Rabbi Joshua Gutoff is Director of the MA in Jewish Education program at Gratz College. He has rabbinic ordination and an EdD from the Jewish Theological Seminary.
We turn to the Torah, many of us, for wisdom. And this week when we turn to the parsha, this is what we find: a command to the Israelites that, when encountering an enemy town, to enslave all the inhabitants. Unless they put up a fight, in which case all the adult males are to be slaughtered, and the women and children enslaved. And that’s outside the Promised Land. When conquering the Land, none of the indigenous population is to be spared. (Deut. 20:10-18)
Where we might have been hoping for something that would demonstrate a respect for all human life, even anticipate the Geneva Conventions, we find instead an invitation (or command!) to participate in forced enslavement or genocidal slaughter.