DAVAR TORAH - MARCH 1999

The Distortion Of Torah Concepts Due To Living In The Exile:  The Commandment To Hate Evil And Evildoers

My sons, Michael and David: You, Michael, were named after the Angelic Protector of Israel; and you, David, were named after the King of Israel. When you were 8 days old we brought you into the Jewish people's Covenant with God through Brit Mila, the Covenant of Circumcision, without your consent. Now some 13 years later, through this B'nai Mitzvah, you are, of your own free will, reaffirming your membership in the Covenant. What special gift can I give you that will be worthy of this occasion? Only my thoughts -- a piece of me -- this Davar Torah.

The gentile prophet Balaam, who was commissioned, unsuccessfully, by Midian and Moab to curse our people while we were wandering in the desert, said it best at Numbers 23:9: “'For, from its origins, I see it rock-like, and from hills do I see it; behold! -- it is a people that shall dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations.'”  Related to this is the well-known axiom from Eicha Rabba that: “If a person tells you that there is Wisdom among the nations -- believe it -- but if he tells you that there is Torah among the nations -- don't believe it.” The God of Israel established for us a system of permanent, unchangeable Morality -- Torah Morality -- that is worlds apart from the artificial, malleable morality created by the nations to serve their own interests. But God knew that, because all human beings are influenced by the cultures in which they are submerged, our people could not properly understand or practice Torah Morality unless we were separated from the nations and their alien influences. God accomplished this by forcibly removing us from Egypt and bringing us to Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel). As Ibn Ezra commented on Deuteronomy 4:10: “God knew they would be unable to perform His Mitzvot (Commandments) properly while in lands under foreign domination.” And Ramban noted on Exodus 3:12: “God told Moses two things. Firstly, He promised that He would descend to save the people from the hand of Egypt. Secondly, He could have saved them right in Goshen itself or nearby, yet He promised to remove them from that land entirely, to the land of the Canaanites.” God determined, in His infinite Wisdom, that only in the Land of Israel could the Jewish people be adequately isolated from the alien influences of the gentile nations and thereby be able to properly understand and practice Torah Morality as a people dwelling in solitude. Even the great Jewish sages of Babylon acknowledged this truth. In Bava Metzia 85a of the Babylonian Talmud, it relates: “When Rav Zera arrived in the Land of Israel from Babylonia, he fasted a hundred fasts to forget his previous Torah study so it would not trouble him.” This cloud of confusion was the result of our people's first expulsion from Eretz Yisrael, submerging us into the galut of Bavel (the Babylonian Exile). And that Exile lasted only 70 years! Here we are at the tail end of the 2000 year old Roman Exile; how much more should we be concerned that due to our continued presence in the Exile -- without our even realizing it -- we have lost the ability to distinguish between Torah Morality and the false morality of the nations. Yet, the Mitzvah of residing in the Land of Israel is so integral to Jewish existence that our Sages said: “Living in Eretz Yisrael equals the combined weight of all of the Mitzvot in the Torah.” (Sifri, Re'ei 80). Furthermore, they declared: “A person should live in Eretz Yisrael , even in a city whose majority is idolaters, and not outside the Land, even in a city that is entirely Jewish .” (Tosefta, Avodah Zarah, 5:2) -- this is a proof that residence in the Land of Israel is required well-before the completion of the prophesied Ingathering and the Advent of the Messiah -- and, just so that there be no room for ambiguity or misunderstanding, they shouted: “Whoever lives in Eretz Yisrael is like someone who has a God, and whoever lives outside of Eretz Yisrael is like someone who has no God, as it says, 'To give you the Land of Canaan, to be a God to you' (Lev. 25:38).” (Ketuvot 110b).

In Succah 52b it says: “God regrets having created four things: Exile, Babylonians, Ishmaelites and the Evil Impulse”. God regrets having created the Exile because, although it was a just punishment for our repeated disobedience to Him, it did not fulfill its purpose of causing us to repent of our sins quickly so that we could be repatriated to the Land of Israel quickly. On the contrary, we have instead treated our long Exile as a pleasant reward with little desire to end it. We have even convinced ourselves that it matters little to God whether we observe His Mitzvot in the Exile or in Israel, this despite our Sages' statement that God admonishes us: “Although I exile you from the Land, continue performing the Mitzvot so that when you return [to Israel] they will not seem new to you” (Sifri, Ekev 43) and Rashi's later concurrence that: “Even once you are exiled, continue performing the Mitzvot. Put on Tefillin and affix a Mezuzah so that they do not seem new to you when you return [to Israel]” (Rashi on Deut. 11:18), meaning that we continue performing the Mitzvot in the Exile only to keep our memories sharp and for no other reason, which clearly indicates the lower status to which God accords the Exilic performance of the Mitzvot. And unfortunately, as might be expected after 2000 years of submergence into one alien culture after another, our minds have progressively, if imperceptibly, become dulled to those many important Torah concepts which, through lack of their continuous erudition, have slipped away towards oblivion, to the point where, nowadays, these Torah concepts actually seem foreign and, therefore, un-Jewish, to us. Our Talmudic Sages alluded to this problem when they said: “In the future, the Torah will be forgotten by the Jewish people” (Shabbat 138b).

One of the Torah concepts that has been “forgotten” is the Mitzvah to hate Evil.  As the Prophet Amos declared in Amos 5:14-15: “Seek Goodness and not Evil ... Hate Evil and love Goodness …”  King Solomon said in Proverbs 8:13: “Fear of HaShem is hatred of Evil …”  King David said in Psalms 97:10: “You that love HaShem, hate Evil …”  God Himself commands us throughout Deuteronomy, Chapters 13-24: “You shall destroy Evil from your midst” (Deut. 13:6, 17:7, 19:19, 21:21, 22:21, 22:24, 24:7) and “You shall destroy Evil from among Israel” (Deut. 17:12, 22:22); and just so that we shouldn't think that this Commandment to destroy Evil applies only to Evil as an abstract concept, Onkelos, in his authoritative Aramaic translation of the Torah, makes sure to always translate this very Commandment as “You shall destroy Evildoers ...”  At the very least, not only are we are prohibited by the Torah from praising or honoring the Evildoer, but we are actually required by the Torah to curse the Evildoer. As it says in Bereshit Rabbah 49:1: “Whoever mentions an Evildoer without cursing him misses out on a Torah Commandment -- 'The name of the wicked shall rot' (citing Proverbs 10:7)”.   And our Sages declare:  “It is incumbent upon the individual to drink on Purim until he can no longer distinguish between praising Mordechai and cursing Haman” (Megilla 7b) -- this in recognition of the fact that, under normal circumstances, we find it virtually impossible to comprehend that cursing the Evildoer is as morally necessary as praising the Righteous.  Unfortunately, Today, in our politically-correct world, not only do we not curse the Evildoer, but, on the contrary, we even praise and honor him. In fact, anyone who dares to curse an Evildoer whom the nations have chosen to honor risks rebuke even from the leaders of our own community. This attitude ignores the clear warning of David, second monarch of biblical Israel, who warned the World: “The evil ones will surge forward on every side when Baseness is exalted among the sons of Man.” (Psalms 12:9), and the equally clear warning of the Prophet Isaiah who, in a later generation, declared:  "Woe unto those who speak of Evil as [if it were] Good, and of Good as [if it were] Evil; who make Darkness into [the semblance of] Light, and Light into [the semblance of] Darkness; who make Bitter into [the perception of] Sweet, and Sweet into [the perception of] Bitter." (Isaiah 5:20).  Nonetheless, such is the legacy of the Exile. Such is the dulling of Torah.

Nothing illustrates and illuminates the point better than a specific example. For this purpose I have chosen a recent event -- the death of Hussein Bin Talal, king of Jordan, y'mach sh'mo (cursed be his name). Upon hearing of his death, the nations of the world and their media showered this man with platitudes reserved for the Messiah, describing him as a visionary, a man of extraordinary courage, a crusader for peace, and a true friend of the Jewish people. One mourning Israeli was even quoted as declaring: “He was our King too.” And truth be told, with his regal bearing, engaging smile and excellent command of the English language, it is hard for us to regard the man any differently, or even wonder why we should. Let us see, therefore, if Torah Morality may have a different view of the late king.

