Home Rodef, Cowardice and Treason
Home Rodef, Cowardice and Treason

Rodef, Cowardice and Treason

It is interesting to note that in Sotah we learn that in a time of war, strong men of courage were appointed in front of the army to rally the troops and men behind them with orders to kill anyone who fled the fighting.

On the surface this seems harsh and brutal. The legal halachic justification for such an act was that a deserter was considered a Rodef, his cowardice doesn't just involve dodging his own responsibilities but by fleeing in the face of battle, he encourages others to panic and flee creating a domino effect leading to mass panic and desertion followed by the enemy slaughtering the retreating troops and the residents of the towns they overrun.

And indeed battles were more often won or lost when one side or the other retreated or deserted. For example the American side was considered to have won the Battle of Bunker Hill despite suffering more casualties because they held their ground. By contrast the Continental Army lost New York after a series of battles that ended in panicked retreats that turned into routs.

In other words undermining morale in the face of the enemy leads to the deaths of soldiers and civilians. The one who does it, even if only out of cowardice, is considered a Rodef. Kol She'Ken, All the more so, someone who undermines the morale of the people in the face of the enemy out of sympathy to the enemy is a Rodef.

Consider Josephus, Israel's own Benedict Arnold long before Shimon Peres claimed the post, who tricked the men under him into killing themselves and deserted to aid the Romans and helped them in their dirty work. For this he was handsomely rewarded by Titus the Butcher of Jerusalem and his self-justifying work of revisionist history has been widely considered the definitive story of the Jewish period... among the Christian world and some secular Jews.

Though his garrison fell due to treason, our limited information suggests Josephus was motivated primarily by cowardice. The same can be said for some of Israel's politicians and public figures busy selling out Israel today but in many cases they lack the simple excuse of cowardice. If a despicable coward like Josephus could claim the redeeming argument that at least his life was probably on the line, the lives of Olmert and his merry men are not. Like some of the latter kings of Israel, they are willing to sell out their country to the great powers in exchange for a pat on the head and a meaningless promise of security.

What can one call Israel's frantic retreat from Lebanon under Barak and the following disaster of Hizbullah's shelling than the exact consequence of undermining the morale of the people leading to desertion, retreat and slaughter. Yet those who might have stood behind the lines had long since been branded as extremists and the real threat to Israel by the same sunshine patriots, the modern day Josephuses who are willing to talk the talk for a bit... until someone tells them to shut up.

Our problem is not a lack of diplomacy but an excess of it. Not a lack of courage in the people but a lack of courage in their leaders. It is not the people who have retreated before the enemy but time and time again those who led them have played Josephus, urging them to retreat before the enemy and authoring distorted histories of their latest withdrawal\peace initiative.

Today the enemy is in Yerushalayim and has his artillery positioned closer and closer to a final assault. In the ancient wars of Israel, it was understood that the Rodef was not merely someone who came to kill you but sometimes it was the one who told you to run instead of to fight.


  1. Fantastic article! You are absolutely right...Olmert, (May his name be cursed), and his regal band of cowards need to be replaced before they personally hand the keys to Yerushalayim over to Abbas, Nasrallah, or whoever else asks for them. Great blog...I'll be linking up our blogs...L'shalom, Yehudi

  2. Wonderful article once again!

    The problem I see with people like Olmert is that he hides his cowardice under a veil of diplomacy, which plays on the international stage as peace-loving and tolerant.

    But the suspicious side of me wonders if its not cowardice at all but if there is something in it for Olmert, some material gain. Why else would he want to sell out his own people?

    Either that...or plain old malice. The cause of the malice?

  3. todah, i have linked to you as well


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