I'm sorry. I know the title may be offputting to some people, but that's the only way I think to put it. I'll explain what I mean in a moment.
The Torah's ways are meant to be pleasant. Derachecha Darchei Noam is talking about the Torah, right? And yet there are some ways in which it just isn't... noam.
The prime example that comes to my mind is the mitzvah of wiping out Amalek. Yeah, I know that it's moot in this day and age, but the fact remains that it is a valid part of the religion. If a genuine, provable member of Amalek showed up on the streets of Brooklyn or Yerushalayim, his life expectency could probably be measure in hours at best. And while we "like" to think of Amalek as the Hitler-types, there must also be those that are youngsters -- babies, toddlers, etc. And yet, the commandment from God is to kill them. "Shoot 'em all and let God sort 'em out" is aptly applied to Amalek, it seems. But how do you rationalize killing an infant, or a toddler, or even an adult whose done you no wrong? If we are to kill everyone with a certain DNA profile, then how are we really different from those who have tried to kill us through the years? Because we believe God told us to? This is something that I've always had a major problem reconciling in my mind. And the fact that there are no identifiable Amalekim today doesn't really help -- if we say Deracheha Darchei Noam, shouldn't that apply whether we have access to Amalekim or not? Shouldn't the question of whether genocide is right or wrong exist independent of whether or not the subjects of that decree are accessible to us? Because if we believe in an All-Merciful God, then we have to ask where is His mercy to people who have done nothing wrong. All the Amalekim who attacked the Jews in the desert were long dead by the time Saul got his command. All the Amalekim in his day are long dead now, and yet, if people were to show up today and could be verified as a member of Amalek (or the seven Cannani nations), they'd have a price on their heads. But yet, they are not responsible for the attack in the desert that happened 3300 years ago. They're not responsible for Haman's actions. They're not responsible for killing Saul. How can we punish people for acts that aren't their responsibility? In what way is this considered fair?
I suppose the same could be asked about the concept of Mamzerim. I understand the rationale that punishing the woman's children will serve as a deterent on her actions. I understand it, even though I have serious doubts about it. However, it would be one thing if the concept were applied only to those cases where the mother was truly at fault. However, there could be cases where she is not at fault at all (rape, or a false report of her husband's death) and yet the children suffer the consequences. Why? How is this fair?
Granted, the world is not fair. Where human beings devise laws and set up social systems, there will be, inherently, some unfairness. But that's to be expected because we are flawed creatures. But an Omnipotent being should be able to devise a system that punishes those who do wrong while sparing the truly innocent of punishment.