A little history is in order. The man became ruler of Jordan in 1953. Until he lost Judea, Samaria and the eastern portion of Jerusalem to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War -- a war of annihilation launched by him, in concert with the leaders of Egypt and Syria, against the Jewish State, he constantly permitted his troops to fire at Jews from across the 1949 armistice demarcation lines, thereby killing and maiming scores of our people. After that War, he permitted the terrorists of the Palestine Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) to cross the new border at will in order to murder Jews. However, in 1970 the P.L.O. repaid him for his support by attempting to overthrow him and to conquer Jordan; that ingratitude caused the king to crush the P.L.O. and to expel its terrorists to Lebanon. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the king did not directly join Egypt and Syria in their coordinated invasion of Israel, but he hedged his bets by sending several troop divisions to the Golan Heights' front to fight Israel under Syrian command. Sometime after that War, he bitterly complained to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin that, while -- as a result of their attack on Israel -- Egypt had received the Sinai, and Syria had received a portion of the Golan, Jordan had received nothing as a reward for its “restraint”. During the 1991 Gulf War, the king remained the closest ally of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, y'mach sh'mo, despite the latter's stated threat that he would “burn half of Israel”. When Iraq actually attacked Israel, the king stated that, while he was helpless to prevent Iraq from using Jordanian airspace to fire Scud missiles at Tel Aviv, he would nevertheless regard Israel's use of Jordanian airspace to retaliate against Iraq as an act of war against Jordan. Well after Jordan's 1994 peace treaty with Israel, the king continued to host and to protect numerous Arab terror organizations whose only purpose was, and is, to murder Jews. These groups include Hamas and even P.L.O.-affiliated groups who were temporarily expelled from Syria under American pressure. Even after the peace treaty with Jordan, each and every Hamas suicide bombing -- murdering and maiming hundreds of Jews -- has been openly planned and initiated from the safe haven of Amman, Jordan. In fact, in late 1997, when Israel sent a Mossad team to Amman to poison Khaled Mashaal, y'mach sh'mo, Hamas' chief of operations, the king's security forces captured the Israeli agents, and the king thereupon personally threatened Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he would hang these Jews in public unless Israel gave Jordan the antidote to save the poisoned terrorist's life and also freed Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, y'mach sh'mo, supreme leader of Hamas, who was then serving a life sentence in an Israeli prison for his role in terrorism against our people. Lastly, at the time of the king's death, Jordan still had a law that made it a crime -- punishable by death -- for any Jordanian citizen, including the Arabs of Judea, Samaria and the eastern portion of Jerusalem, to sell land to a Jew. Now, go ask the nations: Where is the visionary, the man of courage, the pursuer of peace, the friend of the Jewish people?

In the late king's defense, as far as we know, he never personally murdered or maimed a Jew. But then neither did Hitler, y'mach sh'mo. Perhaps then it is a question of degree, but no -- the Torah doesn't condone even the murder of one, let alone of hundreds. According to Torah Morality, a ruler, even a popular one, bears ultimate responsibility for the actions -- either ordered or permitted -- of those under his control. The proof comes from, among other sources, the Hebrew Bible at I Samuel 15. There we find that King Saul, although ordered by God to destroy all of the Amalekites as punishment for their earlier unprovoked attacks against our people, nevertheless spared its ruler, King Agag, y'mach sh'mo, because Saul had pity on the defeated monarch. When the Prophet Samuel learned of this, he, at the Instruction of God, stripped Saul of his crown and demanded that the Amalekite king be brought before him. As Scripture continues at verses 32-33: “And Agag went to him submissively. And Agag said, 'Surely, the bitterness of death has passed.' And Samuel said, 'As your sword made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.' And Samuel cut Agag into pieces before HaShem in Gilgal.”

As uncomfortable as 2,000 years of Exile have made us with this concept, this is the Torah's Judgment upon an evil gentile ruler who has Jewish blood on his hands, even as the nations of the world all shout that: “Surely, the bitterness of death has passed.” At the very least, we should know to curse such a person's name whenever it is uttered.

Michael and David: Know to love Goodness and hate Evil; and be strong in all Torah concepts, especially the neglected ones that have been pushed aside in deference to the sensibilities of the nations and the squeamishness of our own people.

© Mark Rosenblit

 

[For more commentary on the importance of the Torah Commandment to hate the Evildoer, please read on! -- Mark Rosenblit]

The pope and the Holocaust deniers

By [Rabbi] Shmuley Boteach

(Jerusalem Post, January 1, 2007) [Deposed Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein's execution reminded us that some crimes are so heinous no society can tolerate them, and that when you murder more than one million people, even traditional opponents of the death penalty might just applaud when you hang.

It is a lesson the Catholic Church would do well to contemplate. Last week, the church broke ranks with nearly every moral voice and came out publicly against Saddam's execution. But if that were not enough, Pope Benedict XVI granted a private audience to a delegation of Iranian officials, led by Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki, whose ministry sponsored the recent Holocaust denial conference in Teheran.

The pope is the foremost spiritual leader on Earth. It shocks every moral sensibility that he would choose to legitimize a wretch like this. More troubling yet, the pope conveyed warm greetings to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad through the delegation.

Warm greetings? Ahmadinejad is calling virtually every week for Israel's annihilation. Does the pope have anything to share with this man aside from his contempt? One would hope that a pope who witnessed the Holocaust and the destruction of the Jewish people would practice extra caution before hanging out with those who wish to renew [Nazi Germany Chancellor Adolf] Hitler's efforts.

LET'S NOT finesse this. Ahmadinejad is an international abomination who can lay strong claim to being the single most hate-filled man alive. Surely the pope can find more worthy recipients of his time and graciousness?

Pope John Paul II was a man of great courage who helped to challenge and defeat Communism. Yet even he made the repeated mistake of legitimizing terrorists, repeatedly meeting with Yasser Arafat. But if one might excuse those meetings on the grounds that other World leaders did the same, the pope's actions at the time of Arafat's death were jarring and incomprehensible. He praised Arafat as "a leader of great charisma who loved his people and sought to lead them toward national independence. May God welcome in His Mercy the soul of the illustrious deceased and give peace to the Holy Land."

Did anyone seriously believe that God was going to welcome this baby-killer into heaven rather than placing him in hell? Why would virtuous and righteous men like John Paul and Benedict make such outrageous mistakes?

The Catholic Church seems to spend a great deal of time upholding its standards of sexual morality, like condemning gay unions and contraception, and comparably little time condemning the tyrants and dictators who slaughter the children whose lives the church declares to be holy. So why the omission?

It bespeaks an unfortunate and continuing pattern on behalf of our Christian brethren to refuse to hate Evil. Many of my Christian brothers and sisters mistakenly believe that God forbids Hatred. They quote Jesus' teaching to turn the other cheek and his admonishment to love your enemies as proof that we dare never hate.

AS A radio host, I am called by many evangelical Christians who say that in God's eyes we are all sinners, and thus from a heavenly perspective Osama bin Laden and the average housewife from Kansas are equal. Bin Laden must indeed face justice for his crimes, but we dare not hate him seeing that Jesus still loves him.

But this is a travesty of Jesus' teachings. It would make this great Hebrew personality into someone who had contempt for his victims as he extended love to their murderers. Jesus advocated turning the other cheek to petty slights and affronts to honor, not to mass graves and torture chambers.

Likewise, while Jesus taught that we ought to love our own enemies, this did not apply to God's enemies. Our enemies are people who take our parking spot or who are our rivals for a promotion at work. God's enemies are those who slaughter his children.

Let not any Christian think that Jesus' sympathy was for anyone other than the oppressed and the poor. True, the Bible commands us to "love our neighbor as ourselves," but the man who kills children is not our neighbor. Having cast off the Image of God, he has lost his Divine Spark and is condemned to Eternal Oblivion, from which not even a belief in Salvation will rescue him.

