Monday, August 23, 2004

Shoftim: Sparing the fruit trees, and little else

First, this parsha tells us (Deuteronomy, chapter 20, verses 16-18) that our ancestors were commanded to annihilate the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, “so that they will not teach you to do their abominations that they have done to their gods, and so that you will not sin against HaShem.” Then in the very next few verses, (19-20), the Torah commands us not to destroy the fruit trees when we’re laying siege to a city.

I have two comments. One is that concerns about assimilation go all the way back to the days of Joshua’s conquest. (So what else is new?) In this case, though, the solution seems more than a bit drastic to me, to say the least.

The other is that I seem to remember having read somewhere, a few years ago, that weapons developers were trying to develop weapons that would kill people but spare the infrastructure. Terrific: The antidote to the firebombing of Dresden and the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is to slaughter the population but leave intact all the landmarks for their non-existent descendants. Spare the city and every thing in it, including the fruit trees, but kill the inhabitants. How contemporary. This sounds like the great debate concerning whether it’s possible to spare olive groves and still protect Israelis against terrorists who hide therein.


Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Urijah, welcome to my blog, and thanks for the clarification. Those neutron bombs sound lethal enough to me--shielded bomb shelters only work if (a) someone builds them, and (b) civilians can get to them before they're killed.

Wed Aug 25, 07:14:00 PM 2004  

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