Avtalyon would say: Scholars, be careful with your words. For you may be exiled to a place inhabited by evil elements [who will distort your words to suit their negative purposes]. The disciples who come after you will then drink of these evil waters and be destroyed, and the Name of Heaven will be desecrated.
Pirkei Avot – Chapter One, Eleven
This is something that I have been meaning to write about for a while, and although I know that this blog post is not going to do the topic justice, I want to get pen to paper and just allow a stream of conciousness to flow through.
What has prompted me to write on this:
What is the issue:
- In short, Jews, Orthodox Jews have committed grievous crimes (murder, abuse, paedophilia) and caused great chillul hashem (fraud, theft, tax evasion, money laundering) and we as a faith community have to take responsibility.
- Orthodox Jewish dialogue and leadership is forever focusing on the issue of the “ritual”, “chumrot”,”minhag” and not enough on universal, moral, human issues.
- Our educational system and mode of learning often leads to gray and fuzzy notions of right and wrong in areas where we should have a visceral reaction. Murder, theft and fraud (of Jew and Gentile, regardless of gender, race, or religious/theological persuasion) should be issues where there is a “gut reaction”, a clear black and white that these behaviours are evil. These are not issues that you should realise are wrong after you find them in a footnote to a footnote in a legal text.
- Many of these evils continue to perpetuate because unfortunately there are voices in our tradition that are being relied upon in practice, and in my opinion the true and correct majority voices are being droned out, not being brought to the surface.
- Our history, our tradition and our legal system, contain potentially dangerous laws and episodes (Amalek, Apikorus, Rodef,Mesirah, Min, Moridin, etc) that if applied could lead to blood shed. Dangerous ideas in the wrong hands can lead to frightful consequences. There is not enough literature and public awareness of the danger of these texts and I am fearful of practical consequences. [Example sources below]
- Our response to all these issues is always reactive, apologetic and not proactive. Lets acknowledge wrong has been done, lets put in measures to make amends and ensure these kind of things do not happen again.
What do I propose we do:
- First, acknowledgement that this is an issue. We need to change the focus and stop nit picking about “ritual issues” and focus on moral issues. There has to be an acknowledgement that moral issues are more important and that is where we currently failing, and like a reality tv show, our failures are blasted accross the international media.
- Second, lets take a forward thinking proactive response. We need books, shiurim, campains appropriate for all ages men, woman and child to install a revolution, and prevent further moral evils.
- We need to ensure that our educational system emphasises these kind of issues, with clear direct guidance.
- As a first step I would like to see a “community” formed to discuss, promote and give real life to some of these issues that plague us. A grass roots campaign, online, I think is the way to go.
Dangerous Halachic Sources:
Mishne Torah – Hilchot Rotzeach, Chapter 4, Halacha 10
It is a mitzvah to kill minim and apikorsim.
The term minim refers to Jewish idolaters or those who perform transgressions for the sake of angering God, even if one eats non-kosher meat for the sake of angering God or wears sha’atnez for the sake of angering God.
The term apikorsim refers to Jews who deny the Torah and the concept of prophecy.
If there is the possibility, one should kill them with a sword in public view. If that is not possible, one should develop a plan so that one can cause their deaths.
What is implied? If one sees such a person descend to a cistern, and there is a ladder in the cistern, one should take the ladder, and excuse oneself, saying: “I must hurry to take my son down from the roof. I shall return the ladder to you soon.” Similarly, one should devise other analogous plans to cause the death of such people.
Mishne Torah – Hilchot Mamrim, Chapter 3, Halacha 2
Since it has become known that such a person denies the Oral Law, he may be pushed into a pit and may not be helped out. He is like all the rest of the heretics who say that the Torah is not Divine in origin, those who inform on their fellow Jews, and the apostates. All of these are not considered as members of the Jewish people. There is no need for witnesses, a warning, or judges for them to be executed. Instead, whoever kills them performs a great mitzvah and removes an obstacle from people at large.