He who murders God's children has been lost to God forever and has abandoned all entitlement to Love, earning eternal Derision in its stead.

AMID MY deep and abiding respect for the Christian faith, I state unequivocally that to love the terrorist who flies a civilian plane into a civilian building, or a white supremacist who drags a black man three miles while tied to the back of a car is not just inane, it is deeply sinful. To send warm greetings to an Iranian president who has just hosted a former head of the KKK [Klu Klux Klan, the premier American Caucasian supremacist organization] is an affront to blacks throughout the world just as much as it is to Jews.

To love Evil is itself evil, and constitutes a passive form of complicity.

We are all known by the company we keep. If Ahmadinejad of Iran called for the extermination of all the World's Catholics, the pope might think twice before meeting his representatives. He ought to accord the same respect to his Jewish brethren.

The writer is host of The Learning Channel's television program "Shalom in the Home," whose second season begins on January 21. He is currently writing a book on the necessity of hating Evil.

(©) The Jerusalem Post

 

A time to hate

By JONATHAN ROSENBLUM

(Jerusalem Post, January 4, 2007) [Deposed Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein's death by hanging came too late to provide much satisfaction -- too late for the hundreds of thousands of human beings killed on his orders -- hundreds at his own hands. The taking of his miserable life can neither bring back the lives he so callously snuffed out nor compensate for them.

Still, there was rejoicing at the sight of Saddam on the gallows, though personally I would have been far happier had he fallen into one of the meat grinders into which he, and his equally sadistic sons Uday and Qusai, dropped so many of his subjects.

My satisfaction has nothing to do with bloodlust. I would not have been one of the thousands of Iraqis vying for the post of Saddam's executioner. Rather it derives from being witness to the turning of the wheels of Divine Justice. The Midrash states that the Divine Throne only became firmly established in the World when the Jewish people sang God's praises at the Sea. Their joyous song was a consequence of watching the precision with which the suffering of each drowning Egyptian was meted out: The Egyptians either died instantaneously or slowly and painfully, according to the degree with which they had afflicted the Jews in Egypt.

Divine Vengeance, then, is the righting of an imbalance in the World, and refers equally to the punishment of the Wicked and the reward of the Righteous. When we merit witnessing the enactment of Justice, our belief that there is both Justice and a Judge is strengthened.

Three times daily, we call in our prayers for God to "destroy speedily all His enemies." Can there be a greater enemy of God than one who murders hundreds of thousands of His creations? From the beginning of human history, God proclaimed the rule, "Whoever sheds the blood of Man, by Man shall his blood be shed; for in the Image of God He made Man" (Genesis 9:6).

NEEDLESS TO say much of the World does not view matters as I do. And I don't just mean the Palestinians who benefited from Saddam's generous subsidies to the families of suicide bombers or to Saddam's erstwhile partner in various oil scams, the notorious Russian xenophobe Vladimir Zhirinovsky. The latter labeled Saddam's execution "the greatest crime of the 21st century." The so-called civilized world joined in the chorus of condemnation. The European Union and its member states expressed their repugnance at the imposition of the death penalty in all circumstances. Tim Hames, writing in the The Times of London, went so far as to proclaim Saddam's execution "as ethically tainted as the crimes that produced that sentence."

Following that logic, the execution of Nazi war criminals tried at Nuremberg was as "ethically tainted" as Hitler's crimes. Those who hold that position no doubt are convinced of their superior humanity. To my mind, however, the opposite is true. Their narcissistic back-patting partakes of a certain inhuman coldness.

The critics refuse to enter imaginatively into the world of Saddam's victims and to contemplate the true nature of his evil. They do not wish to contemplate what it is like to be a parent forced to watch your child tortured to extract your "confession," what it is like to spend your entire life afraid to enter into an intimate conversation with another human being for fear that he or she might be one of Saddam's informers, what it is like to have parents, siblings or children taken away in the middle of the night, never to be seen again. And then multiply such scenarios millions of times over.

During Saddam's 23-year reign of terror, nearly 300,000 Iraqis disappeared -- more than 12,000 a year, 240 a week. And that number does not even include the hundreds of Iraqi athletes crippled and maimed for life in Uday Hussein's torture chambers for failing to bring sufficient glory to the regime, or the thousands of girls seized off the streets to satisfy the lusts of the Husseins.

At his trial, Saddam neither denied his crimes nor expressed the slightest repentance. The equation of Saddam's execution, after trial, to his crimes is on a par with those pat moral equivalencies so beloved of Left intellectuals during the Cold War -- Soviet imperialism vs the cultural imperialism of Hollywood.

Yale computer scientist David Gelernter, who had a bomb sent by the Unabomber blow up in his face, made mincemeat of this moral equivalency in his book Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber:  It is through capital punishment of murders -- and not by running to forgive them -- that we as a society "show our respect for the dead and proclaim the value of human life," he writes.

Among those rushing to condemn Saddam's execution was the Vatican, which pronounced his hanging "tragic." Few issues so distinguish the Torah viewpoint from that of many Christian groups as that of forgiveness for mass murderers.

Shmuley Boteach rightly noted the consanguinity between the Vatican's condemnation and Pope Benedict XVI's reception of the Iranian foreign minister, who was fresh from organizing Teheran's conference of Holocaust deniers, and his conveyance of warm regards to [Iranian president] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who boasts of his plans for the next Holocaust.

The condemnation and the warm regards share a certain moral obtuseness, and provide proof of our Sages' insight: "He who is merciful when he should be cruel will end up being cruel when he should be merciful."

What is lost in the pat equation of Saddam's life with those of his victims is horror of Evil. And that loss of horror paves the way for further Evil.

The contrast between Jewish and Christian attitudes to forgiveness was recently highlighted by the response of an Amish community to the cold-blooded murder of five schoolgirls and the serious wounding of 10 more. At the funeral of one of the slain girls, her grandfather spoke and said of the perpetrator, "We must not think evil of this man." The neighbors and friends of the victims' families professed to feel no hatred towards the girls' killer.

In contrast to the Vatican's cheap sympathy for Saddam, the attitude of the Amish, at least, manifests spiritual grandeur. They offered forgiveness to the murderer of their own children and grandchildren, not to the mass murderer of distant victims.

Jews too are instructed to hate the sin and not the sinner. But sometimes the two are inextricably bound, as in Saddam's case. And often, easy forgiveness of the sinner diminishes the horror of his crimes. As Rabbi David Gottlieb of Baltimore pointed out in the wake of the Amish tragedy, even God Himself does not forgive sins committed against a fellow human being until the victim's forgiveness has been secured. No one can confer forgiveness on behalf of the victim, and all the more so when no forgiveness was sought.

Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is also "a time to hate [see Ecc. 3:1-11]." Would we really wish to live, asks Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby (an observant Jew), in a society in which no one gets angry when children are slaughtered, a society in which there is an instantaneous dispensation for the most horrific acts of cruelty?  I would not. And that is why I was glad to see Saddam hanging at the end of a noose.

(©) The Jerusalem Post

 

No Holds Barred: And hate the sinner, too 

By [Rabbi] SHMULEY BOTEACH

Tragedies, like the outrageous terrorist bombing in Boston this week, continue to take place because the world doesn’t have enough hate. 

(Jerusalem Post, April 22, 2013) Let me surprise you for a moment. The reason that tragedies, like the outrageous terrorist bombing in Boston this week, continue to take place is not because the world lacks love but rather because it doesn’t have enough hate. Living in a Christian world that teaches us to “love the sinner,” we find excuses for evil and refuse to dedicate ourselves fully to its destruction.

North Korea is a case in point.

As the young, brutal dictator Kim Jong Un threatens the world with nuclear Armageddon, we continue to make him the but of late-night jokes. As the world stood by and watched, North Korea launched a satellite into space in December of last year and conducted another nuclear test this past February. It has vocalized its plans to attack the United States with nuclear weapons and is building missiles to achieve that end.

