi on Shemos 32:4 quotes Tanchuma Ki Sisa 19 which talks about Moshe saving Michah. Rabbi Yannai in Pirkei Avos 4:19 says the question of the suffering righteous and tranquil wicked is impossible to answer.

It seems from your answer that the question of how G-d can cause the innocent eg children to suffer is very easy to answer (G-d wanted it to happen). If so, why was Moshe bothered and why did Rabbi Yannai say we couldn't explain it.

One argument used by atheists is that if people killed each other society would not function. I guess that means it would be limiting our ability to reproduce ourselves. I also saw this.
Atheists have morals because humans learn moral lessons based on observation and an understanding of human nature. The scriptures of a religious tome are not necessary. An atheist reasons and considers the consequences of his actions for all his actions. Morality is one of the features of all of humanity, so therefore morals don't just exist in the religious realm. Atheists can realize the beauty of humanity, and learn not to battle with it.
The fact is that there are moral atheists, so the question of how they can rationally justify not killing seems academic.

I really know you have no way of knowing this, but whatever book you are reading that is quoting you these things is sadly misrepresenting them. The first example was that verse in Tehillim.

The next is Rashi, who does not say Moshe doubted Hashem's law. All it says, in Rashi and in the Medrash which is his source, is that Moshe once saved a baby named Micha from Pharoah who later became an idol worshiper. So what?

And R. Yannai is misquoted as well. His exact words are: "We do not have [or: 'It is not for us'] either the suffering of the righteous or the tranquility of the wicked."

This is a far cry from what that book claims it says. It is not for us to question or to complain about; we do not have any such dichotomies in the world, regardless of how it looks to us - any of those or more could be what Pirkei Avos is saying here.

But even if it means we cannot answer the quesiton of the suffering of the righteous etc., it does not contradict anything I said here. Your claim, that "G-d wants it" would be an answer, is not correct, for the question would remain: why would G-d want such a thing? But that G-d does in fact want it is not the question.

And none of this, by the way,has anything to do with our topic, which was the Torah sometimes commanding people to kill. Your quotes, even if they would say what you say they do, are equally applicable to the 50 million people that die every year on this planet - why are their deaths any more understandable than those of the Canaanites?

As far as atheists and morals, I didnt say there are no moral atheists. I said there is no logical reason why an atheist should be moral. He can act in any way he wants, and he can submit himself to any belief system he desires, and he can follow any feelings or instincts he may believe he possesses, but the fact remains that there is no logical reason that he should do so. It is merely a personal preference. And therefore, because there is nothing requiring adherence to morals, but they are merely personal preferences, nobody has a right to criticize others for being immoral, for all immorality is, according to the definition you are presenting, is a different set of personal preferences.

The argument that society will fall apart if people kill each other is invalid, because self-interest, which is all this argument presents, is not morals. Why should society's falling apart concern me? Only because it is against my self-interest? If so, that does not constitute morals. If it is not my interest that motivates me not to kill, what then is it?

Second, what if I kill someone in a way that does not affect society? I meet an old man in the desert with a gold watch. Why should I not kill him and take the watch? Whether I kill him or not, society will never know and never be affected.

Third, if that is the problem, then the secularists should have no problem with a moral system that requires killing some people but prohibits killing others. If my religion says Australians are bad for society and they should all be killed but Asians and Africans are good for society and it is prohibited to kill them, that would not be an immoral system according to you, since the ONLY reason not to kill an individual is because society will fall apart, but that will not happen if the same moral system that requires (or allows) killing certain individuals also has inherent controls to maintain society. (As in the case of the requirement to kill the Cannanites but at the same time prohibiting murder of non-Caananites).

And as far as learning morals from nature, surely you jest. In nature there exists creatures that eat their own children, and who tear apart and eat weaker creatures alive -- are you going to learn that?

But more importantly, why should I be bound to an accidental combination of elements and chemical reactions, created by a purposeless Big Bang? That's all nature is, for a secularist. Again - I can choose to learn from nature, but my personal preference does not constitute a moral obligation for the whole world.

So while an atheist can act moral, he cannot logically find a reason that he is required to do so. And so, he has no right to complain if others do not. Morals to an atheist are a personal choice, a personal belief system. They are fully entitled to believe in that system if they so choose. But they have no right to foist their personal beliefs on others. Or to complain if others don't share those beliefs.

#4 matan



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Posted 23 May 2012 - 09:35 PM

The problem of morality without religion has been dealt with for a long time. Plato, in his dialogue Euthyphro, brought up the Euthyphro dilemma. Plato asks the question is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God? http://en.wikipedia...._of_the_dilemma

#5 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 09:11 AM

The problem of morality without religion has been dealt with for a long time. Plato, in his dialogue Euthyphro, brought up the Euthyphro dilemma. Plato asks the question is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God? http://en.wikipedia...._of_the_dilemma

Nice that's it's been "dealt with". But the fact is that despite thousands of years of dealing with it, they haven't made any progress towards answering the question, which simply is:

"If I don't believe in G-d, what obligates me to be moral?"

They have still no found any answer besides "nothing." And there can be no other answer, because morals mean "should", and without G-d, there is no such thing as "should." See here.

As far as Plato's question as to whether morals are the cause or effect of Hashem's command, the answer is neither, for Plato was a philosopher not a theologian, and it is in the realm of theology that the answer lies. See the above link.