At the turn of the twentieth century, many young pioneers came to build the land of Israel (it was still called Palestine then), and the Zionist dream. Some had come after the pogroms (violent anti-Semitic attacks by mobs on Jews) and the rise of antisemitism in Europe. Some formed kibbutzim, which were like collectives, communes, or perhaps cooperatives. These were often built in the harshest areas where swamps lay and mosquitoes flourished. The price of the land was still high, notwithstanding. The main rule for many of these kibbutzim was that each person work hard, give according to what he had, and receive according to what he needed.
Moshe was one of these youth who had made aliyah (a return to the land of Israel). One fateful day, he set off down the road to buy something for the kibbutz. He never returned. The people of the kibbutz found his body covered with stab wounds. They found out that he had been ambushed by a group of Arabs.
The kibbutz leaders wrote a note to his mother in the United States.
'Dear Mrs M.,
It is with the heaviest of hearts that we write to you to inform you that your son Moshe, a brave, hard- working, zealous and competent young man, was recently found on the side of the road near the kibbutz. All the evidence is that he was set upon by Arab youths. There seemed to be a long struggle, but he was eventually overcome. We are sorry that there is no softer way to give you this news.
We hope it is of some comfort to you that he received a customary Jewish burial with all the honors that we could bestow on this dear young man. Our hearts are with you. We too will miss him greatly.'
A note came back a short time later:
'My dear friends at the kibbutz,
You will never know the grief that came upon me when I read your letter. My tears appear to have no end. But I have determined that the only vengeance that I will exact for this murder is that I will send my remaining son to fill Moshe's place and pray that he may settle, prosper, multiply and fulfill many times over the task that Moshe began.'
The people in the kibbutz wanted to honor the memory of this youth. The first couple to give birth to a son named him Moshe. That family's name was Dayan. Moshe Dayan grew up to be one of Israel's greatest war heroes, a general, a minister of defense and one of the large group of brave soldiers who re-united the city of Jerusalem in the six-day war in 1967. It was his portrait on the cover of Time magazine on June 16, 1967, when it reported how Israel won the war. The black patch over his left eye became his famous trademark.
The Mosaic law says: 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth'. (Exodus 21:24 ESV) A Yiddish writer remarked that if we followed that to the letter, we would all eventually be blind and toothless.
The greatest Jewish sage ( we all know who), said, 'When your enemy slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.' (Matthew 9:39 ESV) Yet this should not be mistaken for cowardly passivity or even a motto for pacifism. It can in fact have quite the opposite effect. Turning the other cheek, or, as in the case of Moshe's mother, giving the other son, can be the opportunity that God seeks to take vengeance if He so wills, in His time and also to the degree that He desires.
(Based on a true story as told to me by a person on the kibbutz).
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