Still, we refuse to hate the man, depicting him rather as a moron who watches movies with Dennis Rodman. Visiting North Korea in February, the NBA space alien called Un “a friend for life” and announced plans to “have some fun” with Un again in August, saying he “just wants to be loved.”

Through all this one of the world’s deadliest dictators inspires laughter rather than loathing, engendering entertainment rather than contempt.

Forget the fact that his father starved 3 million people to death in order to feed his million-man army, a policy that the young monster continues, or that he terrorizes South Korea and the rest of the region. It’s an amazing thing; to be part of a regime that has slaughtered millions of people and to remain a fun curiosity to the rest of the world rather than an object of deepest revulsion.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also regularly portrayed as, at worst, a clown and is given podiums at America’s leading universities. Iran adds to this comedy with its foreign ministry recently scolding both America and North Korea, telling them to use restraint and not promote “provocative behavior.”

As Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, “We think that the event that is intensifying between North Korea, South Korea and the United States should be controlled as soon as possible. Both parties should not move toward a corner in which there is a threatening climate.”

Our reaction to such absurdity is to look upon the evil, lethal regime of Iran as a collection of buffoons. But make no mistake.

They are deadly serious.

Sadly, the refusal to hate evil has become de rigueur in world diplomacy.

Speaking of the arch-murderer Hafez Assad at the time of his death, president Clinton said, “I have met him many times and gotten to know him very well. We had our differences, but I always respected him.”

Respected the man who mowed down thousands of his own people with tanks in Hama? And was your refusal to abhor the man perhaps one of the reasons his son Bashar thinks he can get away with the same thing? Forgetting how to hate can be just as damaging as forgetting how to love. Immersed as we are in a Christian culture that exhorts us to “turn the other cheek,” this can sound quite absurd. Yet exhortations to hate all manner of evil abound in the Bible. God Himself hates every form of wickedness as harmful to mankind. Thus the Book of Proverbs declares, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Likewise, King David declares regarding the cruel: “I have hated them with a deep loathing. They are as enemies to me.”

Hatred is a valid emotion, an appropriate response, when directed at the truly evil. Contrary to Christianity, which advocates turning the other cheek to belligerence and loving the wicked, Judaism obligates us to despise and resist evil at every turn. In my book Kosher Jesus I explain that Jesus said to love your enemies – not God’s enemies. The former are those who steal your parking space. The latter are those engaged in genocide. Likewise, when Jesus said “turn the other cheek,” he meant to petty slights and insults, not mass murder.

When I served as rabbi at Oxford the BBC had me discussing the tragic bombing of a gay pub that killed three people. I referred to the bomber as a wicked abomination. On the line was President Clinton’s spiritual adviser at the time, Pastor Tony Campolo, who cautioned that we had to love the bomber in the spirit of compassion and forgiveness. In England I remember so vividly that victims of IRA terrorist attacks, who lost fathers or husbands, often immediately announced their forgiveness and love for the murderers.

This is insane.

The individual who, motivated by irrational hatred, chooses to murder innocent victims, is irretrievably wicked, has cast off the image of God from his countenance, has irreversibly compromised his humanity, and has forfeited his place in the global human community. Of the terrorists who bombed innocent runners in Boston I say we have an obligation to destroy them before they destroy us.

Amid my deep respect for the Christian faith, I state unequivocally that to love the terrorist who bombs a marathon or the white supremacist who drags a black man three miles behind a car is not merely stupid, it is deeply sinful.

To love evil is itself evil and constitutes a passive form of complicity.

The Talmud certainly teaches that the object of hatred should be the sin, not the sinner, whose life must be respected and repentance effected. The Bible teaches that it is forbidden to rejoice at the downfall of even those sinners whom it is proper to hate: “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth.”

However, this attitude does not apply to impenitent and inveterate monsters who pay no heed to correction.

For us to extend forgiveness and compassion to them in the name of religion is not just insidious, it is a mockery of God who has mercy for all yet demands justice for the innocent. To show kindness to the murderer is to violate the victim yet again.

I am waiting for an American political leader of either party, in the wake of a tragedy like Boston, to stand up and say, “America hates terrorists and will pursue them to the corners of the globe to purge them from the earth.”

President Obama’s comments, by contrast, that “We will find out who did this and we will hold them accountable,” could have been said about someone who painted graffiti on a subway. It just isn’t strong enough.

Yes, I know the old Bob Dylan song, that if we take an eye for an eye we’ll just end up blind. But hating evil is not about revenge, but rather upholding the infinite value of life and preserving justice.

The immorality and stupidity of pacifism is something even brilliant men – most notably Albert Einstein – can get wrong. “I am not only a pacifist, but a militant pacifist,” he said. He believed that the moral nations of the world should disarm – that is, until Hitler started putting children in gas chambers. It was then that he alerted President Roosevelt, in August of 1939, to the imperative of the United States getting an atomic bomb before Germany.

Let us never forget the immortal words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

The author, “America’s Rabbi,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books and the winner of the American Jewish Press Association’s Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary.

He was the London Times Preacher of the Year at the Millennium and has just published The Fed- Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.

Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley. 

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No Holds Barred: Does President Obama hate evil?

By [Rabbi] SHMULEY BOTEACH

Tolerating the intolerable and forgiving the unforgivable is the surest way to empower evil. 

(Jerusalem Post, December 9, 2013) The greatest moral failure of our time is a refusal to hate evil. Hatred of evil implies both the right to make judgments as well as a belief in moral absolutes, both of which are anathema to liberalism and modern sensibilities. Many today seek to understand, rather than resist, evil. What motivates a Palestinian suicide bomber to detonate himself and murder children? Is it degradation at the hands of Israelis? Poverty perhaps? Can we find mitigating circumstances that might excuse it? [United States] President Barack Obama is a moral man with clear moral sensibilities. But the pivotal shortcoming of his leadership and foreign policy is a failure to revile evil.

When he speaks about the worst kind of abuses he uses vague, technical language and avoids definitive moral terminology. Why the reluctance to make declarative statements of an absolute nature? Because moral ambiguity can justify inaction.

At the Saban Forum in Washington this past Saturday, the president [of the United States] had this to say about Iran and why he made his deal with the devil: “The idea that Iran, given everything that we know about their history, would just continue to get more and more nervous about more sanctions and military threats and ultimately just say, ‘We give in,’ I think does not reflect an honest understanding of the Iranian people and the Iranian regime. I think even the so-called moderates or reformers inside of Iran would not be able to simply say, ‘We will cave and do exactly what the US and the Israelis say.”

In the coolness and detachment of the president’s pragmatism toward Iran, you might think he was talking about a trade deal with Switzerland. You would not know that he was speaking about a regime that machine-gunned its own citizens in the streets when they protested a stolen election in 2009; stones women to death; and hangs homosexuals from public cranes.

You would not know the president was speaking about a country whose government is the foremost funder of terrorism worldwide.

This seems to be a pattern.

President Obama’s reluctance to use the word “terrorism” is notorious. In 2009 his administration formally retired the phrase “War on Terror” and replaced it with the evasive and euphemistic “Overseas Contingency Operations.”

It took him days to definitively describe last year’s massacre at the American embassy in Benghazi as a terrorist attack against the United States. The Washington Post writes that President Obama had spoken generally about “acts of terror” after Benghazi, but “he did not affirmatively state that the American ambassador died because of an ‘act of terror.’” On September 12, the day after the attack, President Obama was asked directly by Steve Croft of 60 Minutes, “Do you believe that this was a terrorist attack?” The president’s response: “Well, it’s too early to know exactly how this came about, what group was involved, but obviously it was an attack on Americans. And we are going to be working with the Libyan government to make sure that we bring these folks to justice, one way or the other.”

Terrorists are not “folks” and Americans were not “attacked,” they were murdered in a despicable and cold-blooded act of terrorism.

The deadly terrorist attack at a Kenya mall this past September followed the same pattern. President Obama said, “We stand together with Kenya in our resolve to confront and defeat violent extremism.”

