Jews over the last few thousand years have been persecuted mercilessly! Leaving out making a state for ourselves, is it the wrong haskafah to prepare ourselves with the fighting skills necessary to fight back? We generally see that communities called Fast days and Teshuvah, can we learn from there that it is not the correct Hishtadlus to learn self defence and that when pogroms start we should not bring our own axes too?

Can you help me with some sources please?

Please note that I'm not asking about the legitimacy of Zionism.

  • I don't get your closing condition. I'd expect that there's a great deal of Halachic literature directly addressing your question that was written by rabbis who were either involved with or were analyzing the Halachic status of the Israeli Defense Forces or their progenitors.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jul 5, 2012 at 14:27
  • @Issac Moses that would be fine to bring, but I dont want people to get into a discussion of Zioinism!
    – Yehuda
    Jul 5, 2012 at 20:54
  • 1
    I attempted to edit the final point to match your comment. Please feel free to edit further if it doesn't match your intent.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jul 5, 2012 at 20:58
  • 1
    I can't give a full answer, but I just wanted to point out that before the Bar Kochva revolt, the Jewish people very often learned the art of war and attempted to defend themselves. After the bar Kocvha revolt, you don't see exclusively Jewish defense forces protecting the Jewish people until more recently.
    – avi
    Jul 5, 2012 at 21:03
  • I see no reason why any people should be far too "moral" than the rest. If the rest of the world have armies why shouldn't you? That being said, history shows that prosecution goes both way where jews too kill others when the got the upper hand. Not blaming anyone here. The killing seems to come from something more fundamental than just antisemitism. Perhaps a common xenophobia most pre capitalistic societies tend to have. It's as if deep inside, humans just have to kill somebody and get away with it.
    – user4951
    Nov 18, 2012 at 1:10

2 Answers 2


When Yaakov was threatened with Esav and his 400 men (Genesis 32), he responded in three ways (as noted by Rashi to verse 9):

  • He sent gifts.

  • He prayed.

  • He prepared for war.

So yes, preparing for war certainly has a prominent place in Jewish ideology, right alongside diplomatic efforts and prayers to God. All three are important components of a proper defensive effort.

  • 1
    Execllent Proof!
    – Yehuda
    Jul 5, 2012 at 20:55
  • +1. Moreover, commentaries there say that these his doing three things are maase avos siman labanim.
    – msh210
    Jul 5, 2012 at 21:52

Creating an army is not the traditional Jewish response.

The Mishnah Brurah (686:2 quoting the Rambam) writes:

[We] fast on the thirteenth of Adar [Taanis Ester]. Because in the days of Mordechai and Ester, [Jews] were gathered to make war and stand on their lives on the thirteenth of Adar, and they needed to request mercy and [they would] supplicate that G-d would help them to get revenge from their enemies. And we find that when it was the day of the war, they would fast, because our rabbis z"l said that Moshe Rabeinu a"h — on the day that he fought with Amalek — was fasting. And if so, certainly in the days of Mordechai they fasted on that day! And therefore, all of Israel had the minhag to fast on the thirteenth of Adar, and it is called Taanis Ester, in order to remember that Hashem y' watches and listens to every man at the time of his need, when he fasts and returns to Hashem with all of his heart, like they did in those days.

We can take a few messages from this:

  1. The Jews were gathered on the thirteenth of Adar. They had known that there would be a war on the thirteenth of Adar since Pesach of the previous year (11 months), and only now they gathered their army!

  2. They fasted. Fasting makes a person weak, but it helps a person do teshuvah. Doing teshuvah is more important than military strength.

I will conclude with a quote from Tehilim (20:8-9): "These with chariots, and these with horses, but we will mention Hashem's name [pray (Rashi)]. They bent and fell down, but we came up and overpowered."

Metzudas David: We had few horses and chariots.

Malbim: We had no horses and chariots.

  • 3
    Where do you see that they didn't prepare in the previous 11 months?
    – Double AA
    Jul 4, 2012 at 21:43
  • @DoubleAA נקהלו ביום י"ג באדר They were gathered on the thirteenth of Adar.
    – b a
    Jul 6, 2012 at 20:43
  • I accidentally skipped iut in my translation.
    – b a
    Jul 6, 2012 at 20:43
  • That's a poor diyuk. Just because they gathered on one day doesn't mean they didn't prepare previously.
    – Double AA
    Jul 6, 2012 at 21:21
  • @DoubleAA Why is it a poor diyuk? Of course they prepared previously; they fasted for three days when Ester approached Achashverosh! However, their military preparation was only in one day. The Emes LeYaakov (Avos 6:3) says that you can make diyukim in the Mishnah Brurah like in rishonim.
    – b a
    Jul 6, 2012 at 21:37

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