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Service in the Israeli Army and Lineage – part II


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

Tevet 10 5780
We saw last week that there were several prominent soldiers in David’s armies with names that imply that they were not Jewish. We began discussing whether this could be the case.

The gemara in Kiddushin (76a-b) already raises the issue. The mishna discusses those whose role in society is confirmation that they must be Jewish (in such cases it is easier to vet their offspring for marriage with "kosher" Jews). One opinion says that one who was a member of David’s army was to be presumed to be a kosher Jew. Rashi explains that when they would be conscripted for a month at a time, their names and family names would be written, and they would be careful about their lineage.

The gemara cites a pasuk (Divrei Hayamim I, 7:40) as corroboration: "All of these were Sons of Asher, the heads of the houses of the fathers, chosen, brave soldiers, the heads of the leaders, and they had confirmed status for the army for battle …" The gemara also explains why their lineage would be checked – "so that their merit and the merit of their fathers would assist them." Then the gemara asks from David’s soldiers who do not appear to be Jewish. "Presumably Tzelek the Amoni was from Amon? No, he was Jewish and he just came from the region of Amon. There was Uriya the Chitite? No, he came from the region of Chet but was a full Jew." The gemara has more trouble with Itai the Gitite because a different gemara (found also in Avoda Zara 44a) says that they used him to nullify the avoda zara status of the crown of one of the kings. The halacha is that such a process can be done only by a non-Jew – see some of the halachic principles on the matter in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 146:1.

Indeed, the conclusion of the gemara is that there were some people in David’s forces who were of non-Jewish origin and who had not converted, despite their involvement in the Jewish kingdom. The Tashbetz (Shut III, 96), asked whether Uriya was Jewish or not, references the gemara as to the status of Uriya and Tzelek, and concludes that it is not altogether clear. Next week, we will look for a conclusion to these questions.

In the meantime, we want to give our encouragement to the soldiers of the IDF, who are on guard in our Land, wherever they may be. We also pray for the speedy recovery of those who have been injured
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