by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
This week we buried 10-month-old Shalhevet Pass, targeted by a sniper in Hebron. We also commemorated the yahrtzeit of Alisa Flatow, killed by a suicide bomber on 10 Nissan 1995. Remembering these young victims, while commencing the Book of Leviticus this past Sabbath, has set me thinking.
Leviticus begins with the humility of Moshe, who was "more humble than any man on earth." He wrote "Vayikra el Moshe," "[G-d] called to Moshe," with a minimized letter aleph in "VaYiKRA" -- as if to imply "VaYiKaR," used when G-d "called" the evil prophet Bilaam [Numbers 23:4]. Commentators explain that "Vayikar" indicated a casual, even degrading meeting. Moshe did not want to write that G-d called him with the love of the angels "who called one to the other" in Isaiah 6:3.
Humility includes the capacity to admit error - also characteristic of Moshe, and expected of all our leaders. Leviticus discusses the Temple offerings, and turns almost immediately to the sin-offering, brought after mistakenly transgressing G-d's Law. The Torah provides one offering for an individual, and others for the leaders: if the High Priest sins, he brings a unique offering; the King, too, has his sacrifice. In fact, the Torah says "when the King shall err" -- the King is also human, and will certainly err.
The Torah also discusses "the people" sinning. How could the entire nation sin? Our Sages explain: the Sanhedrin, the High Court, ruled incorrectly, causing all to transgress. Then, that same Sanhedrin declared that it had made a mistake. This is the hallmark of Jewish leadership -- willingness to admit error and change course.
In 1993, Israel made a terrible mistake, which we called a "Peace Process." We gave the PLO tens of thousands of automatic weapons and territory now under its Authority. In return, Arafat was to swear off violence and use these weapons to maintain order and round up terrorists -- not, of course, for terrorism.
Today, the trampling of this promise is known to all. The Bush administration now appropriately calls this Intifada pre-meditated, and agrees that Arafat is fully in control, encouraging violence rather than acting to reduce it. In Israel, leaders of the "intellectual left" have admitted error, apologizing for the headlong rush to "peace" and the demonization of Israel's right wing that accompanied it.
Yet we are not yet unified. In Israel, the Meretz fringe remains adamant. In America, groups like Americans for Peace Now and the Shalom Center assert, against all evidence or logic, that further concessions will suddenly bring about a true renunciation of violence. The New Israel Fund bestows millions upon organizations which petition for the release of murderers and support a Palestinian "right of return" which would eliminate Israel as a Jewish state.
They blame Israel, not to mention Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, for the current warfare. They condemn Israel for blockading Arab towns (do nations maintain open borders with hostile territory?), for destroying trees which sheltered terrorist gunmen, for the "extra-judicial killing" of Force 17 terrorists -- in short, there is no counter-terrorism effort that they do not condemn. In their view, the "Jewish" response is to invite Arab gunmen to take over Jerusalem.
No. The Jewish response is to admit error.
Seeking peace is not merely commendable. It is an expression of longing for the highest ideals of the Jewish soul. But we must face reality when the man holding the Nobel Prize is sending snipers to murder babies in Hebron.
Arafat is making war, and those who most ardently favored the "peace process" should now most furiously denounce him. "Israeli-Palestinian violence" is no more apt a description for this than "Jewish-Cossack violence" would have been for Russian pogroms. To invite him to speak, to discuss Israeli "causes" for this six-month battle, encourages its continuation. It sends the message that his methods are acceptable.
Giving the PA machine guns was, in effect, delivering murder weapons. We know that now. But until now, those who favored this course could legitimately argue that they were attempting to make peace and save lives. This is no longer true. To continue to talk about Arafat as a dignitary, to say his "frustration" justifies his actions, to recommend new Israeli concessions, is to accede to violence. To put it bluntly, to "dialogue" with Arafat today is to invite the murder of more Israeli innocents.
Unlike what came before, today it is a deliberate crime. And for deliberate transgressions, says our Torah, no sacrifices will atone.
|Exactly. Well put.|
- J. F. -0/5-/2001
|* * * * *|
|Dear Rabbi Menken,
I agree with you, and hope that all liberals
will look at human nature for what it is, based on thousands of years of human history. As Dr. Laura says, evil has no rules and no shame, how true. The good guys always play by the rules.
- C. B. -0/5-/2001
|* * * * *|
|A magnificent essay! It should be read by every person, such as myself, who made the mistake of becoming involved in organizations like the New Israel Fund and Peace Now!
Many thanks and chag sameach.|
|* * * * *|
| I agree that the Oslo Accords have taken a major setback for the near future, and possibly should be discarded altogether. The recent intafada has proved that the terms in the accords do not meet the expectations of the palestinian refugees, and their leaders are therefore unwilling to adhere to them. However, surely this is no reason to slate our brave political leaders who made the first courageous steps towards securing a long lasting peace with those who were once our enemies.
The article claims our Israeli leaders were in error to attempt to make peace. It is true that the Oslo Accords seem to have become a failure, does this mean it was wrong to try? The article states that seeking peace is part of "the highest ideals of the Jewish soul", so just because Oslo has been a failure should we therefore stop trying? I do not think so.
