Israel’s Jewish terrorists
A murderer by any other name is still a murderer.
At the outset, I must preface my statements by publicly stating that my relationship with God lacks a special intimacy that would perhaps make me privy to his most sensitive whisperings. Thus, I have no inside information to assist me in comprehending the motivation behind those responsible for murdering a little baby sleeping in its crib and an innocent 16 year old girl participating in a Gay Pride event. Sadly, these two events took place in proximity to God’s earthly dwelling place and created an unconscionable dichotomy as to the essence of Godliness. That these two events were allegedly committed by people who claim to be Orthodox Jews necessitates that all who proudly wear the banner of orthodoxy do what is in their power to ensure crimes of this nature never happen again. Although a cacophony of condemnations were heard from the collective Jewish world, their words fail to address the underlying mindset that created this catastrophe.
I believe that part of the solution lies in a novel translation of a verse in this week’s Torah portion: What does the Lord require from you, but to fear him….. The Talmud comments, Hakol b’dai shamayim chutz m’yirat shamayim – everything is in the hand of the Lord except for the fear of him. What exactly is the meaning of yirat shamayim? Contrary to the popular definition equating yirah with fear, I believe a more apt definition would be: to comprehend. (The Hebrew word yirah is often thought of as a synonym relating to either fear or sight). The verb to see, or to have fear, awe and reverence are all results of comprehension. Merely having eyes that open does not always correlate with seeing. The greater the depth of comprehension, the clearer the vision, and the greater the intensity of awe and reverence.
Therefore the Talmud states that everything may be controlled by God except for mankind’s comprehension of him. Yet it is only through that comprehension that one is able to reflect on the meaning of Godliness. If we perceive God as omnipotent and omniscient, then it also behooves us to realize that all his creations are purposeful and meaningful. One who has a genuine reverence of God would also revere all that He created. Only those that don’t revere God can judge people based on their sexual orientation or justify the murder of a little baby solely due to his ancestry.
I don’t fool myself into imagining that my words will stem the tide of radicalization. Those intent on disseminating fundamentalist views have already dismissed the opposition as either heretics or liberals. My intention is solely in bringing to fore the first verse in this week’s parsha: vehayah ekev… And it will come to pass if you hearken to these commandments…… Our sages explain that the word ekev stems from the root word heel and is specifically used to remind the Israelites not to overlook mitzvot that are easily trampled upon.
This metaphor not only refers to commandments that are mocked and overlooked, but more so to subtle nuances in our language that encourages demagoguery, elitism and bigotry. When we remain silent when hearing the terminology shiktzah, which literally refers to something detestable, then it serves to encourage the denigration of all women. When we hear derogatory statements about people because of the color of their skin or sexual orientation, for example, and allow it to go unchallenged, then we are collaborators in fomenting division. Our silence gives radicals the justification needed to dehumanize others.
I may not have any inside information and I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I am encouraged that both of Israel’s Chief Rabbis made strong statements condemning the horrific acts of violence. However, if I did have access to God’s intimate whisperings, I imagine He would ask the rabbis to make their remarks prior to the violence instead of in the aftermath. And if they respond to the Almighty by saying: How do we know when the next incident will occur? He might respond: a leader is not one that reacts to catastrophe; a leader imagines the unimaginable and does their utmost to ensure it never comes to fruition.