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Service in the Israeli Army and Lineage – part III


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

Tevet 16 5780
We have been dealing, over the last couple of weeks, with the possibility that David had officers in his army who were not Jewish or not of Jewish lineage. The gemara posits that at least Itai HaGiti came to the army as a non-Jew, although it is possible that he converted later.

This week we will investigate the important opinion of the Rambam, one of the only poskim who wrote extensively even on matters that were not operative in his times, including the workings of the Israelite army. In his Commentary on the Mishna, he explains the importance of soldiers being Jewish: "so that their merit and the merit of their fathers will help them." However, there is no mention of such a concept in the Yad Hachazaka, his code on Halacha. Apparently, he posited that the opinion that participation in David’s army is an indication of Jewishness is not accepted according to Halacha. We will prove the Rambam’s opinion on this topic from two additional directions.

Someone asked R. Avraham the son of the Rambam (Shut 25) about the lineage of Doeg Ha’Adomi and Uriya HaChiti. R. Avraham says they were geirim (usually translated as converts), and cites his father as saying that Uriya was a ger toshav (one who does not convert fully to Judaism, but rather accepts upon himself enough mitzvot to be allowed to live in the Land). (This opinion has fascinating consequences regarding the relationship between David and Uriya’s wife, Batsheva. However, that topic is far beyond our present scope.)

The question that now begs an answer is: according to the Rambam, what ensured success in the battles of David’s army? The answer can be found in the Rambam’s Yad Hachazaka (Melachim 7:15). He writes that when one is in the process of waging battle, "he should lean on the Savior of Israel and know that he is fighting on behalf of the united Name of Hashem. He should not think about his wife or children … Whoever fights with all his heart without fear and his intention will be to sanctify His name is promised to not have any damage." He brings corroboration from Avigail’s praise of David for his dedication to fight "Hashem’s wars" (Shmuel I, 25:28-29).

It follows that according to the Rambam, success in battle is not based on the merit of one’s forefathers but on the merit of his belief in Hashem, reliance on Him, pushing off personal thoughts, and his intention to sanctify Hashem’s Name. (Thank you to my talmid Rabbi Adam Friedman for making the connection.) That is the key to victory in every generation.

Let us pray that in our generation, the generation of the beginning of the redemption, we will merit that the soldiers of the IDF, who endanger their lives to protect our people and our communities, will be disciples of David and will sanctify Hashem’s name with their behavior.
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