I have only been a Jew-in-conversion for six months or so, so take my interpretation of the violence and wars in the Torah, as many before me have done, as just my interpretation. In Genesis 3:15 it says; “God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” That passage is sometimes said to reflect that each Jew may have a slight difference in what G-D is and also regarding their individual relationship with G-D. “It could say “The G-D of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” but it doesn’t… instead it says “The G-D of Abraham, the G-D of Isaac, the G-D of Jacob,” almost alluding to three versions of the same G-D. This is a deep way to examine the Torah and to find new meaning in its pages.
I read and some would say I am fairly obsessive in my studies, and I’ve seen many interpretations, from both Rabbinical and lay sources on various segments of the Torah proclaiming that it’s a fairly violent book in many segments. You’ll know why I now call many of these segments “war,” in a moment, but from Caine slaying Able, the killing and violence refuse to stop throughout the Torah. Many would look on the surface of these segments, and brush them off immediately. I see these segments as war, the war of the self, the war to be ethical, to be upright and forthcoming in the world. Caine slew his brother because of jealousy, which turned to rage, which finalized in murder, this is in a way explaining that jealousy can cause one to do irrational things that could even hurt those around us.
The wars of the Torah are the wars that you and I battle daily to be good stewards over what G-D has given us, the Earth. To be good and do good, even in the face of absolute darkness, or to struggle against excess, to overcome adversity, to become a better version of you, to never give up hope; these are the things I see in the many battles and violent episodes of the Torah. They are the struggles we human beings face in our lives, and how to best deal with them. David and Goliath for example; insurmountable odds were against David, but in the end, David defeated the giant through Emunah, not losing hope and perseverance.
Just about the entirety of the human condition can be found in the pages of the Torah, from its lows to its high points. The wars in the Torah, the wars within us; these are one and the same. We can’t lose sight of the important lessons beneath the surface in the Torah, hidden inside of metaphor and poetic license. Those of our ancient ancestors left us with a treatise on the entirety of humanity, at its best, and at its worst, painted in a vivid tapestry we call the Torah. The teachings continue to flow from Torah to this day, from when they were originally written. Look deeper, beyond the surface lies a wealth of wisdom to ascertain, that so many before, especially Talmudic scholars, have delved deep within… continue that tradition.