War or Peace?

Much ink has been spilled as to whether it was appropriate for President Obama to have been selected to receive this year's Nobel Peace Prize. How could a president conducting a war receive a prize that is widely seen to promote peace? Even more generally, can war actually advance the cause the peace?

President Obama gave an eloquent and thoughtful response to that question when he received the award and I just wanted to add a Jewish perspective to the question.

One might think that religion by definition should be pacifist. Belief in God should lead to the Christian notion, for example, of turning the other cheek, or rising above our human emotions of anger and revenge. Religion should help us be better people and, by extension, should help nations become more idealistic and altruistic.

Judaism however recognizes that our job is to make the world a better place. In so doing physical force and violence might be necessary. For example, if someone is clearly intent on killing you, you have the right to kill him first. The 6th commandment (of the 10) says "do not murder" (not "do not kill"). Judaism has always understood that situations will arise when safety and life need to be protected and the only way may be to use physical force.

Of course that isn't the ideal. We pray for the coming of the messiah and the return to the Garden of Eden when all people will live together in peace in harmony. Until that day comes, evil will persist in the world and it is our duty - our moral and religious obligation - to eradicate evil. The process of ridding the world of evil is the process of achieving peace.

May that day come soon in our lifetime.