… is  it Halachically prohibited for one people to wage war against another people[?] The prohibition against murder is one of the seven Noachide laws; and Jews are obligated to coerce all of mankind to accept these laws if they have the power to do so. The Chasam Sofer … maintains that because of this prohibition against murder, it is not permitted for one nation to wage war against another. However, many authorities disagree with this position. Rav Yehuda Loewe of Prague, the Maharal
, in his supercommentary to Rashi, considers the question of why Shimon and Levi annihilated the males of the city of Shechem when only Shechem ben Chamor had sinned (The translation is approximate): The above question is not difficult to answer since they (i.e., Israel and the people of Shechem) are two nations, as it is written: “And we shall be as one nation.” The implication is that until then they were not considered one nation. They were, therefore, permitted to make war, as the Torah permits one nation to battle with another. And although the Torah states, “When you will approach a city to make war against her, first call to her to make peace,” this is so only where they had not done anything against Israel. But, where they had, as in this case, committed a crime even though only one individual of them had done so – since he is of this nation and has instigated the action, it is permitted to take revenge. The same is true of all wars. Similarly, in the war against the Midianites, although there were many that had not sinned against Israel this was immaterial. Since they were of the nation that had harmed them, they were permitted to wage war against them. The same applies to all wars.
Rav Naftoli Zvi Yehuda Berlin of Volozhin, the “N’tziv” in his classical commentary on Torah, states concerning the verse which prohibits murder [this verse] that the phrase “From the hand of man against his brother” connotes that “in the midst of war, when it is time to hate, it is permissible to kill.” This idea might be employed in exoneration of Lieutenant Calley and his men – although one can hardly nominate them for an award for exceptional humanitarian behavior [the reference is to the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war -- AJL] – for even a King of Israel is permitted to wage an optional war (Milchemess Hor’shus
) although may Jews will be killed. The “N’tziv” also permits one to volunteer for active duty during wartime although he endangers his life in doing so. One of the seven Noachide commandments is known as Dinim
, “Laws,” the Rambam, in his mishnah Torah, defines this as the obligation of a gentile to enforce the Noachide Laws, stating that a gentile who fails to mete out capital punishment to one who transgresses any of the seven Noachide Laws is himself liable to such punishment. The action of Shimon and Levi against the city of Shechem was justified in that the men of that city, by not punishing Shechem ben Chamor for abducting Dinah, were guilty of transgressing the law of Dinim
. The Rambam, although agreeing that gentiles are required to enforce these laws, maintains that failure to do so is not grounds for capital punishment. BUILD 49-51
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