In February, 2011, President Obama, who shook Muammar Gaddafi’s hand at the 2009 G8 Summit in Italy, said that Gaddafi had “lost the legitimacy to rule.”

Gaddafi never had any legitimacy in the first place. He came to power in a 1969 coup and then spent decades torturing and killing political opponents, blowing up airliners and discotheques, and funding terrorists worldwide. Where was the simple statement that Gaddafi is an evil tyrant who has slaughtered his people and must go? There was, of course, Syria, where the president found his eloquence and appealed to “memories of soldiers suffocated in the trenches; Jews slaughtered in gas chambers; and Iranians poisoned in the many tens of thousands.” I was moved by President Obama’s moral voice and was sure he would punish Assad for gassing children. In appealing to America to strike a tyrant, the president and Secretary of State John Kerry were amazing. And then... nothing.

With the passing of Nelson Mandela it’s worthwhile recalling the apartheid years when South Africa was subject to comprehensive international sanctions for its abominable treatment of its majority black population, sanctions which did not end until the 1991 repeal of the last of the apartheid laws and release of Mandela and other political prisoners, followed by the 1994 democratic general elections.

Martin Luther King did not mince words on apartheid, calling it a “classic example of organized and institutionalized racism” and criticized the hypocrisy of “the United States... which professes to be the moral bastion of our Western world” for trading with South Africa.

Then there are, of course, the examples of recent presidents who called evil by its name. In his 2002 State of the Union Address president Bush famously said, “States like these [North Korea, Iran and Iraq] and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”

President Reagan said in March 1983: “Let us be aware that while they [the Soviet leadership] preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world.” He implored his audience not “to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire... and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.”

In the end, it was King who summed it up best: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

Tolerating the intolerable and forgiving the unforgivable is the surest way to empower evil. Iran is run by a brutal regime and even if President Obama believes he has to treat with them, let him use his God-given eloquence to state definitively that Iran is a bloodthirsty regime.

The writer, whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” will shortly publish Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer. Follow him on Twitter @ RabbiShmuley. Like Rabbi Shmuley’s Facebook Page /RabbiShmuleyBoteach. 

All rights reserved © 1995 - 2013 The Jerusalem Post.

 

No Holds Barred: Davos and the hatred of evil 

By SHMULEY BOTEACH

(Jerusalem Post, January 27, 2014) At Davos, where I attended and spoke last week, there was endless talk of a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. According to Martin Indyk, the American special envoy whose panel I attended on Friday, the deal would look like this: Israel gives up the West Bank and returns to the ‘67 lines, with land swaps. Israel gives up about half of Jerusalem for the capital of a Palestinian state (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is demanding the entire old city). Israel offers some sort of unspecified redress on the refugee issue. In return, the Palestinians will guarantee not to make the West Bank into Gaza and will recognize Israel’s right to exist, albeit not necessarily as a Jewish state.

Gosh. Why hasn’t Israel said yes before time runs out? But the most painful part of an otherwise illuminating and extraordinary forum, without question, was Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s speech, with which he demonstrated an astonishing capacity to lie to one of the world’s most educated and sophisticated audiences, with few in attendance calling him out on his fabrications.

The New York Times ran a story Sunday which showed that nearly everything Rouhani said at Davos was said 10 years earlier by Iranian president Mohammed Khatami, and that Rouhani’s speech was nothing but a regurgitation. The same promises of peace. The same commitment not to pursue nukes or violence.

And just as, within a year of his Khatami’s speech, Iran was spinning centrifuges, similarly, Rouhani told Fareed Zakaria just three days after his Davos speech that even amid the nuclear deal with the West, Iran will not shut down a single centrifuge.

None of this stopped Rouhani from being treated as a rock star at Davos. I saw him walking through the halls with his entourage a few times. He was trailed by fawning media. Scores of participants went to say hello. He was easily the biggest draw of the entire Forum, even though, over the past three weeks, Iran has brutally hanged about 40 people in public.

Then there was the panel on Syria, which featured key players such as UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, UN Under-Secretary-General Baroness Valerie Amos, and former UN Under-Secretary- General Mark Malloch-Brown. I sat in disbelief.

Not one of the speakers was prepared to apportion blame for the slaughter. Not one condemned Bashar Assad for gassing children. Not one made mention of the New York Times front page story that same day which showed graphic pictures of some of the thousands of prisoners that Assad had tortured and starved to death in the most ghoulish fashion imaginable.

The panelists spoke of the “procedural difficulties” of passing a UN Security Council Resolution against Syria without once saying that Vladimir Putin and Russia, arch-protectors of the butcher in Damascus, were responsible for blocking every resolution introduced by the United States against Assad.

In her last comment of the panel, Baroness Amos actually praised Russia as having been the first to try and pass a resolution that called attention to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. I was live-tweeting the panel (WEF published social media statistics that ranked my Twitter feed first that day at the conference) and I wrote, “Gd Almighty! Did I just hear baroness Amos of the UN defend Russia on Syria at the #WEF in Davos? U got to be kidding.”

All of which leads to a conclusion I came to years ago. There is no way to make the world a better place without first hating evil. You can’t love the victims of oppression without loathing, resisting, and sometimes even fighting the bad guys who oppress them.

If you’re indifferent to the brutality of Iran – a country that stones women to death and hangs homosexuals from public cranes – then you have a broken moral compass. And if you’re seriously thinking of leaving Assad in power as part of a “peace” deal then you have utter contempt for his victims.

In wanting to be open-minded enough to embrace everybody we have forgotten how to hate anybody – and make no mistake, hatred has its place. There can be no moral neutrality when it comes to things like children being gassed. How can you not feel revulsion, detestation and disgust toward Assad when seeing rows of dead children? I am writing this column on a plane, en route to Auschwitz from Davos, where I will God willing participate in the historic visit of the Israeli Knesset to the death camp for the very first time, on Monday.

Beyond remembering the victims and paying homage to their sacred memory, are we not meant to be repulsed by the Nazi beast that created this hell on earth? And if we don’t despise them, what will stop this from happening again? At Davos I spent time discussing the upcoming twentieth anniversary, this April, of the Rwandan Genocide, with President Paul Kagame, the hero who stopped the genocide in 1994. I told him that at the panel that I moderated between him and Elie Wiesel this past September, he had moved me deeply with his response to my question of whether he trusted the UN and the world to protect his people.

He shook his head, lowered his eyes, and said, “No, I learned after the genocide that I, and no-one else, is responsible for protecting my people.”

Kagame has been criticized by the UN for continuing to fight the genocidaires who fled to Congo. He has resisted great pressure to give up the fight. But as someone who witnessed his people hacked to death in the fastest genocide in human history, he is not out to win popularity contests, but to serve as guardian of his nation.

The same is true of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who drew perhaps a quarter of Rouhani’s audience at Davos and could not compete with his popularity. If Netanyahu would just let up about the genocidal threat of a nuclear Iran and say all the right things about peace, friendship and a new beginning he could increase his European popularity by orders of magnitude.

But he too, as the head of a nation that 70 years ago watched a third of its number gassed, learned that while it’s nice to be popular, it’s even nicer to be alive.

The author, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is founder of This World: The Values Network, which promotes universal Jewish values in media, religion and culture. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley. 

All rights reserved © 1995 - 2014 The Jerusalem Post.

 

Why ‘Never Again’ happens again and again

By SHMULEY BOTEACH [excerpt republished]

(Jerusalem Post, May 19, 2014) In Judaism it’s not belief in a savior that will get you into heaven. It’s rather the good deeds you do – the mitzvot you perform – that will create heaven on earth.

Recently I recounted how I traveled a month ago to Rwanda at the invitation of President Paul Kagame to speak at Amohoro National Stadium for the 20th commemoration of the genocide [perpetrated by the majority Hutus against the minority Tutsis]. A survivor took the microphone and, in a slow voice, recounted episodes from the slaughter of the country’s minority Tutsi population.

