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    Ordained for battle

    The first verse of Ma’oz Tzur says l’et tachin matbei’ach – “When You ordain battle”.

    A British Chief Rabbi, Joseph H Hertz, changed the text to l’et tashbit matbei’ach – “When you cause battle to cease”. Hertz presumably thought the original wording was too militant.

    The issue is wider than one hymn; it raises the general question of what place Judaism has for violence. Is violence inevitable?

    The answer in a perfect world will be no. In a not-yet perfect world, it seems to be if we can’t (yet) eradicate it, we have to find a way to reduce and eventually eliminate it.

    In 1963 when President John F Kennedy was killed, an American rabbi, Morris Adler, said in a memorial tribute: “We shall not answer violence with violence, raise fist against fist or wield club against club.

    “But we shall so reinforce our resolve, firm our determination, steel our will, that even the men of darkness and violence will recognise that their force and brutality cannot prevail against our inflexible and invincible purpose to realise fully the American promise and hope.”

    Challenging, inspiring words. But the man who uttered them in Detroit was himself shot in his synagogue on the Sabbath by a demented youth, and he died without regaining consciousness.

    His message is more than ever relevant in our age when terrorism stalks the world.

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