Safra Vesaifa

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, November 5, 2009

At Last month’s commemoration of the anniversary of the assassination of Minister Rechavam Ze’evi, Prime Minister Netanyahu called him a man of safra vesaifa, Aramaic for “book and sword”. While one of Israel’s greatest military leaders, Ze’evi was also a scholar of Tanach and the Land of Israel.

A midrash (Deuteronomy Rabba 4:2) on the giving of the Torah describes safra vesaifa descending from the heavens. God said to Israel, “If you observe what is written in the Book, you will be safe from the sword.”

Professor David Weiss Halivni called his 1997 autobiography on his devotion to the Talmud and his experiences in the Holocaust, The Book and the Sword: A Life of Learning in the Shadow of Destruction. Not only does safra vesaifa describe the two fundamental experiences of his life, they also raise theological questions: what happened to our deal?

At the opening of the Knesset’s winter session, President Peres endorsed a programme calling for more education as part of IDF training — “the only way Israel will maintain its military advantage”. Safra vesaifa cannot be reserved for the select, but is critical for Israel’s survival.

Last updated: 10:37am, November 5 2009