The stadium was filled with the sounds of women quaking, men thundering, children shrieking. The trauma of those who were reliving the horrors as they were recounted.

The secretary general of the UN, Ban Ki moon, got up and said that “Never Again” must mean just that. But even as he said it, children continued to be gassed in Syria. Women were being machine-gunned to death in South Sudan. Christians were being slaughtered in the Central African Republic. And why? Because the world has yet to embrace Jewish values.

The Jews were the ones who taught the world that every human being – Jew, Christian, Muslim and atheist, white, black and every shade in between – were all created equally in the image of God. The Jews were the one who gave the world the Ten Commandments, with the fiery exhortation, “Thou Shalt not Murder.”

And the Jews were the ones who alone declared in book of Leviticus, “Thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.”

Let my Christian brothers speak of loving one’s enemies.

Let my Catholic friends tell me to turn the other cheek. When it comes to mass murder I cannot but reject both New Testament teachings and instead embrace Solomon’s proclamation in Proverbs: “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” I will embrace what King David proclaimed regarding the wicked: “I have hated them with a deep loathing. They are as enemies to me.”

Because Lincoln hated the abomination of slavery he fought to stop it, as he said in 1854 in Peoria, “I cannot but hate slavery. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself.”

Because Churchill hated Hitler he inspired a nation to fight the beast. The French, who did not hate Hitler, collaborated with him instead.

Loving victims might generate compassion for their suffering. But hating the perpetrators generates action to stop their orgy of murder. While innocence should evoke compassion, evil should evoke only contempt.

Our organization, This World: The Values Network, whose gala dinner was on Sunday, Lag Ba’omer, is dedicated to the spread of universal Jewish values and in so doing we seek to bring healing and justice to a world that seemingly cannot be healed. 

. . .  

All rights reserved © 1995 - 2014 The Jerusalem Post.

 

No Holds Barred: Pope Francis and the need to confront evil

By SHMULEY BOTEACH 

When the pope prays in front of graffiti that compares Bethlehem to the Warsaw Ghetto, he risks being trivializing the Holocaust.

(Jerusalem Post, May 26, 2014) No-one can deny that Pope Francis is a man who walks the walk. While many disagree with his neo-socialist world-view, who can feel anything but respect for a world leader who eschews the perks of office to champion the poor and the oppressed. The pope is also courageously confronting the Church’s obsession with abortion, gay marriage and contraception in favor of spiritual values that directly address the materialism, narcissism and rot of the modern world.

But there is one area where the pope must do more. And that’s in his confrontation with evil.

Over the past few days we’ve heard the pope repeatedly invoke the need for Middle East peace. We have seen him walk a tightrope of neutrality between Israel and the Palestinians. But as the world’s foremost religious voice, can he afford to be silent in the face of a grotesque moral affront? When the pope prays at an Israeli security barrier in front of graffiti that compares Bethlehem to the Warsaw Ghetto he has taken neutrality to an extreme and risks being party to trivializing the Holocaust.

This past January I visited the remnants of the Warsaw Ghetto in the deep and freezing snow of Poland’s winter. It traumatized me to the bone. I found approximately five portions of the ghetto wall, Janusz Korczak’s original orphanage, the last remaining synagogue, and the square from which the 300,00 Jews were deported from the ghetto to their deaths in Treblinka. Not that they weren’t already the living dead. The photo and film archive of Emanuel Ringelblum, at the former site of the Grand Synagogue’s Library, is shocking beyond words. The discarded bodies that dotted the streets of the ghetto are haunting enough. But even worse is the footage of small children, clad in the dead of winter in nothing but rags, walking alone and barefoot and begging for bread. It is something that sears the soul and has the viewer asking how God could have allowed such unspeakable suffering. I was covered in many layers and was still shivering. I have no idea how these children survived for even a day.

I also visited the mass grave at Mila 18, headquarters of the armed Jewish resistance of April- May 1943, known to us today as the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. There I was nearly knee-deep in snow, the only visitor in perhaps days, making fresh prints by the monument to the great Mordechai Anileviscz who headed the uprising and, surrounded by the Nazis who were about to storm the position, took his own life along with other leaders of the uprising.

To compare the annihilation of the 300,000 Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto to a security fence erected by Israel so that more Jews aren’t gruesomely murdered takes a particular kind of propaganda effort, one that has contempt for human life, one that is indifferent to evil. Surely the pope cannot agree with the appalling, disgusting and vile assertion that Bethlehem is a holding pen for Palestinians awaiting Israeli slaughter. So why would the pope have prayed there?

Pope Francis just canonized John XXIII and John Paul II, both courageous friends of world Jewry. He pointedly, and to his credit, did not canonize Pope Pius XII, the man universally derided as “Hitler’s Pope.”

Evil ensues when nobody speaks against it and genocides take place when people are silent. This was the great sin of Pope Pius, a man whose refusal to use this global standing to denounce Hitler and a mysterious insistence on remaining above the fray in the great battle of light versus darkness bespoke a broken moral compass. Hitler famously said at the start of the Holocaust, in 1939, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” He banked on moral voices remaining silent in the face of Jewish European mass murder. Eugenio Pacelli, who became pope that same year, obliged him by never once objecting to the destruction of European Jewry and lives, therefore, in moral infamy till this day.

Pius XII was famous for making benign pronouncements during the war that carefully preserved his moral neutrality: “Nothing is lost with peace; all can be lost with war. Let men return to mutual understanding! Let them begin negotiations anew, conferring with good will and with respect for reciprocal rights... Christ made love the heart of his religion.”

These empty platitudes were utterly useless in preserving peace because they refused to lay the blame for the war firmly at the door of the Nazi aggressor. Even after Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, and began what would be six years of global conflict and mass slaughter, Pius avoided words of condemnation of any party. For the pope, the allies and the Nazis were equally culpable. The most the Pope Pius ever said that even approached a condemnation of the annihilation of the Jews was in a Christmas message of 1942 where he spoke of “those hundreds of thousands who, without any fault on their part, sometimes only because of their nationality or race, have been consigned to death or to a slow decline.” Incredibly, he never once said he was referring to the Jews.

Pope Francis, who is a global inspiration and a great light of the Church, must learn from the poor example of his predecessor not be vague when it comes to mass murder. Platitudes about Middle East peace that refuse to condemn Hamas terrorism or the terrorist group’s genocidal charter risks compromising the great pope’s moral standing. A security fence built solely to protect innocent Israelis from being dismembered dare not be compared to a fence designed to cage Jews prior to their gassing.

The pope can surely find a different place to pray.

The author is founder of This World: The Values Network, the foremost organization influencing politics, media and the culture with Jewish values. He has just published Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer.

Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley. 

All rights reserved © 1995 - 2014 The Jerusalem Post.

 

A Dose of Nuance: Whatever happened to evil?

By DANIEL GORDIS

Why note that Gaza has no Iron Dome unless you’re really suggesting that this is a battle between two morally equivalent sides, and thus ought to unfold on a level playing field?

(Jerusalem Post, July 17, 2014) When the dust finally settles, when we can finally breathe again and begin to learn the lessons of this war of sorts, we’ll have more than our share of questions to ask.

Are the residents of Israel any safer than they were before? Is it really possible that a power like Israel cannot rid Gaza of rockets? Will Israel, when it’s all over, have sold out the residents of the South once again? Will we have created more cities like Sderot, in which the only people who live there are the ones who cannot afford to move away? Beyond the war, there will be deeper questions about our leadership and our society. To what extent did the government’s (apparent) decision to lie about the fact that it knew from the very beginning that Gil-Ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenkel [who were kidnapped by Arab terrorists] were almost certainly dead – thus unleashing three weeks of prayer, desperation, worry and unbridled emotion – foster an environment that contributed to the [revenge] murder [by Jews] of Muhammad Abu Khdeir? And what is Israel going to do about that swathe of its society that sees nothing wrong with chanting “Death to Arabs” at football games and that, at heated moments a few weeks ago, spread across downtown Jerusalem looking for Arabs to beat up? We ignore these questions, and many others, at our own risk.

