Torah laws of warfare and walking withered trees

How many nameless tree lovers have felt sorry for the fig tree that Jesus cursed?

Anonymous posted the following comment on my blog

It’s impossible to practice what Jesus preached. He told you to turn the other cheek, but is that what he did when an out of season fruit tree didn’t produce a snack on demand for Jesus, or did he put a nasty curse on the big plant? Ask yourself, WWJD? [What would Jesus do? – added]

Think not that I came to send peace; I came to send a sword!” Some prince of peace, eh?

Jesus’ words ”I came to send the sword,” (Matthew 10:34) means, of course, that Jesus will be the occasion for strong dissension. Here is Luke’s Gospel (12:51): Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division/a parting [Greek diamerismos].

But what I want to focus on here is not swords but trees; Anonymous’s fig tree. I was puzzled by his contrast between Jesus turning the other cheek and cursing ”an out of season fruit tree [that] didn’t produce a snack on demand.” Is Anonymous exposing a dark side of Jesus? Here is the relevant passage in Matthew:

And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only LEAVES. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.

Mark (11:13-14) adds ”for it was not the season for figs”: And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.”

The words in italics mean that although it was not the season of figs, yet there were leaves on the fig tree. A healthy fig tree doesn’t have leaves out of season. As Jesus says in Luke 21:29b-30: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near.” So, the tree that Jesus curses is not a tree that will ever bear fruit. It has lost its purpose. It’s no different to a withered tree.

It was when I read this piece by Yisroel Hakohen, that I understood why Anonymous was so sorry for this anonymous fig tree:

The Torah Laws concerning warfare and Jewish soldiers by Yisroel HaKohen

If people try to remain good even at times that call for them to commit acts of bloodshed and to murder the enemy they will be able to perfect their character. Therefore, in war, the Torah permits the killing of enemy soldiers, but a fruit tree is not a soldier; why should the Jews deprive anyone from benefiting from its fruit by destroying it. In addition, a Jew, whether he is a soldier or civilian is forbidden to destroy any useful thing needlessly such as destroying useful clothing, utensils, fields, property etc. The Torah does permit the chopping down of non-fruit trees. If the Jewish soldier will have regard for a fruit tree or other useful items while in the midst of battle this will help keep the Jewish soldier balanced and enable him to retain his humanity. He is only allowed to destroy what is necessary for the war, such as the enemy, but nothing else.”

I ask Yisroel this question. What if an Israeli commander decides to do a Malcolm. In Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” Macduff says:

“Despair the charm. Malcolm had his army cut down trees to disguise their numbers for attack of Macbeth’s castle, creating the illusion that the forest was moving towards the castle. ” (Macbeth 1:3:50-54).

But if you’re going to do a Malcolm make sure there are enough leaves on the trees to fulfill your purpose.

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15 thoughts on “Torah laws of warfare and walking withered trees

  1. It’s interesting that you interpret Jesus’ meaning of “to send a sword” to be a proclamation his mission was to introduce dissent.

    As you must know, the Hebrew scripture contains messianic prophecies that diverge on this matter quite severely with this mission of Jesus’. The Bible tells us that when the messiah will come, nations will be too busy banging their swords into pruning hooks to go to war anymore; everyone will at last “just get along”. But Jesus, as Christian candidate for messiah, apparently did not get that memo, sending a sword/introducing militant discord as the Christian bible claims.

    So much for Jesus’ messiahship, eh?

    • Dear Anonymous,
      If Jesus were not the Son of God he would not have known that he would not have been accepted by many of his people. The only prayer that he taught his disciples was “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”.
      He prepared the world for the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. He was also a man and he was deeply sad for not being able to make all his people part of his mission; and as a man he reacted to his frustration in the human way. He was not a wimp. Would you have preferred as Messiah not a Jewish man with attitude but an English controlled gentleman? 🙂 A Messiah that didn’t care enough and would have been indifferent to the suffering that he foresaw? He knew that before his death and after his death and Resurrection his people would choose not to follow him and they would pay for this historically a high price. There were no figs on that tree before or after. Is it the right time now?

      • Maria,

        It doesn’t require special divine insights to realize that if one goes around claiming to be a superhuman demi-god, one will be regarded by the folks as a bit off. Thus your attempt to prove Jesus’ divinity by the fact that he knew in advance no one would buy his ridiculous claims is, to be generous, quite weak.

