by Rav B. Horovitz
The unprecedented technological progress of the twentieth century has made possible the production of the new ABC – the Atomic, Biological and Chemical means of destroying all living creatures. These ‘secrets long mercifully withheld from man’ (Churchill) have made many men of science regret the use (or abuse) that is now being made of their discoveries.
Einstein stated that had he known what his work would lead to, he would have chosen to be a plumber rather than a Nobel-prize-winning scientist.
An early indication of this dilemma of the progress of invention is found in Genesis (4:22-3). Lemech was the father of Tuval-Kain, who introduced the forging of metal instruments. When his wives reproached him that they might be misused for murder and warfare, he said: “These instruments are meant for peaceful construction. I have killed no one with them.” Nevertheless since then technological progress has also brought harm to humanity.
Previously, it could be argued that ‘war or peace’ was a reasonable choice – for political, ideological or economic aims. Now, however, the development of weapons that can “overkill” humanity many times has ended any reasonability of this choice. Today, there are 50,000 nuclear weapons, together 1,600,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. An all-out world war would probably nullify the possibility of victory. It is not a question of who is right, but who will be left, for without ND (nuclear disarmament), it will be the END. “To be or not to be?” – that is the question which has arisen. It concerns the goals of existence, the worth of life, the fear of death and the values by which men will come to their abrupt end. These are problems which science has magnified and politics has complicated, but which can be solved with a religious approach.
The relentless search for peace characterizes the history of the Jews. The prophetic denunciation of war are household expressions, and the longing for peace by Isaiah and Micaah have sowed seeds of hope and peace for future generations. The Talmud warn against the folly of war. G-d is refered to as “Shalom” – “Peace”. Nevertheless, neither the Prophets nor the Sages were pacifists. War is reprehensible, but an unjust peace is immoral. Judaism does not condone turning the other cheek. The dominant note in regard to evil is not non-resistance, but ‘You shall remove evil from your midst‘ (Deut. 19:19). The Prophets denounce those who cry ‘Peace’ when there is no peace. Wars of self-defense and wars against severely immoral groups were considered obligatory, though Israel could never be accused of militarism. War, as a regrettable necessity, was regarded as a temporary measure leading to ultimate peace. The post of the priest who served in the army during wartime, unlike that of the High Priest, was not an inherited position, for it was hoped that no successor would be required.
The Nuclear Solution
The radically new dilemma of man’s threat to himself can only be solved by going to the ‘radix’ – the root, that is to the individual, who must train himself daily in the conquest of passions and selfishness. Every action must be weighed in the light of how far it threatens the destruction of mankind.
The nuclear threat can only be removed by a ‘nuclear’ religion that transforms all the details of life into acts of service to G-d. Only the recognition of the sacredness of human life as created in the “Image of G-d”, and the divine life-pattern of religious observance will allow man to control his aggressive and destructive instincts.
In his dramatic farewell to Israel before his death, Moses says:
“I call heaven and earth to witness this day that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore choose life, that you may live, you and your seed: To love the Lord your G-d, to listen to his Voice.” (Deut. 30:19-20)
Our technological advance has reached such a point that spiritual consciousness is demanded to harness technology for good purposes and prevent it form being abused.
It is only a new man who can bring about a new society. A new system of moral education is needed, as is found in the Universal and National Code of the Torah.
Israel has the specific task of making the world aware of this goal. “By their uncomfortable presence which keeps raising doubts about Christian dogma; by the greatness of their suffering and sacrifice; by their lack of illusions which does not try to talk evil out of existence with false comfort and stoical rigidity, the Jew may yet become the saving thorn in the Western soul. The Jew’s existence reminds us, lest we founder, of the reality of G-d.” (K. Jaspers, ‘The Future of Mankind’)
“Remember the Torah of Moses my servant…lest I come and smite the whole earth with destruction” were the closing words of the last prophet (Malachi 3). It seems to be a pessimistic message of doom. Perhaps it is message of doom, or perhaps it is of hope for our generation, which is threatened by a possible Doomsday.
If Israel adheres to the Code of Holiness, the nations of the world will learn to establish harmonious international relations based upon the Universal Noachide Code. Thereby the threatened destruction of the earth could be averted, and the Kingdom of Heaven will, we may hope, be established upon earth.