When tragedy strikes, you can always be sure that your local seer will be on the scene right away, ready to offer an explanation as to who is truly responsible for what has befallen you. It’s in this great tradition that we have seen homosexuals blamed for hurricanes, pro-choice activists blamed for wars and most recently, nationalists blamed for terrorist attacks.
These explanations of tragic events, often offered by people who are generally very intelligent, respectable individuals are at best ridiculous and at worst, offensive. Aside from the obvious fact that none of the said individuals could claim to have prophecy (bava batra 12b) the assignment of blame in a tragic situation serves only to cheapen the suffering and diminish our ability to deal with it (Rav Soloveitchik- A Halachic approach to suffering). It’s for these reasons that I take point with recent comments maligning those who dedicate their lives to preserving the sanctity of the temple mount and essentially blaming them for recent acts of terror.
In a similar vein to the prophetic blame-game we also find the everyday man preaching about signs. The Ebola outbreak is a sign from G-d. The plane crash is a sign from G-d. The increase in terror is a sign from G-d. The truth is, we don’t know what is and isn’t a sign from G-d any more than we know who is or isn’t to blame for a certain event. What we can understand though, is what is a sign from our fellow man. Whilst the increase in terror may or may not be a sign from G-d to take a particular course of action, we can say without hesitation that such terror is a sign from its perpetrators that action must be taken. Too often do we get caught up in arguing about what G-d does and doesn’t want us to do that we lose sight of the facts on the ground. Let’s work within a framework of things that we know G-d wants us to do; G-d wants us to live (Deuteronomy 30:19), G-d wants us to protect ourselves in an active way, not a retaliatory way (Exodus 22:2, Brachot 58a) and G-d wants us to determine things according to the facts on the ground, not in the heavens above (Deuteronomy 30:12). It is with all this in mind that I continue a week that has not had the most promising of starts.
Since I consider myself neither child nor fool to claim prophecy (bava batra 12b) I will continue to make determinations based on the facts on the ground. This includes the outright rejection of baseless statements that only serve to divide and weaken the Jewish people and continued calls for the government of Israel to act swiftly and decisively to prevent all forms of terror. We shouldn’t drag ourselves down by claiming that terror attacks are a sign from G-d to act forcefully against terrorists, rather we should say that they are a sign from terrorists that we must do so. To claim the former is no better than the homosexual hurricane of the war of abortion.