Bamidbar: The Importance of Ransoming for Hostages

I have the honor of having both boys and girls.  And from them I learned that today's theory that they are "equal in all ways" and are only "acting like boys" and "acting like girls" is simply "a product of society," is pure nonsense.

Just the other day, the baby was in his crib and started to cry.  Sitting in the same room was my 10-year-old son, 8-year-old son, and 2-year-old daughter.  What happened?  My two sons continued to sit on the couch, picking their noses, pondering what life will be like when one day their brains evolve enough to be as sophisticated as those of cockroaches, while my daughter, who, for obvious reasons, doesn't like her baby brother so well, ran over and began to rock him back to sleep, whispering "sssshhhhh ….."

Clearly, both reactions are a result of biology.  Sadly, it'll probably be a while until my boys brains do evolve ….

 I hope I do not have to say that I feel for the families of the hostages.  It's something one cannot imagine and does not want to imagine.  When two of them were rescued, we made a small simcha in the house.  When news that three were accidentally killed, the feelings in our home went the other way.  The toll the entire hostage situation and lack of clarity from the government has taken on Israeli society has been horrific.

However, even if one does not have relatives who are hostages, everybody living here has "skin in the game."  The north, even before the war, had warnings that Hezbollah was planning a similar attack on a much larger order.  And now, as firing and fires have increased in number and strength, we are reminded that things are far from over.

Earlier this week I heard a clip of one of the mothers of the hostages speaking.  She gave a Dvar Torah, which, I'm sorry to say was flimsy and a bit stretched.  In it, she invoked the now famous halacha in the Shulchan Oruch, "There is no act of charity more meritorious than ransoming captives."  Many, in the anti-Netanyahu protests also quote the halacha following it: "Every moment that one delays unnecessarily the ransoming of a captive, it is as if he were to shed blood."  Yet both this mother, and the protesters, seem to have stopped their Torah learning at that point.  Since they forgot to learn the halacha immediately after the preceding two halachos: "Captives are not to be ransomed at an unreasonable cost, for the safety of society; otherwise, the enemies would exert every effort to capture victims."

When speaking with my neighbor a few weeks ago, she too, invoked the first halacha mentioned, thinking that Jewish belief is clear cut.  But, being unlearned in halacha, she had no clue about the last one I mentioned.

(As a side-note, there are many families of hostages who disagree that we should pay "any price" for the above stated reasons.  But, because of Israeli politics, their voice isn't noticed.)

On a similar note, many years ago, the kollel was learning hilchos Shabbos.  Somebody brought in two speakers.  Lo and behold, they were not simply speakers, but were also tying in their talk with the importance of buying their technology to help negate certain issues with modern refrigerators on Shabbos.  In it, they completely negated other companies' solutions as "forbidden" and discussed while, "halachically-speaking," theirs was the only solution.  At that talk was a certain talmid chacham whom many go to regarding anything to do with halacha.  He was furious about the whole thing.  While he's usually stringent for himself, he's a big believer in taking the not-so-stringent path when needed.  He's also a big believer in being honest, and these two were not being honest in regards to the halachic "issues" they had with other companies' solutions.  And those who bought into what they were saying were those who were less knowledgeable of the halachic details involved.

We see, each on their own level, that when people are ignorant on certain subjects in Jewish life, they are easily swayed to what they hear based on how little they know.  We've all been guilty of these things in life, and most likely, we continue to be guilty, even without knowing it.

But the more you learn, the less receptive you will be to falsehood.  The masses that gather in Tel Aviv, many who are proudly not-so-fond of religion, proudly hold up signs quoting the Shulchan Oruch, while making demands that might very well go against the Shulchan Oruch. 

In regards to what is the halacha on the most recent ceasefire deal that will leave Hamas intact, I have no idea, and it's certainly above my pay grade.  I know that regarding the previous deals, there were opinions on both sides.  In regards to the previous ceasefire deal, most (if not all?) rabbanim support it.  But this one is different and it needs to be examined by people who know halacha, not just those who can copy and paste lines that they like, while ignoring the others.  

As for us, we have an obligation to learn and understand as much as possible, not just for the obvious reasons (becoming close to Hashem), but also for these reasons, not being swayed by loud voices that dominate the public sphere, but who know very little.  We see today that the charges of genocide and Hamas's casualty counts are now considered to be "fact."  Why?  Because, it's repeated over and over again.  The Jewish outlook in life is also easily twisted by loud voices that repeat things over and over again.  But it does not change reality.  And the more we learn and the more in-depth we learn, the more we will be able to know what is true and what is not.

And with Shavous only a few days away, it behooves us to take it upon ourselves to learn as much as we can, so we can always follow Toras Hashem, and not the Torah of Loud People.

On a funny note, if you look at the language of the Shulchan Oruch, you will see that the reason we do not redeem captives at too high of a cost is because, and I quote, "Tikkun Olam," which in this case has loosely been translated as "safety of society" for the English-speaker.  It's great to see such an abused term used in one of its original forms.

May we see the return of our hostages soon, hand-in-hand with the destruction of our enemies, hand-in-hand with proper Jewish unity.