During the central part of the seder, the telling of the exodus narrative, twice the Haggadah narrative emphasizes that God alone without an appointed agent executed the violence which finally brought the Jewish people out of Egypt. During the violent tenth plague, we know from the Torah’s account that the Israelites were commanded to remain inside their dwellings without even witnessing the toll among Egyptian families.
We assume that the reason for these restrictions was to protect the Jews from harm. Rabbi Aaron Shmuel Tamaret has another, cogent idea:
Now obviously the Holy One, blessed be He, could have given the children of Israel the power to avenge themselves upon the Egyptians, but He did not want to sanction the use of their fists for self-defense even at that time; for, while at that moment they might merely have defended themselves against evildoers, by such means the way of the fist spreads through the world, and in the end defenders become aggressors.
Therefore the Holy One, blessed be He, took great pains to remove Israel completely from any participation in the vengeance upon the evildoers, to such an extent that they were not permitted even to see the events.
For that reason midnight, the darkest hour, was designated as the time for the deeds of vengeance, and the children of Israel were warned not to step outside their houses at that hour – all this in order to remove them totally and completely from even the slightest participation in the deeds of destruction, extending even to watching them.
His interpretation, that bearing weapons even for a just cause carries a great danger for the future, speaks so directly to the current debate about weapons in our society.
Potential victims are at risk. The one who bears the weapon is also at risk and may be forever changed by the weapon in his/her possession. Surely there are important needs in the modern world for weapons. Yet Rabbi Tamaret reminds us of the risks we take in a society overflowing with lethal means to hurt one another.
A society with less weapons and thoughtful controls on those that are needed would be a saner, more peaceful society.