Truth and the need to win


5 Tammuz 5777 / 29 June, 2017

“A person who always wants to win the argument is very intolerant of truth. The truth may be staring him in the face, but because he is determined to win at all costs, he ignores it completely. If you want to find the real truth, you must rid yourself of the urge to win. Then you will be able to see the truth if you wish. But when it comes to God, blessed be His name, even in victory He is Truth. For ‘The Winner of Israel shall not lie.'” (I Samuel 15:29; Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Likutey Moharan I, 122).

The history of mankind is blotted with terrible religious wars and campaigns of persecution where hundreds, thousands and millions lost their lives or were driven into misery by warriors who fought ruthlessly to impose their version of the Truth on the rest of the world.

Could it really be that the Creator of the World wants His children to kill one another for the sake of Truth? That is not the way that science works in its mission to unlock the secrets of creation. Rather, scientists cooperate with one another in their search for truth, coolly examining each other’s tenets, offering constructive criticism where due, searching jointly to refine their knowledge and understanding. In science, you do not need to impose your truth on others, because the facts speak for themselves.

The Torah also speaks for itself and does not need to be imposed on anyone.
The Torah commanded Israel to drive out from their land 7 Nations that have long disappeared from the face of the earth, and destroy their idols. These were Canaanites, who were required to either leave Israel or renounce their polytheistic idolatry and submit to the one God (Exodus 34:11-16). Israel are also commanded to erase all memory of a nation called Amalek on account of their having committed the first terrorist attacks on the weak, women and children of Israel after they left slavery in Egypt (Deuteronomy 25:17). The Torah thus teaches that there is an aspect of pure evil that cannot be rehabilitated and whose only repair is through being destroyed.

With the exception of the now extinct Canaanites and the Amalekites, the Torah nowhere commands Israel to attack or destroy any other nation or people in the world. On the contrary, Israel are instructed to “be among the followers of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving the various creations and drawing them to the Torah (Avot 1:12). The mission of Israel is to shine God’s truth, enshrined in His Torah, to the entire world. In the words of the Psalmist: “Tell His glory among the nations, His wonders among all the peoples” (Psalms 96:3).

This cannot be achieved by force or by a domineering attitude that seeks to impose the perception of one person or group on others. It can only be achieved when the guardians of the Torah – those who cherish and study it constantly – open up its teachings relating to the nations with an attitude of love, kindness and honesty and a willingness to discuss everything that is of concern to anyone peaceably and openly in a common quest for truth. And people of other faiths and nations must respond with a willingness to listen, learn, discuss and understand, all peaceably and lovingly.

The truth speaks for itself. The truth stares us in the face. Can we rid ourselves of the urge to win the argument? For then we shall be able to see the truth.

As one who seeks to observe the Torah of Israel, I make no demand of any Christian, Moslem or adherent of any other faith or belief in the world to change or abandon all or any of what he or she holds dear unless it involves crime and violence. Nor will I submit to any demand by those of a faith other than my own to change or abandon what I believe. What I ask of those of other beliefs is to be willing to take an honest look at the Torah of Moses and to seek to understand what it is saying to all of us. Let us teach and learn from each other, and search together for God’s Truth.

About the author

Avraham ben Yaakov

Avraham ben Yaakov is a Torah teacher based in Safed Israel & author of translations and commentaries on Bible, Hassidut, Kabbalah, Spiritual Growth, Health & Healing.

By Avraham ben Yaakov

Avraham Ben Yaakov

Avraham ben Yaakov Greenbaum is a Torah teacher in Tz’fat (Safed) in Israel’s Galilee, and author of translations and commentaries on Bible, Hassidut, Kabbalah, Spiritual Growth, Health, Healing and the Environment.

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