Israel strikes on Gaza: We must defend the custom of just war and restraint

On Monday, as Hamas launched hundreds of missiles against Israel’s population centres, prompting Israeli strikes at Hamas’ war-waging capabilities, Jews celebrated Shavuot, the “Feast of Weeks”, which commemorates both the first wheat the Israelites harvested in the Land of Israel and the anniversary of the giving of the Torah (the Hebrew Bible) and its law by God to the Children of Israel at Mount Sinai in 1312 BCE. Coming 50 days after Passover, which marks the Israelites’ flight from Egypt to the promised land, the coincidence of the events celebrated at Shavuot is anything but accidental.

Rather, it highlights a powerful and timeless truth: that there is an inextricable bond between freedom, prosperity and law. Having braved the Exodus, the Israelites were no longer slaves; they could, at last, enjoy the wheat that was the fruit of their labour. But the freedom they had so painfully won was to be freedom under law, which is the only freedom worth having.

Elaborated by successive generations of rabbinical sages, the law became Judaism’s heart and soul, guiding the Jewish people through centuries of unimaginable persecution. In a tradition as vibrant today as it was three thousand years ago, the sages wove out of the Torah a moral code that offered the hope of peace, a word whose Hebrew equivalent — shalom — derives from a root that indicates wholeness, completion and perfection.

Read the article by Henry Ergas in The Australian.