        On another note, you wrote of Jesus that he “was also a man…” who operated “in the human way”. From a Biblical perspective, you should know that you’ve articluted the best argument that Jesus could not have been G-d. In Numbers 23:19, we learn from G-d Himself that “G-d is not a man…nor a son of man”, and that human feelings and failings do not pertain in any way to G-d. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the L-rd” in Is. 55:8. The messiah will be a Jewish man, and potentially even a Brit at that. But the messiah will not be divine, because only the G-d of Israel is divine, and He is alone; aside from Him there is no other (see Is. 45:6).

        Finally, I think we need to revisit the full Jesus monologue with respect to the tree. Jesus was not, in context, merely extrapolating from the leaf situation that there was something the matter with the tree. In his unbridled anger he put a hex on his innocent arboreal victim. As such, any teaching credited to Jesus about turning the other cheek are profoundly hypocritical.

        The one point I will agree with you on is that Jews have suffered a terrible price for the deification of Jesus and the Christian passion of Matt. 27. No other writing in the history of mankind has given rise to as much self-righteous shedding of innocent Jewish blood by gentiles as that “christ killer” anti-Jewish demonization script (which paved the way for other works of the same genre, including Luther’s “Of the Jews and their Lies” and Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”).

      • I’d posted a comment, bography, complimenting your openness to opposing views. But, amazingly, it didn’t appear!

    • Dear Anony,
      Have you considered that Jesus was widely accepted by what was and is – incorrectly or correctly –considered the most advanced technological scientifically skeptical, immoral and belligerent (from the Hittite to the Romans and finally to the Germans) part of the world? This is the same part of the world that never thought about waiting for a Savior, unlike Jewish people who believed in a Savior before the Middle Ages. And, by the way, many Rabbis believed that God had shown himself as a human to Abraham, also before the Middle Ages, as you perhaps know. He did embody man at that point, both in “ways” and “thoughts.”
      In respects to the “poor arboreal victim,” it is – need I remind you – still a tree,It is not an human victim. How was he supposed to turn his other cheek to a tree :-)?
      Bography, thank you for sharing and enjoy your vacation.

      • Aye Maria!

        I agree with you: From Rome to Nazi Germany, the common thread linking most anti-Semitic crime waves in the West over the past 2,000 years has been the deification of Jesus.

        But I disagree with you that Jews and Christians share a common view of a “savior”. Jews don’t think of needing “salvation” as Christians do. Jews believe their just and loving G-d meant it when He told them He would reward them for their good deeds and punish them for their sins, and so they strive to do the right thing. Christians, on the other hand, have concocted a cop out called “total depravity”, in which they believe they have no obligation or capacity to choose to do good, and that their evil god created them with shortcomings that were certain to result in their eternal damnation. As such, Christians need a “savior”, somebody else to pay their piper. This perverse ethical view directly contradicts the G-d of the Jewish Bible Who taught us that He only punishes the guilty.

        Finally, regarding to the tree an aggravated Jesus unloaded on, the question is not about the humanity of the tree; it is about the humanitarianism of Jesus, or the lack thereof. It was not that the tree ought to have turned its other cheek, it’s that Jesus, who preached “turn the other cheek”, did not turn the other cheek when he felt, bizarrely, slighted by a tree, and he went off on the tree. That’s where the Christian bible painted Jesus as a major league hypocrite.

      • maria,

        Don’t get too comfortable with Rey’s assurances that the Rosh Pina Project doesn’t stifle comments like yours.

        Rey made this comment to you out of one side of his mouth: http://roshpinaproject.com/2011/06/21/about-whom-is-isaiah-49-speaking-2/#comment-24017.

        Out of the other side of his mouth, Rey is gloating that he and the RPP management silenced me: http://roshpinaproject.com/2011/06/21/about-whom-is-isaiah-49-speaking-2/#comment-23840.

  2. Anon
    All comments on my blog are automatically posted, so I dont know what happened. Please post it again. And thanks for being so nice to me.

    • Have you ever answered Mr. Anonymous question in public about how have you been? Perhaps not only Anony is wondering about it…

  3. Being struck on the “right” cheek, and them “turning the other cheek”, or to the “left” cheek was a cultural behavior of that time, and was simply “body language” stating, “I am your equal”! If stopping at simply being “smacked” on the right side of the face, it would infer that the one being hit was “inferior”. Jesus loves us and wants us to know we are “co-equals” and heirs in malkut sh’mayim.

  4. Maria
    I didn’t answer Anony privately either. I’ve been away from the Internet for a while – caravanning at Addo Elephant Park in eastern cape south Africa.
    Anon I enjoy your comments – they give me much food for thought.

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