Holy War in Judaism: The Fall and Rise of a Con­tro­ver­sial Idea

  • From the Publisher
April 23, 2012
Holy War in Judaism is the first book to con­sid­er how the con­cept of holy war dis­ap­peared from Jew­ish thought for almost 2000 years, only to reemerge with renewed vig­or in mod­ern times. Holy war, sanc­tioned or even com­mand­ed by God, is a com­mon and recur­ring theme in the Hebrew Bible, but Rab­binic Judaism large­ly avoid­ed dis­cus­sion of holy war in the Tal­mud and relat­ed lit­er­a­tures for the sim­ple rea­son that it became extreme­ly dan­ger­ous and self-destruc­tive. The revival of the holy war idea occurred with the rise of Zion­ism, the Holo­caust, and the need for orga­nized Jew­ish engage­ment in mil­i­tary actions. There was great need for all Jews to engage in com­bat for the sur­vival of the infant state of Israel, but the Tal­mu­dic rab­bis had vir­tu­al­ly elim­i­nat­ed divine autho­riza­tion for reli­gious Jews to fight in Jew­ish armies. In this book Reuven Fire­stone iden­ti­fies, ana­lyzes, and explains the his­tor­i­cal, con­cep­tu­al, and intel­lec­tu­al process­es that revived holy war ideas in mod­ern Judaism. The book serves as a case study of the way in which one ancient reli­gious con­cept, once deemed irrel­e­vant or even dan­ger­ous, was suc­cess­ful­ly revived in order to fill a press­ing con­tem­po­rary need. It also helps to clar­i­fy the cur­rent polit­i­cal and reli­gious sit­u­a­tion in Israel and the Mid­dle East.


Discussion Questions