Mishne Torah – Hilchot Mamrim, Chapter 3, Halacha 11
With regard to a gentile idolater with whom we are not at war, a Jewish shepherd of small livestock, and the like, by contrast, we should not try to cause their deaths. It is, however, forbidden to save their lives if their lives are threatened. For example, if such a person fell into the sea, one should not rescue him. Leviticus 19:16] states: “Do not stand idly by while your brother’s blood is at stake.” This does not apply with regard to such individuals, because they are not “your brothers.”
The Danger is real
One believe more than any other (to quote a phrase of Isaiah Berlin’s) is responsible for the slaughter of individuals on the altars of the great historical ideals. It is the belief that those who do not share my faith – or my race or my ideology – do not share my humanity. At best they are second-class citizens. At worst, that forfeight the sanctity of life itself. They are the unsaved, the unbelievers, the infidel, the unredeemed; they stand outside the circle of salvation. If faith is what makes us human, than those who do not share my faith are less than fully human. From the pogroms, the blood of human sacrifice through the ages. From it – substituting race for faith – ultimately came the Holocaust.
Jonathan Sacks – The Dignity of Difference, Pg 45-46
Extract from an online Jewish Forum, Response by Rabbi Michael Broyde, Dayan, Beis Din of America
> 2 – According to the shulchan aruch, we pasken that we
> technically CAN kill homosexuals nowadays (harodef achar haarayos nitan
This is a mistaken recitation of the halacha. The Shulchan Aruch (SH CM 425:3) is quite clearly limited to one who is running after an ervah to rape that person, and not a consensual sexual relationship. It is for that reason that halacha prohibits one from killing adulterers nowadays but would permit killing rapists (to prevent a rape). The same is true for other consensual — but halachically prohibited — sexual relationships; one may not kill them to prevent sin.
Given the times we live in, and ease of missunderstanding on matters of Jewish law, and the seriousness of the sin associate with killing human beings, it is extremely important that people check out the details of the halacha before they write.
Michael J. Broyde
The Slifkin Saga
In the introduction to Chapter 3, R. Schmeltzer explains that the chapter will deal with how doubting any of the words of Chazal, whether in halachah or Aggadah, is heresy. R. Schmeltzer takes the situation of such a “heretic” very seriously; in reference to this, he has a footnote quoting the Shulchan Aruch that one should bring about the death of such a person by any possible means.
Footnote: Does R. Schmeltzer genuinely believe that this should be done to people such as myself? If so, this is deeply problematic; if not, then it is extremely irresponsible for him to write such a thing, considering that there are individuals out there who take such recommendations seriously and see it as authorizing persecution, if not taking it as far as actual murder. In fact, since the publication of R. Schmeltzer’s book, I have received disturbing threats, by telephone and e-mail, not just against myself but even against my children. R. Schmeltzer and the rabbis who endorsed his work may have to shoulder some of the responsibility for such appalling acts.
Rewriting Jewish Intellectual History: A Review of Sefer Chaim Be’Emunasom Rabbi Natan Slifkin, Page 4
Why we are responsible:
Our hands did not spill this blood, and our eyes did not see… (21:7)
But would it enter one’s mind that the elders of the court are murderers? Rather, [they declare:] We did not see him and let him depart without food or escort. (Talmud, Sotah 45a)
The principle behind the law of Eglah Arufah is that a person is also responsible for what occurs outside of his domain — outside of the areas where he is fully in control. When a murdered traveler is found out in the field, the elders of the nearest city must go out there and bring the Eglah Arufah to atone for the crime, although it occurred “outside of their jurisdiction”; for it was nevertheless their responsibility to send the traveler off with adequate provision and protection.
The same applies on the personal level in all areas of life. A person never has the right to say, “This is outside of my element. I have no obligation to deal with this.” If it is something that, by Divine Providence, one has been made aware of, that means that there is something one can, and must, do to positively influence the end result.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
A step in the right direction:
See here for a thoughtful response to the Torat Hamelech book that captures many of the above sentiments - Affirming the Image of God: Statement of Scholars of the Jewish Theology Project of the Elijah Interfaith Institute
A somewhat stronger response was penned by R’David Rosen - A disturbing desecration of Jewish values