We in Israel live in a country with wars raging on all sides, with failed states collapsing into a primordial stew of hatred and nihilism all around us, with suicidal regimes seeking nuclear weapons in order to carry out their expressed goals of obliterating us. We know about death and we know about weapons of war, but we don’t fetishize them. How is it that Americans are so willing to arm the enemy within for the sake of security?
The recent kerfuffle around Whoopi Goldberg has once again ignited the perennial debate about whether the Jewish people constitute a race. The problem is that such distinctions are modern social constructs, and were invented long after the Jewish people came into being. Jews are not so much a race or a religion, but a civilization—a culture. As a culture, Judaism has its own laws, folk tales, myths, songs, and several similar—but not necessarily identical—religions. We’re a people, and any attempt to fit us into the little boxes designed for and by Western societies is destined to fail.
It’s been suggested that the Torah sets out a direction for societal development, pointing the way toward desired reforms, and that in each generation, scholars and governments have worked to continue this line of evolution. One such “signpost” put up by the Torah to show us how our legal systems should evolve is the Eshet Yiffat Toar—the beautiful woman taken in war.