A little Israeli history:
When Menachem Begin refused to return fire against Ben Gurion’s troops when they fired on the Altalena Ship and when members of the Hagana handed over members of the Etzel to the British, despite the fact that simple principles of self-defense would allow him , and perhaps obligate him, to do so, he stressed that he would not allow a civil war to breakout, even at the expense of him losing to Ben-Gurion, or to the British.
The Mishna tells us that it is forbidden to go out on shabbos with a special type of sandal (called a nailed sandal), which is made by nailing the wooden bottom to the leather upper.
Rashi explains that this type of sandal was designed in a way that it could be worn back to front, giving the appearance that the footsteps came from the opposite direction.
He also implies that the nails in the sandals were particularly dangerous to others, in a crowded situation.
The Gemora explains that the reason for this prohibition was a ruling made after a terrible incident.
It was a time of persecution, and people were holed up in a cave hiding from their persecutors.
A rule was made whereby people were allowed in, but not out, so that their leaving would not betray their presence.
Someone put his shoe back to front, leaving behind footprints that gave the appearance that he had left.
Terrified that they had been betrayed, they started pushing each other (as Rashi says, to get out and flee), killing each other in the stampede.
The gemora reports that more Jews were killed that way, than by their enemies- a shocking and haunting statement that cannot be ignored.
As the nails in the sandals contributed to the deadly impact of this stampede, and the event happened on shabbos , a rule was made forbidding going out with such shoes on shabbos .
There is much to discuss as to the scope and reasons for this prohibition, but one thing that stands out is the extreme danger of allowing external threats to let us fight amongst ourselves.
There will always inevitably be disagreements as to how to handle external threats, suspicions of betrayal, as well panic reactions such as stampeding, looting, etc.
However, we have to be aware of the danger of allowing these disagreements, suspicions , and panics to lead to violence and in-fighting amongst ourselves.
Internal strife can be more dangerous than the external threat itself .
The story of the students of Rabbi Akiva who never showed respect to one another, which we commemorate during this period of the Omer, is further indication of this , as is the terrible in-fighting that led to the destruction of the Beis haMikdash itself .
As the prophet taught ( Isiaah Yeshayahu 49/17)
” Your annihilators and destroyers will come from inside you”
Unlike so many countries that achieved independence only to be destroyed by civil war ( including earlier autonomies of our own,) Begins courageous decision, based ( perhaps unknowingly, but very likely knowingly) on principles illustrated so long ago by the Navi and Chazal , allowed Israel to develop into the thriving and peaceful society that it is today !
As Rav Kook zt’l so famously said: “Just like the Temple was destroyed because of causeless hatred , it shall only be rebuilt through causeless love!”
במהרה וימינו ונאמר אמן
These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf . They are not intended as psak halacha .