Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Don't Sell Them Iron

The Bible does not specify how the world’s first murder (Cain murdered Abel.) was committed. The Bible does, however, teach that it was Cain’s great (x5) grandson, Tubal-Cain, who first taught the world how to sharpen metal (Genesis 4:22) in order to presumably create swords and fashion weapons.

It is a sad but true statement that war and violence have always been a part of the human experience. At the same time, it has also been the human desire to minimize both war and violence. For almost every society, this has meant keeping weapons out of the hands of those who would wish to harm others. 

As “gun control” debates rage across our media, it is interesting to note that even in the days of the Talmud, the great minds of the era debated the risks that lay in selling raw materials that might be turned into weapons. Like today’s debates, opinions appear to have been deeply divided:

There are some who say that the reason for not permitting [the sale of] shields is this: When they [the Romans] have no weapons left, they might use these [shields] for killing [in battles]. But there are others who say that shields may be sold to them, for when they have no more weapons they run away.

Said Rabbi Adda ben Ahabah: One should not sell them [the Romans] bars of iron. Why? -- Because they may hammer weapons out of them. If so, spades and pick-axes too [should be forbidden]! – Said Rabbi Zebid: We mean [bars of] Indian iron [used only for producing weapons]. Why then do we sell it now? -- Said Rabbi Ashi: [We sell it] to the Persians who protect us (Avodah Zarah 16a).

Will a person still commit a crime if a weapon is unavailable, and, if yes, to what length will a person go to find a weapon?  How do we deal with the defensive need for weapons, in the face of their possible offensive use? The questions brought up in this Talmudic passage are eerily reminiscent of today’s gun control debates, and the answers to these questions remain heavily weighted by individual opinions. 

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