Understanding Biblical Hebrew

October 26, 2023, Lod Airport, King David Lounge, Israel

I like the fact that the business lounge is named for my ancestor, King David, or Great great Grandpa David on my mom's side. (about 110 generations). King David understood the enemy. He faced the enemy without fear. He killed many. He was not a Liberal. As it is written, "And the women sang as they celebrated, 'Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.'” (Book of Samuel A, Chapter 18, verse 7)

הִכָּה שָׁאוּל בַּאֲלָפָו, וְדָוִד בְּרִבְבֹתָיו

David faced Goliath the Philistine without fear, David was a man who knew how to get things done. We could use a leader like him today.

Today we face a terrible problem with our neighbors, but the real problem is ourselves: We forgot how to read the Bible. Over the years we have been reading it backwards, we start with our own Liberal Western values and then we interject them into our interpretations of the old Bible so that it all comes out nice and dandy and fits our modern Western narrative. The only problem is we live in a neighborhood where our enemies have not adopted these values. They remain rooted in the Middle East. An eye for eye, means just that. In the Jewish villages that were pillaged and plundered by the Arabs from Gaza the forensics experts found cases where eyes were gouged out before death. Of these kinds of people does the Bible speak.

We have forgotten how to read the Bible. Israeli politician Avigdor Liberman, who grew up in Russia, understands violence and he says, "I speak Arabic". He does not actually speak the Arabic language, which is rich and beautiful, what he is actually saying is "I understand the mentality of the Arab enemy and I speak his language - Violence, Force, unconditional surrender". Indeed, one must understand the language of the enemy, otherwise we face a terrible misunderstanding, and misunderstandings are never good. 

So let us take off our modern Westernized glasses and see the Bible as it was written and as it was intended to be understood. 

It is written, "When you go to war against your enemies" (Deuteronomy Chapter 21, verse 10). This actually means, when you are plunged into a war against your enemies. The rabbis ask why it was necessary to say that the war was against "your enemies", is that not obvious? And the answer is clear - When you go to war remember that these are your enemies and remember what they would do to you if they won. Treat them as enemies.

This is what the Allies did in World War Two and that is why we have not had any similar wars since then. Japan has changed, Germany has changed. After the total defeat, then and only then, did the Allies help rebuild those societies, but during war, no mercy. Mercy leads to defeat. 

In Israel, for decades there were those who warned of the danger of the Arab terrorist movements, but the "kinder, more progressive" elements within Israeli society balked against these ideas. They came up with arguments such as "we do not want to lose our humanity", "We do not want to sink to their level", "We do not want to become like them."

The result? Seventy five years of non-stop terror, death, destruction.

And now the people have woken up, well, most of the people. Some still do not speak Middle Eastern language, or Biblical Hebrew. "When one comes to kill you, rise up early and kill him first" (Talmud, Sanhedrin, based on the book of Exodus).  These are not words of our barbaric ancestors that we need to reinterpret to make them look nice and snow flakey. These are words we need to take literally. 

Today people write "we cannot coexist with people that want to behead us." Now go back a few years, to the Bible and we see the same message, that we cannot live with certain kinds of people. But, modern interpreters find these passages very uncomfortable, so they change them to fit their own modern philosophy. 

Moses son of Maimon (1138–1204), commonly known as Maimonides, was a physician and a highly educated man. He wrote books of philosophy and law; he covered many topics. He commented on the following Biblical verse, "However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you."  On this he writes...do not think that erasing these nations is cruel, or that it is about revenge, rather it is important as an action that is required by humane thought, to get rid of all that deviates from the ways of justice

Wow, he could have been writing about our very own times.

רמב"ם כותב כי התורה סמכה את האיסור של "לא תחיה כל נשמה" לאזהרה "למען אשר לא ילמדו אתכם לעשות ככל תועבתם אשר עשו לאלהיהם וחטאתם לה' אלהיכם" להזהר כי אין לחשוב שמחיית עמים אלו היא אכזריות או שאיפת נקמה אלא היא חשובה כפעולה שמחייבת אותה "המחשבה האנושית" לסלק כל מי שסטה מדרכי הצדק.

”רַק מֵעָרֵי הָעַמִּים הָאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ נַחֲלָה לֹא תְחַיֶּה כָּל נְשָׁמָה. כִּי הַחֲרֵם תַּחֲרִימֵם הַחִתִּי וְהָאֱמֹרִי הַכְּנַעֲנִי וְהַפְּרִזִּי הַחִוִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוְּךָ ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ” (דברים כ טז).

In other words, even way back then, in the 12th century the great Maimonides understood that some will look at Biblical passages, consider them archaic and barbaric and relics of an old way of thinking, and choose to reinterpret them in a more "Progressive" way. Thus, he instructs us that indeed these laws are in fact humane, they are necessary to preserve our way of life, just as the Allies understood that eradicating Nazism was essential for preserving our way of life and that there can be no compromise with Evil. 

Many have come to think of the Bible as outdated, even irrelevant. But when you read it correctly and understand the message you begin to see how relevant it is to our own times. I am not speaking of faith. I am not speaking of belief in God. Those are personal issues. I am speaking of the message of the Bible; seeing the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it is.

I am on the way to a seminar; how many will show up? Most will choose to stay home because personal self-defense just does not seem relevant, and those of us who teach it are just...irrelevant. 

The Bible is about life, it is about how to live, and how to survive. We seek peace but sometimes peace is not an option. We must be prepared to defend ourselves. 


Moshe Katz, 7th dan Black Belt, Israeli Krav Maga. Certified by Wingate Institute. Member Black Belt hall of fame, USA and Europe.

Understand the Israeli Fighting Mentality - Israel a Nation of Warriors by Moshe Katz


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