At this moment, though, I find myself consumed by a different question altogether.

It is, quite simply, this: Where has the word “evil” gone? Why are so many otherwise intelligent people so incapable of calling Hamas what it so obviously is? No matter what one thinks about the larger Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian statehood or occupation, there is something perverse about the implicit critique that this was not a “fair fight.” Ben Wedeman, reporting for [U.S.-based cable TV news network] CNN, remarked on the air more than once this week that Gaza was not protected by an Iron Dome system. That’s true, of course, but hints at a perverse worldview. Why note that Gaza has no Iron Dome, unless you’re really suggesting that this is a battle between two morally equivalent sides and thus ought to unfold on a level playing field? If only that perversity was limited to CNN, it would be less awful. But consider this, part of a letter sent by a rabbi who was (rightly) bemoaning the fact that the fighting was not nearly over.

What would the coming days bring, this rabbi asked in an open letter to the entire congregation? “More Hamas rockets landing in populated Israeli cities, not all of which will be thwarted by Israel’s missile defense system. More Israeli air strikes in densely populated Gaza (which, by the way, has no Iron Dome and only few shelters), which means more Palestinian civilians, inevitably, caught in the crossfire.”

Note the balance. Israelis suffer. Palestinians suffer. But note also the complaint about the imbalance – for Israelis are protected by Iron Dome, and Palestinians are not. What’s missing from this letter is the simple ability to call Israel’s enemies “evil.”

What’s missing is any recognition that Article XIII of Hamas’s charter says, explicitly, that “[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions... are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion; the nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its faith, the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their Jihad.”

What’s missing is acknowledgment that Hamas will stop attacking Israel when Israel is no more. I don’t expect Ben Wedeman to care about that. But rabbis?! Even when it comes to Hamas, we need balance? Here’s more balance, from the very same letter. “So we stand, breathless, on the cusp of Shabbat – still grieving over Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, sick, ashamed and shocked by the vicious murder of Muhammad, awake, finally, to the inevitable outcome of years of hatred and racism, occupation and terror.”

The conflict with Hamas is the result of occupation? How about Article XXXII of their charter: “Leaving the circle of conflict with Israel is a major act of treason and it will bring curse on its perpetrators.” Disney [movie production studio] brings us the circle of life; Hamas is dedicated to the circle of conflict. But Jews, even rabbis, can’t say that any longer. The murderers of Muhammad Abu Khdeir are pure evil (yes, actually, they are), but Hamas is not? What’s happened to us? At a recent meeting with a group of progressive American rabbis, I offhandedly used the term “Amalek” to refer to Hamas. One of the rabbis asked, very respectfully, if I could help him think about a different vocabulary to use about Hamas, one that “reflects Jewish values.” I was actually dumbstruck for a moment. I’d thought that in mentioning Amalek, I was referring to Jewish values.

Have we gotten to the point that tikkum olam (whatever that means) and tzelem Elokim (being created in God’s image) are Jewish values, but that eradicating evil is not? That’s a bizarre bastardization of how Judaism has always seen the world. A world in which one refuses to call out evil is a world in which the meaning of goodness is also radically diminished.

Is the death of every Gazan child tragic? Of course it is. Is there something heartbreaking about watching Gazans flee the northern part of the Strip, sleeping in shelters further to the south, not knowing if their homes will be standing when they return? One would have to have a heart of stone not to be pained.

Yet why were they fleeing? Because Hamas’s leaders built shelters for themselves, not for simple Gazan citizens.

They fled because Hamas took building materials that Israel sent into Gaza, and instead of building houses built kilometers of tunnels, deep underground, designed for future attacks on Israel. Do these genuinely pitiful, frightened people stop to note that Israel warned them to flee in order to save their lives, while Hamas demanded that they go home and not heed the Zionist warnings? I don’t care that Ben Wedeman is never going to call Hamas “evil.” And I understand that Gazans won’t either, at least publicly, because they have an understandable aversion to being executed.

But must we Jews, and our religious leaders, be complicit in the charade? When Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, the head of the yeshiva of Eilon Moreh (a settlement, some will note), remarked that the murderers of Muhammad Abu Khdeir should be executed, he quoted the verse “so that you may burn out evil from your midst” (Deut. 17:7). Rabbi Levanon is quite right. There is, in fact, very real evil in the world. But if the only evil to which progressive Jews can point is the evil in us, our moral compass has been badly damaged.

If the only people we can call evil are Jews, then Hamas and its viciousness are the least of the threats to our longterm survival.

The writer is senior vice president, Koret Distinguished Fellow and chair of the core curriculum at Jerusalem’s Shalem College, Israel’s first liberal arts college. His latest book, Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul, was recently released by NextBook.

All rights reserved © 1995 - 2014 The Jerusalem Post.

 

No Holds Barred: Obama: See no evil, hear no evil

By SHMULEY BOTEACH

We can’t hate even our enemies; it seeps into our blood and poisons us. But what happens when it is not our enemies but the enemies of humanity itself?

(Jerusalem Post, July 28, 2014) Elie Wiesel is one of my greatest heroes, and I’ve been lucky to have a warm friendship with him. I would rarely consider disagreeing with such a moral giant, one of the foremost Jewish personalities of modern times and who has had such a profound impact on my life.

Except on one issue. Hate.

In many conversations, Wiesel (or as I call him, Reb Eliezer) has told me that I am wrong on the subject of hatred. We can’t hate even our enemies; it seeps into our blood and poisons us. But what happens when it is not our enemies but the enemies of humanity itself, the enemies of all that is good, the nemesis of morality that we hate? What are we to feel for an organization like Hamas if not hate?

How are we supposed to carry out our moral resolve to fight a genocidal thugocracy sworn, like the Nazis, to the extermination of the Jewish people if we don’t detest and loathe them? How are we supposed to react to a terror organization that perpetrates honor killings against innocent Palestinian women, uses Arab children as shields for its missiles, and teaches Palestinian youth that rather than living a long and productive life they are better off blowing themselves up? Wiesel is one of the softest, most noble souls I have ever met, so I understand his reluctance to harbor hatred. And I can understand that saintly souls like him refuse to hate even wicked murderers.

But for the rest of us mortals, especially political leaders sworn to uphold the world order, I believe that the greatest moral failure of our time is a refusal to hate evil. Hatred of evil implies both the right to make judgments as well as a belief in moral absolutes.

Because [then U.S. President Abraham] Lincoln hated the abomination of slavery he fought to stop it. As he said in 1854 in Peoria, “I cannot but hate slavery. I hate it because of its monstrous injustice.”

[Then British Prime Minister] Churchill famously said, “I hate nobody except Hitler,” inspiring a nation to fight the monster. The French, who did not hate Hitler, collaborated with him instead.

Compassion for victims’ suffering does not go far enough. Hating the perpetrators will generate the necessary action to stop their orgy of murder. While innocence should evoke compassion, evil should evoke only contempt.

Many today seek to understand, rather than resist, evil. They excuse the murderous actions of Hamas by speaking of Palestinian humiliation. Is it motivated by degradation at the hands of Israelis? Poverty perhaps? But there is no excuse for murder.

As I write these words the world is on fire almost everywhere. The news is almost universally awful. From Russian-destroyed airliners and bodies strewn over the Ukraine to the rise of blood-thirsty butchers like [Iraq/Syria-based] ISIS and [Nigeria-based] Boko Haram, the world situation is dispiriting and depressing.

Presiding over all of it is the most powerful man in the world, who seems to have checked out.

President Barack Obama is a moral man with clear moral sensibilities. But the pivotal shortcoming of his foreign policy is a failure to revile evil.

When he speaks about the worst kind of human rights abuses he uses vague, technical language and avoids definitive moral statements. He refuses to call Hamas or Boko Haram evil. Why the reluctance to make declarative statements of an absolute nature? Because moral ambiguity can justify inaction.

Iran has threatened a second holocaust on countless occasions. These are not idle words.