Oslo has been a failure, this does not mean that the search for peace has been a failure. A new solution to the Palestinian question must be forged. It must learn from the short sighted mistakes of Oslo, and attempt to forge a real peace through education of the new younger generations, both on Israels part and the Palestinians. Perhaps a new spokes person for the Palestinians should be sought after; one who, unlike Arafat, truely represents the views of Palestinian people. There is no reason why these new pathways to peace can not be laid down now. Indeed, Pirkei Avot states "If not now, when?".
We must continue to support our political leaders who strive to find new avenues for peace. The Torah says "love your stranger as yourself" more times than "love your neighbour as yourself". It is imperative for Israel and the Jewish people to live without terror side by side with those who seem so different from the Jewish nation, i.e. Palestinians.
Lastly i would like to point out how upset i was to see my favorite web site, that has taught me much about my religion, posting a blatantly politically motivated article. I think it is healthy to debate these issues that at this moment are so important to the Jewish people. However is this site the correct forum for such debate? I love reading your articles about ethical and halachic lessons to be learnt from the parsha etc... however i was disheartened to find that you had used your vast Knowledge of Judaism to justify a political position suggesting that it was also in line with the principles of the Torah.
My rabbi tells me there are 70 faces to the Torah, so whilst you may interpret it to mean that leaders such as Rabin, Peres and Barak were in error in the decisions they made, other learned people may interpret the Torah to find it supports such efforts.
Chag Sameach and Chazak Ve'ematz,
love mark sklar(Hanoar Hatzioni member)
p.s. please spare a thought at this time when we remember our freedom for ron arad, zachary Baumel, Beni Avraham, Yehuda Katz, Omar souad, elchanan tannenbaum, tzvi feldman and adi avitan, Israeli soldiers who are today in captivity and cannot enjoy the freedom of holding a seder.|
- m. s. -0/5-/2001
|* * * * *|
I WRITE TO YOU TO TELL YOU THAT, I HAD A NAGATIVE EXPERIANCE WITH JEWISH LEFT MYSELF LAST TUESEDAY.
BEFORE I START I LIKE TO TELL YOU A LITTLE ABOUT MY BACKGROUND, I WAS BORN IN IRAN AND EXPERIENCE MENY FORMS OF ANTI SEMETIZEM AS A KID. FURTHER I BECAME A ZIONIST AND A SEMI RELIGIOUS JEW UPON COMING TO USA. MY FAMILY'S HISTORY GOES TO ISRAEL ITSELF AND MENY COUNTRIES OF MIDDLE EAST AND MY STANCE ON ISRAEL AND SUPPORT FOR IT HAS BEEN THE CORNERSTONE OF MY JEWISH IDENTITY.
I READ THAT A SPEAKER FROM SHALOM ACHSHAVE IS COMMING TO UNIVERSITY SYNEGOG IN BEL AIR WHICH IS NOT FAR FROM WHERE I LEAVE. A LOOK AT SPONSERING ORGANIZATIONS MADE ME THINK ABOUT WHAT I SHOULD DO THERE FOR I DECIDED TO GO THERE AND HAKEL THE SPEAKER BUT I WAS GOING TO DO THAT SO THAT MENY OF THE PEOPLE IN ATTENDENCE WHICH ARE ELDERLY REFOM JEWS WOULD NOT BE SCEARD. AS SOON AS THE SPEAKER STARTED TO TALK I STARTED TO SHOUT. WHY YOU SELL ISRAEL WHEN JEWISH BLLOD IS BEING SHED AND AS DISRUPTED THIER EVENT I WAS LET OUT OF THE ROOM BY A SECURITY OFFICER AND NOT LET IN.
I WAS TOLD I AM NOT WELCOME THERE WHICH I DID NOT PROTEST AND ALSO I WENT HOME TO MY WIFE AND CHILDREN. THE NEXT DAY I CALLED THE ISRAELI CONSULATE AND PROTESTED THAT THEY USE NEW ISRAEL FUND IN THAT MANNER. BUT PEOPLE IN THE CONSULATE ARE ALSO TO THE LEFT OR SOME TIMES NONE JEWS ARE IN CHARGE OF THINGS THAT NEEDS A JEWISH UNDERSTANDING. PLEASE HELP ME TO FIGHT THEM IN MY OWN BACK YARD I NEED TO GET CONNECTED TO PEOPLE THAT ARE WILLING TO STAND TO THE JEWISH LEFT AND HELP ME IN THAT REGARD, BUT PLEASE NO EXTRIMIST I NEED KOOL HEADED PEOPLE THAT USE LEGAL MENS TO FIGHT THESE LIES OR ORGANIZATIONS INCLUDING PEACE NOW, COALITION FOR JUSTICE IN HAWAIAN GARDENS, NEW ISERAEL FUND AND OTHERS
- A. H. -0/5-/2001
|* * * * *|
|View More Comments|
Rabbi Label Lam - 5769
Ascending Three Steps
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5757
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5762
A Selfless Self-Esteem
Rabbi Label Lam - 5764
As the Cloud Moves On, So Does Life
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5759
Yours Is Greater Than Theirs
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5767
Not to Be Taken Light-ly
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5759
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5758
Torah Inspiration A Light Matter?
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5760
Flashes of Inspiration
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5765
It's Summertime, And The Parshiyos Are Depressing
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5764
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5761
When You Rise
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5766
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5766
In Light Of Continuity
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5761
Crowned With Humility
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5760