Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski
Towards the end of this week’s Sedra the Torah instructs Klal-Yisroel as to how to proceed if and when they wish to annex additional territory to Eretz-Yisroel by waging war. When laying siege to a city, the Torah tells us, Klal-Yisroel should first call upon the city and ask for their surrender, making sure to phrase the request as an offer of peace.
This command seems a bit peculiar. The Torah tells us that when we want to wage war we should first ask for peace, really meaning that we should first ask them to surrender. Even though this seems wise, why do we need the Torah to spell this out for us?
The Medrash (see both Medrash Rabba and Tanchuma for varying versions) uses this Passuk as a platform to highlight the concept of peace. The Medrashim draw on a large number of scenarios throughout the Torah in which the concept of peace is emphasized. In such cases, an individual, the Torah itself, or even Hashem seem to alter actual occurrences (creating white lies or the like) in order for peace to prevail.
Chazal tell us similar proofs for the importance of peace in other cases and places in the Torah. In the instance of a Sota (a women who is suspected of committing adultery by her husband) how Hashem commands for his name to be erased and mixed as part of a potion that the Sota was to drink. She would drink this potion in order to prove her innocence. Chazal explain that we are to see from this that peace is the most important thing to Hashem.
While there are all sorts of places that peace is so clearly stressed as a focal point in Judaism, whether mentioned in the aforementioned Medrashim or whether not, this statement of asking another city is especially singled out by the Medrash to be the place that the importance of peace should be discussed. The Medrash explains that the reason that it chose to single out our case is because of its unique contrast: while we are preparing for war and we are about to wage war we must pull ourselves back we must attempt a peaceful approach.
It seems that the idea the Passuk and hence the Medrash are trying to convey is that peace is so absolutely important that even when it looks the furthest thing from reality we must still give it a chance. While we are about to wage war against a foreign jurisdiction in order to conquer them and it seems that there would be no way that they would recede on their own accord, nonetheless the Torah tells us that we must first ask them to.
In every scenario in life we must first try a peaceful approach it even if in the end we have no choice but to fight. we must always realize that halevai we should be able to do so peacefully. We must set the tone for all of life in peaceful vain.
Rabbi Krakowski is the Director of Kashrus for OU Kashrus in Israel. Rabbi Krakowski served as Rov of Kehilas Torah Vechesed, and now holds a position of Moreh Tzedek in Shaarei Chessed in Yerushalaim. Rabbi Krakowski writes and lectures widely.