It acts on the threat both by funding Hezbollah’s and Hamas’s efforts to murder Jews and, much more ominously, by being on the threshold of attaining nuclear weapons that can kill millions with a single detonation.

Yet in the coolness and detachment of the president’s pragmatism toward Iran and the extension he has just offered it in the nuclear negotiations you might think he was haggling over a trade deal with Switzerland. You would not know that he was speaking about a regime that machine-gunned its own citizens in the streets when they protested a stolen election in 2009, stones women to death and hangs homosexuals from cranes.

President Obama’s reluctance to use the word “terrorism” has been much discussed.

In 2009 his administration formally retired the phrase “War on Terror” and replaced it with the evasive and euphemistic “Overseas Contingency Operations.”

After the deadly terrorist attack at a Kenya mall this past September President Obama said, “We stand together with Kenya in our resolve to confront and defeat violent extremism.”

Violent extremism? Perhaps this would explain Secretary of State John Kerry’s willingness to pressure Israel into a cease-fire with Hamas that would leave much of its terror infrastructure in place.

It’s absolutely horrible seeing Palestinian children dying in Gaza. But the president has to come out clearly and say he loathes the cowardly terrorists of Hamas who continue to use these children as their shields.

To be sure, President Obama and John Kerry are friends of Israel. I will not join the chorus of those who attempt to assassinate the characters of these two men who have done much for Israel. So why is there a perception that their sympathies lie elsewhere? Because they don’t seem to get, and do not state definitively, that Israel is in a moral battle of good versus evil.

Hamas is evil incarnate. It is a menacing, death-glorifying, woman-hating, gay-murdering, anti-Semitic death cult. It has no redeeming qualities.

[Then U.S.] President [Ronald] Reagan said of the Soviet Union in March 1983: “They are the focus of evil in the modern world.” He implored his audience not “to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire ... and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.”

In the end, it was [U.S. civil rights leader] Martin Luther King who summed it up best: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

Tolerating the intolerable and forgiving the unforgivable is the surest way to empower evil. And if Hamas is not evil, then the word has no meaning.

President Obama can salvage so much of his legacy on foreign policy by beginning to employ the language of moral absolutes, especially when it comes to terror organizations that celebrate the murder of civilians.

Mr. President, the world is watching. History is taking note. Will you call Hamas evil?

The author, “America’s rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 30 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.

Follow him on Twitter @ RabbiShmuley.

All rights reserved © 1995 - 2014 The Jerusalem Post.

 

No Holds Barred: Are you guilty of feeling hatred for the Paris murderers?

By SHMULEY BOTEACH

Evil should evoke only contempt and the determination that it be eradicated.

(Jerusalem Post, January 12, 2015) The horrific murders in Paris, and the predictable targeting of Jews for slaughter, raises this question: why are none of the world leaders who are condemning the attack speaking of their hatred for these cowardly killers? We’ve heard that they will be fought. We’ve heard that they will be targeted. But where is a simple statement by French President François Hollande that “I despise these terrorists with every fiber of my being. I hate them and everything they stand for. And I will fight them to the last man.” Why do we never hear responsible, credible heads of state declaring their revulsion, their outright loathing, for odious murderers? Where is the visceral abhorrence and detestation for monsters? It wasn’t always thus.

Abraham Lincoln had no hesitation declaring his hatred for the abomination of slavery. In 1854 in Peoria he said, “I cannot but hate slavery. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself.” Churchill said openly that “I hate no man but Hitler.” And because he hated the beast he inspired a nation to fight him. The French, who did not hate Hitler, collaborated with him and sent Jews to the gas chambers instead.

It seems that hatred has gone out of vogue.

Let my Christian brothers speak of loving one’s enemies.

Let my Catholic friends tell me to turn the other cheek. When it comes to the terrorist mass murderers of Paris I cannot but reject both New Testament teachings and instead embrace Solomon’s proclamation in Proverbs: “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” I will welcome what King David said regarding the wicked: “I have hated them with a deep loathing. They are as enemies to me.”

The kind of men who could storm into an editorial meeting at a newspaper and spray every person present with bullets are not men at all. They are monsters, pure and simple. They may once have been created in the image of God. But they have since erased every last vestige of God’s image from their countenance. They are not our human brothers. They are quite simply beasts.

Loving victims might generate compassion for their suffering. But hating the perpetrators generates action to stop their orgy of murder. While innocence should evoke compassion, evil should evoke only contempt and the determination that it be eradicated.

I am well aware that the French prime minister has declared war against Islamic terrorism. But I have seen these declarations time and again, only to see the resolve wane as time passes. Memory alone cannot inspire a war against terror. It must result from righteous indignation.

Only a true hatred of terrorism and a moral revulsion at all the terrorists stand for will inspire a total commitment to their obliteration.

This is what has been missing in the West until now.

There have been so many excuses for terrorism and a lack of moral clarity as to why terrorists do what they do, especially when it involves the murder of Jews. Suicide bombers in Israel have been excused as being motivated by Israeli checkpoints and the lack of an economic future. Hamas terror rockets, aimed at Israeli cities, are dismissed as resulting from a naval blockade.

We could easily say the same thing of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists. Who can blame the Islamic terrorists for feeling incensed at the constant attacks against their prophet by scoundrels with a pen? Indeed, White House spokesman Jay Carney said two years ago that while the cartoonists had every right to freedom of expression, they ought to exercise judgment as to whether this incitement was prudent. This kind of muddled moral thinking is dangerous and is exactly why the West has not summoned the iron determination needed to defeat terrorism.

So let me be clear: I am not only repulsed by the vile, disgusting men who killed innocent journalists, police and Jews in Paris, I hate them. I despise them. I hate them with every fiber of my being. I believe those who do not hate them have a broken moral compass. And those who say they love them – especially when such love is based on misunderstood teachings in Scripture – have betrayed decency and faith.

We must purge our ourselves of any shred of sympathy which might seek to understand their motives. When it comes to the slaughter of innocents we must brook no excuse, allow no rationalization, accept no form of justification. Murder is always wrong. Period.

Forgetting how to hate can be just as damaging as forgetting how to love. I realize that immersed as we are in a Christian culture that exhorts us to “turn the other cheek,” this can sound quite absurd. Little do we remember, it seems, the Talmudic aphorism that those who are kind to the cruel end up being cruel to the kind.

Indeed, exhortations to hate all manner of evil abound in the Bible. Hatred is a valid emotion – an appropriate response – when directed at the truly evil: those who have gone beyond the pale of human decency by committing acts which unweave the basic fabric of civilized living. Contrary to Christianity which advocates turning the other cheek to belligerence and loving the wicked, Judaism obligates us to despise and resist evil at all costs.

Amid my deep and abiding respect for the Christian faith I state unequivocally that to love the terrorist who flies a civilian plane into a civilian building or a white supremacist who drags a black man three miles while tied to the back of a car is sinful, not just misguided but immoral. To love evil is itself evil and constitutes a passive form of complicity. Indeed, to show kindness to murderers is to violate the victims again.

The purpose of our hatred is not revenge but the preservation of justice. I wholeheartedly embrace the example of Simon Wiesenthal, one of the most inspirational men of the 20th century, who devoted his life to the pursuit of justice by not allowing Nazi murderers go to their graves in peace. Only if we hate evil passionately will we summon the determination to fight it fervently. Odd and uncomfortable as it may seem, hatred has its place.

Although they referred to a different era in history, the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. still ring true today: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

One of the most frequent themes of my writing is how we – a generation with a 50 percent divorce rate and a professional singles scene – have forgotten how to love. But when it comes to the war on terror, our biggest impediment might just be that we have forgotten how to hate.

The author, whom Newsweek and The Washington Post call “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the founder of This World: The Values Network, the world’s leading organization defending Israel in world media. He is the author of Judaism for Everyone and 30 other books, including his most recent, Kosher Lust. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

All rights reserved © 1995 - 2014 The Jerusalem Post.

 

 

Note:  Clarifying comments in brackets [        ] were added by me and form no part of the above republished articles.

 

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